Written By: Jamie Szwiec
Crowdsourcing funds and big ideas. Finding (and pinning) inspiration for dessert recipes and interior design. Recording six-second videos to share with the world.
Yes, a lot has changed since social media was in the infancy of becoming its own industry and marketing discipline at the turn of the century. Back when “blogging” was a big buzzword, Friendster was connecting a “Circle of Friends,” LinkedIn was just launching and MySpace was a popular social network.
Fast forward a little more than a decade and consider these social media statistics from an article published by Business 2 Community earlier this year:
- Facebook is the most visited website and 56 percent of users check it daily.
- 53 percent of people recommend companies and products on Twitter.
- More than 800 million active users on YouTube spend an average of 15 minutes per day on the video site.
- Pinterest's average user spends 89 minutes a month on the image sharing site.
- The Google +1 button is used 5 billion times a day.
- The average user spends 21 minutes a week on LinkedIn.
- More than 5 million images are uploaded to Instagram everyday.
Now, big brand names like Ben & Jerry’s and Volvo are testing ideas and engaging fans through the Facebook and Twitter, as noted in a recent Brafton article. In addition, major news organizations, such as The Wall Street Journal and CNN, now have in-house teams of people dedicated to social media, building online communities, extending the reach of stories and providing a major boost in website traffic.
If all of the advancements and rapid industry growth within online places and spaces took place in less than a decade; what will be in-store for the future of social media? Here are some key things to consider:
Mobile device proliferation
According to a 2013 study by Experian Marketing Services, 15 percent of total U.S. mobile Internet time is spent on social networking sites. Some social media-driven platforms, like YouTube, now allow brands to adjust profiles and images for mobile devices. With more than 1 billion people with smartphones worldwide, according to global research and consulting firm Strategy Analytics, mobile will play an even bigger role in the future of social media. Expect more brands to develop big campaign ideas and social media strategies tailored for iPhone’s, Android’s, tablets and other mobile devices.
More engagement by brands
Social media continues to play a major role in our impressions of brands on the Web. What brands are doing, how the brand is acting in business, all of this matters more to us. Do brands reach out to followers individually on social media? Do they have links back to their web site where live help is offered via a live chat person? These tactics are all coming under scrutiny by followers interested in the brands.
Experienced social media professionals know that gaining followers is fairly routine. Offer discounts, sponsor contests, provide a giveaway, or even buy followers on the web through black hat providers. But the tricky part is engaging these fans and getting them to comment, share and engage. When people are having social media-driven conversations with a company, the company learns more and the followers feel they have more of a stake in the product or service.
Rethinking social media strategy
Social media strategy has to be more than just having a social presence and tweeting, posting updates on Facebook, uploading videos to YouTube or pinning product images on Pinterest. Companies need to consider the SEO behind their social media work and how it relates to content marketing and customer service. Without a solid strategy, companies may miss out on growing its sales through social media channels.
Building a brand, keeping it highly visible on social channels and rewarding devoted followers of the brand can be a successful strategy. As Social Media Today noted, without adequate social business online, a brand can falter and see its relevance wane with younger consumers.
Crowdsourcing continues to grow
From new ideas, to product launches, to raising funds, expect to see (and participate) in more crowdsourcing initiatives. Brands and companies have just started to tap their social media communities and brand ambassadors to determine the outcome of major branding efforts.
Crowdsourcing is also having a big impact in the startup world. Quirky is an open-source product development platform where people can submit an idea for a new invention or product. If a product idea is chosen, Quirky will design, manufacture and sell it, while the principals get a small portion of all sales. According to Forbes.com, the firm introduced more than 120 new products in 2012. These products sold through big box retailers like Best Buy, Target and others.
So what's the takeaway from capturing all these data points? Expect to see more businesses (big and small) improve upon past social media approaches and go beyond just promotions and contests. As social media continues to mature as a viable marketing discipline and method to communicate directly with consumers, brands will find ways to communicate and collaborate with us.
Author Bio: Jamie Szwiec is a PR and social media consultant Monday through Friday, and an aspiring baker on Saturdays and Sundays. He lives in South Florida by way of Milwaukee. You can connect with Jamie on Twitter (@PRsemiPro)