As we approach the New Year we look to the future. And we also look back. What used to be so clearly defined as “social” media and “digital” in their own rights, have converged. There is a large gray area where digital meets online meets social meets content meets devices meets users. It’s all moving closer to a model that’s one in the same. You won’t be able to have one without considering the other. The silos of even just last year are looking more and more like the entire farm, working together.
And that brings us to some predictions as we peer into the crystal ball of 2014. Here are 7 predictions for the “social” world as next year progresses:
1) Facebook and Twitter aren’t going anywhere.
Shareholders to keep happy, businesses to grow, revenue to build. And, it doesn’t hurt that the platforms are still completely addictive. They have different uses, of course, but they are still the big dogs on the block. If there’s a “Facebook will fail” prediction out there for the future – OK, but it won’t be in 2014.
2) Foursquare probably is going somewhere…
The location-based platform has hit its law of diminishing returns somewhere along the way in the last year or so. What was a thriving platform in 2011 and 2012 has taken a step back and has failed to continue its aggressive path of growth. Am I saying Foursquare will completely shut their doors in 2014? No. But we should see less and less active use from everyday people, and eventually businesses will follow suit with the decrease in activity from their audience. The outlook right now for Foursquare over the next year isn’t great. UPDATE (Dec. 2013) – Foursquare becoming the location provider for Pinterest’s Place Pins functionality helps, but the user experience isn’t great since so much of what’s in there is just wrong. But, it will allow it to hang on in a new way and will keep things interesting getting in to 2014.
3) Videos will continue to get shorter and people who used to never share videos…will share videos
Short-format videos are all the rage right now, and this trend will remain through 2014. YouTube and longer, feature videos will still have a seat at the table as there will always be a need for this type of more in depth storytelling in different capacities -and YouTube is YouTube. It’s just not going anywhere. That being said, the very easy-to-consume, quick videos in social platforms designed for exactly this will be on the up. Vine, Instagram (vid), Snapchat – they are in a great spot for growth. Folks that used to think video was something that took a lot of work, was slow, and no one wanted to view are discovering that these channels are extremely entertaining, and that raw, unproduced videos are totally acceptable. Everyone is a videographer now to some extent. Brands will continue to move this direction, too.
4) Visual social platforms will continue to thrive
Pinterest will still be addictive, and will still suck women in for do-it-yourself projects, arts, crafts, travel, and beyond. And more men will migrate to the site as well. Instagram is the “cool” spinoff of Facebook, owned by Facebook – and the younger age groups will continue to adopt in mass quantities, as well as people finally ditching Blackberries and getting smartphones that have Instagram (and other apps that matter). Twitter is even much more visual now with larger, embedded images in the feed. When the “new” newsfeed finally hits all users on Facebook, the visual approach will be a thing of beauty.
5) Platforms big with younger folks, like Snapchat, won’t be ignored by brands
Most of this last year brands have been keeping an eye on Snapchat but haven’t jumped over there in large numbers. It’s definitely a different approach to content, with it disappearing in mere seconds. So, the strategy with how brands use it will have to be unique, and tailored to the younger Snapchat adopters. Looking at the younger generation is key, as these will eventually be older, money spending consumers. Capturing them now and connecting them with brands will be important, and doing it on a channel already super popular with them will be a native approach. UPDATE (Dec. 2013) – Instagram just announced “Direct” where users can send images and videos to specific users. They aren’t disappearing but this does take a page out of Snapchat’s book. Snapchat turned down a huge offer from Facebook a month ago – that might be a poor decision looking back.
6) The days of being really good at organic engagement and reach are over. Pay to play more than ever
That average percentage of fans that a Facebook brand reaches with a given post seems to keep getting smaller. It was around 20% a few years ago, and now it floats around 12 – 15%. Brands will start shifting their budgets and stepping up to the plate with this notion. If you want to have a successful social media campaign in 2014, you need to fork over some money. And this extends beyond just Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter – this is becoming the norm across the social landscape for content, campaigns, and messaging. Instagram and Pinterest are currently rolling out their promoted content, LinkedIn did the same a few months ago…
7) Native content through influencers will grow
Brands inserting their message into conversations that are already happening on influencers’ social channels, blogs, and websites will become much more prevalent. This is the new-age form of digital “PR.” Large followings don’t necessarily mean the right following. Brands need to be smart and to make sure these content creators are relevant, and on point with their communities. But this practice of tapping into tastemakers to spread brand messaging through native content will increase.
BONUS: Brands will (hopefully) stop begging for engagement by asking for likes, shares, comments, retweets, and whatever else users can do to make brands feel better about themselves. Ok. This one is actually just a personal wish.