If 2013 taught us one lesson, it is that social media is an amorphous free radical that defies easy categorization or one-size-fits-all approaches. Looking ahead, marketers would be wise to expect more change and adapt accordingly, exploring new opportunities while optimizing current approaches. To that end, here are five key actions that will help you get social in 2014.
1. Facing up to Facebook monetization
With Facebook freely admitting that the organic reach of brand posts is declining to well below 15%, brands need to accept the fact that the largest social network is anything but free and that even the best, most engaging content will only get them so far. The silver lining here is that Facebook ad buying has become brilliantly efficient, especially if you use research tools like LoudDoor to improve targeting.
2. Getting behind Google+ (finally)
Desperately in need of a large competitor to Facebook, the industry is hopeful that 2014 will be a breakout year for Google+. Two new offerings, Google Helpouts and +Post ads, could make this wish a reality. Helpouts (see the charming intro ad offer “real help from real people in real time.” And +Post ads, which are currently in Beta testing, promise to push Google+ posts to a vast new audience of potential G+ users.
3. Vivaciously embracing video everywhere
New video opportunities abound. Vine, Twitter's six-second progeny, just started offering branded aliases and has been embraced by Tide, GE and Dunkin' Donuts, among others. Instagram, although still primarily a photo-sharing channel for its 150 million users, is seeing rapid growth in videos. And of course, YouTube rules this world, with over 4 billion hours of videos played per month!
4. Snapping at Snapchat
New to the party (at least among grown-ups), Snapchat is the hot photo-sharing app with over 100 million youthful users who share 400 million pictures a day! When they brazenly turned down a $3 billion takeover offer from Facebook, Zuckerberg & Co. responded with Instagram Direct, thus replicating the private sharing feature of Snapchat. These battles aside, brands that target teens and young adults will want to figure out how to join the fun on Snapchat next year.
5. Learning to love LinkedIn
Long a favorite of HR and recruiters, LinkedIn continues to expand its potential as a broader marketing channel. Recent additions include Showcases which allow brands to create specific product pages that can be subscribed to individually, and video ads that can be shown to its 220+ million users around the world. And content shared on LinkedIn, whether product news or just an interesting tidbit, continues to drive impressive amounts of traffic to branded Web sites.
Final note: Social media has matured and the efforts of the once “free” networks to monetize will undoubtedly dominate 2014 headlines. Twitter's recent Tailored Audience ads test is but one example, as is the introduction of ads on Instagram. For us “guerrilla marketers,” this means reassessing social in its entirety, beefing up employee and influencer activities and finding new outlets for truly engaging content. And last but not least, have a Happy (and Social) New Year!