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New year, new predictions. The top 4 social media predictions for 2014

It’s the new year and a fresh start for everyone. These nba teams are starting to win so this year might be a great year.  In the social, digital and technology space, this year is predicted to be a banner year for new technologies but also a step further for marketers when it come to taking advantage of new social and digital platforms. And there also the increase in mobile ad spending. The outlook for all of them is leading to bold predictions from various agencies, experts and brands. I have a few of my own.  Below are my predictions for 2014.

Increase in social media ad spend 

In 2014, expect social ads to explode and get a lot more attention than they currently do. These ads are proving to be a lot more effective than some traditional forms of advertising, like banner ads. No one cares about banner ads, (clicked on 0.2 percent of the time), however social ads like Promoted Tweets show engagement of one to three percent— up to 15 times better.  Each one of these perform much higher than traditional forms of advertisements.

Video sharing will explode the way images did in 2013

Most millennials, the highly sought after target for many brands, grew up watching online video. It’s what they’re used to consuming and now are creating it more than ever.  Short form video platforms like Vine and Instagram have made it easier to create, edit and share video in real-time. And that’s not even including YouTube, the old guard when it comes to sharing video on social.

The signs for an explosion in video sharing in 2014 are all there.  Instagram introduced video a few months after Vine launched, Snapchat was offered $3 and $4 billion for their ephemeral image and video platform, (money they quickly turned down) which boasts users mostly between the ages of 13 and 25 and Facebook is launched video ads within the News Feed.  In 2014, videos will become the new image.

Google+ will grow in size and importance

Google+ has always taken a back seat for brands looking to connect with their users.  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram always got the bulk of the conversation.  However, that’s about to change in 2014. Google+ has slowly but surely grown the number of active users to over 540 million in 2013 and in 2014, is poised to create more importance in the social space especially when it comes to search.

Google+ is baked into a range of Google products, including important consumer facing products such as Search, YouTube and Google Maps. While brands continue to carve out a presence on Google+, many have noticed higher search rankings as a result of their presence on the platform.

The importance of community building and brand ambassadors will increase

In 2014, brands will be spending much more time building communities with fans who are willing to help them spread the word about their service or product because they love it so much. Brands will have to find ways to build more word-of-mouth traffic because consumers trust other consumers. In a recent Nielson Global Survey, 84% of respondents said they trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and families over anything else.

What are some other predictions you’d like to include in the list above?

 

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Thoughts on Snapchat spurning $3 & $4 Billion Offer, Instagram Direct, and Facebook Video Ads leak

Lots of news in the social space but I’ll focus on Facebook taking up the bulk of the headlines these days.  As you’ve probably heard, Snapchat turned down two acquisitions offers. One from Facebook for $3 billion dollars and another rumored offer for $4 billion.

I think Snapchat made the mistake of turning down the two offers because unlike Instagram, they don’t have a marketing platform for brands to pay to use (plus the offer was all cash!). Yes, I know brands like Taco Bell are being creative with the way they target teens but it’s not a platform every brand can use. That’s the biggest issue for any social platform – getting brands to create compelling content and maintain long-term engagement with those users. Snapchat just doesn’t have that right now and if they were to ever implement a paid strategy, it will have to something much different than their current iteration of their ephemeral product.  I wont’ even go into how fickle the 13-25 year old group is.  If Snapchat releases an ad product that disrupts users, you can bet they’ll leave in a heartbeat.

In Snapchat’s defense, it’s hard to sell when you’re the hottest platform in the social space but they need to be realistic on their potential.   They did hire Emily White, who was responsible for Instagram’s recent ad product (which wasn’t that difficult to come up with. I mean it’s an image-based platform, so brands will obviously share images. The greater success was not getting too much negative feedback on the ads.), so maybe she can come up with something for Snapchat.

So what does Facebook do once they get spurned? They come out with a competing product. They tried this against Snapchat in the past with Poke, which was a massive failure.  But this time they rolled it out on Instagram called Instagram Direct, which I think may end up hurting them in the long run. As I said on Twitter, turning Instagram into a messaging platform will further push younger users away from FB. We know they’re already making the move, so this is just another step in that direction.

