Facebook turned ten years old, but this forerunner in social networking isn’t showing its age. Instead, the site has celebrated with a new feature – “look back” videos that offer a glimpse into an individual’s past on the site. This “look back” is just another way that Facebook is looking forward and taking other social media platforms with it.
As the social networks go, so too must companies follow, bringing with them innovative marketing strategies. Social networking has forever changed how modern companies market and brand themselves in a variety of ways.
Platforms Are Smarter
Social media marketing has outstripped print advertising because it is much more intelligent on a data level. This increased intelligence makes social networking-based marketing more personal and, therefore, more engaging to the individual consumer. Before social networking, businesses had to sift through a range of demographic data to find their target audiences, but social networking platforms aggregate this data and even track a range of information about internet use, such as search terms and click-throughs. You can’t begin to compare the uncertainty of sending traditional mail, or even email, with the precision of marketing done through big social networks.
Communities Are Stronger
With social media marketing, the emphasis on clients and customers has shifted toward a focus on friends, neighbors, classmates, and the like. When businesses post to social networking platforms, it is important that the material not be presented in a way that is pushy or overwhelming, and that content doesn’t sound automated. One of the most powerful changes that businesses have made in social networking is a shift to Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) that are used to foster community. ESNs can merge components of marketing and service into one, creating strong bonds between companies and customers.
Customers Can Opt-Out
You can’t opt out of a billboard. You can turn the page in a magazine, but next month’s magazine will have ads in it. With social networking, you can be “unfollowed” and disappear from the radar. Content needs to be worth customers’ time – or else they will opt out. To prevent customers from turning away, it is important to produce consistent, high quality material and, perhaps even more importantly, to not be overwhelming in terms of content quantity. Too much content interferes with what customers are “really” using social networks for – like reading a friend’s status or seeing pictures of a new baby in the family. When customers opt-out, you become invisible, so it is important to steer carefully around issues of content quality and quantity.
Trends Fade Fast
You may think you finally have a handle on a new platform, but next week customers will be using it differently or will have migrated somewhere else completely. Adapting and even staying ahead of the curve is essential with these rapid changes. New becomes old quickly, and a stale marketing ploy will cause customers to leave you in the dust.
Staying Fresh in 2014
To keep your business on the radar this year, you’ll need to keep moving forward by testing out new strategies for capturing the constantly expanding social media market. With new platforms popping up all the time, the capacity to adapt to different media formats and understand user demographics is critical. In 2014, try turning your focus to these social media strategies for marketing success:
- Put community ahead of click-throughs – This year, it will be crucial to focus on building community, rather than earning click-throughs on site ads. Click-through ads are becomingly increasingly unpopular as users shift to building community on social media. Rather than engaging through its ads, customers will notice the way you interact with them – a factor that will be key for marketing success. Consider those personal and social interactions an advertisement for your company – an advertisement that shows the high priority you place on community, customer service, friendliness, and accessibility. Those interactions may not look like typical ads, but they will influence who comes to your site. The only difference is that customers will navigate to you independently of the ad – they don’t want or need a click-through.
- Don’t forget Google+ – It’s taken some time, but in 2014 Google+ will finally take off as a networking platform. Increasingly, users are shifting to Google+ and businesses will be able to benefit from their promoted post system. These highlighted posts will get greater visibility on the platform, ranking more highly than other social content. Now is the time to start breaking into those Google+ circles that organize the site and to start building community.
- Focus on image – In 2014, marketing through images will be critical. Social networking with a focus on images, such as through Instagram and Tumblr, will be increasingly popular with all demographics. Find ways to integrate this image focus into your marketing plan, and don’t forget that video is the ultimate condensation of images – it too will be a core marketing medium this year. Additionally, with sites like Tumblr becoming more central to marketing, companies should think about how well their images and text travel. After all, if it can’t be shared, it won’t be seen.
- Be bold and take risks – This is the year to take risks to stay timely. With the speed that social media marketing evolves, it can be difficult to predict what will work. Overworking ideas will cause you to fall behind the times and the competition, so now is the time to risk releasing new concepts and campaigns. The beauty of social media is that when a new concept is a flop, it gets buried and forgotten quickly – but marketing tactics that work go viral and become ubiquitous. Social media also places a central emphasis on creativity and fun, so risks will be rewarded more often than you may think.
Are you ready to keep pace with social networking in 2014? Tell us how you’ll stay fresh and which tips you’ll use to stay ahead of the curve.