With 2014 winding down, it’s time to take a look back at some broad predictions about social media and whether or not they were correct.
The Prediction: Prioritized paid content will edge out startups and small companies from social media sites.
The Reality: While paid social advertising undoubtedly had an influence on the way marketers approached social media in 2014, it didn’t completely overpower or stifle content creation from smaller brands looking to gain influence and expand their audience without paying for views. Yes, it has gotten more difficult to stand out in the sea of content marketing saturating the average consumer’s social media feeds these days (especially on Facebook), but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible or that unpaid social media has lost it’s effectiveness. With so much content to wade through, startups have more pressure than ever before to stand out in their social media presences by creating content that is engaging, creative, visually appealing and unique above all else.
What’s next: With paid content continually on the rise, smaller businesses and startups will need to rethink their social media strategies. It’s no longer enough to simply maintain a consistent presence across various social media outlets when you’re competing against paid content. To keep social engagement high for your brand, startups should look to more niche networks like Pinterest to find their audience. They will also need to start spending “a little” on social media, to ensure their created content gets the right eyeballs.
The Prediction: Twitter will overtake Facebook as the most important social network.
The Reality: Not so, according to recent statistics. Teens anointed Instagram as the “most important” social network to them in October 2014. The Facebook-owned photo sharing mobile app just surpassed Twitter’s 284 million monthly users. Instagram had 100 million users in back in February 2013, and is currently sitting pretty at 300 million monthly users in December 2014. While Facebook as a whole still outranks Instagram in terms of monthly users (FB has 1.35 billion), the social media behemoth is losing ground among the coveted Millennial-age brackets. Facebook use among 13-17 year olds dropped 25% between 2011 and 2014, and nearly 8% among 18-24 year olds. It seems that Facebook’s demographics are shifting; older users (25-55) are remaining loyal to the network, while younger users are moving to the photo-based Instagram. Bad perhaps for Facebook the social network, but good for Facebook, Inc. the parent company of both.
What’s next: Marketers shouldn’t panic about Facebook’s changing demographics; the social media site is still a dominant force in social engagement, but companies trying to interact with consumers below the age of 25 shouldn’t depend on Facebook to offer a solid point of outreach and should instead look to Instagram.
The Prediction: Grown-ups and advertisers won’t warm up to Snapchat as a legitimate platform for exposure.
The Reality: Snapchat just ran it’s first paid ad (a movie trailer) this past October, proving that the ephemeral photo-sharing app is equipped and ready to blast promos to its users. Snapchat’s growth is undeniable, and while their willingness to work with advertisers is evident, it’s a question of how effective Snapchat ads can be with a highly targeted, yet limited demographic. An impressive 30 million monthly active users send out 500 million snaps per day, but 70% of all users are female. The jury is still out on whether or not marketers will deem Snapchat a good strategy, and if so, where it can fit into a successful advertising strategies and media mixes.
What’s Next: So we know people are using Snapchat, and we know advertisers are willing to try out the platform for engagement, but are the users themselves actually going to tap to open ads on their feed? Furthermore, will the current format of Snapchat ads prove to be the right format for both advertisers and users?
The Prediction: Blogs aren’t a an effective way to engage with users anymore.
The Reality: 77% of online users in 2014 read blogs, and companies that blog have 97% more inbound links than companies who don’t. Blogging has served and continues to serve as the best hub for consumer engagement, acting as an outlet for press announcements, a place to grow your influence as a thought leader in your field and a platform for inbound content marketing. Like media sites before them, smart companies are beginning to find out that there isn’t really a need to call out the blog as a “blog” or separate it from other content. This has paved the way for forward thinking brands to break into their own branded outlets. Some brands are even getting into printed content (hello Airbnb and Pineapple), and hello retro!
What’s next: Startups should keep blogging, and producing non-sales oriented content, high on their content marketing / social media to-do list, since it’s proven to increase consumer interest, brand awareness and drive inbound traffic.