Even though spending on social media marketing is at an all-time high and continues to grow, there’s a good reason that the overall portion of the marketing budget dedicated to social channels remains comparatively small. Frankly, this is a bit surprising. It’s been nearly 10 years after social media arrived on the scene; and today, social media essentially dominates as a share of digital consumer attention, yet social channels remain an under served target for many businesses.
The underlying reasons for this general underinvestment in social media marketing are complex. In general, marketers have discovered that attaining their objectives through social media can be less predictable, particularly because the discipline itself is one of the fastest changing in the media business. It is harder to tie outcomes to specific business goals. Directly translating traditional marketing activities into social media usually doesn’t produce the best results, as marketing efforts typically have to be rethought for two-way engagement, user participation, and/or viral amplification.
Some of the current data is sobering:
Yet over 70% of marketers plan on increasing their investment in social media next year, and by an average of 50%. This means marketers will be doing more in social, expectations by the business will be higher, and successful outcomes more important than ever.
In this environment then, my research indicates that marketing teams will be looking to increase the effectiveness of their social marketing efforts in three ways: a) by better adapting their digital assets and campaigns to social channels, b) shifting to a focus to managing for quality metrics, instead of just quantitative measures, and c) preparing for more rapid engagement in new channels including mobile and new emerging social networks.
Against this backdrop, here’s what 2014 holds in store for social media marketing:
- Marketers will get Facebook fatigue as the social networking giant continues to change its algorithms.
Fresh off the most recent — and rather contentious — changes to brand pages, marketers will re-evaluate how much they invest in the platform in 2014, looking for a more diversified social strategy. I’ve long recommended that companies serious about social media should avoid driving their traffic to Facebook in general, and the latest round of changes by Facebook should give marketers reason to carefully rethink their plans.
- The resurgence of Google+.
Now that Google+ has grown recently to become the #2 social network online, it will get new respect by marketers next year, who will figure out how to incorporate it into their social marketing plans.
- Image-based services and surprisingly, blogging, will see new emphasis.
Whether it is Pinterest or Instagram, or images in feeds on Twitter and Facebook, compelling visuals continue to drive high engagement and attention. Marketers will be looking at expanding their efforts in this area next year. Blogging will also return as a key engagement strategy that avoids the lock-in and control issues of major social media sites.
- Integrated marketing begins in earnest.
In 2014, it’ll be practical for the average organization to largely achieve a long-standing goal: Easily create an integrated marketing campaign that has presence and engagement capabilities at all the major social and non-social touchpoints. What’s new that will finally make this happen? The rise, maturity, and recent prominence of new multi-channel and “omnichannel” marketing platforms like Marketo and Eloqua that perform a lot of the work automatically to make consumer experiences seamless across Web, mobile, social, and other digital channels.
- Real-time marketing will get real.
RTM was all the rage this year, and powerful examples like T-Mobile’s customer retention effort demonstrated that major, market shifting results were possible. But most organizations were just learning about it in 2013. Next year, they will begin integrated real-time efforts into their social media efforts, particularly as more companies build social media command centers capable of scaled listening, triage, and dispatch.
- Social marketers will continue to struggle with mobile.
Over 250 million Facebook users are mobile-only and that number is growing. While Facebook was able to gets its act together around mobile, it took an investment and effort that most marketing organizations won’t possess. Organizations willing to focus on mobile-first for their social marketing efforts will fare better, but it will be another difficult year adapting marketing strategies to both social and mobile.
- The move to measurement of quality of engagement, instead of quantity.
Not that quantity won’t continue to matter, as it always determines the ultimate funnel size, but as measurement methods continue to improve dramatically, social marketers will also be able to determine if their efforts are resulting in the quality of engagement needed to drive business outcomes, like conversions. You can’t manage to what you can’t measure, and measuring quality of engagement will ensure more effective and efficient marketing campaigns in 2014
- A significant shift in the social networking landscape.
The emergence of Snapchat and a host of other new social networks and apps shows how dynamic the industry is. Marketers will find it easy to focus on the old standbys like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, yet some of the best demographic segments will shift their attention to new social networking services in 2014, and smart marketers will allocate resources and budget next year to tap into them.
Of course, much more will happen in social media marketing next year, but these will be some of the most significant in my analysis. That’s not to say that some of the strategies of five years ago aren’t still key. For example, I’m still sanguine the major investments in customer communities have the biggest bang for the buck, even as the window increasingly closes on the easy opportunities.
What are you seeing as the biggest trends for social media marketing next year?
Dion Hinchcliffe is the Chief Strategy Officer of Dachis Group. To find out more about Dachis Group’s session at Social Media Week, click here.