1. Content Development, not AdWords
As Google cracks down on third party apps using scraped data for its rankings reports, businesses will be forced to find alternatives. While Google obviously wants you to use its AdWords program, savvy businesses will improve rankings through more exclusive search engine optimized content (i.e. frequent blog posts, press releases, newsletters, etc.; more attention to content keywords and SEO copywriting of all online content; and more strategic campaign-oriented use of social media. Some specific social features that businesses will use to boost both rankings and engagement are:Facebook paid advertising (we’re seeing a visible increase in company use of Promoted Posts and Ads) Facebook’s new Sponsored Results (companies can pay to have their Page appear in the search box results within Facebook)
2. CMS Investment
More companies will realize the need for a reliable all-in-one CMS with integrated social and SEO functionality. While tools like HootSuite and Sprout Social received a lot of buzz in 2012, they are simply not robust enough to manage and track a comprehensive social media marketing strategy, much less multiple clients or campaigns.
3. Mobile Marketing
There were a number of quality studies on mobile marketing this year that indicate users find mobile ads intrusive (especially in mobile gaming), and that click through rates can’t be trusted because users inadvertently open ads trying to access other content. While major corporations and their respective advertising agencies will continue to develop innovative mobile ads and contests, the priority for most B2B and B2C’s is having a mobile presence. This may mean responsive design or liquid layout, a separate mobile friendly website, or a custom mobile app. 2013 will see more businesses address this need from the outset of their website re-design discussion. And that is a good thing for all smart phone users!
4. The ROI is in the @reply
For me, Twitter is where it’s at right now in terms of actually talking with customers and making ‘friends’ that you can leverage to generate buzz about your products and services. In 2011, marketers determined social ROI in terms of how many Twitter followers you had. In 2012, it was not followers but number of retweets that mattered. For me, it’s all about the reply because it continues the conversation and it’s a chance to develop your social voice. So, ditch the Direct Messages and robot responses – and start replying authentically.
5. Instagram Fades Out
While I love Instagram, I am uncertain that it can stay competitive in the future. Twitter recently announced it will launch a series of photo filters that create Instagram-like pictures. In response, Instagram has been trying to pull users away from viewing its pictures in Twitter and back to Instagram. Meanwhile, Facebook saw return on their 1 million dollar purchase of Instagram, but what did Instagram really get out of the deal? My point is that unless Instagram re-launches as more than a photo-sharing site and gives marketers some room to maneuver (like Pinterest), it might fade away.
6. Social Media Gurus Disappear
Have you heard people refer to themselves as “social media gurus”, or worse, spotted ads for a 30-day “Masters of Social Media Certification”. Plain and simple- there is no social media certification that can replace hands-on experience. Get rid of the SMM “gurus” in 2013.
7. B2B Video Content
B2B marketers will get over their fear of integrating video into their social marketing. Despite the myths, video can be made on a budget and on the fly. Make the case for your business to use video, and consider every opportunity worth filming. For example, take the camera on the road to conferences, lectures and industry events; answer customer questions like an FAQ; ask your customers or clients to film short pieces or invite them in to film short testimonials. Try the video on different company channels and see what works.
8. Social Saturation
Forrester Research and others have reported on the Silicon Valley Social Media Bubble Burst: the social market is so saturated that there are few new markets for social startups to pursue. That’s a shame, but it also means social media marketers will have to get better and more creative with the existing tools. If your business has not already implemented a social media marketing (SMM) program, now is the time to start.
9. Alternative Blogging Platforms
Businesses can delight in the fact that there are many more options for blogging platforms on which to distribute original content – Tumblr and Overblog are among the most ‘social’. Businesses would be wise to look into alternatives like these that require very little custom design or back-end maintenance. They also reflect another trend: more concise content (keyword research can tremendously help with this), and an emphasis on photo and video content that is a proven best practice to get more shares.
10. Increased Role of the Community Manager
More businesses are realizing the need for a Social Media Community Manager as opposed to an all-in-one Chief Digital Officer. Social media marketing is not about making sure you simply post something to Facebook today; it’s a continuous act of participation and interaction, and you need that ‘round the clock commitment to develop a social media tone that conveys the right sentiment for your business and customer, to integrate online efforts, and stay on top of changes. It’s also the fastest way to get your business’s newsworthy items across the web and respond to customer feedback in real time.
11. Get Interesting!
Maybe you’ve heard the marketing mantra, “Put down the microphone and start listening”. Well, I don’t agree 100%. I think it’s more like “Put down the microphone when you’re supposed to listen, and when you do pick up the microphone, be interesting!” You cannot rely on anyone else to get your message across (unless you are the one in a million that creates something that “goes viral” – but admittedly, the mention of that phrase by someone who develops content with that in mind just makes me cringe). Share your message, but make it interesting. This means being selective in the social channels you use to share company information, adjusting your tone for different customer demographics, meeting customers on the platforms they use even if it feels uncomfortable, getting creative with contests and ways to reward those who do take the call to action, and more.
12. Online Review Sites
I think we’re turning a corner where users jump to comment about your business only if they have something negative to say. One of my main takeaways from 2012 is that users are just as happy to share good feedback about your business – even if there is no prize or coupon for doing so! This applies to blogs as well where I’m happy to see “I would also add…” rather than “you forgot…” types of comments. I call this the “LinkedIn effect” because people are more aware that the comments they leave on social sites are a reflection of their business ¬– and the things you say on social media cannot be erased.
13. Keep It Professional
2012 saw an alarming number of corporate social media/PR crises unfold from the likes of Kitchen Aid to Chick-fil-A. I noticed the big mishaps fell into three categories:The person in charge of social media posted something inflammatory using the Company account instead of their own (doh!);The company tried to jump on board a trending topic without doing its research; The company got political. In 2013, businesses will take measures including more hiring of social media managers, better ‘listening’ software, and social strategy that address policy, appropriate corporate messaging, and protocols for branded social media sites.