Instagram Direct isn’t exactly a competing product against Snapchat. Messages don’t disappear and it still lacks some features but it shows how important messaging is becoming to Facebook.  And it’s also clear what their strategy looks like against competitors, get acquired or face the wrath of Facebook’s size (which may not mean much if users don’t move over). 

The final Facebook news this week was the leaked presentation about their upcoming video ads.  While I predicted something like this coming to Instagram (some variation of this already exist if you share Instagram videos on FB, the mobile version of the News Feed auto-plays Instagram videos), this leaked presentation confirms that it’s on the way on Facebook.  Users will get the videos in the News Feed but sound will be turned off so it’s not distracting users as they scroll through the feed.  I think Facebook will make a ton of money from video ads but they may also lose users in the process. Its one thing to ignore sponsored posts with images but a video will push users off the platform even more. Again, that’s just my perspective but I have been right in the past.

 

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You’ve got to pay to play in social these days

Gone are the days when you can organically large followings on social via amazing content and organic word of mouth or organic sharing. With today’s big social media channels, in order for a brand to really gain large followings or reach a large audience, paid media has to be an essential part of your strategy. This is in stark contrast to when Facebook allowed brands to reach large portions of their followers without a need for paid media to continue to reach those people. This is the same trend that Instagram and Pinterest will head into once their ad platforms mature and become another paid channel to consider for marketers. 

While Facebook’s platform almost forces brands to pay in order to get any kind of significant reach or even support when something goes wrong with a brand page, platforms like Google+ and Twitter are becoming channels that are ripe for engagement and stealing some of that momentum from Facebook. Google+ has been making steady updates lately and just announced that over 500+ million people interacted with Google+ in one way or another. Google has also some of its functionalities into their core products, Search and YouTube. Twitter is set to IPO this year and has been on a hot streak as a second screen partner for TV viewers.  That’s where they’ll be making a ton of their money as almost every TV show now has a hashtag associated with the TV show.

I’m extremely curious to how Instagram and Pinterest’s ad platforms will evolve. These two platforms will not stand still and stick to their current version of the ad platforms. The other thing to keep in mind is that a lot of these platforms have to capitalize as much of the revenue as possible because we all know these platforms won’t last too long. The driving force behind many of these platforms are fickle users who will leave if something better without advertising cluttering the platform, comes along.

As a marketer, do you feel like you’ve had to increase your paid media budgets? What do clients think of the changes to paid media?

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When will brands learn to engage and not put all your social eggs in one basket

I keep getting this strange feeling that in the next few years, Facebook as a platform will slowly start to decline, especially the relevancy of Facebook Pages.

The more I hear brands attach the word Facebook to social as if that’s the only platform that can do social well, I can’t help but wonder how much they have yet to learn. Just because Facebook is the default platform for brand engagement right now doesn’t mean it’s the only platform to invest marketing dollars in. Whenever I’m in a meeting, I want to scream and tell them the many other options available to them with differentiating benefits. Facebook is also misused so it’s not like these brands are doing it justice.

When a brand throws all of it’s social marketing dollars into Facebook and then follows up with marketing messages instead of actual engaging dialogues with consumers, the tactic behind using the platform loses its value. For those who still don’t get it, social media is part of a marketing tactic, not a channel to spew marketing messages to people. It needs to be weaved into the conversation in a two-way dialogue.

I wish more brands would be open-minded and invest in Twitter, Google+ or vine and Instagram for brands with creative products. Isn’t it better to be the first brand in your category to own that platform and set your own best practice guidelines instead of being another brand on Facebook that is trying to one-up their competition? Of course, none of it will matter, as brands will continue to take the safe route until that platform goes down with their marketing budgets.

All of this is easy for me to say as someone who’s invested in the future of social media but ultimately brands should be listening to their agency partners more often. They hired them for a reason, it’s about time they started listening to their expertise.

It could also be a fault of the agency partners who feel like they need the business so bad they’re not wiling to let the trouble client go or propose changes that may upset the current balance of things. Figuring out problems and providing solutions for the clients are what makes great agencies, not a rotating list of clients every year.

