I read an interesting article on the way to work this morning (A Means to a Trend by Peter Firth) that outlined how the fashion industry has developed and adapted with a focus on trend prediction, which has turned into big business and created an industry by itself, spurred on by the growing need to be prepared for the future. It got me thinking how this forward predicting is applicable to almost every industry and has never been so important with the enormous growth of social media adoption, and how any organisation can easily implement a few simple steps to substantially help them to get into this way of forward thinking and planning.

Predicting online trends

Trend prediction or forecasting is about understanding people and how to help companies meet both long and short term demands, the article used a very prolific quote ‘observing the here and now in order to decode tomorrow’. With so much consumer and company data constantly being added to social media (over 500 million Tweets added per day!), blogs, reviews and news websites, it’s a gigantic task on its own just to stay in touch with what’s going on now, let alone predicting the future. But there are patterns and ones which are easily noticeable just look at the above stats for Twitter, in 2012 it was 50 million Tweets per day and now in 2014 it’s 500 million per day. These types of easily predicted stats show that your company should be using social media as an interaction tool to capitalise on this continued growth.

But what other trends are we seeing that your business could take advantage of? The use of voucher sites, Bitcoins, contactless payments, social adverts, check-in rewards, the list is endless and these current trends all point to one thing, online engagement and social media influence is not going away.

So if you haven’t thought about your online or social media strategy yet, we suggest you do, as you will have to in order to survive in one of the most competitive and aggressive global economies in history.

Let’s again look at how the fashion industry is capitalising on trend prediction, where for them predicting trends is less about prophecies but more about tirelessly observing cultures as they develop and unfold, trying to absorb as much as they can, the article I read mentioned an interesting word for this ‘Cultural brailing’. They gave this notion of touching as many parts of culture as possible, using all the information that is available to them and trying to make sense of it all. This helps forecast peoples future tastes, likes and dislikes in order to predict fashion 2 to 3 years down the line, very much like a detective piecing clues together.

Benefits of early adoption

With any industry there are ‘early adopters’, ‘early majority’, ‘late majority’ and ‘laggers’ with current and future trends, just look at Amazon for ‘early adopters’ who have had unbelievable growth due to prediction and benchmarking innovation or companies such as HMV and Woolworths who were ‘late majority’ and ‘laggers’ and see how companies like Netflix have come in and eaten up their market share.

Now let’s show another example of how stats don’t lie and how there are some amazingly obvious predictions that people still need to take advantage of, let’s look at Pinterest, it now has over 2.5 billion page views a month! Is your business taking advantage of this quick and free way of driving traffic to your website, which is predicted to grow explanatory over the coming years, with even more photo and image based social media sites such as Snapchat popping up all the time.

Going beyond the stats

So it’s all well and good for me to throw these impressive stats at you but as a business how do you get involved and how do you predict what is right for your industry, without consuming all your time looking and analysing this data. Well using the latest social media analytics tools such as Sendible, you can post your news, articles and influence on multiple social media websites with a single click. Delve down and profile your customers by following them, understanding the keywords they’re using or instantly get involved with conversations, with keyword alerts to target them at the right time in their buying cycle.
Sendible will also give you live visibility about keywords that are trending, allowing you to schedule your alerts buy predicting the most optimum time in the future people will interact with your messaging. These predictions are based on intelligent statistic information Sendible gathers about the social media networks you’re using.

Understanding is the key

Understand prospects buying habits, what subjects you post yield the most click throughs and gain intelligent insight to optimise your online presence as much as possible in order to proactively predict what subjects, times, promotions and interaction will generate the most return on investment. You can even see which geographical locations are interacting with your social media activities. This gives you visibility on new emerging markets you may not have tapped into yet such as Asia-Pacific. The Asia-Pacific market will spend more on ecommerce purchases than those in North America. This year alone, B2C ecommerce sales are expected to reach $525.2 billion in the region, compared with $482.6 billion in North America. With the forthcoming additions to Twitter such a being able to buy directly from businesses listed on the site, there are no signs of this trend slowing down.

As you can see getting your business online and being in control of your social media presence and capitalising on the potential opportunities is now of the utmost importance, but when you are engaging with such a wide and influential audience, how do you control it if it goes wrong? Well you’re just have to read our next blog on monitoring your brand reputation.