As another new year begins, marketers naturally look to develop their skills and awareness in the areas they are responsible for. For me, social media is a key area and within this, these are the areas that I believe are likely to effect social media marketing effectiveness in 2013. How do you see it?
1. Embrace social search
The launch of Google+ in 2011 and its continued development in 2012 is just one of many signs that traditional search is becoming increasingly influenced by social signals. Whilst great content and effective link building are still the most effective ways of optimising your website for search engines, genuine social media activity is also playing a part, too.
Google’s Search Plus Your World, its numerous algorithm updates and the introduction of the Knowledge Graph are yet more signs that quality content and social media will impact organic search.
Other factors such as social voting (e.g. the ‘Like’, ‘Tweet’ and ‘+1’ buttons) and social bookmarking (posting content to social sites) are also being used by search engines like Google to determine the influence and relevance of content on the web.
2. Adopt a content marketing strategy
Social media and search shouldn’t be considered as two completely separate disciplines. For some time now, there has been an overlap between search and social, with content being the glue the binds the two. They form the principles of what is known as inbound or earned media marketing.
One of the most powerful and effective ways of combining search and social is to focus on developing an integrated content marketing strategy. Brands should consider a strategic approach to content to take advantage of the various content sources present within a business:
- Search marketing activities
- Brand engagement activities
- Buzz-building activities
- Brand protection activities
Creating useful, unique, engaging content is a powerful way of connecting with prospects and customers and it underpins many other marketing efforts, including:
3. Differentiating your social presence
As social media has developed and proliferated our lives (so much so that even the blandest of products have a Facebook or Twitter account!), it’s never been so important to ensure that your brand has a presence that stands out and make an impression. People’s attention is at a premium in today’s ‘always-on’ world and in order to make a genuine connection with discerning consumers on the social web gaining visibility is essential.
First and foremost, good branding is key. Whilst it’s difficult to ensure perfect consistency on the social web (consumer conversations cannot be controlled to be “on brand”, especially when they turn negative), it’s still important to have strong, impactful and well-designed branding across every social platform to ensure it aligns with your website, products and online/ offline presence. Integration is key too.
As for social channels, don’t just focus on the one or two ‘that everyone is using’. Whilst it’s not advisable to create a presence on every social network going (e.g. don’t spread yourself too thin!), consider the variety of social networks out there and what will work best for you. It may be the case that Facebook and Twitter work just fine for your brand. However, you might just discover that niche social platforms such as Google+, Instagram or Pinterest could work better given your unique set of brand propositions and objectives.
4. Develop actionable insights through social analytics
Social media is no longer a buzzword that can be used to dazzle your boss and get funding for a new social media initiative. Companies, both large and small, are quite rightly demanding proof, evidence and case studies to demonstrate the value that social media can bring to a business.
Why should a brand invest in a social media campaign as opposed to a traditional advertising approach that is ‘guaranteed’ to reach X number of eyeballs through a targeted TV, radio or online advertising campaign?
Analytics and tracking should be used to evaluate the contribution of traffic from social media sources and sharing of content from your site on social networks. Hard data should be used wherever possible to monitor social initiatives so that you can form a much clearer picture of what techniques are most effective for your business and to build a compelling business case for further social media marketing should it prove successful.
Free tools such as Google Analytics allows users to track social media marketing using a series of reports looking at social sources, pages, conversions, social plugins and visitors flow.
5. Mobile is the present… and future!
Smartphone usage has rocketed over the last few years, with sales overtaking that of PCs two years ahead of schedule, tablet sales growing 378% year-on-year and news that in the US 90% of 18-29 year olds sleep with their smartphones!
It’s fair to say that with 4G making inroads in the US and now the UK, mobile and tablet usage is becoming increasingly ubiquitous. In the UK, mobile devices are now used for everything from buying goods and services to accessing the internet and social media on the go.
Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 signified the social networking giant’s commitment to mobile moving forward and a clear sign that mobile will continue to play an increasingly important role in social media as the technology develops and users become savvier.
A version of this post was originally published on Smart Insights on 3rd January 2013. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure!