As the curtains slowly close on another year, we can look back and confidently say that 2014 was the year for social media. Whilst staples such as Facebook and Twitter remain at the top of the table (arguably), the rise of platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram, Vine and Snapchat (and the rest!) are taking a welcome bite out of the social media pie.
We’ve seen consumer habits change over the last year, and brands broaden their propositions in an attempt to keep up with these changes. With that in mind, I’ve taken a look at 5 key trends I think we’re sure to be seeing in 2015 and how these trends will affect the ever changing landscape of social media...
1. Brands Become Storytellers
We’ve already seen the beginning of this happen across all media touchpoints; TV, print and online just to name a few. Brands are trying to use “real” people more and more in a bid to captivate our hearts and imaginations.
Whether it’s paid for advertising or PR, the use of real life stories (or content marketing as it’s affectionately known) is becoming an integral part of a brand’s communication strategy. The thought behind this is that consumers like you and me are more likely to engage with people / situations we can relate to as opposed to outright sales messages… and they’re probably right.
Bridging the gap between brand and consumer is the key to success; and what better place to build that bridge (and more importantly, that community) than on social media? As a bonus if your content goes viral, you’re exposing yourself to a huge untapped audience, which can only be a good thing! For reference, there’s a great piece on Search Engine People that illustrates the importance of storytelling/content marketing which you can check out after this.
2. Keeping It Visual
Expanding on the above a little more, one of the key trends we’ve seen over the last year has been the increase in engagement across visual or rich content, particularly with ads.
It’s no longer just about writing the most informed piece or having just one photo that’s indicative of your product. Consumers want pictures, video, interactivity - anything that will pique their interest and fit around their busy schedules. Out of all the social platforms I’ve mentioned so far, three of them are completely dedicated to either photos or videos, which is a real sign of current consumer habits.
Not only that, but the phenomenon of vlogging really took off in 2014 and this certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed. These bona fide celebrities on YouTube (and others I’m sure) have a real fan base and community behind them and brands are starting to cash in by the use of product placement and on occasion, all out sponsorship!
3. Mobile and Tech
Every year seems to be the “year of mobile” and none more so than 2014. With smartphone penetration at it’s highest in the UK (around 64%), this shift in content consumption has been a key focus for many; Facebook and Twitter have adjusted their proposition on mobile with the development of mobile specific ad platforms and apps, and the likes of Vine and Snapchat are still purely on mobile.
We’ll continue to see the blurred lines between what we see on desktop and what is available to us on mobile in 2015. From a brands perspective you can't help but ask, why wait for someone to log on to a desktop to discover your content when you can be at their fingertips during the most important moments they want to talk about?
This goes even further as we see the internet of things continue to grow. Social media is integrated into TV and game consoles, you can adjust your thermostat with an app on your phone and you can even get fitness sensors for your shoes! Whilst these concepts aren’t necessarily new, I’d imagine integration like this is only going to become more common, especially with social, as we continue down this ever-connected digital path.
4. Ads Ads Ads!
Social media platforms have used advertising as an additional revenue stream for many years, however we’ve seen a rapid growth in these advertising propositions in the last 6-12 months.
We’re all very familiar with what Facebook and Twitter offer, but with the likes of Instagram and Pinterest now also rolling out various advertising opportunities, we predict that not only will we be seeing more ads across social media platforms, but for better or for worse, they’ll be tailored directly to us as individuals.
As mentioned above, accountability is key and naturally brands want to see return on their investment. With this in mind, social commerce (or sCommerce) is an extremely appealing proposition to brands as it clearly shows ROI across social in the form of direct sales.
Twitter have recently taken a very clear stance on this with the introduction of the “Buy Now” button in the US, and Pinterest introduced their “Rich Pins” earlier this year.
Social media isn’t just for customer service and to share pictures of grumpy cats anymore; the growth of sCommerce seems to be at the forefront of businesses minds and we’re sure other social networks outside of Twitter and Pinterest will jump on board, and help revolutionise the way we shop and interact with brands online.
Are there any other key social media trends that you predict to be big in 2015? Let me know on Twitter @sdawett