The Year Ahead: 5 Social Media Trends Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

The social media landscape is evolving rapidly, and therefore, your social media marketing strategy cannot remain static. Instead, it’s important to reevaluate business goals, social media campaigns, platform results and revise your strategy at least once a year — if not quarterly.

Being aware of trends in the social sphere can help you design better strategies, apply the most effective tactics and choose where to invest your staff as well as financial resources. Here are the top five social media trends every entrepreneur needs to think about for 2014 and beyond:

1. Diversify. You’ve probably seen headlines about Facebook’s algorithm changes. If you currently operate a brand or business page, one study found that only six percent of followers currently see your posts. Experts suggest that that number will continue to plummet, eventually reaching one percent.

This bid by Facebook is aimed at increasing advertising dollars. But it highlights a potential weakness in many business’ social strategies: overdependence on any single platform puts you at the mercy of that platform’s whims. Whether it crashes or simply changes its rules, too much is at stake.

2. Google+ is for real. If there’s one social network businesses should pay specific attention to, it’s Google+, which is already playing a more important role in Google’s organic ranking algorithm. I expect this trend will continue.

To the surprise of many across the SEO industry, Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed in a recent video that Facebook and Twitter have no impact on SEO rankings as a result of crawling and accessibility issues. So it stands to reason that if Google wants to use social signals for organic search rankings, it could easily mine Google+ data, where its crawler access is unhindered.

Google+ is also the best way to get access to Google Authorship, which will play a huge role in SEO by the end of the year. Google Authorship helps the search engine identify your content, attribute it to the correct author and build a portfolio for each author that may include what many are calling “Author Rank” — algorithmic scoring based on author expertise and publishing history.

In most cases, an image of the author appears next to their content in search results, which also increases visibility and click-through rates.

3. Integration of social media, SEO, and content creation. The online marketing industry is moving away from the idea that social media, SEO and content marketing happen in isolation. Social media marketing decisively impacts how content is seen and shared.

Content creation and marketing have direct implications for your SEO performance — especially in light of Google’s latest algorithm updates. It’s important that you think of the three pillars of online marketing — SEO, content and social media — as a system that works synergistically to increase visibility, build your brand and ultimately garner customers and sales.

4. Visual content will win. An estimated 63 percent of social media comprises imagery. As such, visual platforms are playing an increasing role in social media for businesses. One study found that 29 percent of Pinterest users bought an item after posting or re-pinning it on the network.

Video content is also hotter than ever, with the addition of networks like Vine and Instagramfeaturing microvideos. Infographics are another effective promotion tool for businesses with both a bounty of data and absorbing stories to tell.

Not every platform will be right, but spending the time to find the visual angle to your business’ story and experimenting with different content formats can help revitalize your social media marketing strategy.

5. Social media as a brand builder. Social media channels should be managed according to a brand-oriented approach. Building your brand on any platform impacts your SEO and improves sales over the long term.

Are the visuals of your social media accounts consistent with the rest of your visual branding? Is your account name or any other copy branded? Are you regularly filtering your status updates to ensure they’re on-message and consistent with the overall brand that you’re building? Focusing on building your brand through your social interactions should be a key focus this year.

If evolutions in social media have taught us anything so far this year, it’s that entrepreneurs with flexible and engaged approaches will have the highest ROI. Take the time to understand general trends and focus on core goals, but also take action to experiment with specific tactics that will grow and change as your business evolves.

Big Social Media and Digital Trends for 2013 (Part 1)

2012 will go down in history as a significant year for social media. Facebook went public, hit a billion users and bought hipster darling Instagram; Twitter went out of its way to annoy the developer community; Pinterest exploded but few people could really explain why; and the London Olympics won gold for revolutionizing social media sports coverage but DNF’d by expelling athletes for Tweeting.

So what will 2013 hold? Unlike Danish physicist Niels Bohr who famously said “…prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future,” I’m throwing caution to the wind and present the following big five social media trends to watch out for. The next five will follow in a couple of days.

Time to think mobile first (your customers are)

The only thing growing faster than mobile usage is the number of analyst reports citing the growth of mobile. With more than six billion mobile subscribers worldwide, it is clear that desktops haven’t quite had their day – but that mobiles are becoming the computing vehicle of choice.

Having a mobile strategy isn’t just a nice-to-have or afterthought – increasingly marketers need to think mobile first. And it isn’t just check-ins and Instagram updates – the mobile web is dominating B2B website traffic site too. Businesses need to move forward with their customers as shoppers reach for their mobiles first, changing the path to purchase forever. The age of the mobile app is upon us – it is time to move as your customers move.

Social business won’t wait for marketing

I admit I said 2012 would be the year of social business. Sure, there’s been progress but we’re not seeing McKinsey’s $1.3 trillion in annual value just yet. What we will see, though, is a lack of patience across the enterprise for marketing-led social business initiatives to gain traction.

Human resources, sales, research and development and customer support will make their own social business plays as their audiences demand new and better ways to work with them. The neat cultural shifts that marketers ponder and carefully brand will happen with our without them. BYOD, cloud storage and the app explosion will force IT and marketers to adapt on the fly as their businesses evolve around them.

It’s all social, stupid

Led by Twitter, Facebook and dark-horse LinkedIn, social networks will continue to evolve and offer new content and collaboration services in response to ‘traditional’ media outlets that show a greater command of social media channels.

Niche communities will grow but we’ll also see consolidation as venture capital burns out and the larger media companies acquire social networks and digital properties to grow their share (leading to inevitable hipster outrage). There will also be a greater demand for ROI from social media as big data reveals the actual role social networks are playing in buying decisions (or not). As a result, B2B brands in particular will build custom, on-domain social networks.

Marketing silos crumble

Marketers will be confronted by the dawning realization that their audiences simply don’t care whether they’re from PR, advertising, web or search. We’re talking to the most marketing savvy generation in history who can spot a marketer from 100 yards (91.44 meters).

This means marketers of all disciplines will have to play nice. PR folks who saw advertising as a dark art now must embrace Facebook ads, sponsored tweets and understand PPC. Graphic design and photography skills need to be part of every community manager’s toolkit. An average of eight content assets are consumed by IT decision makers in selecting a vendor. This means our collective understanding of what makes people buy, be it paid, owned, earned or social, is no longer non-negotiable.

Who is my customer anyway?

While 2012 saw marketers embracing the idea of big data, the question remains, is it being used effectively?  Ponder all you want, but it will be critical in 2013 to know customers beyond demographics and really understand their behaviors.

We’ll see CIOs rise up in response, with the realization that knowing how to track data, personalizing websites, semantic analysis and so on will be vital in helping companies catch up with their fickle and chameleon-like customers. For marketers still struggling with social media monitoring and measurement, this might require some remedial mathematics. Add to this the complexity of data generated by multiple interactions across multiple devices and platforms, and we’ll need the CIO even more. Content may drive the decision, but data directs the content.