Our team at LiveWorld recently brainstormed what we see as the top social media trends looking back at 2013 -- not just to play quarterbacks, but as an exercise to help us look forward at what's coming next year. This is our combined take, based on our experiences working with over 175 brands from the largest companies in the world and managing over 4,400 social properties across over 50 countries.
1. Social media continued its meteoric rise in influence.
Oftentimes, social media surpassed the influence of traditional broadcast media in broad cultural arenas including news, politics, entertainment and marketing. Most of the year's biggest financial stories were in social acquisitions and IPOs. Advertisers increasingly took an integrated cross-channel approach across social media and traditional channels, and brands increasingly turned to social to deploy customer service and support.
2. Social media engagement made big moves to mobile.
Following general Internet usage patterns, 15 percent of global Internet traffic is now mobile users. Fifty percent of average global mobile web users now use mobile as either their primary or exclusive means of going online. Users of Android and iOS phones spent almost a quarter of their total device time on social networking -- 18 percent on Facebook and another six percent on other social networking platforms.
3. We saw some movement of young people away from Facebook in favor of Instagram, SnapChat, and Tumblr.
As LiveWorld Director Debbie Dembecki put it, "Too many moms, brands, and cat photos."
Meanwhile, our clients saw an increase in older demographics "liking" brands on FB.
4. Ads took on a more prominent profile in social networking feeds.
Facebook and Instagram were among these -- and were largely accepted. Studies showed improved performance of Facebooks ads, including one that showed retailers experienced 3.75 times higher click-through rates in 2013 than in 2012, and averaged 152 percent Return on Investment (ROI) on ads. This aligns with our experience in 2013, during which clients' Facebook advertising proved very effective.
5. Photos were the predominant social share.
Instagram and Pinterest became increasingly important as engagement vehicles. The more talked-about trend was micro-video. We saw many brands experimenting, often successfully. Notable examples included Home Depot's how-to segments and Dunkin Donut's creative "Vinespiration" how-to spots.
6. Google+ expanded and added some cool features drawing some more brands to experiment with the platform.
Nevertheless, we still didn't see strong mainstream usage patterns developing. This could change over time if Google is prepared to work it for the long haul.
Predictions for 2014:
1. By the close of 2014, 140 characters will be too much text.
In our fast-paced mobile world, video will grow, but photo and image sharing will grow faster and continue to dominate as users find a much better value-to-effort ratio in photos than in video.
2. A surge in interactive ads and collaborative storytelling.
Competition is going to lead brands to develop ever more creative solutions to win and retain the customer's attention. Storytelling will become ever more collaborative between brand and customer, shaping the narrative by contributing content and sharing their lives. We'll continue to see a move away from slick production in favor of immediacy and authenticity.
3. This one is likely to be controversial: We see no reason not to think that teens will come back to Facebook.
Legacy thinking says that once they go they don't come back. But these days, the fluid dynamics of social platforms and the ubiquity of Facebook itself have a strong shot at keeping the platform a destination of choice for teens, if no longer the destination of choice.
4. Social media will no longer be seen as a part of the marketing mix.
It will be the platform that feeds and supports all other marketing. Increasingly, brand experience will be defined by social conversations and those conversations will inform every other brand touchpoint, including the product itself.
What are your predictions for social media marketing in 2014?