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Why brands need to embrace Pinterest now more than ever

I have to admit I’m not a big Pinterest user. I hopped on the train when it launched and used it sparingly. It wasn’t until a client became interested that I really started to dive deeper into the platform. It is extremely simple to use and I saw lots of engagement but with my other primary platforms taking up a bulk of my time, Pinterest took a back seat.  Recently, I’ve started to use it again and noticed an uptick in re-pins, comments and traffic to my pins.   This is also happening days after the pin goes up, which shows that there’s a long-tail marketing effect with Pinterest, unlike, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, which constantly requires fresh content to entice users to engage. My friends and followers don’t engage with any of my Instagram or Facebook content once it’s day or two old.

Pinterest is the silent but highly affective social media compared to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  And Pinterest has made many small changes to its platform that has significant benefits to users and retail brands. 

The biggest change is the ability to see price drops in Pins. This lets shoppers find great deals on items they’ve had pinned for a while. It’s a great way for retailers to stay connected with shoppers while automatically reflecting price changes.  This has tremendous potential.

Business Insider also determined another factor that can make Pinterest extremely valuable to brands, Pinterest is helping brands with reverse show rooming aka making people go into the stores after they see something on Pinterest. It’s quite a change from the current trend; check out items in retail stores then buy it on Amazon or another online site. If Pinterest can reverse this trend, brands should embrace Pinterest and focus on getting their products and engaging content published on ASAP.

How long have you been using Pinterest? Is it on of your favorite social media networks?

 

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Is the web still the king? Flipboard goes to the web

Yesterday, Flipboard announced that they’ll offer web magazines on various topics, in a similar layout to their mobile apps.  It’s a shift from what many new companies do, build and innovate the experience on mobile.  But another extremely popular mobile-first service did the same thing: Instagram. After finally launching mobile app on Android , Instagram decided to launch a web version of the service where you can like and comment on images (no uploads yet). 

It’s interesting to see how important the web still is to these mobile first companies.  One of the reasons why I think it’s a necessity is due to the popularity of the apps.  The initial surge in users is due to early adopters, those who use their mobile devices on a regular basis and rely on it for news, staying connected to friends, etc. But as these apps and platforms become popular with mainstream users, the web all of a sudden becomes an important part of that. Many users still don’t rely on their mobile device for all kinds of activities or don’t own a smartphone. They still use the web and in order to keep growing, these platforms need to cater to those users.

It’s a strategy that Facebook used to acquire a 100 million more non-smartphone users in emerging markets.  As a platform gets bigger, it needs to go where the users are. In the case of Flipboard, there may be a large contingent of potential users on the web, who may not have a smartphone or tablet but would still like the experience.

I think it’s an excellent move on their part but it still begs the question, are they worried about their mobile offerings?

 

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Video for Instagram Leads to Lower Engagement Compared to Photos

It’s been about a week since Instagram introduced video on their platform.  I’ve tested it a few times and it’s a seamless process but I wonder if video will disrupt consumption of photos on the platform and confuse users even more. 

There have been a few arguments made against including video within the Instagram feeds.  Taylor Hatmaker, from ReadWriteWeb, says the two features split Instagram into two and it’s not a favorable outcome for such an engaged community. Ryan Lawler, from Techcrunch, says that introducing video within the photo stream is ruining the core user experience of what made Instagram so great. He also says that Instagram sacrificed the long-term goal by introducing video and disrupting a user base that may not share as often as they once did due to the videos popping on their stream.

Both make excellent arguments and I can back that up with my small sample sized community.  I shared 3 videos on the Instagram feed.  None of them received more than 3 likes. I usually get anywhere from 7-8 likes per post, with the exception of the week after my vacation, when I didn’t really share much.  As you can see in the pics below, the videos, shared around the same time of day as my pics, didn’t really get much engagement. 

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I think this feeds into Ryan’s argument that maybe people aren’t ready to view videos in their streams just yet.  Maybe Instagram should have stayed as pure as they were. But it also feeds into Taylor’s argument that users are no longer sure what to expect and may shy away from the platform to avoid having to watch :15-second clips of nothing.  I strongly believe Facebook will resolve this issue with a 2-list feature, where users will have the option to toggle between photos and video. If they don’t do such a thing, you can definitely expect a decline in overall consumption and engagement. The best-case scenario for users may be that no one uses the video feature because engagement stinks and so our feeds are free of Instagram video. I can’t wait to see what Facebook plans to do with the feedback.

Have you noticed a decrease in Instagram engagement as a result of video? How are your videos on Instagram performing?

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