A new year is nearly upon us, and with that, another year of social media and predictions for the future of social media marketing. Below is my analysis on the state of social media in 2014, and the social media sites you should and should not be investing your time in:
Content is hot right now. Not only are social media sites, like Facebook, putting priority on promoting content from partner websites (we'll get to this later), but Google's newest algorithm changes are redefining SEO and taking priority away from keyword placement, and placing more emphasis on creating quality and readable content.
Google+ stands to be on the forefront of this shift in 2014. It's no secret to savvy marketers that Google+ already puts a priority in indexing content shared on Google+, but now more and more people are starting to get the picture and use Google+ for its authorship and search indexing benefits.
Make no mistake, in terms of social conversations and engagement, Google+ is nowhere near the likes of Facebook and Twitter, yet, but with more and more social media marketers jumping on the Google+ bandwagon this year, look for Google+ to increase dramatically on the social scene in 2014.
To be blunt, Facebook is bleeding. Ever since the social media giant went public, they have been under heavy scrutiny and facing a demand from investors to be profitable. And their response to this demand has been terrible.
Facebook's "pay-to-play" philosophy.
In 2014, pay-to-play is going to decide the fate of Facebook. Pay-to-play refers to Facebook's new "algorithm" changes that have severely decreased the number of views business page's posts get on Facebook. The big wigs over at Facebook insist the new algorithm is focused on highlighting quality content; however, marketers and businesses have been quick to point out that limiting the number of views your post receives forces the issue on whether a marketer should purchase Facebook ads.
The response, judging on the reactions of most marketing professionals, is that pay-to-play is going to drive more people away from the social media giant than get them to pony up for Facebook ads. There's too many social media outlets out there nowadays that encourage social sharing and conversations for Facebook to believe that people will feel they have to stick around on their medium.
Microblogging social media site, Twitter, also went public in 2013, and has also been under demand to show profitability from investors. The difference with Twitter, and why it will remain hot in 2014, is that it is still listening to its audience.
For example, last week, Twitter changed its rules on blocking individuals on Twitter. The higher ups at Twitter did so because, in their opinion, they thought it would help limit retaliation from blocked individuals on the site. But Twitter users argued that their privacy was being invaded and went to their timelines to complain.
As a result, less than a day after Twitter revealed the policy, they immediately changed it back.
It's that kind of reassurance from executives that they're listening to their audience that will help build the confidence of Twitter users in 2014.
Along the same content lines, Twitter still rewards people who put in the hard work. Meaning, if you work to build a following, and engage with people on Twitter to build relationships, when you share your content, people will see it. There's no "algorithm" shutting your content down before it can even begin to grow.
Plus, with the prediction that many people will be jumping the Facebook ship in 2014, Twitter, which still adheres to the sharing principles that marketers and professionals hold valuable, seems like the logical place for the stragglers to turn to.
NEUTRAL: Snapchat and Instagram Direct
For marketers and professionals, direct message social mediums have never provided too much value. And while Snapchat and Instagram Direct may be scooping up the teenage audience that is fleeing Facebook at a tremendous pace, their purpose for professionals still remains relatively null. The demographic is just too young and the residual value of direct messaging in an earned media business just does not align with social media marketers.
LinkedIn has always been a good resource for marketing professionals; specifically, in the areas of networking. On LinkedIn, it's all business, and that is a good thing for marketers. When you are on LinkedIn, everyone else is there to talk shop as well. In other words, LinkedIn is valuable because it encourages professional networking and connects professionals that can help each other become more profitable.
The problem with LinkedIn is that is has not done the best job of providing incentives for logging on and staying on the social networking site. But that's changing, and quickly. LinkedIn is using their new "Pulse" technology to recommend high quality content for professionals that can be useful in sharing on other social media, and focusing on endorsements that help professionals use LinkedIn as a quality, and useful, online resume´.
Providing the incentive for people to login and stick around LinkedIn will help the social media site rise from a more niche´ social medium, to a serious social contender in 2014.
If you're looking for the hot medium, regardless of which social media site you are using, look no further than video. Brand-name companies, like Oreo and Tide, are crushing social media right now with Vine, and YouTube is only rising in social sharing. Much in thanks to its parent company, Google, and its prioritizing of YouTube videos in search indexing (See: Google+ theory).
NOT: Useless photos and high output, weak content
If you are using any of these strategies in your social media plan at the present moment, stop immediately.
Photos with quotes, funny sayings, and other "viral" content were hot in 2013, but with Facebook's new algorithm, photos are only reaching about 1-2% of your audience. The reason being is Facebook recognized that as socially popular as these photos were, they, for the most part, cluttered up timelines and provide little-to-no actual value.
If Facebook gets one compliment this year, it would be that the algorithm does a pretty good job of stopping these lazy attempts at going viral from building momentum. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, the algorithm also prevents interesting and useful content from reaching any audience as well.
Additionally, in 2013, content quantity was important in infiltrating Google's search engines. But the buck started to stop with Panda, and weak content is continually getting hammered by Google in their newest algorithm, Hummingbird.
The key here is in Google's reliance on Latent-Semantic Indexing. Or, content that is easily readable and actually serves a purpose other than trying to sneak its way onto Google's first page. Therefore, if you're going produce a piece of content in 2014, you're better off focusing on quality rather than quantity.
So, there you have it: the 2014 social media outlook. Use it, learn from it, and dominate your 2014 as a social media professional.