Social Media Marketing Strategies: Where We Stand March 2014

Social Media Marketing Strategies: Where We Stand March 2014

At the end and/or beginning of each year, marketers usually get inundated by articles & blog posts about “trends to watch in the coming new year,” related to social media and how it can be utilized for online marketing. And every year brings “trends” that sound very familiar (to the year before): data-driven marketing, brands will start listening to the customer, social media is a necessity—not a luxury, brands are becoming publishers, deliver your content at the right time, etc. These are no longer trends, but rather best practices.


I’ve taken the approach to wait one quarter, see what has developed in this early stage of the year, and strategize which top three social media trends will be most effective through the remainder of 2014.


1. Mobile: Revenue is on the Rise


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Not long ago, predictions surfaced that mobile internet would take over desktop internet usage between 2014 and 2015. Early this year, it finally happened with mobile apps alone. With that prediction already being met, optimizing social media content—including pictures and video—to be consumed via mobile devices is no longer just a convenience for an audience, but a mandatory step for brands to not fall behind the pack.


Expect to see brands that haven’t taken the leap to “mobilize” do so before the end of the year in a variety of ways including responsive design, mobile enhanced, or standalone apps. These mobilized sites will need to be of the highest quality when it comes functionality and service—33% of mobile users will quickly abandon non-loading sites within 5 seconds.


Adobe found 71% of people are accessing social media via mobile and will increasingly be the main device to access this kind of content going forward. Nielsen further confirmed that social media networks are ranked amongst the most used mobile apps (Facebook leading the pack). As social media networks begin implementing mobile-centric updates, brands should follow suite. Specifically because social media marketing allows for a quick and easy way to connect with your mobile presence—connecting directly to apps and mobile optimized sites.


What does this all mean? Think of the demand for instant gratification with regards to online shopping. While Amazon Prime and Google Shopping Express are attacking delivery, ordering needs to become more instant. Imagine a female mobile user could find a brand’s dress on social media, clicks through to land on the item’s mobile page within an app, and purchases it in a matter of minutes. This behavior seems to already be strong with mobile revenue from Pinterest up by 224%!


Mobile isn’t simply a trend though—it’s the next level of social commerce—the evolution of driving traffic and revenue, too. With the increasing number of smartphone and tablet users, brands should be prepared to cater to these quick turnaround customers.


2. UGC: User Generated Content


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By default, we trust those we are familiar with over strangers. So when it comes to content in the social media posts we see online, we are more interested in what our friends, family—people we can relate to—are posting about. In March, Crowdtap found that millennials are more focused on user generated content (UGC) than other forms of content spending 30% of their entire media consumption on UGC alone. Fortunately for brands, UGC is becoming readily available even before brands request it. People enjoy posting about their purchases, their experiences, their desires—and there are three reasons why this is important and you will see UGC embraced this year:


Free Content From Users


Brands aren’t interested in spending more money than they have to—and luckily UGC is free! To build a content database, brands can easily encourage customers to share pictures on social networks like Instagram using hashtags. Marketers can then easily filter through the photos and repurpose it for their own use whether it be on social media or websites—directly on product pages, for example.


Will people bother submitting? Creating and sharing is the nature of social media—those wearing products or interacting with the brand are excited by promises of potential features, mentions, likes, or reposts. Similarly, brands can drive further UGC creation with promotions increasing followers and engagement. With more than 79 million photos currently floating around Instagram under the #selfie hashtag, we can make the assumption that today’s social media users enjoy the vanity and attention.


Trusted Content From Ambassadors and Influencers


Again, we trust our networks—their recommendations and suggestions are important to us. How can we expect brands to exploit this? By reaching out to key players in their following—those individuals in a customer base that are a bit more… let’s say enthusiastic. They make up a “fandom” that will market for you out of passion. Have you ever watched Supernatural on the CW? Maybe not, but if you’re surfed the web, you’ve definitely come across a GIF produced by their fandom somewhere, I’m sure (Tumblr and Buzzfeed are full of them, FYI).


So what can we expect brands to do? Reach out to these passionate fans to make them brand ambassadors. Then have them post directly to their network and influence their connections and followers—those people who trust this ambassador. It makes for an excellent alternative to celebrity endorsements on social media.


UGC is Money


The bottom line is UGC leads to revenue for brands. More than any other media type, 53% claim it bares influence on their purchase decisions. Monetizing this content is the next step—brands linking UGC to products and services make it instantly shoppable. Without the worry of spend and budgets, brands can utilize UGC to analyze and measure their social media ROI and effectiveness for free.


It’s now up to brands to find ways to make sure to maintain mutually beneficial relationships for all the parties involved including the UGC creator and the brand itself. This could include anything from republishing content to awarding prizes to compensation—all of which is worth the price of UGC, and the trust and interest it builds.


3. Worldwide Visual Web: Images Trump Words for Engagement


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There really isn’t a better way to put this except with the old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Pictorial content will continue to be a major trend in social media for not just the remainder of 2014, but also the foreseeable future. Brands are dropping their words in favor of image heavy redesigns on their sites to convey messaging and further solidifying the visual web. As early as 2012, we were already aware of photo appeal—pictures received significantly more engagement on social media including Facebook (53% more likes and 104% more comments) and Twitter (18% more clicks, 89% more favorites, and 150% more retweets).


With newer image-based social networks booming, the visual web is expected to only continue growing. In March, Citrix confirmed that 63% of social media is NOW made up of images, alone! As of today:


  • Instagram has over 200 million active users with over 20 billion uploaded photos.
  • Pinterest has 70 million active users with 80% of pins being repined images.
  • Snapchat has 30 million active users sending 400 million snaps per day.
  • Tumblr has over 80.1 billion posts with sponsored posts getting reblogged 10,000 times!
  • Linkedin is getting on the action allowing users to share and add images to profiles, too.
  • Facebook has over 250 billion uploaded photos, now!


It’s not too difficult to understand the picture appeal—we are visual creatures, after all. We have 70% of our sensory receptors in our eyes and use 50% of our brains for visual processing. And even with lightning-fast scrolling of a mouse or our thumbs, it’s easy to consume and engage the content without the need for prolonged stops (to read a post, for example) before moving on the next photo. To further that, 90% of the information conveyed to our brains is visual—which the brain processes at an alarming 60,000x faster than text! The goal for brands is simple—create posts that are eye-catching and visually appealing with minimal text. Even Facebook is helping with this transformation, pushing brands with their 20% text rule for ads as of late last year.


Make no mistake, brands are already aware of this—you’ll find them pinning both item and lifestyle pictures to Pinterest, sponsoring visual lists on Buzzfeed, and sharing an alarming amount of GIFs on Tumblr. And before long, we’ll begin seeing more “flash sales” discounts on Snapchat—mark my words.


Could I have said all of this with pictures? Probably.


By Jason Jay Sharma,


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