Social media isn’t going away anytime soon. That means there’s no escaping the stark reality that you will have to get to grips with it at some point. Whether you do it in 2015 with the tools and platforms available now, or wait until two more years have passed and review the options then, if you want it working for you in the future you will need a plan.
Here are some of the trends I foresee being a significant part of any long-term social media marketing strategy:
Clear Participation Objectives
Social media’s current “randomness” is becoming difficult to manage. Not only that, it’s starting to be counter-productive. What do I mean by that? Take a look at the social profiles of any of the big banks and what do you see? Multiple posts to the page of gripes and complaints, many of them from people who obviously have no clue. Online customer reviews often reflect the wrong company or region, user posts ask for information about available jobs, and seldom do you find a post that provides any real value to readers.
Social media doesn’t need more choices; it needs more limitations to improve its usability. It also needs clearer strategic objectives that identify a company’s reason (and purpose) for each profile. For example: it’s common knowledge that a LinkedIn profile is aimed at increasing business contacts, but what’s the purpose of a Facebook page—other than just “because it’s necessary to have one.” Or a Twitter account, for that matter?
I foresee the day coming when companies’ social media planning might include two or more Facebook pages, each aimed at a different objective. One might encourage sign-ups for a newsletter, while another promotes brand awareness. Trying to do everything with a single profile is almost as pointless as trying to reach different market segments with a “one size fits all” approach. And measuring social media results effectively will deliver the kind of insights you need to maintain this approach.
As social media has evolved, we’ve fallen back into the old pattern of trying to “push” marketing information at users instead of focusing on the guiding principle of inbound marketing, which is to attract prospects with value. In the future, it’s going to be essential to your social media marketing strategy to provide your target audience with a service that makes engagement mutually beneficial, if you want them to take you seriously. So, forget about simply posting content that promotes your products and services, and get in front of the movement to provide information of value—even if it sometimes benefits your competitors too!
Specialist / Niche Platforms
As big as Facebook is, it’s not the only thing out there. Partly because of the aforementioned randomness and partly because of its excessively “broad” focus (or perhaps that should be “non-focus”) specialist social media platforms are beginning to pop up for individual industries and markets. Some examples of this are:
- Procurious, created for professionals working in procurement and supply chain logistics
- YourInterest, which connects people based on similar areas of interest
- Edgee, a networking site that builds links based on in-depth, intellectual topics
Of course, all this reduces the Facebook convenience of having everyone in one place, but if that’s what users are wanting then businesses had probably better give it to them.
It’s ironic, but as much as social media has encouraged users to be open about everything in their lives it has also given rise to additional privacy concerns. And social media marketing practices routinely gather data about users, for the purpose of ad retargeting, insights and analytics. Users don’t like this, although most people agree that some form of control is needed to keep the Internet as safe as is humanly possible. With big data becoming a major basis for market research and even for product development, the amount of information you collect is going to increasingly invite scrutiny in the future.
Formulating a social media marketing strategy to take you through to 2020 will require you to take cognizance of these issues and determine how best to address them for your specific industry. One thing’s for sure: you can’t keep your head in the sand much longer.