With new social networking platforms appearing from behind every corner, it can be hard to know exactly where to commit your time and resources. And as we move into the latter-half of 2013, it’s important to look ahead to where social networking is going, and how we can get on board.
As I think about the trends in social media so far this year, I’ve compiled a list of my predictions as to where we’re headed as we inch towards 2014.
1. Investment in Social Media Will Become a Necessity, Not a Luxury
While I’d argue that investing time and resources into a social media strategy is most definitely a necessity in 2013, I believe the tipping point in public sentiment from ‘should have’ to ‘must have’ will occur in 2014.
Businesses are already coming to terms with the need to integrate their social media efforts with their content strategy, and are seeing the impact of social media in terms of lead generation, referral traffic, and revenue.
As businesses see these very real and measurable benefits, I believe we’ll see a move away from assigning social media tasks to existing employees, and see even more companies hiring social media strategists or full-time social media managers.
The benefits of social media are many, but they include:
- Improved social signals (which are a factor in the search ranking algorithm).
- Company branding
- Improved brand awareness
- Word-of-mouth advertising
- Increased customer loyalty and trust
- Improved audience reach and influence
Social media is also one of the three pillars of SEO.
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+ is quickly gaining steam, and in fact, 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. This is especially apparent with the importance of Google Authorship, which I project will be one of the key components to Google’s search ranking algorithm by the end of 2014.
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.
As Google+ moves towards even greater integration with other aspects of the web – as they’ve already done with their foray into local search – I think we’ll see its growth skyrocket, both in terms of business and personal use.
3. Image-Centric Networks Will See Huge Success
We’ve seen a consistent trend in 2013 toward sharing through image and video, rather than text-based content. 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.
Other image-based social media sites like Slideshare, Tumblr, Path, and Mobli will continue to grow, and businesses will need to become more mindful about the ‘sharability’ factor of photos on their websites and blogs in order to derive significant benefit from their social media content marketing efforts.
4. We’ll Witness the Rise of Micro-Video
It seems that writing 140 characters and taking 3 minute long videos is becoming too tedious for many of us. Micro video to the rescue!
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 smartphones.
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
With stale traffic numbers, and significant difficulties raising capital in 2013, Foursquare continues to struggle its way towards 2014.
With other social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter offering location-based features, it seems like only a matter of time before Foursquare folds and their users are absorbed into these other networks.
6. MySpace, Love it or Hate it, Will Grow
With their radical makeover and re-branding efforts earlier this year, MySpace appears to be getting its second wind. Offering an iPhone app that allows users to network, receive private messages, and listen to their own personalized radio station, MySpace seems to be on track for growth in 2014.
I don’t see MySpace ever again competing in the same space as Facebook or Twitter, but it will be interesting to see how the network grows among bands and music-lovers.
7. LinkedIn Will Become a Major Player for B2B Business Growth
Still holding steady as the #1 social networking site for professionals with 238 million users, LinkedIn isn’t just sitting on its heels. With the launch of its Influencers program, LinkedIn is positioning itself as not only another networking site, but as one of the largest sources of content creation and curation for professionals.
As it grows and attracts even more users, the advantages of being “linked in” will become enormous for B2B marketers. For a guide on how to use LinkedIn for Marketing, see my article “The Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn Marketing.”
Facebook and Twitter show no signs of imminent decline, 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.
With social media behemoth Facebook turning 10 in 2014 (has it really been that long?), they’ll continue to focus efforts on mobile, and on offering advertisers opportunities to better target their ads. And while Twitter continues to be the golden child amongst B2B marketers, I’m curious to see if and how the rise of Google+ will impact its market share.
While most business owners are aware of the necessity of having a social media strategy, we believe 2014 will be the year where a majority will finally understand the necessity to commit the necessary time and resources to their social media efforts.