For me the New Year is always an opportunity to look back on what we have learned, how we have grown and focus on where we are going.
Seems like just yesterday we were writing out predictions for 2013, excited for where the year would take us both personally and professionally.
2013 delivered a wake-up call for many brands. Smart business leaders realized (if they hadn't already) that social media is here to stay. They also started to understand it's much deeper than a tweet stream or Facebook page. Smart brands know it's about social integration, about taking steps toward being a social business more than it is learning how to tweet.
It's a journey, not a destination. There is not some magical end point that a brand can boldly claim, “we are a social business.” Instead, it is a journey of transformation, learning and growing. It's about becoming more humble and transparent than ever before. We must embrace imperfect perfection and embrace the fact that authenticity trumps perfection at every stage of social business evolution.
So what's in store for 2014? I could write on this for days but finally landed on 16 top predictions for now. Would love to hear your thoughts and if you agree with me. What are your predictions?
16 Social Media Predictions for 2014
1. Brands will begin to learn what it means to be a social business.
Now that the hype of Facebook is settling in, the Facebook algorithm is tanking and the excitement to build fan pages is decreasing, brand leaders will accept the only way they are going to see the positive side of the ROI equation is to roll up their sleeves and get to work. There is no fast track, magic pill or social media made easy button. Businesses of all sizes must know their audience, define their goals and align social where it can have the most positive impact. Business leaders must realize quickly, becoming a social business is a journey, not a destination.
Read-> Can Your Social Business Touch Its Toes? and Time to Grow Up! Social Businesses Mature, Yet Many Still Lack a Strategic Foundation (Brian Solis)
The fallacy some brands fell to believe that buying fans is a recipe for success will be put to bed in 2014. Marketers will get a big wake-up call that they should not have and should not ever put their social eggs in one basket, particularly a social network basket you do not own. You can not buy fans, friends, relationships. Relationships take time to nurture and don't always happen at first tweet. Brands must learn to invest in communities and the human beings within them. Brands will only get as much as they give. Watch Video-> Is Your Social Community Listening?
3. Experts will argue about social business semantics vs focus on the problems.
Arguing over social business semantics will continue. While the self proclaimed experts spend the first few months of 2014 arguing about if we should be referring and using terms such as social business, the smart business leaders, marketers, consultants and agencies will be implementing and solving real business problems. Go on, argue away. We'll have our heads down making real business happen. Read-> Quit Telling me What Words I Can't Use in Social Business
4. Human beings at the core.
Human beings have been and always will be at the core to social media and social business. Social media is about people, relationships and conversations that happen 1:1. It is human beings who are behind the avatars. It's humans who listen, read, click, like, follow, share and talk about your brand. Brands must realize that it is human beings they need to inspire, not just Facebook algorithm and scientific formulas. The heartbeat of social media is you. The question is will you be a healthy, contributing part of social media in 2014? Watch Video-> Heartbeat of Social Media is You
5. Branded content and native advertising will take center stage.
You will see branded content and native advertising become an increased focus for smart brands. Brands will continue to struggle with where, when and how to implement. Key challenge will also be in measurement. Branded content can offer unique opportunities for brands to better inspire, connect with their target audience in fun and unique ways. Native advertising will become a must do vs want to do or try for brands that want to see real traction, penetrate new markets and keep the eyeballs and hearts attentive to their brand.
Not only will more brands finally realize and understand the opportunity to “BE” the media, they will also purchase the media platforms vs build themselves. Agility, reach and community building will be key goals that will drive such actions. Brands will continue setting up newsrooms, production studios and innovating new ways to quickly create compelling and relevant content in multiple formats to inspire, engage and entertain their audience with agility. Read-> You Are the Media!
7. Smarter workforces.
According to a recent study from IBM, 71% of CEOs believe human capital is a key source of sustained economic value. The real question is will they put their money where their mouth is. The smart ones will. Employees are the greatest asset and potentially the best brand evangelist you can have. Social media doesn't transform your organization when you jump on Facebook. Social media reveals your organization, good and bad. Investing in the human beings within your organization is time, effort and money well spent. Data, analytics, technology, and mobility will all play critical roles in this advancement of smarter, more agile, collaborative and innovative workforces. Read-> Humans at the Core of 2014 Social Trends; #GetRealChat with #IBMConnect
Social listening is not for the rich and famous. Brands of all sizes will start to understand that they must invest in social listening strategies, tactics and technologies to truly understand, inspire and connect with their audiences. Managing and protecting brand reputation must start from the inside out. They must listen not only to their external audience but also to what their own employees are doing. The conversation must become two way on all fronts. Ignoring what is being said to or about you is not a strategy, it's a band-aid and a recipe for disaster. Social media policies and crisis preparedness plans should be considered as a top priority in proactive brand and reputation management. Don't wait until a crisis happens to determine how you will handle such. Read-> Is Your Social Community Listening to You?
