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2014 Social Media Predictions -- Hold On, It's Going to Get Bumpy!

01/02/2014 12:18 pm ET | Updated Mar 04, 2014
  • Kim Garst Social media and brand strategist

With 2013 in the books, I have to admit my thoughts have been racing towards what's in store for businesses in 2014. We have seen such phenomenal changes this year in the way businesses are using social media, largely due to factors like the increase in mobile and video usage, and the mainstream adoption of content marketing.

So what changes can we expect to see in social media in the next 12 months? What trends do businesses and brands need to pay attention to in order to keep up?

Here are my top 5 social media predictions for 2014!

1. It's About Show, Not Tell: Visual-Based Content Will Dominate

Given what we have seen so far in 2013, there is no doubt that the popularity and use of visual-based content on social media is going to continue to increase in 2014.

We know that posts that contain images or videos outperform those without when it comes to likes, shares, comments, and retweets. Failing to incorporate image-based media into your social media content strategy will mean losing out on huge amounts of potential engagement!

Just take a look at what we know from this year:

Businesses will need to be creative in terms of incorporating images and videos into existing content, and coming up with fresh new ways of incorporating visual-based content into all aspects of their social strategy.

2. Instagram and Snapchat are Going to be Major Players And Businesses Will Use Them to Reach Their Audiences In Unique Ways

Some interesting current statistics for you about these platforms:

If you are not yet familiar with Snapchat (only 18.6 percent of iPhone users currently use the SnapChat app), here's a brief description: Snapchat is an app that can be used to send photos or videos that are only available to be viewed for a set amount of time (generally 1-10 seconds). Once time is up, the image or video is hidden from users and deleted from Snapchat's servers.

One of the most interesting uses of both SnapChat and Instagram that we should be keeping an eye on is for reaching consumers via coupons. While quite a few businesses are already taking advantage of Instagram for offering coupons, deals and discounts, it will be interesting to see what comes of Snapchat's 'exploding coupons'. These coupons will only be available to users for several seconds, giving a whole new meaning to the concept of 'flash sales'!

3. A Mobile Strategy Becomes Compulsory

With reports of mobile overtaking desktop usage somewhere between 2014/2015, businesses who want to keep up need to get serious about integrating mobile into all aspects of their business. Simply having a mobile-friendly website will not be enough.

Businesses will need to consider:

  • How their website is accessible via mobile: responsive design, mobile-version, or app.
  • How their overall marketing strategy works with mobile: With 84 percent of smartphone shoppers using their phones while in stores, businesses need to figure out how to integrate the virtual and 'real life' experiences of their customers (coupons, product reviews, mobile checkout systems, etc.).
  • How their content strategy works with mobile: Offering short, actionable pieces of content to mobile-users, determining when their target market is accessing content via mobile (see infographic below), using segmentation to offer the right type of content to the right people, etc.

4. More Brands are Going to Get Serious About Social

While an estimated 93 percent of marketers already use social media for business, brands are going to need to take their social media marketing strategies to the next level. Smart businesses will increasingly realize that it's not enough to just have a presence on the major social networks. Getting serious about social means integrating it into every aspect of the business, not just marketing: from product development, to operations, to customer service and retention.

Company-wide support of social will become increasingly necessary to make sure social media tasks are carried out consistently, and in a way that aligns with overall business goals and values.

As digital analyst Brian Solis points out, "While creating a social brand is a necessary endeavor, building a social business is an investment..." While social brands are businesses that use social media as part of their marketing strategy, a truly social business is one that has integrated all aspects of their business with social.

A social business aligns every level of their business with social: in their systems, processes, and planning. A social business goes beyond using social media to simply communicate with customers, and involves every department and employee in their social media strategy.

5. Google Plus FINALLY Hits the Tipping Point

Google Plus just turned 2 years old. I read a report that pegs Google Plus's current active monthly users at 300 million people (up from 190 million in May). This clearly trounces Twitter's 230 million and makes Facebook the next logical target, but will it pass Facebook in 2014? No, but it will hit what I am calling the "tipping point" late in the year and be a solid threat to Facebook's dominance in 2015.

This is going to sound crazy, I know that, but to win long-term people must "love" Google Plus. I know it's a subjective emotion, but there certainly seems to be a strong connection between the success of a social media site and people's emotional connection to it. People "love" Facebook. People "love" Pinterest and Instagram. Right now people do not feel that connection with Google Plus. As subjective evidence, I asked 140+ small business owners, entrepreneurs and social media enthusiasts in my DIY Social Media Inner Circle secret Facebook group what they thought about Google Plus and not a single person said they "loved" or felt an emotional connection to the site, but they will!

If you follow me at all, you know I am a big Google Plus fan and have been from the beginning. I love the functionality, communities, "hangouts" and the fact that everyone can see all of my content on their business pages. One real game changer for Google Plus this next year will be the continued integration of social media content into its search ranking algorithm and the realization by more and more businesses that being active on Google Plus is cheaper than paying your SEO consultant. Also, Google is reportedly testing on-site advertising, the staple of Facebook's monetization strategy. These two alone will not win the battle though. The real reason Google Plus will win big in 2014 is because people will finally accept it as a great place to form connections, meet friends and share experiences in completely cool and captivating ways.

What predictions do you think are missing from the list above? What major changes do you see happening in the social media world this next year?