Five Big Social Media Trends for 2014 (Marketing Profs)

2013 was a big year for social media as more organizations than ever turned to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest to learn from and engage with their customers. As we enter 2014, it's important not only to look back at the past year to determine what worked and what didn't in social but also to think about the year ahead: What major trends will persist, which new ones will arise, and how can social marketers make the most of the changing landscape?

Social marketers should keep in mind the following five insights to help their brands and organizations prepare for and succeed in 2014 by connecting with customers.

1. Clever, smart marketing is more important than ever

Recent trends have forced brands to compete for consumer attention unlike ever before. Audience behavior is fragmenting, people's personal and professional selves are merging, and there is a tremendous shift in how consumers make purchase decisions.

To successfully address those changes, brands must first understand their audience. Despite the ability to pull all kinds of customer data, many brands fail to uncover meaningful audience insights. Making use of customer data allows brands to determine their audience's preferences, and, accordingly, how to effectively engage them.

In addition, increasingly marketing must come from a place of helping, rather than selling. As we move into the New Year, we'll see brands continue to focus on content that's useful rather than solely promotional.

2. Social data will guide the future of relationship intelligence

Millions of actions are taking place on social networks every minute, presenting both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge lies in actually analyzing and developing meaningful insights from the data, to take advantage of the great opportunity to learn and strengthen customer relationships.

Whether it's high-level, mid-level or individual-level data, information from social sites, campaigns, or other customer interactions can provide brands with the data necessary to accomplish their goals.

Brands are fully expected to have a social analytics team in place so they can effectively monitor and engage audiences they're trying to reach on social media platforms, especially because community managers cannot fight this battle alone.

3. The next phase of social business is integration

Social media can no longer exist as an entity separate from the rest of the business. Altimeter found although 78% of companies have a dedicated social media team, and the number of employees on those teams is expanding, there is still work that needs to be done. Coordination and integration are missing: Just 26% of companies currently approach social media holistically, according to Altimeter.

Marketers must connect social data to other enterprise data sources to deliver actionable insights.

As 2014 approaches, there are several important factors to identify around effectively integrating social media, including which channels are relevant for your messaging, how social data should be handled, and what technology tools you need to implement the tactics behind your strategy.

4. Online meets offline for customer engagement

As brands take advantage of social tools to encourage local customer engagement, online and offline will collide. Unique campaigns that focus on bringing online content to the real world will excel and make a splash in the significantly noisy social media world. Moreover, these types of campaigns allow brands greater integration with the communities where they want to have an impact. That said, brands will need to listen locally to determine what the community cares about.

5. Relevant, real-time content marketing is here

As we move into 2014, it's important to keep in mind that more content isn't the key; it's relevant content that counts. By waiting for the moment, acting in the moment (think, Tide's Shark Week tweet), and anticipating the moment, brands and marketers can drive traffic, engagement, and high-quality leads. Smart brands already have a handle on acting in the moment, but the trend is only going to grow in 2014. Who will be this year's Oreo at the Super Bowl?

We're not exactly there yet, but what if your team could anticipate what topics your customers will be talking about and have content ready for them when they need it? Moreover, brands would be able to not only stay ahead of topical trends but also determine which devices to optimize campaigns for, what product users are likely to enjoy next, and what the most effective calls to action will be.

2014 will certainly be an exciting year for social media!

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