Several trends and technologies will reach maturity in 2014 spawning considerable disruption in social media, but I believe native advertising and sponsorship will have the greatest impact. It’s a back-to-the-future scenario.
The future of marketing looks much like its past. Image source: iStockphoto
In the 1950s, product placement and “this episode of Your Hit Parade is brought to you by Lucky Strike cigarettes” was the norm when companies wanted to reach prospective customers. We then steadily moved away from integrated advertising for decades.
But now, native adverting is back and 2014 will be the year that Advertorial 2.0 becomes a major part of the social media marketing mix for most companies.
The days of social media being “free” marketing for companies are over. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest are all in full monetization mode now, and companies looking to reach their fans/customers/prospects via these venues are going to need to pay to do so.
This has far-reaching implications for social media users, the concept of authenticity, what is and is not journalism, marketing budgets, the role of agencies and whether the future is more “social” or more “media.” Like it or not, I’m betting on the latter.
My prediction for 2014 is that employee advocacy will become a strategic initiative for more and more large companies.
Companies are always looking outside corporate walls for brand advocates in social media, but many of their most passionate advocates are also those who have deep ties to their company: their employees. Each individual employee has influence in his or her own unique social network, so the more employees who can help share the company’s social media messages, the broader the reach a company can achieve in social media.
To think of it in simple terms, if you had a sales and marketing team of 10 employees, your social media messages could be shared by either your corporate account or by your corporate account and potentially 10 more people.
Imagine the extended reach your employees’ advocacy will bring you.
Many companies are beginning to realize the exponential power of employee advocacy, especially on professional networking sites like LinkedIn, and I predict it will have a breakout year in 2014. Creating a successful employee advocacy program has its challenges, but the evolution of both social business as well as employee advocacy platforms should move this program forward in many companies in 2014.
With Facebook squelching updates from pages, small businesses and nonprofits (that lack deep pockets for Facebook ads) will have to scrap the old approach of spamming the news feed and refocus in three ways.
Marketers will have to refocus their strategies. Image source: iStockphoto
Facebook marketers will refocus their efforts in 2014 in these areas:
Become more useful in the news feed. This starts with listening to the storytellers within your fan base, and publishing content that is 100% about making them look useful and interesting to their Facebook friends.
Wisely integrate other marketing channels like email, other social media and events to encourage current customers to share branded content. After all, Facebook is essentially word-of-mouth marketing that begins with real fans telling their friends!
Finally start that blog you’ve been talking about. In the end, Facebook is about driving traffic to your website so that they buy, join your email list or make a donation. Publishing useful content on a blog is one of the best ways to achieve this across all social media channels.
#4: Social Networks Develop A/B Testing Tools for Brands’ Organic Updates
In 2014, these tools won’t be just for the brands with big media budgets. Once A/B testing tools for social media are rolled out, we’ll see an increase in the quality of content distributed across networks. This will have an enormous impact on social media marketing, if brands take advantage.
For the brands that do successfully use A/B testing tools for social media, they’ll see an increase in impressions, engagement, website visits and ultimately, leads and sales.
Think about how we approach email and website testing. These are environments where we have direct control over the elements. Social sites are a bit different due to being “rental property.” It’s extremely difficult to infuse science into the type of content you share, since there is less control over who sees social updates. The only way you can do this type of testing with the rigor needed is to fork over money for advertising.
In my eyes, it’s a win-win-win for the social networks, users and brands alike!
Facebook has changed its news feed algorithm to hurt organic reach. Twitter is a public company that must drive revenues. Google+ has introduced ads.
Paid social will become a necessity for brands. Image source: iStockphoto
In 2014, we’ll see increased pressure on companies of all sizes to pay to sponsor their posts to get more visibility, as getting consumers’ attention in social media becomes increasingly difficult. This will be hardest on small businesses that obviously have fewer resources than big brands.
I believe fusion marketing is going to become a very common catchphrase for us in 2014, and fusion marketing dashboards will be developed and available for us in the very near future.
While fusion marketing is not a new concept, the ability to truly integrate years of traditional marketing with the exciting digital marketing tools of the Internet and social media is going to become even more necessary!
And, as the concept of fusion marketing becomes more common, the need for fusion marketing dashboards that allow us to launch, manage and benefit from many different media campaigns all in one place will grow.
Fusion marketing tools will become necessary.
