The year has come to an end, and with it, countless marketers are reflecting on their accomplishments as a whole, no doubt including how they fared on social media. Changes in the online realm typically happen quickly and social media is no different; constant analysis needs to be conducted by marketers and researchers to assess which social media strategies were successful and which social media trends should be done away with heading into 2015.
Social Media Trends that Mattered in 2014
The first trend that should be mentioned is social media as a whole. Ninety-two percent of business owners now recognize the need to invest in social media as a necessary part of their business as it relates to engaging and marketing to their consumers; that’s an increase from 2013, when that number was 86%.
Marketers are still experiencing some setbacks, however, when it comes to accurately measuring the return on investment on their efforts relating to social media. This has businesses still struggling to figure out how to properly assign budgets to social media campaigns, an issue that becomes more complex when there is still a lack of understanding, even among personnel executing these campaigns, on how to effectively conduct day-to-day social media strategies in a manner that fits into the vision of the entire company.
Another prominent social media trend of the past year was the success of image-centric networks. Retention rates for Pinterest have been incredible, particularly amongst females; from year one to year four of using the app, women increased their number of pins from 42 to 152, which is a great indication of customer loyalty. Instagram also continues to rise in popularity, even after experiencing the biggest jump in active users in the second half of 2013.
The final trend of 2014 that deserves some attention is the rise in micro video. These short bursts of video are becoming the craze, with social media platforms such as Vine and Instagram being major players in this field. This trend is just at the tip of potentially exploding, as video offers new opportunities for businesses looking to engage their consumer base, with the possibilities of displaying real-time product demonstration or creative and compelling visuals that almost replicate commercials.
What to Expect From Social Media in 2015
Although some trends from 2014 are sure to spill over into the new year, it’s important to detail the new trends that will become staples in 2015 and the ones that will be pushed to the backburner in favour of more appealing applications. Below is a list of social media trends that should be top priority in 2015, along with other trends that may not fare so well.
This one is major, so you need to pay attention. The shift has now been made from text to visual content. With 40% of people responding more positively to visual content, and with video posts getting three times more likes than posts with strictly text, the trend in 2015 is clear. Add to that the fact that shorter posts that are informative, audience-specific, and designed to be shared gain far more traction than posts lacking these elements.
But as sharp as the shift to visual content has been, the more dynamic shift has been toward the mobile space.
The Mobile Revolution Has Come
Consuming information on smartphones and tablets is a trend that has been on the rise for the past few years, but it is expected to really take off in 2015. Not only is it more convenient for the on-the-go lifestyle that Millennials have made standard throughout our culture, but as freelance and self-employed individuals continue to rise, being plugged in at all times becomes essential, and the most effective way to do that is with a mobile device.
We’re already seeing close to 80% of users engage in social media through a mobile device, and that number is set to hit over 90% by 2018. These statistics mean marketers should sincerely consider putting mobile first when outlining any social media campaign, which means creating designs intended for mobile devices instead of having to shrink designs on campaigns targeted at desktop users.
And mobile devices are being used for more than social engagement; mobile users are also making in-store purchases. Companies like Starbucks are creating their own system for payments, including a rewards program, and we expect more and more companies to follow suit. The privacy concern is the main reason mobile payments haven’t blasted off, but 2015 will see improvements to this issue and propel mobile purchases further than in any other year.
Paying for Better Social Media Results
It’s a reality that companies marketing through Facebook are already experiencing. As organic reach on Facebook has shrunk considerably and fans are now receiving a reduced number of posts from pages they follow, Facebook is essentially forcing marketers to shell out some dollars for promoted posts. Although there has been some resistance from users to this new reality, expect the cost of Facebook’s ad space to continue rising. Already at a 10% increase year-over-year during the first quarter of 2014, demand for advertising on what is still the top social media platform will continue driving up those ad costs.
But upping the ad cost is not the only trend you should expect to see in social media for 2015. Both Facebook and Twitter have added “buy” buttons beside certain posts, allowing users to shop online without ever leaving the page. It requires having an account already set up for purchase, but the opportunity to shop while still tweeting or posting will be an intriguing trend to follow once these two platforms step out of the beta versions of this new application.
Look Out for LinkedIn
LinkedIn made some big moves in 2014, most notably adding a publishing platform for its users. Already a monster in the B2B space, the new platform furthers the opportunities for companies to build and develop a professional brand by engaging their followers in long-form content. The publishing platform also allows for individuals to showcase their expertise on specific topics to an already existing base of more than 300 million users, making them more attractive as valuable employees or consultants.
With 88% of B2B marketers already using LinkedIn, and just as many journalists active on the site, 2015 will see LinkedIn become the only source of reference needed for employers and employees. And one aspect of LinkedIn that has always separated it from other social media platforms is the profits it earns from paid users. The first quarter of 2014 saw a 46% year-over-year increase in revenue from paid users, rounding out at about $95.0 million. Expect this number to only get larger in 2015 as the increasing number of self-employed workers continue to seek ways to maximize networking opportunities.
What to Make of Google+
The failure of Google+’s Authorship program may have been the final nail in the coffin. And with Vic Gundotra, the man behind Google+, stepping down earlier this year, it seems even he realized that it now offers no unique value from similar social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. And having Hangouts, one of the few positive functions of Google+, now available as a standalone application accessible outside of the social network doesn’t put much confidence in the future of the Google+ platform. Predictions for 2015 are grave; expect Google+ to dwindle and possibly even evaporate into thin air unless some massive overhauling takes place.
Will New Social Networks Survive?
It’s a challenge any new business must face: how to stand out in an already cluttered environment. What can be done that already hasn’t been abused by the popular social network sites of the day? Some new social sites like Ello and Yik Yak think they can capitalize on the apparent user need for privacy; the former brags about never selling your information, while the latter boasts of offering completely anonymous messaging to nearby users.
Regardless of the supposed privacy benefits, structuring a social site around people will be difficult. Recent social networks that show the most promise moving into the new year have focused on community- or interest-based markets, eliminating the pressure to populate their site with people outside those communities or who don’t share the same interests. Sites like Foodie and Fitocracy are already popular with their focus on chefs and fitness fans, respectively. Look for more of these niche sites to pop up in 2015, as they are much easier to manage and market.
Social Media Will Reign Supreme
Trends by definition are fleeting; one year, something can be the hottest thing on the market that everyone wants to imitate, and then the next year, it’s tumbleweeds. The one bet you can bank on in 2015 is that social media will officially become the most important tool for marketers and advertisers. With the ability to reach an almost unlimited number of consumers; the flexibility to create and coordinate various types of campaigns across video, still pictures, text, and audio; and the improved software for tracking analytics, social media offers the most powerful platform for engaging audiences across the planet.