Year 2014 will be turbulent for both brands and agencies working with social media channels. Because of the recent IPO´s (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), the previous rebels have started to resemble more established media houses. It is a double-edged sword. Many agencies are not as stressed out as the social media ecosystem is more predictable (and none of the innovation labs is making money anyway). On the other hand, the activities have been and increasingly will be quite dull and unimaginative.
Beginning of the year is the time to think your social media strategy. For majority of the brands, year 2014 should be year of revolution instead of just evolution:
1.Facebook is the channel for reach.
Majority of your social media paid media investments should happen in Facebook to maximize the reach. In terms of sheer amount of users, it is dominant. However, the recent developments have been really worrying for brand (and other) pages as well. Certain pages have seen dips as low as 88% in organic reach. Even Facebook itself is not talking anymore about free organic reach, but instead brand pages as a way to increase the reach of the paid media. This is natural advancement and should not surprise everyone familiar with market economy. So I believe that Facebook will get bigger media share in 2014, but actually less focus in terms of engagement. I would invest more in those terms with Twitter (customer service, real-time marketing) and to visual platforms (content creation).
2.Use Twitter as the channel for real-time and customer service.
I am not saying that every brand should necessarily be in Twitter, but if you want to jump on the real-time marketing bandwagon, Twitter is the place to be. I have a love-hate relationship with Twitter throughout the years, but despite all the shortcomings the service has proven its worth. It does certain things really well (like customer service), and provides more natural ways to engage with audience than Facebook. Here is example of random interaction with Warby Parker, after I shared their innovative annual report:
3.Invest heavily on visual social media channels.
Whereas online media money is going to Facebook, I would concentrate majority of the production and engagement investments to visual social platforms. No one has time to read text anymore, unless you are able to condense it to 140 characters or say it in photo.
Online video has been the fastest growing online ad format for couple of years. Naturally the pre-roll is the TVC of the new generation, but creation of good content provides great reach & engagement opportunities for brands. Video is a great tool for customer service as well:
Besides video, the photos are naturally huge and I expect the short-form video content to rise rapidly (Instagram video, Vine). Especially tutorials are naturally fit to for shorter video content (Check: #lowesfixinsix).
Many companies should actually rethink their community manager talent pool. In 2014 if you cannot take great photo or shoot a great video, you should not probably be community manager. Social media used to be more verbal, but now it is increasingly more visual.
4. Embrace the renaissance of anonymous randomness.
Contrary to what Facebook says, many people want to remain anonymous while online. 6% of all adults on Internet use Reddit. People engage way more on Tumblr blogs nowadays than on Facebook brand pages. One reason is that not all the people want to attach their Internet personality to real-life. In Internet you can be that backpacker hiphop-dude you really are and do not need even remotely to try to sound smart. It actually reminds me of the original promise of MySpace. You did not need to use it with your real name. You could make a site for your cat if you fancied. Anonymity can naturally bring some problems, such as hate-speech, crime and stuff but it also enables refreshing randomness that is currently missing from Facebook. Many people are more interesting talking about things they are interested and not about themselves (assuming they are not completely narcissistic). So do not underestimate the power of “anonymous” social media channels. Maybe Yahoo was on to something when it bought Tumblr.
5.Experiment with the new upcoming channels.
I have written before about how you should approach your social media strategy like investor. The landscape in terms of the hot newcomers changes really rapidly. Global brands should nowadays be more tuned into what is happening on local level. Experimenting with various social media channels goes hand in hand with that. For example if you had done tests with Path, it would be easier to utilize the learnings in Indonesia (which is the third-biggest Path user country). The innovation in social media sphere is also not limited only to Silicon Valley anymore so cutting-edge firms should empower their local teams to experiment with local social media channels as well. For example WeChat is way more advanced than WhatsApp. Competitive advantage can come from everywhere. The trick is to identify it, experiment with it and scale it.
There will interesting year ahead. In 2014 companies need to dramatically update and revamp the social media strategies. Which is great. Whenever there is turmoil and crisis, there is always an opportunity.