By Cindy King
Are you wondering what 2015 might look like for social media marketing?
If the changes in 2014 are an indicator, there will be a lot more changes in 2015.
To get a grip on what the near future may look like, we tapped the knowledge of 28 social media pros.
Here’s what they had to say.
1: Video Becomes the Content of Choice
In 2015, video will dominate as the social media content format of choice. Further, regular video segments, like podcasts and blog posts, will come into their own as a form of content that drives social engagement and other marketing goals.
Let’s look closer. In August 2014, Facebook surpassed YouTube in the number of video views via desktop according to comScore. It’s important to note that YouTube still has more views across all devices. As of September 2014, Facebook attracted a billion video views per day, a roughly 30-fold increase since July.
Based on SocialBakers’ data, video posting moved away from YouTube towards Facebook in 2014. While these results still show YouTube ahead, the trend favors Facebook.
Also, Facebook videos receive significantly more shares than YouTube. This makes sense because sharing and engagement are at the heart of Facebook interactions.
YouTube is the best-performing social media platform to drive trackable sales,according to AOL’s Convertro research. It’s the first, last or only platform touched.
Earlier in 2014, Convince and Convert’s Jay Baer introduced his Jay Today, a 3-minute video. Baer cross-promotes and posts this content.
Here’s how nimble marketers can jump on this 2015 video trend:
Create your own regular video episodes. Take a page from Jay Baer’s playbook. His cost is under $125 per episode!
Provide the five key types of content your target audience seeks. Use Marcus Sheridan’s “They ask, you answer” approach. Record your employees who know the information, but are challenged to put their words in print.
Get your customers into the act. Videos captured with a smartphone are much easier than writing a review. Make it easy for customers by setting up an area of your establishment to encourage them.
2: Information Density Creates Hurdles
To me, there is one mega-trend that is like an enormous hammer forging nearly every idea and innovation in our marketing world today: Fighting through information density.
By 2020, the amount of information on the web is expected to increase by 600% (and some believe that number is low!). The challenge of cutting through the content shock and earning a share of the limited customer attention span is the marketing challenge for the foreseeable future.
This reality is behind important shifts occurring in the next year:
Business migration away from Facebook. The drop in organic reach has been apocalyptic for many businesses. Why? There’s too much content on Facebook and the company is forced to ratchet down the reach. We’ll have to either spend a lot more money on Hollywood-quality content, a lot more money on advertising or both. This will force some businesses to reconsider Facebook as a viable channel and enable a migration to less noisy venues.
Emergence of new content forms. As the web adapts to and adopts these new realities, it will drive innovations that help businesses stand out. I predict that we’ll see some interesting new content forms develop in 2015. A couple of areas ripe for innovation are interactive video and new types of short-form visual content.
Fighting through filters. New apps and filters are emerging to help consumers make better content choices. One example is Zite, which filters content for you as it learns about your preferences. As more people turn to these apps to sort the clutter, the marketer’s attention will turn toward the new challenge of getting messages through these new filters.
These are just a few of the many implications of this trend. The conversation on the web will turn from “content” to “ignition”—how do we get our message to cut through and compete?
Mark Schaefer, educator, consultant and author of Social Media Explained: Untangling the World’s Most Misunderstood Business Trend.
3: SlideShare Becomes the YouTube for Business
Instagram is to Facebook as SlideShare is to LinkedIn. In other words, look for SlideShare to emerge as the key social network for business professionals to find and share bite-sized pieces of content while on the go in 2015.
SlideShare is currently where you create, distribute and consume presentations, and it’s a great tool for B2B marketers to do content marketing for their target audience. Good presentations drive page views, leads, SEO juice and often long-lasting evergreen content. In 2014, SlideShare added video capabilities for LinkedIn influencers. In 2015, SlideShare will extend video to their entire audience. Watch for SlideShare video to become YouTube for business.
If you’re a B2B business or a marketer who represents B2B clients, make sure SlideShare is squarely on your radar for 2015.
Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Local, chairman of Likeable Media and author ofLikeable Leadership: A Collection of 65+ Inspirational Stories on Marketing, Your Career, Social Media & More.
4: YouTube Declines as Social Networks Embrace Hosted Video
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will show preferential treatment to video content that is hosted on their own platform. This means that marketers will be uploading original video content to each social network (and not just short videos).
The social networks will give extra exposure to uploaded videos because they keep users on the platform longer and provide unique advertising opportunities. This distribution of video will radically transform the way marketers work with video.
Michael Stelzner, founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner and author of Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition and Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged.
5: Social Conversions Become Easier
Social micro-conversions will become an active and successful strategy with every business in 2015.
Currently, businesses look to promote on social media, direct traffic back to their site, introduce a call to action and then drive the visitor through the conversion. The needed behavior is rife with trouble, because it requires the consumer or prospective business to take many steps.
I believe we’re going to see a lot more methods across social media that provide direct action through engagement. It may be a purchase through a tweet, mobile click to call, a Facebook registration or a Pinterest purchase, which bypasses the funnel and drives the social user directly to a conversion.
Some of the technologies will be integrated directly into the platforms, but others will be available through third-party applications. Either way, the ability to convert will be drawn closer to the audience and the activity.
This is a fantastic evolution in social media, because of the apparent lackluster conversion performance that companies are seeing when attributing conversions directly to social media activity. I believe its impact is vastly underestimated by businesses right now. By minimizing the steps and complexity, the conversion can be accomplished much easier. As a result, we’ll see a growing improvement in social media conversion performance and attribution.