9. Brands will try to bridge the social digital divide, c-suite and beyond.
The digital divide is going to get wider before bridges are built. As the baby boomers age and begin to leave the workforce we run the risk of losing the subject matter experts, brand evangelists and knowledge as they escape to the tropics. Brands must find innovative ways to engage those both young and older who are not participating in social media today. We must leverage the technology they are comfortable with versus expecting them to become a Twitter rockstar from day one. Smart business leaders will see much success with these strategies and tactics when implemented correctly. Read-> Bridging the Social Digital Divide, C-Suite & Beyond
10. Mobile gets embedded in the DNA of strategic marketing and business plans.
IDC predicts there will be 1.3 billion mobile workers by 2015. It's no longer “should I build a mobile website or blog,” it's now “how can I build the best possible customer experience both on and offline. Mobility must come first, not second or as a band-aid. Customers are not thinking “what device should I use that Brand A's website will look best on”. Instead they will grab whatever device is charged and not stolen by their 10 year old, spouse or co-worker. You have approximately 5 seconds to deliver a good experience on your digital and social platforms or else they will go elsewhere. Read-> 1.3 Billion Mobile Workers by 2015; #GetRealChat Recap with IBM Social Business
11. Integrated platforms become a requirement, not an option.
Many brands will have an unfortunate wake-up call with the changes in organic social search, social network algorithms. Those who put their eggs in one social network basket such as Facebook are not going to be happy in 2014. They must now slow down to speed up. They must get in the head of their audience, define business goals and objective and build an integrated digital, online platform that provides a seamless user experience across their own properties and weaves in the value, communities and conversations of the social networks. They must know where their target audiences are hanging out and spending time so that they can best integrate and build a killer user experience that makes them come back for more, again and again.
12. Less is more.
Many business leaders will want to throw in the social business towel. After they attempt to throw in the towel, get fired or quit they will then realize they must dig their head out of the social sand. They need to set goals, objectives and focus on achievable strategies and tactics that they can implement with their given resources. They must cross as many things off of their list as they add to it! It's about making data driven decisions, doing more of the right stuff versus just doing more social stuff to beat out Facebook. Remember, that's what got most of them into trouble with the Facebook algorithm to begin with. Work smarter, not harder. Read-> Slow Down to Speed Up
13. Visual marketing gets more meaningful.
Thanks to the tanking of Facebook newsfeed algorithm, we may see a slow death of the “caturday” viral videos and images many lazy marketers have used to drive engagement. Marketers must look beyond vanity metrics and create compelling visual content that inspires, connects and most importantly drives desired action. Remember, unless your core business is a counseling center or psychiatrist, quit posting heart warming quotes with flowers and paisleys and cat photos 24/7. Brands that are doing this are diluting and damaging their brands more than helping it. Every image you post is a representation of your brand. Think quality images and visual connection, not just inflated Klout and other influence scores. Read-> Move From Social Media Buzz to Social Media Bucks
14. Communities become more formalized.
Brands that invest in infrastructure for their communities will see improved results. People are overwhelmed with brands and community leaders begging them to join their communities. Brands must step up and be able to demonstrate why anyone should take the time to invest in their community and the people within it. Read-> Communities Create Markets, 13 Tips to Create Loyal Tribes of Brand Evangelists
15. Brands invest in earning loyal brand advocates.
Brands will better value and appreciate every action their community members take. They will no longer take their likes, follows, clicks, follows for granted. The number one question business leaders must still ask is WHY. Why should anyone follow or like you? Why should they comment, click, pin, post +1 or read your content? Why should they invest in you and your brand? Why should they give a rip you and your brand exists? Brands must give them value on the other side of each click, follow and like. It's what happens after the like that matters most. Brands will dive deeper into understanding the difference between a brand influencer, advocate and evangelist. Unfortunately to date, many have been treating them one and the same. The truth is they are not and should be nurtured far different.
16. Much earned media will become paid media.
The days of brands thinking they can tweet to top influencers, beg for free blog real estate and time and talent for free are coming to a close. Many thought leaders have been more successful than some large brands at building a digital platform and engaged community. They do not need the exposure or awareness from the big brand as much as the brands think they do. Industry thought leaders are being bombarded by these requests and they are tired of it. Brands must step up and offer more than a free seat to an event or a link on a website for an event they want the influencer to invest hours if not days attending and covering. If you want to play with those who can truly help you reach your target audience, you are going to need to pay, period.
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- 16 Tips to Create a Consistent, Relevant, Trusted Social Brand
- Relationships are the Life Raft Social Business Evolution
- 9 Tips to Stomp Random Acts of Marketing & Social Media
- Social Media Communities: 10 tips to Build, Grow & Sustain
- Communities Create Markets: 13 Tips to Build Loyal Tribes of Brand Evangelists
- 13 Characteristics of Human Brands
- Time to Grow Up! Social Businesses Mature, Yet Many Still Lack a Strategic Foundation (Brian Solis)
- 2014 Marketing Predictions with a Twist via Forbes (Steve Olenski)