In 2013, social networking took on a whole new meaning and became a veritable beast, hard to tame. For those who share their personal life on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or all of the above, the internet has made it possible for anyone to keep track of them and vice versa. With new social networking platforms appearing from behind every corner, it may be hard for one to decide where to commit time and resources. As 2013 comes to an end, it's important to look ahead to where social networking is going, and how we can get on board.
Investment in social media will become a necessity
Arguably, investing time and resources into a social media strategy was a necessity in 2013 but it is believed that the tipping point in public sentiment from 'should have' to 'must have' will occur in 2014.
Businesses are already coming to terms with the need to integrate their social media efforts with their content strategy, and are seeing the impact of social media in terms of reach, referral traffic, and revenue. Seeing these very real and measurable benefits, there would be a change from social media tasks being assigned to existing employees to companies hiring social media strategists or full-time social media managers.
The benefits of social media are many and include company branding, improved brand awareness, and increased customer loyalty and trust. Social media is also one of the three pillars of SEO.
While Facebook continues to lead the pack in terms of number of active monthly users (1.15 billion at last count), Google+ is quickly gaining steam and now has the second highest number of monthly users (343 million).
With Google using the platform to collect personal information (demographics, location, etc.), Google+ should no longer be thought of as 'just' another social network. It's increasingly proving itself to be an integral part of Google's grand scheme in terms of SEO, social signals and providing a more personalised search experience. This is especially apparent with the growing importance of Google Authorship, which most likely would be one of the key components to Google's search ranking algorithm by the end of 2014.
Businesses who are finding themselves spread thin with their social media efforts will increasingly turn to Google+ as the closest thing to a 'one-size-fits-all' social network.
As Google+ moves towards even greater integration with other aspects of the web - as they have already done with their foray into local search - its growth may skyrocket, both in terms of business and personal use. For information on how to start using Google+, read "Getting started with Google+"
Image-based networks will record huge success
There has been a consistent trend in 2013 toward sharing through image and video, rather than text-based content. Visual content will increasingly become a critical piece of any solid content strategy, and social networking site. Pinterest would lose its reputation as a 'women's only' network and become an integral part of retailers' marketing strategies.
Other image-based social media sites like Instagram, Slideshare, Tumblr, Path, and Mobli will continue to grow, and businesses will need to become more mindful of the 'sharability' factor of photos on their websites and blogs in order to derive significant benefit from their social media content marketing efforts.
Video-based social media (the rise of micro-video)
It seems as if writing 140 characters and taking three minute long videos is becoming too tedious for many internet users. Micro video to the rescue!
With the emergence of micro video apps like Twitter's Vine and now Instagram's video sharing feature, there is more movement toward real-time video sharing. And not just any videos; with Instagram allowing 3-15 seconds per video, and Vine allowing precisely six seconds, users are even more likely to create and share videos from their smartphones.
It would be interesting to see if and how these bite-sized pieces of content would change the playing field when it comes to video-based social media.
With their radical makeover and re-branding efforts earlier this year, MySpace appears to be getting its second wind. Offering an iPhone app that allows users to network, receive private messages, and listen to their own personalised radio station, MySpace seems on track for growth in 2014.
MySpace may never again compete in the same space as Facebook or Twitter, but it would be interesting to see how the network grows among bands and music-lovers.
Still holding steady as the number one social networking site for professionals with 238 million users, LinkedIn is not just sitting on its heels. With the launch of its Influencers program, LinkedIn is positioning itself as not only another networking site, but as one of the largest sources of content creation and curation for professionals.
As it grows and attracts even more users, the advantages of being "linked in" will become enormous for B2B (business-to-business) marketers.
Foursquare will decline sharply
With stale traffic numbers, and significant difficulties raising capital in 2013, Foursquare continues to struggle its way towards 2014.
With other social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter offering location-based features, it seems like only a matter of time before Foursquare folds and their users are absorbed into these other networks.
Facebook and Twitter
The two giants show no signs of imminent decline, but how they innovate to keep up with the growth of Google+ as well as image and video-based networks would be something to watch out for.
Facebook turns 10 in 2014 (has really been that long?); they will continue to focus efforts on mobile, and on offering advertisers opportunities to better target their ads. And while Twitter continues to be the golden child amongst B2B marketers, one is curious to see if and how the rise of Google+ would impact its market share.
While most business owners are aware of the necessity of having a social media strategy, PREMIUM TIMES believes 2014 will be the year where a majority would finally understand the necessity of committing the necessary time and resources to their social media efforts
Which social networking sites do you think we should be watching? Which do you think are on their way out? Share your views below.