Those who predicted that the leading social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn would fade away or gradually start to lose members in 2012 couldn’t have been more wrong. Those social media websites continued to grow, becoming an even stronger foundation of our online lives. Furthermore, new social media sites like Pinterest were able to become incredibly popular just over the course of the past year.
Social media is here to stay. This means that in order for your business to be successful, you’re going to need to make those sites part of your marketing efforts. Here are the top ten reasons why social media absolutely must be part of your marketing strategy in 2013.
1. Time Spent on Social Media is Increasing
Perhaps you’ve noticed it happening to your teenage children, or even to yourself. People are spending more time on social media sites. In fact, according to a 2012 Report by comScore (http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Presentations_and_Whitepapers/2012/The_State_of_Social_Media), social media usage now accounts for 18% of all time spent online. If you want your business to be successful then you can’t neglect marketing through social media – your potential customers spend too much time there.
2. Connect with Potential Customers
New customer acquisition is often the biggest hurdle for many new businesses. Not only can it be expensive to reach potential customers, it can be difficult to know exactly where might be the best place to reach them. With so many people logging in to Facebook and the other social media sites every week, those sites can be the best first place to start your marketing efforts.
3. Build Relationships with Current Customers
As you seek to connect with new customers, don’t forget one of the best sources of business – your existing customer base. Through social media websites you can easily connect with people you’ve already done business, and forge relationships that can help you improve your existing products and services, as well as come up with ideas for new lines of business.
4. Social Media Influences Search Engine Rankings
While the process and methods aren’t entirely opaque, it’s generally agreed that the scope of your social media presence has an influence over your businesses. In addition to improving rankings to your website, people also share various links and content through social media sites – and this sharing can further boost your standing with the search engines. This influence can be seen directly if you happen to use Google as your primary search engine (as most of us do), and have enabled personal search results.
Wikipedia also has information about social search at (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_search)
5. Conduct Customer Service Operations
One of the best ways to address any service issues with your customers is to first consider how you and your friends deal with any problems you have when you are the customers.
Chances are you don’t always call the company you bought something from in order to lodge a complaint. In fact, there’s a good likelihood that rather than contact the vendor, you take to Twitter or Facebook and let your friends and contacts know about your negative experience. If you proactively monitor these social media sites for mentions of your company then you can immediately address any negative customer experiences, and demonstrate to others that you’re responsive to your customers’ needs and feedback.
You should also consider setting up Google Alerts (log in at www.google.com/alerts) to monitor individual blogs and bulletin boards for the same reason.
6. “Social Media is the New Search”
You might hear some market observers refer to social media as being the “new search.” This means that for a larger number of individuals, when they need to look for an answer to a problem or need they have, are more likely to look to their online social networks for possible solutions rather than use a search engine such as Google or Bing.
7. Highly Targeted Marketing Opportunities
Because people share so much about themselves on social media sites, you already know a lot about your potential customer base. Just a decade ago, if you wanted to target potential customers you might be forced to purchase or rent a mailing list, and you’d never really knew how good that list was. These days you can target demographic groups with pinpoint accuracy through social networking websites.
8. Social Media Can Be Cost Effective
You can set up your own social media profiles for your business for free on all the major websites. This gives you a no-cost method to start implementing some of your social media marketing efforts almost immediately. In addition, if you choose to utilize the targeted advertising and promotional opportunities that are offered by Facebook and LinkedIn, you may find that the cost to reach targeted prospects is surprisingly competitive to other online advertising options you may have used in the past.
9. Commerce Will Be Conducted Through Social Media
In the long term, social media sites need to become profitable in order to survive. Trying to charge their members a fee to use will almost certainly be a non-starter, so it’s anticipated that their revenue will come from taking a commission of any real-money transactions or ecommerce that’s conducted on the site. While many of these ecommerce channels are not yet up and running, you can be sure that they’re likely to become a big part of doing business online. By becoming established on social media sites and learning the best ways to reach new customers, you’ll be in a strong position to take advantage of these ecommerce channels when they become active.
10. Social Media is Replacing Traditional Media
As the time we spend on social media websites increases, the time we spend reading newspapers, listening to the radio and watching television decreases. This means that you might want to reconsider any marketing efforts you may have been planning for traditional local media.
As you participate in social media sites, always strive to be professional, helpful and honest. Putting forth the best possible image will do wonders for your business.
Given the strong and clear breakaway social media trends this past year, it’s not hard to guess where social media is heading towards in 2013. Some changes are already in the work, taking much of the guesswork out of predicting which direction we’re all going to be herded.
Analytics for Pinterest Business Pages
At first dead-set against monetization, Pinterest now seems firmly headed in that direction. Not only has it added Pinterest business accounts/pages, but it also lets you turn Pinterest into your own personal brand or product recommendation service (complete with price tags)…
…Or into your own Pinterest store through third-party apps or services such as Shopinterest (from the Pintic creators).
But if Pinterest is going to seriously woo marketers and retailers, it will have to come up with native analytics such as Facebook provides through its own Insights.
And we predict these Pinterest native analytics will debut (at least in Beta mode) by the end of 2013’s first quarter.
But until then, there’s always Reachli.
Facebook vs. Pheed – in Stereo
Facebook has only recently introduced real-time music sharing via the “Listen with” feature. This enables Facebook users to share music from their apps, so both parties can hear the same music simultaneously.
Meanwhile, brand new social network Pheed – which has been described as a “mashup” between Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube – already allows sound clips and sound sharing (including voice notes), although it was only publicly released within the last three months.
Pheed is promising to be another Pinterest-style dark horse if you look at its growth trends so far, so Facebook likely has more sound-related apps or functions in the works for 2013 in order to compete.