While HubSpot and Marketo are two of the best-known marketing hubs, they aren’t affordable for all marketers, entrepreneurs and small businesses out there.
A lower-priced and easy-to-use fusion marketing dashboard that allows us to access, create, launch and manage traditional, digital and social media campaigns all in one place for an affordable fee can fill that gap in the marketplace.
Fingers crossed—that’s what I would like to see in the new year!
As a brand leadership firm that helps large corporations define and share their brand stories through social marketing, we constantly witness the struggle companies face to reconcile their existing cultures and marketing strategies with the new demands of real-time, mobile customer engagement.
An early reaction was to simply adjust marketing while leaving the organization unchanged. Then, facing increased scrutiny and demands for transparency, large companies looked inward to ensure that what they said about themselves through their marketing was actually true of their organization.
As internal and external storytelling align, my prediction for 2014 is the rise of coherent social storytelling.
Brands will BE their story instead of telling it. Image: iStockphoto
This has huge implications for how brands use social media to build their reputation and sales, and for how consumers use social media as brand ambassadors. It will allow brands to shift their focus to their “story,” rather than its “telling.“ To focus on building relationships, rather than driving transactions. And to unlock the true power of social media, which is to inspire customers to build the business with them, based on shared values and a common goal.
With the hundreds of thousands of products launching every year and the amount of digital noise increasing exponentially, brands need a solution that allows them to distinguish themselves from that noise.
I see it happening two ways: either they have to consistently produce a viral hit (the chance of which is slim to none) or create a powerful advocacy engine that sparks sustainable word-of-mouth.
In the age of infobesity, advocacy becomes the most relevant filter. And byadvocacy, I mean the highest expression of brand love by a brand’s consumers, partners and employees. In the social era, the right form of advocacy becomes true influence.
Influence isn’t about impressions, it’s about impacting someone’s behavior. And the only way to impact the behavior of others is through passion, relevance and trust. Genuine organic love for a brand influences behavior much more than a paid promotion.
Brand advocacy will be more important than ever.
In 2014, brands will focus deeply on creating and nurturing long-term sustainable relationships with their true advocates through building smaller niche interest–driven communities.
We are entering the age of advocacy. Customers are no longer buying brands, they are investing in them. Marketers will move from marketing to their fans to marketing with and through them; from simply creating marketing campaigns to igniting brand movements.
#9: Paid Social Becomes a Requirement for Social Media Marketers
As social networks become more accountable to public shareholders, they will begin implementing “traditional” business models requiring that marketers “pay to play.” The organic marketing benefits of social media will continue to decline.
Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will slowly introduce special features only to paying customers and reduce the benefits of organic activity.
Learn the paid side of social or be left behind.
This shift will require marketers to go beyond engagement marketing strategies and deeply understand the paid side of social. Those that ignore paid social media will fall behind their competitors.
Mark Zuckerberg has a network of a billion people—perhaps you’ve heard of it. Google has a video platform that sees a billion uniques a month. Apple has received more than a billion podcast subscriptions. 200 million users send 400 million tweets each day. We’ve built their networks, and we did a good job.
And 2014 will be the year we build our own networks. The stakes are too high not to.
While playing nice with the unique cultures that make up the different social networks, I predict we’ll turn our attention to building our own lists. This won’t always be the traditional email list, but will include phone numbers, physical mailing lists and more.
Right now, Twitter lead generation cards, trigger texting and Facebook offers are leading the way, and you’ll see more of this in the coming year (both in tools and implementation). When social media marketers realize that they can reach their entire list without paying extra for the honor, the tide will quickly turn.
Building a list on YouTube? You bet!
Don’t worry, the change will be subtle, but the lists built will be significant (and profitable). Why shouldn’t we learn from the networks we helped build?
Paul Colligan, education czar for Traffic Geyser Inc. and CEO of Colligan.
#11: Interactive Video Becomes Viable
I think this is the year we’ll see a real breakthrough in interactive video. When you think about it, our relationship with video has not changed significantly since 1950. Basically, we “observe.”
But the technology exists to “tag” based on audio content and even recognize faces and objects. Wouldn’t it be cool to search the web and get just the right snippet of video to answer a question or solve a problem (instead of the whole video)? Can you imagine adding a comment or even content to a video while you are watching it?
Searching video for tags or images may be right around the corner. Image source: iStockphoto
I think the time is ripe for real innovation in this space.