Small Business Social Media Trends for 2014

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Small Business Social Media Trends for 2014

After reading a Forbes Magazine article on the trends of social media I realized that so much is geared toward the Big Box or heavily branded product (Nike, Coca Cola, Sony, etc.) so I am adapting its article to benefit the small to mid-sized business. With new social media outlets appearing everywhere, it can be hard to know exactly where to commit your resources.  We’ll breakdown what is out there and detail what will be important in 2014.

The following six items are predictions from Forbes Magazine as what will be in 2014.  Below each is my commentary on it affects the small business.

1. Social Media Will Become a Necessity, Not a Luxury

If you’re not currently utilizing at least two social media outlets then you are already behind the curve and whether you know it or not, your business is suffering.  The one element the small business had was it’s personal relationship with its customers.  Social Media is the new “personal relationship.”  In fact, it is quickly becoming the preferred way of communicating with brands and businesses.  The key is interaction and some of the biggest companies out there are doing it.  From personal experience I can say that Virgin America, K-mart, JCPenny, and a host of television networks and shows are masterful with their utilization of social media.  Social media is growing, it is another example of how businesses must grow with the times.

As businesses see measurable benefits, we’ll see a move away from assigning social media tasks to existing employees, and see more companies hiring social media strategists or full-time social media managers.

2. Google+ Will Become a Major Factor

While Facebook continues to lead the pack in terms of number of active monthly users (1.15 billion at last count), Google+ now has the second highest number of monthly users (343 million).

With Google using the platform to collect personal information (think demographics, location, etc.), Google+ should no longer be thought of as ‘just’ another social network. It’s increasingly proving itself to be an integral part of Google’s grand scheme in terms of SEO, social signals and providing a more personalized search experience.  I believe that businesses who are finding themselves spread thin with their social media efforts will increasingly turn to Google+ as the closest thing we have to a ‘one size fits all’ social network.

3. Image-Centric Networks Will See Huge Success (Pinterest, Instagram, etc.)

Visual content will increasingly become a critical piece of any solid content strategy, and social networking site Pinterest will continue to shed its reputation as a ‘women’s only’ network and become an integral part of retailers’ marketing strategies.  Pinterest is a social media outlet that I suggest all my clients be on if their product is a visual one.

For years we’ve been taught to protect the images on your websites to ensure they couldn’t be swiped or copied.  Now, we’re encouraging clients to make their web content sharable.  Other image-based social media sites like Slideshare, Tumblr, Path, and Mobli will continue to grow, and businesses must make content available for sharing.  The ability to make content sharable will derive significant benefit from their social media content marketing efforts.

4. We’ll Witness the Rise of Micro-Video

With the emergence of micro video apps like Twitter’s Vine and now Instagram’s video sharing feature, we’re seeing even more movement toward real-time video sharing. And not just any videos; with Instagram allowing 3-15 seconds per video, and Vine allowing precisely 6 seconds, users are even more likely to create and share videos from their smart phones.  Businesses should be doing the same thing.

It will be interesting to see if and how these bite-sized pieces of content will change the playing field when it comes to video-based social media.

5. Foursquare Will Decline Sharply

Did anyone know that Foursquare was still in operation?  With other more popular social media outlets allowing for “check-ins” Foursquare will continue to decline unless it can quickly come up with something new and dynamic.

6. MySpace, Love it or Hate it, Will Grow

MySpace is doing it’s best to make a comeback.  Doesn’t Justin Timberlake own a big chunk of it? It will not compete with Facebook, but don’t count out its innovations in 2014.  We may be reporting on it very favorably by 2015.

. . . Anyway,

Facebook and Twitter show no signs of decline in use, but it will be interesting to see how they innovate to keep up with the growth of Google+ as well as image and video-based networks.  Currently, I consider Facebook and Twitter the absolute MUST-HAVES for all of my clients.  In 2014, I am insisting that Google+ be added to that list.  While Google+ is the fastest growing, I still believe that Facebook and Twitter are more heavily used and seen.

While most business owners are aware of the necessity of having a social media strategy, I believe 2014 will be the year where a majority of businesses will finally understand the necessity to commit the necessary time and resources to their social media efforts.

Social Media is how big business is establishing personal relationships with their customers.  The personal relationships that were considered unique to small, local businesses.  Social Media Strategy is no longer a “fad” but instead a “fact of life.”

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What Qualities Make Someone a Social Media Expert?

Is there anything that actually qualifies someone as a social media expert? Social media is complex. It combines the knowledge of how the social media platform works, knowing statistics of who utilizes social media, a thorough knowledge of marketing concepts, and most importantly an ability to understand “group-think” and to create a likable and persuasive online personality. So, do social media experts actually exist? Maybe. But most of the people who claim to be experts have no business doing so.

Many believe that because they are familiar with the functioning of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. that this qualifies them as experts. This is equivalent to memorizing the vocabulary of a foreign language and calling yourself multi-lingual. You might know the words, but you’re clueless to context, point-of-reference, tense, idioms, etc. To be an expert there is much more to know than how a social media outlet operates.

Who is your target demographic? Which social media outlet has better penetration and at what times should you be posting? For example, the typical person is on Facebook 12-13 minutes a day. That’s a small window to get people to see fresh information. However, 48% of 18-34 year olds check Facebook as soon as they wake up. Therefore, if you’re going to post or advertise it would seem wise to do so between 7-9am M-F. Pinterest users, for example, are comprised primarily of women with plenty of discretionary spending budgets. If social media “experts” do not know the ins and outs of who/what/where/why of each social media outlet then they cannot be considered an expert because they’re not as effective as they should be.

Social media people need to understand the relationship between advertising, marketing, and sales. They need to be grounded in the science of selecting audiences and the art of persuading hearts and minds. This doesn’t mean that your social media “expert” needs to come from the marketing department. He or she just needs a healthy respect for the role social media plays in the overall marketing process. Social media should help the bottom line. Someone who makes you popular but can’t convert that popularity into sales may not be an “expert.”

The person who handle social media must be able to create a likable online personality. More importantly, if this person manages many individual social media accounts he or she must be able to tap into each client’s online personality and post accordingly. Social media is 80% psychology and 20% marketing. The best social media “experts” are students of human nature. They are fascinated by group psychology and love people watching. Social media professionals want to understand why certain people are influential or influenced and what makes them tick.

Finally, a lot is being written about Social Media Influencers. An influencer is someone with a large online presence and a great deal of followers. They influence people. Whether or not they are social media experts is a completely separate issue.

People have asked me if I am a Social Media Expert. I always state that I do not consider myself an expert really because I am always learning from others, but I definitely know quite a bit more than the average person and considerably more than most people who call themselves experts. The fact is that Social Media is changing so quickly that the best we can hope for is being a stellar student of Social Media. We take our hard earned knowledge and offer it to those less stellar or to those who are too busy being stellar at something else.