I don’t want to be clever about this, there are several hundred blogs predicting what’s going to happen in 2014. We have to be cautious about forecasting trends. As Jack Kerouac said “Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.” The honeymoon period is over and whilst some areas will thaw, its most important shift will be its organisational integration. That said, its worth through the research, extending my thoughts in a concise manner, wading through the magnitude of twaddle to bring just ten points for us to think about focusing on next year:
1. Consumers will give away yet more intimate data and brands will consume that same data, going beyond knowing our inside leg measurement to identifying where precisely we are at any moment in time and predicting how we are going to behave. We can’t complain we’ve been complicit for years, abdicating responsibility for managing our digital footprint. As the old saying goes, 'if its free we are the product.' Brands, no matter how big or small, will be able to distinguish themselves competitively by accessing this data and turning it into an intimate knowledge of each of their customers.
2. Pointlessness (subjective of course) will unfortunately continue but the ‘intelligent’ creep of social media will expand, resulting in more polarisation. We will, at one end of the continuum, deliver real solutions/innovations created by a mass collection of bright, stable individuals/brands engaging using social channels. At the other end, we’ll have those creating their own vanilla production line of selfies, meaningless hashtags and mocking each other in conversations that resemble playground tag. In the middle, still, will be those scrapping around trying to make sense of it all. On reflection, perhaps that’s not much different than 2013.
3. Content. As I’ve said before we either use content to clutter, entertain or change things. People are starting to understand that the future of social media and marketing is the creation and delivery of nothing less than exceptional, jaw dropping content delivered to the relevant audience, on the applicable platform with the germane message that engages. 78% of CMOs think that custom content is the future of marketing. Are your websites built to facilitate this. (1)
4. Social HR. The most significant explosion in 2014 will be the use of social networking internally within organisations. Using platforms to bring about the growth of collaboration and the eventual collapse of silos and hierarchy, well in about 10 years time. Innovation is one of the few competitive advantages left, social HR will be the deliverer/enabler of that. This is not the adaption of intranets, but fully integrated collaborative spaces where social capital is leveraged and conversation thrives. According to the CIPD, three in four employees (76%) use social media in their personal lives, just one in four (26%) use it for work purposes. This will notably change in 2014. (2)
5. User Experience. The integration of social into the whole web design experience. This is more than the share button. Its the movement towards the integration of social media and user experience, what’s commonly called the social UX. By not implementing a social UX strategy in 2014, website owners will be embarking on a huge exercise in missing the damn point.
6. Video and images are already dominating communication and collaboration. With the advent of new social platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat, and the hundreds of others that are in hot pursuit, we will see an even more significant surge in communications via these two methods. 65% of people are visual learners, so there will be an industry-wide shift in the direction of employing visual content in marketing initiatives. (1)
7. Investment in social media will become compulsory. Its hard to avoid the solid evidence surrounding mobile and social media usage. A transformation has emerged in 2013 with senior executives in organisations now recognising that if they want to engage with their customers/consumers and stakeholders they are going to need to have a focused social strategy. 2014 will be the year the ‘C’ suite take social seriously, really seriously.
8. Mobile, mobile, mobile #thatisall
9. Integration of social as just another business process. Not a bolt on, not an after thought, but blended/woven/fused with the overall business strategy.
10. Tough questions. Social media needs to answer some of the questions it has been intentionally avoiding. Demonstrating return on investment from a business perspective will be critical in 2014. If executives can’t answer thorough interrogation of the detail, expect to miss the significant opportunity to grow social media communications whether internal or external. I don’t mean click throughs, followers and likes. No. Just increased lead generation and, revenue, customer and brand profile growth.
There are, of course, more but narrowing our attention to the few that are possible and within our grasp will be the deal breaker. We can’t achieve everything, but we can make some huge shifts as long as we keep social media in perspective and avoid the hyperbole that the media creates.