I just recently returned from speaking at the Social Media Marketing World 2014 event in San Diego, California. This annual event is run by Social Media Examiner, a leading voice in the social media community. Every session was jam-packed by close to 2,000 attendees who came to learn from the top names in the digital marketing and social media worlds.
In addition to being a great place to learn from the very best, it was also a great place to get a glimpse at what the experts think are the next big things on the social media and digital marketing horizons.
These are my five major takeaways from the event, areas where you should pay close attention the next 12 months.
Twitter: I personally think Twitter is primed to dominate the business landscape and many of the experts at the event said the exact same thing. Mike Stelzner, the founder of Social Media Examiner, asked me to speak on Twitter, and specifically, how to use the platform to generate leads and close sales.
Financially, in spite of its huge market value, Twitter is still relatively small in terms of business development and financial results, doing only $243 million in top-line revenue in Q4, 2013. However, they are making all of the right moves with the site itself; giving priority to visual content, launching Twitter cards to promote the sharing of richer content while providing a mechanism to get people's e-mail contact information, as well as launching several new types of advertising.
If I were a small business owner with limited time and resources, I would place a lot of my focus on using Facebook and Twitter as the mainstays of my social media platform.
Visual-Based Content: Unanimously, the experts agreed that making your content visual-based was the most important thing you could do to drive engagement on social media. In fact, photos make up 93 percent of the most engaging posts on Facebook. I want to make sure I say this as strongly as I can. If you are not making your social media content visually based, you need to! I have been saying that social media is going more and more visual for well over a year and have been reaping the benefit of having a visual content plan in place.
Google Plus: For a few years now people have been waiting for Google Plus to hit full stride before they go "all in" on making is a part of their core social media platform.
Google Plus growth is definitely accelerating, and at least one mathematician calculates that Google Plus will pass Facebook in total users in 2016. There was a lot of talk about Google Plus at the event. Most people agree that now is the time to jump into the fray, if for no other reason than to garner the additional SEO push that Google gives to their own Google Plus-based traffic. Fifty-three percent of digital marketers say they will increase the time spent and financial commitment to the site in the next 12 months.
Facebook Advertising: Over 90 percent of Facebook's revenue comes from Facebook advertising and they expect that revenue number to grow steadily over the next several years. I use Facebook advertising regularly for my business and I always pleased with the results. In short, it works! I spoke to several digital marketing managers at the event, as well as representatives from several bigger brands, and most plan on spending as much or more on Facebook ads in the next 12 months.
Facebook advertising is frustrating from a couple of standpoints. First, it changes all of the time. They are tweaking different types of ads, taking away others and messing with the interface almost daily. It is also frustrating to think that they intentionally limit the free traffic your posts receive just to make you pay them money to get your content to the fan base you have worked so hard to cultivate. Maybe there will be a shift or backlash in the future, but for now it certainly appears that marketers are still firmly behind the advertising medium.
Blogging: Regardless of what you may think, blogging is not dead! In fact, social media, being the content engine that it is, has actually revitalized it. Tumblr alone has over 100 million blogs and WordPress is not too far behind at 63 million. Blogging is still a dominate way to get impactful, original content directly in front of your customers and prospects easily and inexpensively. My blog is, by far, the single largest driver of visits to my website and social media sites. If you have been playing around with idea of starting your own blog, now is the perfect time to get started.
Podcasting: If you don't know what a podcast is, it is a "multimedia digital file made available on the Internet for downloading to a portable media player." Podcasts are important because they are a great way to capture your existing customer's and prospect's attention for an extended period of time by giving them something of value that is easy for them to digest. Only 5 percent of digital marketers are currently involved with podcasting but 24 percent say they plan to add this valuable tool in the next 12 months.
I have one other takeaway that is more of a personal observation than an industry trend.
The live, person-to-person connection is still incredibly powerful!
I have met thousands and thousands of people digitally on social media the past few years. At the event I had the chance to see, shake hands and spend some time with some amazing people that I had only met online before. Social media made the connection for me, but there is still no substitute for the power of meeting and connecting with a real human being.
Many of you reading this post went to the event. What did you think about Social Media Marketing World 2014?
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