In many ways the social media scene has matured and the shifts are not as radical as they were few years back. Many of my answers from last year would not be out of place this year (last year trends can be read here). As majority of the readers of my blog cannot read Finnish, I have translated my predictions below. If you can understand Finnish, the report is highly recommended read.
Before going to my answers, it is important to make the distinction between a fad, a trend and a commodity. Every new thing starts out as a fad (i.e. Snapchat is in that phase). Majority just stay as fads (Chatroulette), but certain things evolve to trends (i.e. brands building their Facebook pages few years back). Only very few make their route to become commodities (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube at the moment). Trends do not pay the bills, so usually only when something is commoditized it starts to make safe business sense. In that way you should approach your social media marketing efforts like investor:
70% of investments to commodities (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)
25% to trends (Taking selfies)
5% to fads (Snapchat, Vine)
This is naturally subject to your risk tolerance and your business majority. If you are start-up with nothing to lose, it might sense to flip it other around. And do not get me wrong, my view is that brands should try to ride the trends and fads more proactively. It is just important to realize their business role (such as learning, gaining the opinion leadership, creating the future competitive advantage). Riding on the fads seldom is the way to reach masses.
So with that caveat my social media trends (with couple of commodities and fads thrown in as well):
1.Biggest Social Media Trends in 2014: Monetization & Mobile-First
There is two big paradigm shifts which are not really trends, but changes which have already happened but keep
a) Money (Show it)
Twitter did the IPO this year, which will affect the user experience. I doubt that the success will not be as good as with Facebook. Mass social media channels are increasingly more bought media than earned media. Therefore community manager or social media director without also access to bought media budget is a position without any real power. In many ways the advancements in bought media (i.e. programmatic buying) have also been way more interesting in recent years than say in, content marketing.
b) Mobile (First)
The switch to mobile is not a trend, it is a change which has already happened. Consumers switch wildly between different channels, platforms, devices and even use them at the same time! This puts extra pressure to understanding the consumer journeys. You cannot really understand those journeys without constant testing, measuring and optimizing. Secret to crack the mobile-first challenge is to think holistically consumer-first.
2. Social Media platform to look out for in 2014: Anything related to visual storytelling
I have talked about selfies before in this blog and they will not go anywhere next year (hopefully twerking will not disappear either). All the applications, which help you to modify and enhance will be hot items next year. China will show the way in this trend. Also, we have to also remember that selfie is a communication vehicle as itself. Combining IM and visual storytelling will be a big thing. Instagram has actually addressed this already with its Direct offering.
3. Biggest challenges in doing social media marketing in 2014: Processes block the real-time success
Old processes stand in the way of the really great real-time executions. Year 2013 was disappointment in terms of real-time marketing. There were couple of nice stunts, but we should be able to do better than just dunk in the dark (Oreo is still pretty much the only proper case study example). The briefing process that is suitable for traditional big brand campaign just does not fit faster requirements of real-time marketing. My personal New Year promise is to concentrate even more in creating and executing more streamlined, collaborative and more agile way to make real-time success stories next year.
4. Social Media Buzzword, which hopefully disappears in 2014: The whole talk of the social media
If you are still in 2014 talking about social media as a separate unit, you are more old-school than the person still using FourSquare. Consumers switch smoothly between devices and platforms and between virtual and real-life like it ain´t no big thing. What is actually the difference between digital and real-life nowadays? How can your firm address the needs and the behaviors of these consumers in every relevant touchpoints? To separate social media from other digital activities or other activities is just laziness and shutting your eyes of the reality. Digital scene is more fragmented than every before. Therefore it is more crucial than ever to create a big picture of those fragments. We do not need any more social media specialists (or digital specialists for that matter). We need 100% digital people who live and breath like their consumers and have the understanding and empathy to connect with them (and also means to be in the right touchpoints).
5. Biggest social media hope for the next year?
I do not hope, I just do. And measure, optimize and do it again.
Predicting the future is too much work, I rather create history.