Contributed by Mike Supple, Sr. Social Media Manager
Social media has seen some amazing innovations in the last few years, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping any time soon. As more users turn to friends and connections to get answers to their questions, search engines are working hard to build social signals into their algorithms. Staying on top of social media is about working smart, not just working hard. Based on where the industry is moving, these ten trends should be strong influencers in 2012.
- Socialization of search: Search engines started using social signals in their ranking algorithms in the end of 2010, and increasingly in 2011. As Google and Bing continue testing and perfecting their algorithms, the search results for any individual users will become increasingly personal based on location and his/her social connections.
- Hard ROI metrics: As with all marketing campaigns, at the end of the day it is important to see some measurable returns from social media. The concepts of “brand exposure” and “building engagement” are great buzz words, but in order to improve your efforts on a regular basis you need to be able to measure results. When a social marketing plan is developed correctly, real ROI is able to be measured and reported.
- Merging of marketing channels: As search engines begin incorporating the data from many different departments into their algorithms, it becomes more important for members of various marketing teams to communicate and share strategies. The lines between traditional, paid, organic, and social marketing are blurring.
- Location-based social media: The technology in mobile devices is more powerful and more affordable than ever. This combination of power and economy is contributing to an increase in mobile social activity. A large user base with geographic ties allows brands to target small, qualified groups of users with unique and relevant messaging.
- Social media fatigue / content aggregation: With so many different social networks available, it is easy for the average user to burn out and get tired of staying on top of every new channel. In some ways this is already evident by the large number of accounts on Google+ that were created and quickly abandoned. Users are starting to focus on the one or two social networks that fulfill their unique engagement needs. To be able to connect across so many networks, it is imperative for businesses to have a strong listening foundation, and the ability to adapt targeted messaging to diverse networks.
- Infographics: The idea of sharing large amounts of complex data in a friendly, visual manner is not new. However, the rise of infographic popularity on the internet is astounding. Creating compelling infographics is a great way to get fun information out to your customers, but also a way to reach new users with popular keywords.
Search volume for the words “infographic” and “infographic” on Google. Source: Google Trends
- LinkedIn: As search engines rely more on social signals, it is important to have an active presence in the channels that carry the most search engine weight. LinkedIn is one such channel, and can be a very effective tool for connecting with business consumers as well as getting yourself to rank higher in search engine results.
- Identifying sales leads: The real-time nature of social sharing presents the potential to proactively reach out to users and cultivate potential sales leads. The key is to develop effective listening methods that allow you to identify and contact potential consumers in a way that allows you to contribute to ongoing conversations.
- Facebook sharing: Facebook’s open graph technology is making it easier for users to connect and share things on Facebook while outside of the FB platform. As developers create applications that take advantage of the open graph network, “liking” will become more ubiquitous to include other verbs and not require physical clicks of a button.
- Consumer lifetime value: Too often, marketing promotions focus on ways to grab attention for one purchase or event, and fail to take into account the potential value of consumers over a lifetime. Using social media to reward customer loyalty can ensure a long and profitable relationship.