In my years in marketing and media relations, I've learned there is one constant: change. If you can't embrace it, you will wither on the vine. Peeirng into the crystal ball of 2014, I found some excellent prognostication from people that know much more than I do on what's next in social media marketing. Here are the ten best I've found so far.
1. More real-time marketing. From John Kultgen on PR Daily. When the Oreo Super Bowl ad went viral, the wheels were turning in marketers' heads everywhere. Kultgen says, "The brand set a new standard for extremely timely and relevant content. Sporting events, awards shows, and season finales became the source of inspiration for many brand's posts throughout the year." Real-time marketers will help fans engage in an experience. Savvy brands will learn how to do it well, not a la Kenneth Cole.
2. Whether your real time is faster than my real time will no longer be the problem. From Marketing Profs. "Marketers will begin taking advantage of new capabilities that enable them to act on insights in the very moment they need to act. Speed of delivery will no longer be the problem. The real opportunity is whether an experience can be delivered when it counts for the business-and when it matters most for the consumer."
3. Word-of-mouth marketing will take off. From Jason Falls on Social Media Explorer. Falls say that consumers will continue their migration away from sponsored messages and banner ads. "We don't want the blinking lights of Times Square. We'd rather have the relative peacefulness of a stroll around Greenwich Village." Falls says marketers are going to have to migrate to Snapchat, Path, Vine, and any other network that connects people but doesn't have an established business model. But beware, "you'll only be there for a year or two before the ads emerge and consumers migrate again."
4. User-generated content will be the hot content commodity. From Marketing Profs. What many already know, most will start taking advantage of: user-generated content creates loyalty, puts the fan/customer in the driver's seat, and generates sales. Every fan wears a marketing hat. Rick Mulready dubbed this "embracing fandom" on Entrepreneur.
5. Short form content will dominate. From Julie Fleischer, Director of Media & Consumer Engagement at Kraft (via Content Marketing Institute). Fleischer predicts that short form sound, sight, and motion will deliver greater viewership and higher engagement than long-form. She predicts, " brands will compete over who can tell the shortest stories with the biggest impact." Consumers will be the winners.
6. Niche interest networks will increase in prominence and usage. From Adam Vincenzini on PR Daily. Even though they will never significantly make a dent in the market share of the big channels, they will get more attention in 2014 as marketers who want to stay fresh look to engage the crowd that embraces innovation and change. It's all about learning to ride the wave.
7. More visual, less text. From Jessica Smith on Social 'N Sports. Smith cites how images have changed the way we digest social: "photo albums, pictures, and video get 180, 120, and 100 percent more engagement respectively (Facebook)." We'll have to push ourselves to keep up with all the channel settings that will enhance visuals for maximum engagement. Note recent Twitter changes.
8. Erasable media. From Dave Kerpen on Inc. Kerpen predicts our desire for the ephemeral will give rise to new channels and move current mainstream social media networks to adopt a disappearing content function. Kerpen attributes this to our increasing desire to personally share with one another. "This means that you'll have to be prepared to have the results of your hard work in content marketing literally vanish."
9. Social listening will become a requirement, not an option. From Pam Moore on Marketing Nutz. Moore says, "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." Preachin' to the choir.
10. Investment in social media will become a necessity, not a luxury. From Jayson DeMers on Forbes. As demand for good content and measurable results increase, brands will move from spreading social media duties across existing positions to hiring social media managers, according to DeMers. The era of assigning social media duties to a "tech-savvy, passionate" staff members is over. When companies need outside help, they will be looking for agencies that know social media business, not just social media tools.
There you have it. What's your best guess at 2014? The comments are yours.
I leave you with this list of my best social media resources. All of these people are also great Twitter follows. Happy Holidays and may God bless you all.
My Recommended Resources for Social Media (Higher Ed, Sports, and Crisis PR versions as well)