The social media landscape is evolving rapidly, and therefore, your social media marketing strategy cannot remain static. Instead, it’s important to reevaluate business goals, social media campaigns, platform results and revise your strategy at least once a year — if not quarterly.
Being aware of trends in the social sphere can help you design better strategies, apply the most effective tactics and choose where to invest your staff as well as financial resources. Here are the top five social media trends every entrepreneur needs to think about for 2014 and beyond:
1. Diversify. You’ve probably seen headlines about Facebook’s algorithm changes. If you currently operate a brand or business page, one study found that only six percent of followers currently see your posts. Experts suggest that that number will continue to plummet, eventually reaching one percent.
This bid by Facebook is aimed at increasing advertising dollars. But it highlights a potential weakness in many business’ social strategies: overdependence on any single platform puts you at the mercy of that platform’s whims. Whether it crashes or simply changes its rules, too much is at stake.
Related: Stop Talking About Yourself So Much on Social Media and Listen
2. Google+ is for real. If there’s one social network businesses should pay specific attention to, it’s Google+, which is already playing a more important role in Google’s organic ranking algorithm. I expect this trend will continue.
To the surprise of many across the SEO industry, Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed in a recent video that Facebook and Twitter have no impact on SEO rankings as a result of crawling and accessibility issues. So it stands to reason that if Google wants to use social signals for organic search rankings, it could easily mine Google+ data, where its crawler access is unhindered.
Google+ is also the best way to get access to Google Authorship, which will play a huge role in SEO by the end of the year. Google Authorship helps the search engine identify your content, attribute it to the correct author and build a portfolio for each author that may include what many are calling “Author Rank” — algorithmic scoring based on author expertise and publishing history.
In most cases, an image of the author appears next to their content in search results, which also increases visibility and click-through rates.
Related: Contrary to Popular Belief, These Popular Social-Media Habits Are Bad for Your Brand
3. Integration of social media, SEO, and content creation. The online marketing industry is moving away from the idea that social media, SEO and content marketing happen in isolation. Social media marketing decisively impacts how content is seen and shared.
Content creation and marketing have direct implications for your SEO performance — especially in light of Google’s latest algorithm updates. It’s important that you think of the three pillars of online marketing — SEO, content and social media — as a system that works synergistically to increase visibility, build your brand and ultimately garner customers and sales.
4. Visual content will win. An estimated 63 percent of social media comprises imagery. As such, visual platforms are playing an increasing role in social media for businesses. One study found that 29 percent of Pinterestusers bought an item after posting or re-pinning it on the network.
Video content is also hotter than ever, with the addition of networks like Vine and Instagram featuring microvideos. Infographics are another effective promotion tool for businesses with both a bounty of data and absorbing stories to tell.
Not every platform will be right, but spending the time to find the visual angle to your business’ story and experimenting with different content formats can help revitalize your social media marketing strategy.
Related: Want to Gain Influence on Social Media? Get to Work.
5. Social media as a brand builder. Social media channels should be managed according to a brand-oriented approach. Building your brand on any platform impacts your SEO and improves sales over the long term.
Are the visuals of your social media accounts consistent with the rest of your visual branding? Is your account name or any other copy branded? Are you regularly filtering your status updates to ensure they’re on-message and consistent with the overall brand that you’re building? Focusing on building your brand through your social interactions should be a key focus this year.
If evolutions in social media have taught us anything so far this year, it’s that entrepreneurs with flexible and engaged approaches will have the highest ROI. Take the time to understand general trends and focus on core goals, but also take action to experiment with specific tactics that will grow and change as your business evolves.
What major trends are you seeing at play in social media? Let us know in the comments below.