Social media marketing (SMM) is an industry constantly influx. Just consider some of the changes we’ve seen this year alone: the introduction of Facebook Timelines, Pinterest taking the internet by storm, revamped LinkedIn and Twitter pages, and the increased demand to quantify social media’s ROI (there are even commercials about this now). We’re nearly at the halfway point for November, which means 2013 is just around the corner, and based on current trends, here are ten predictions for what 2013 will mean for SMM:
Social Media Marketing Increasingly Becomes an Indispensable Marketing Tool
Many brands already recognize social media as a strategy they can’t live without, yet as it melds its way into all aspects of marketing, it’s going to become nearly impossible to ignore. At one point, social media was something only relevant to the younger crowd, but now everyone from grandmas to grade schoolers are networking. Thus, businesses can’t argue social media doesn’t fit their demographic, because it fits virtually all demographics.
With that in mind, how many savvy business owners can continue to ignore a free platform that keeps them in constant contact with their customers? Not to mention, social activity is showing up more and more in search engine results, and brands will recognize how regular social activity can help them grab more spots in search listings.
More Power in the Hands of Consumers
Marketing, in general, has gotten to the point where advertisers are somewhat at the mercy of consumers. In other words, they rely on fans to spread the word about their brand. Advertisements are literally everywhere, and instead of overloading their brains with all the different messages, people have trained themselves to ignore most of the ads. Occasionally something really eye-catching will get someone’s attention, but for the most part, friends act as the gatekeepers to advertisements (i.e. if a friend recommends something then it’s worth looking at).
This puts a lot of pressure on marketers to deliver something of value so consumers will feel motivated to share it with their friends. As this pressure grows through 2013 and beyond, consumers will reap the rewards as businesses compete to provide greater and greater worth.
Greater Incentives for Recommendations
A side effect of putting more power in the hands of consumers is they will expect more for their participation. The days of simply reminding people to “like” you (or worse, begging) are over. Folks are more conscientious about what they “endorse” and must be really inspired or motivated to hit the like,+1, or retweet button.
So, in addition to having fabulous content, expect to see more emphasis on giveaways, freebies, discounts, contests, and other incentives that entice users to exchange a recommendation for a reward. On the flip side, anticipate seeing a surge of “un-liking” and deselecting “show in newsfeed” for brands that don’t deliver.
Social Media Integrates into All Departments
There’s virtually no department within a business that can’t benefit from social media, and as more companies catch on to this, you’ll begin to see SMM shift away from being a single department and evolve into something nearly everyone in the workplace has a hand in.
This means siloed communication systems will fall by the wayside, and everyone from marketers, to sales staff, to customer service representatives will add their expertise to the overall social media campaign. Social media will no longer be thought of as simply a way to socialize with customers but will become a serious business strategy focused on driving communication, engagement, loyalty, and even sales.
Rise in Social Media as Customer Service Tool
Today, many consumers are taking their questions and complaints to a more public forum (social media) as opposed to a customer service hotline or email. This trend will undoubtedly grow as consumers continue to notice how quickly businesses respond to their comments and try to make things “right” (if there’s a problem). Again, this gives consumers more power as they know companies are obligated to provide great service since everyone online is “watching.”
That said, using social media as a customer service outlet can help businesses too. For instance, if you offer great products and service then having such open communication gives you a chance to show off the good work you’ve been doing all along. Additionally, it can be a big time saver (cut down on phone calls and emails) since you can respond to multiple customers at the same time.
Social Channels Converge
Instead of competing outright, many social networks are opting to enhance each other and essentially work together. We’re already seeing this with Instagram’s relationship with Facebook and Twitter, and even the new Myspace allows its users to pull contacts, photos, etc. from their Facebook profile. This movement will undoubtedly grow as most underdog networks aren’t up for going head-to-head with social giants, like Facebook.
This is good news for consumers and businesses, as it will make participating in social networks a little bit easier and cut down on cross-channel communication barriers. There will be much less choosing one network over another and greater integration of content and friends.
In addition to converging, each platform will put greater focus on highlighting their particular niche in the social world. For instance, Twitter will identify itself as the “newsroom,” YouTube will become a dominant search tool, and Pinterest will be a key shopping resource.
Rise of Visuals
If Pinterest taught us anything in 2012 it’s people love images. Although text will always have its place in SMM, to connect with people on a deeper level you have to engage as many of their senses as possible. Pictures and videos make that possible by adding other elements to your pages, such as sight and sound. Any social media manager can tell you posts with graphics and videos get more attention than plain text, and marketers will continue to raise the bar by adding content with better visual interest.
Shift from Paid Ads to Sponsored Content
Recently, Facebook made some changes to its algorithm which lowered the level of exposure non-sponsored content receives. As such, some business pages are seeing as much as a 50% drop in the reach of their posts, and it seems the only remedy is to pay to promote. Obviously, this is a move on Facebook’s part to make more money, and unless there’s some sort of huge revolt, expect other social networks to follow suit.
Of course, there’s always a chance another social network that’s more concerned with helping others than it is with monetization will siphon users from Facebook and other sites that become too costly.
Social Media has Greater Influence on SEO
Social content is already appearing more often in search listings and it will only multiply as Google becomes more focused on giving users personalized information. Things like high numbers of social shares and “likes” already boost a page’s rank, but because of the combination of social and search (like Google’s Search Plus Your World and Google+ Local) user’s social connections will have more sway on displayed search results.
More Smartphone Users
You don’t need a crystal ball to predict mobile users will expand significantly in 2013. Smartphone use has gone up exponentially since the inception of the device, and nearly every cell phone on the market has internet capabilities.
Of course, going hand-in-hand with mobile devices is social media and sales. For example, on-the-go consumers rely on their devices to give them access to social pages where they read product reviews, ask questions, view a business’ fan page, and generally gather information before deciding whether or not to make a purchase. Companies that use mobile-friendly networks will likely see a boost in sales as they make their brand more accessible to consumers.
Also, location-based marketing and other technologies, such as Google Wallet, will continue to drive sales by making it possible for people to find, review, and buy products directly from their devices.
What social media marketing predictions do you have for 2013? Share below.