6: Paid Ads Become Unavoidable
In 2015, social networks will continue to find ways to push businesses into their advertising programs.
We already know that Facebook plans to stifle organic promotional posts in the news feed starting in January 2015, and that Twitter hasn’t ruled out implementing a Facebook-like algorithm for their news feed. Instagram is still busy expanding their advertising platform, and since they’re owned by Facebook, an algorithm that limits organic posts from businesses and brands could easily be added into the mix.
Hence, social media marketers who might have avoided social advertising in 2014 will be forced to embrace it in 2015.
Kristi Hines, freelance writer and professional blogger.
7: Local Search Expands Google+
The rise of Google+, through Google Local Search results, will be a phenomenon in 2015.
Google has created the infrastructure to enable businesses to easily appear in Google search, and so many businesses still haven’t claimed their listings.
Once they have five reviews, the stars will be shown. The ‘star game’ will start to play out in 2015: authentic reviews will rise to the top and small businesses will have the chance to shine.
Even though stars are generally not considered to be a main ranking factor, we may all be surprised by their importance in search. By coincidence, above, the listing with the most stars is showing first in the local listings box. Yet generally, stars are considered as social proof, which in turn allows people to feel trust in their decision to click. More stars, more trust.
Combining this with the ability to access good-quality local data through tools such as Spheres (will be live by the end of December 2014), many offline businesses will be taking their first steps into social media.
Once this happens, further social media services can then be supported, including content sharing across multiple platforms.
Google is not in a hurry to bring business into their ecosystem, but this time next year will see a push where it gains even more ground and connections back into the real world.
Martin Shervington, author of The Art and Science of Google+: A psychological, user friendly and sometimes even humorous guide to this new social layer and a marketing consultant.
8: Tech Innovations Change Marketing
I don’t think we’ll recognize the future of social media! It’s hard to know what will have a greater influence on social media in the future—hardware design or software innovation?
With hardware innovation like Oculus Rift and D-Wave’s Quantum Computer popping up seemingly overnight, there’s no telling how hardware will affect the way we interact on social. And it most certainly will affect it, making engagement more intuitive, more in-time and more realistic than ever. Imagine what fully experiential quantum data integration will do to social interaction. The most active post on my Facebook page right now is a raging debate over having chips implanted like they’re doing in Sweden.
And then you have folks like Dr. Mark Sagar who recently introduced the first fully responsive, CGI, artificial intelligence baby.
I was sitting in the audience as his baby evoked very real emotional response in myself and in those around me. The future is here and the hashtag is#CrazyCreepyCoolTech!
What hopefully will remain the same, as the future of social spirals into the stratosphere, is the necessity and continuation of true engagement and connection. Whether these technologies will make them easier or more difficult, and whether people will rebel or adopt, remains to be seen.
9: Silos Break Down
In 2014, there was still a massive disconnect between brands and consumers due to a misuse of social media as a communication tool at the brand level and a misunderstanding of who the customer actually is.
This will be the year brands wake up to the reality that social media is a relationship-builder and not a one-way bullhorn. They will embrace the conversation, knowing that in order to establish meaningful connections, they must break down the social media silo they have created.
Brands will also recognize that the continued humanization of the brand is essential. As digital marketers, we talked about this at length in 2014. However, I continue to see brands speaking at consumers rather than with them. The mental shift to “tell a story,” not simply push a message, will happen.
Look to brands like Charmin, Oreo and Barkbox as prime examples of social media done right. Each one has created a fun, entertaining and interactive brand persona. They understand their audience and work to deliver content that is targeted and consistent in message, voice and branding.
But brands won’t make this shift on their own. To succeed, they must align themselves with the correct individual who can transform their vision and mission into a vibrant online personality. Gone are the days of knowing “a little something” about social media and claiming expertise.
In 2015, brands will ask potential social media marketers: Can you create a voice and inspire customers to take action or do you simply publish pre-created content? Do you have a deep understanding into integrated strategy and can you lead a team efficiently and effectively? That distinction will become glaringly evident as brands seek top talent to put a face on the brand.
While most brands will not transform overnight, there’ll be a significant push and willingness to embrace risk in order to get there.
10: Campaign Focus Shifts to Experience
In the information-driven and consumer-empowered world, relationship capital is the only business metric that stands the test of time. Brand love and customer advocacy is what takes care of the business bottom-line. To truly earn the trust and loyalty of educated, tech- and social-savvy, global, connected millennial consumers, it isn’t enough to distract them with short-term dazzle campaigns. To ignite and keep customer advocacy long-term, companies need to show that they care by repeatedly enabling meaningful experiences.
But to do so, they need a full 360-degree view of their customer, located centrally and accessible to any department within the company. That way—no matter where the customer comes from, who (s)he reaches out to and what the issue is—the company can enable the best experience possible at every touchpoint. Businesses also need to employ people who not only possess the right skillset, but also the right mentality; people who are passionate about serving their customers. And last but not least, they need to have integrated technology that can support the cohesive company-wide strategy.
It will take time and effort to accomplish. Executives will need to work on breaking the internal silos (not the easiest task), bringing the right people and technologies on board and establishing the integrated processes internally. But in the fast-changing digital era, where just having a great product isn’t enough anymore to gain a competitive edge, relationship-building and experience enablement is the only answer to not only business survival, but long-term prosperity.
Ekaterina Walter, Global Evangelist at Sprinklr and a bestselling author of Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg and The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand.
Next: 28 Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2015 From the Pros (Part -2)