Analytics site, Quantcast, shows Pheed with only a mere eighteen thousand monthly visits: However, look more closely at the demographics and you’ll see that sharp rise occurred only in the first month it was opened for public consumption. (Before that, it existed only in private Beta form.)
Will Pheed replace Twitter? Let’s look at its attractions:
- 420 characters allowed for micro-posts, compared to Twitter’s 140
- One-click addition of graphics, video or sound clips and live streaming Pheeds for webinars, etc.
- Able to post separate posts to Facebook or Twitter in widget to the left of Pheed Textarea box
- Easy to set up subscriptions and create paid Pheeds
- Able to one-click share any Pheed with Google+, Facebook and Twitter
- Unlike button
The key is going to be its audience. Right now, after a startup fueled by rap bands and young celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Paris Hilton, the average age according to Quantcast ranges from 18-34 years old.
(Remember, however, that’s for the first month out in public.)
Alexa.com shows Pheed as over-represented in the 25-34 year old range; and both sites agree that the overwhelming majority of users have “no kids”.
Alexa figures for the last three months show a slight dip in popularity after that strong first month. Even though Pheed is easy and fun to use, older users may be put off by too much profanity and tasteless images and profile photos bordering on the lewd. “It’s trashy,” said one 56-year-old, not mincing words. “Trashy and vapid. Pheed is supposed to have a ratings system, but even if you set yours at G, you still risk seeing those types of Pheeds.”
Will it be competition for Facebook?
Only if the younger demographic has anything to say about it. Facebook and LinkedIn are still well ahead of the pack.
The Continuing Rise of Mobile Connection
It doesn’t take a quantum physicist to hypothesize that people will share more than ever over mobile devices, thanks to apps, social networks to suit every taste and an ever-increasing array of mobile devices.
We went as small as we could go with mobile devices: In 2013, it’s going to be all about tablet-style devices allowing people to take full advantage of graphic content.
When it comes to mobiles and social networking, people like not only the immediacy and interactivity, but instant connection with anyone, anywhere.
Only one trend even hints at contradicting this: And that’s the preference of mobile reader owners for non-interactive content. (They really do want to use mobile readers as reading devices.)
It’s not hard to predict, however, that this group will remain a minority of all mobile users.
Increase in Cyber Surveillance through Social Networks
There are disturbing indications that cyber-tracking and surveillance of individuals will increase throughout 2013.
Much of this can be blamed on Facebook’s constant stretching of individual privacy limitations. It seems to go like this: People find out Facebook is violating some privacy principle, people complain, the news media reports, Facebook tweaks. Everything dies down for a while. Then Facebook quietly makes another change that seems to violate a privacy principle, people complain, the news media reports, Facebook tweaks.
The problem occurs when this becomes a predictable cycle – many people seem to become both cynical and immune. “If you don’t want Facebook knowing about something, don’t post it,” said one teenager, with a chirpy common sense many adults would do well to emulate.
But now Facebook has acquired Instagram and Face.com, and is talking about automatically merging Facebook and Instagram data, as well as the ability for Facebook to “recognize” all photos of you ever posted, it will be interesting to see how much privacy concerns are going to affect social networking this year.
It may well be, however, that social networking will actually increase. A new generation thinks it is totally normal for the most mundane or personal happenings in their life to be hung out in public.
Besides which, NSA whistleblower, Walter Binney, has just made headlines by asserting that nearly every email in the U.S. is recorded by the FBI.
So that means email is no longer safer than social networking.
One social networking prediction to be sure of, however: No matter how much social networks or government agencies flout privacy laws and principles, large numbers are not going to stop using social media.
QR Codes Will Not Take Over the World
2012 also saw a rise in QR code use, as retailers and especially restaurateurs caught on quickly to these mobile-scannable graphic bar codes and all their delicious possibilities.
QR codes offer the ability to send people to:
- SMS text messages
- Telephone numbers
This makes them ideal for campaign gimmicks such as contests and coupons.
QR codes reached their heyday in Japan before North America was ever aware of them. But now they are here, many people consider them merely annoying. The novelty of wowing friends by knowing what to do with them quickly wore off.
But what about QR codes and social networking?
Mainstream use will continue to keep QR code usage a part of daily mobile life. But it won’t be until 2014 that we’ll see heavy QR code use via social media – and only after companies and businesses have really got a handle on the best way to integrate these powerful little interactive gimmicks with social media.
The Social Networking Fight between Facebook and Google Will Escalate
In fact, these two giants will leave all other networks in the dust.
But Apple is belatedly realizing that it should be paying more attention to social networking. It has updated its voice-recognition system, Siri (a sort of glorified, Bluetooth-behaving “personal assistant”) to launch apps, post on Facebook and Tweet.
Siri is not yet mainstream news and there is virtually no street-level buzz.
But given the capital Apple has at hand, it soon will command both.
More and More Large Companies Will Go Social
With mobile use taking over the planet (literally) large companies will have to seriously rethink the way they advertise and pay more attention to social networking.
Oh, most of the major ones already have pages on Facebook, but many still seem to cling to that old “we’ll set and forget” attitude, relying on awesome graphics and flash websites to interest readers.
Sorry, but it takes more than that, Big Boys. Social media users want:
- Location-based information (the nearest store, etc.)
- A personal touch
- To tell their stories
- “Insider” deals
- Status-endowing offers
- The best deal
Unknown to users, however, social media analytics will reach new, sophisticated heights as companies mine all the main, relevant social networks, developing new systems for data analysis and use. The data will become (finally) more important than the platform.
And they’ll finally clue on to the fact that response is key to engagement.
Pretty soon, they’ll know what you had for breakfast. (Probably because you’ll tell them!)
But oh – gonna miss those Coca-Cola Polar Bear flash graphics and screensavers…