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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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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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If I were Google, I’d worry about Pinterest & Twitter search, not Facebook’s Graph Search

Yesterday, I wrote about how Pinterest is getting me to start using the platform again and why brands should too. Today, I’d like to dive a little deeper into its search potential. Along with Pinterest, I’ll touch on how Twitter is continuing to update their platform to ensure they can compete with Google in the near future.

With Pinterest’s new price feature that launched last week, it ensures that users who pin content on their boards with a price tag have the opportunity to get a lower price should that item go on sale.  Coupling that feature with the endless amounts of content on the Pinterest platform, there’s an opportunity for Pinterest to eat away at Google’s search results especially for things you already know you want and would like to see images of.  As more users share and pin content, the Pinterest database will become even larger, giving users more opportunities to see content and eventually make purchases. 

Pinterest has been a great source to search for interests but now those interests can turn into actual sales.  I’ve done this many times – suits before my wedding, ties from the Tie Bar but also to curate places I’d like to visit. Having those boards gave me an opportunity to come back and make a purchase and now with the price tag feature enabled, I can always check up on those boards to see if I’d like to make that purchase. Unlike Google’s search results, Pinterest gives me the opportunity to curate my board and come back when I’m ready to buy, while Google’s is at the moment of purchase, which can be more powerful not but may not be in the future.  Pinterest can easily incorporate some of Google’s ad targeting features soon, giving it some additional leverage for advertising.

While Pinterest continues to evolve their platform to lead to sales, Twitter is evolving their search capabilities to let users consumer content in real-time by adding new features. Today, Twitter updated their search engine to include photos, people and social context. Mobile and desktop searches also have the same user experience.  Twitter has the advantage over Pinterest, in that it gets millions of real-time updates on its platform and now with photos, it gets even more data to target ads with.  Twitter is where I go to get breaking news, not Google. Google search depends on published content, which takes seconds for its bots to crawl before displaying it on the search results. Twitter instantly gives me that info.  Google & Twitter once had a deal to display real-time tweets on Google searches but if Twitter continues to gain users and becomes the defacto search engine for breaking news, they can quickly eat away at Google’s large pie of advertising.

Google’s has been protecting its search engine and advertising revenue from many competitors – Bing, Apple & Facebook, but no one has really taken a large enough percentage away to give them a headache. Many thought it would be Facebook with Graph Search but that looks like a project that’ll require years of contextual data and user actions for it to become a viable search engine. And with users declining in key markets, Facebook may never have a search engine on their hands.   Graph Search also doesn’t really solve a problem. I don’t search for anything on Facebook unless it’s a friend or a brand. They don’t provide anything of value to me – I don’t look up pictures (I can visit user profiles), don’t search for recommendations (that’s what Yelp and Google are for), and don’t care to revisit pictures from 5-10 years ago (I don’t have time on my hands to do this & it’s not available on mobile).  Graph Search hasn’t given me any reason to use it and I probably won’t until these problems are solved.  Along with Facebook’s lack of a search engine, its ability to sell products on the platform via brand pages has also hit a snag.  Retail brands are no longer opening up Facebook shops to entice potential customers.  And that’s not a good sign for the platform, which has been catering to businesses over the past few years. It’s not to say Facebook will disappear in a few years, but it should make brands hesitate when it comes to Facebook advertising spending, which in the long run will prevent it from building out a proper search engine.

If I were Google, I’d worry about Pinterest and Twitter with their search capabilities. As they get bigger and acquire more users, Twitter and Pinterest will continue to solve two big problems for brands and consumers, the ability to get information in real-time and search for things they want to buy.

 

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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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6 reasons why clients are leaving agencies and taking social media in-house

There’s a new trend taking place in social media management, brands are taking social media in-house, away from agencies. This is likely to continue with the Publicis & Omincom merger. Brands have been trying to do this for years but it’s coming up in conversation more often now.  I had a chance to speak with a client about this, who told me why they’re looking to do exactly that.  Below are their reasons:

  1. They’ve become smarter: clients have become much smarter about social, especially when it comes to hiring specialists on their team but also younger employees who understand the landscape just as much as agencies do.  With more information, they’re better equipped to handle social media in-house, not to mention that many agency account managers and social media specialists still don’t understand the brand goals or how to properly execute a strategy.
  2. Agency employees jumping ship: Agency employees are leaving to work with their clients and clients are happy to do this. Clients realize that the best way to build their team is to hire from the agencies that have worked with them. 
  3. Clients own the data: brands and clients are now getting more access to their data and as a result, they know what’s happening in the space, especially with trends.  Combine this with clients getting smarter, it allows them to create their own strategy.
  4. Structure & accountability: brands and clients are no longer using agencies as a crutch when something goes wrong. By structuring their team properly, they can take accountability for mistakes that are made on the social media team.
  5. Save money: Since brands are taking their business away from agencies, they’ll save more money and as a result can offer more money to the new hires they’re building their teams with.  Think about how much money they’ll save by not having to pay agencies $200+ per hour to do community management and social media.
  6. Brands pay for the tools: One of the reasons why the Publicis and Omnicom merge didn’t make sense to me was the fact that brands pay for and own many of the tools to manage social media.  If brands own the data and control the tools, how would an agency have data? It’s a puzzling question in that case but it’s another reason for brands to think about bringing social in-house

Have you noticed a trend in brands taking social media in-house? Why do you think this is happening?

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Consumers drive brand conversations on social & it won’t change anytime soon

With the rapid adoption of social media among consumers and the desire of brands to connect with those users, there’s been a paradigm shift in who controls buying/selling decisions, along with the conversations they have about the brand. It’s now the consumers determining the conversations brands can have with them.   

The social consumer has such a high valued voice that any negative tweet, FB post or Instagram image can lead to negative publicity for any brand, big or small. As a result of that, brands are trying their best to engage, while avoiding headline-making mistakes on social. There are many factors to how consumers are now the drivers behind what brands do on social.   

First, there’s the expectation to be on social and engage with consumers.  If I tweet at a brand, I expect them to respond and help me resolve my issues. When they don’t, I tweet again to my followers about the issue, further expanding my reach for negative conversations. Most customer service oriented brands have community managers in place to help resolve those issues but there are some big brands that just blast messages on social but don’t engage with the audience.  According to Mediabistro, 80% of customer tweets go answered every week. If brands haven’t thought about shifting away from that model, they better do that soon. Financial service and airline companies have been doing a great job of this, helping consumers in real-time via Twitter & Facebook.

Second, brands that engage have a greater reach with consumers.  The more a brand engages with audiences, the greater the opportunity to reach friends of friends via tweets or FB status updates.  It’s the word of mouth theory but in a social setting, it has the potential to reach hundreds of new users. 

Third, brands that don’t have a presence leave themselves open to negative conversations that can spread like wildfire. It only takes one angry customer to start a FB page and share it with his/her friends.  By creating a presence, brands can dictate the conversation and avoid PR nightmares.

And last but definitely not least, brand advocates have a bigger say in the types of conversations that take place on social, now more than ever. If a brand advocate feels like he/she is not being well represented or if a product doesn’t meet their expectations, it can lead to negative publicity from additional followers. Brand advocates should be working with brands on making the service or product better and brands need to realize that ASAP.

Social can be a great tool to have amazing conversations with brands and get issues resolved faster than getting on the phone but because of the nature of social, customers are now the driving force behind those conversations.  It doesn’t look like that’ll change anytime soon.

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