Next-leveling Your Social Media in 2014

Following up on our Digital Marketing Predictions for 2014 blog post, we thought we’d focus  on ways to start updating your overall social media strategy. Here are our top picks from social media experts on how to stay current, culled from articles including Inc’s “4 Big Reasons to Overhaul Your Social-Media Marketing in 2014” (Marla Tabaka) and Inc’s “The 3 Biggest Social-Media Trends of 2014” (Abigail Tracy).

#1: “Simplicity will become critical” – David Ritter, Director of Boston Consulting Group

We’ve been hearing for awhile that one-step social networks are on the rise: Pinterest (pin it and you’re done), Snapchat (snap and send), Twitter (if you can’t say it in 140 characters, why bother?), WeChat (connect friends across all social networks) and Keek (insta-send video updates to your friends) all favor short attention span syndrome. As Ritter points out, these sites are quickly surpassing the more complex, multi-level Facebook because they speed adoption, look best on mobile devices, and allow little margin for error when posting. Not to mention, they’re much more in sync with the super-quick reaction time and insta-post tendencies of the younger generations.

As businesses continue to follow consumers away from the social network giants like Facebook and Google+ and onto these more agile platforms, they will have to learn to be engaging in quick, impactful bursts. This is why Vine and Instagram are drawing so much more attention from brands both big and small. Investment is minimal but impact can be huge. Hone your messaging and deliver it in simple formats. Or in Ritter’s words, “find the core of your value and explore ways to deliver it in minimal, targeted bursts.”

#2: “Social customer service is on the rise” – Folke Lemaitre, CEO of Engagor

This is nothing new. Brands like Zappos and Best Buy have taught us that having entire social media teams on Twitter whose main function is to respond to consumer questions and concerns is a great way to solve problems quickly and efficiently. Which is obviously great for a brand’s reputation (tip: Twitter is also a great tool for spreading word-of-mouth). Nowadays, consumers often head to Twitter or Facebook first to demand service, which forces companies to respond more quickly. Taking 24 hours to respond to a question or complaint won’t cut it anymore.  A small issue could be retweeted thousands of times by then.

The end result of this trend according to Lemaitre, is that “call centers will become obsolete or at least change the way they work, resulting in the rise of mobile customer service apps.” The new customer service team will consist of social media marketing experts, PR professionals, customer service heroes, and salespeople. The social strategy will be less about putting out fires, and more about “delivering a positive social experience for each and every one of its users.”

#3: “Small businesses can–and will–become big players” – Patrice Francois, Co-founder and Associate Director of Digimind

You no longer need to be a corporation with deep pockets in order to compete in the social sphere. We’re all already competing with each other on a daily basis for the attention of customers we want to attract, and leads we want to generate. Where a large company might hire a PR or social media agency to run their campaigns, smaller companies can level the playing field by looking at the plethora of social media management software that’s out there. And there are a lot of affordable options available in 2014. The best tools will fuse search and social marketing, based on this statistic:

“Only 22% of Americans use social networks daily, meaning the 78% of word-of-mouth advertising is being discovered through search.” Some good options now include Sprinklr, Hubspot, Marketo, and Crowdbooster.

Francois points to short-form video as an inexpensive way to generate creative content. It’s no accident that we’re seeing strong showings with clever short video campaigns on Vine and Instagram, from businesses large and small. It’s storytelling for your brand and it doesn’t have to be complex or fancy. It just has to be good.

#4: “Social Media is Purposeful Marketing” – Veronica Fielding, President of Digital Brand Expressions

The days of throwing out posts just to fill a social media calendar and to see what sticks are over. The strategic attention being placed on a brand’s social media is the same as  “putting a game plan to all of this so that every single tweet has a reason that it exists,” Fielding says.

Companies are no longer on social platforms to have a one-sided conversation–this is actually what occurs when you are just promoting yourself and your products without asking anything of your audience. What you’re asking them to do now is respond. Engagement is the sweet spot that gets hit when you provoke a reaction in your audience, whether you are asking them to do something or just entertaining them.

The goal now is to look for what Fielding calls “consumer touch points” or ways to add value to the consumer experience. “People don’t want to be marketed at in the social channel. This is where they want to talk to each other, and brands are there by invitation.” So be a good party guest, and show up with something. And be a good conversationalist – don’t just talk at people, listen and respond also. Then, take this social intel you’ve gathered and keep tweaking your strategy. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

How are you changing your social media strategy in 2014?

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