Would it surprise you to learn that some experts believe Google GOOGL +2.16%+ is on its way out, that MySpace is making a last-ditch attempt to re-engage users, or that Foursquare is in the middle of a radical overhaul?
Late last year, I made some predictions for social media trends in my article, The Top 7 Social Media Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2014. In this article, I’m going to examine where things are now that we’re around the mid-way point of 2014, and assess how my predictions have fared so far.
Prediction #1: Investment in Social Media will Become a Necessity, not a Luxury
With 92% of business owners recently indicating that social media is important to their business (up from 86% in 2013), this prediction appears to be on track. Businesses are continuing to re-allocate budgets away from traditional methods of advertising towards social media and other inbound marketing strategies.
A major concern among business owners remains measuring the ROI for their social media efforts. Other issues that may be hindering the effectiveness of social media for some businesses include a lack of education and trained personnel – making it difficult to efficiently carry out day-to-day social media tasks (never mind strategizing or tying social media into wider business goals).
Prediction #2: Google+ will Become a Major Factor
With just over half of marketers using the platform, and 61% of businesses planning on increasing their Google+ activities this year, Google+ is clearly still top of mind for marketers. But while more and more business owners believe that an investment in Google+ is a necessity, many are still struggling with making the platform work for their business.
With Google announcing earlier this year that social signals are not part of their ranking algorithm, some business owners are wondering whether an investment in Google+ is as valuable as previously thought. Add to this the recent decision to remove Authorship photos from the search results, and it’s not surprising that some marketers are confused about how Google+ is different or better than Facebook or Twitter TWTR +0.78%.
With the head of Google+ social efforts Vic Gundotra suddenly leaving the company in April, and reports of Google+ being ‘walking dead’, the future of the platform is unclear. For now, business owners should continue to focus on using the platform as a way to connect with prospects, but perhaps more importantly as a primary method of establishing Author Rank and authority for their content. For more on this, see my post Is Google+ Really Walking Dead?
Prediction #3: Image-Centric Networks Will See Huge Success
Image-centric social networks like Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat may not be serious competition for Facebook, but they continue to draw in a loyal user-base, and that may ultimately be the key to their success.
Pinterest, for instance, is experiencing some pretty astounding retention rates: according to recent research by RJ Metrics, while 2014 has seen a drop in male pinning activity, women actually appear to pin more the longer they’re on the platform. Robert J. Moore of RJ Metrics writes, “While the average female user posts 42 pins in year 1, by year 4 she is up to 152! If you set out to build a habit-forming product, that is exactly the type of trend you’re looking for.”
Companies continue to find creative ways to use image-centric networks to reach new, younger audiences: for instance, Mashable recently announced that MTV would be using its Snapchat account to announce the nominees for the Video Music Awards.
According to Global Web Index data, while Facebook still remains the clear winner in terms of its user base, among social networking sites Instagram experienced the biggest rise in active user numbers between quarter 2 and quarter 4 of 2013; it will be interesting to see if this trend has continued into the first 2 quarters of 2014 and beyond.
Prediction #4: We’ll Witness the Rise of Micro-Video
Brands are using micro-video platforms like Vine and Instagram video to stand out by simplifying their message. Take the anti-smoking campaign launched recently by Saatchi for World No Tobacco Day: Digiday reported that the first 5 days of the campaign garnered the ads 50,000 likes and 26,000 revines.
According to Ant Melder, creative director for the project, Vine was the ideal platform for this kind of message: “Every six seconds, a smoker dies of a smoking-related disease… This fact was so simple and shocking, we wanted to get it out there. We were looking for a way to dramatize it. It seemed like such a simple, simple idea.”
Despite the success of this campaign, however, Social Bakers reports that Instagram video is the clear winner when it comes to micro-video for businesses. By tracking how often brands posted to Twitter using Vine and Instagram, they were able to determine that Instagram clearly beat out Vine: “The numbers confirmed that not only is Instagram beating Vine for brand twitter content, it’s beating them by a wide margin of 4 to 1. Twenty-eight percent of brands currently use Instagram for content, while only 7% use Vine”.
Prediction #5: Foursquare Will Decline Sharply
According to Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley, it’s not time to write off the platform just yet. In fact, he claims the company grew revenues by 600% in 2013, and 500% in the first quarter of 2014.
In an effort to re-invigorate the dying platform, Foursquare recently split its app into two: the original Foursquare, and its new app, Swarm. The new app allows users to easily find friends via neighborhood sharing – without the need to check-in (although you can manually check in to locations if you want to). The new and improved Foursqure app, which will be re-launched later this summer, will no longer allow check-ins, but is instead positioning itself as a direct competitor to Yelp – using its huge database of knowledge to provide personalized recommendations for local search.
Prediction #6: Myspace, Love it or Hate it, Will Grow
While Myspace may not be growing at breakneck speed (that’s putting it mildly), it’s still hanging in there. In fact, in what some say is a last ditch effort to re-engage users, the company recently sent out emails reminding past users that their photos were still on the site. The email contained the subject line, “The good, the rad and the what were you thinking…” along with a couple of teaser photos meant to entice users to log back in.
It remains to be seen whether this strategy is working: A Myspace spokesperson told Mashable, “Myspace has been reaching out to current and past users to re-engage them through a personalized experience”.
Hopefully these efforts pay off. While the platform has seen a significant increase in visitors over the past year (source: Statista), its numbers don’t even come close to those of Facebook, Twitter or even Google+. Still popular with music lovers, the platform has a lot of work to do if it wants to attract (or re-attract) a wide range of users and remain competitive.
Prediction #7: LinkedIn Will Become a Major Player for B2B Business Growth
LinkedIn continues to be a primary network for businesses, particularly the B2B set. According to research by LinkedIn expert Wayne Breitbarth, company page usage this year has jumped from 24% to 57%.
While LinkedIn may not be a top player for the B2C crowd, it’s currently surpassing all other networks (even Facebook and Twitter) for B2B marketers. According to Social Media Examiner, 33% of B2B marketers are using the platform, as compared to 31% for Facebook and 16% for Twitter. And while both the B2B and B2C crowd plan on increasing their use of the platform, a whopping 77% of B2Bs plan on increasing their investment in the network this year.
2014 has brought some surprising news and trends in terms of how businesses are using social media. With LinkedIn growing in popularity among B2B users, Pinterest boasting impressive retention rates and Google+ going through radical changes in the first half of the year, it will be interesting (to say the least) to see what happens during the remainder of 2014.
What social media trends do you see dominating the rest of 2014? Which trends from the list above surprised you most? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Written by: Jayson DeMers Source: www.Forbes.com
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