2013 has been an interesting year in Social Media – not least due to the two of the largest IPOs in US history with both Facebook and Twitter now public companies – but as I sit here, on New Years Eve, I need to look forward into 2014 – as I do every year. I always try to think a little bit about what I think will happen in 2014 so that I can reflect next year on my thoughts and see just how right (or wrong) I was.
A day can be a long time in Social Media and as such a year is a lifetime. This is why I find it quite therapeutic and philosophical to look at the next 365 days and be more than willing to accept that I will get it wildly wrong. However looking at what I am about to discuss I cannot get over the fact that with now Facebook and Twitter public companies that this is a huge influence on my thoughts. They are now accountable to Shareholders and will have to look at the numbers very seriously. Google had there IPO back in 2004 and seem to have their numbers to satisfy shareholders already (Jan 13 their stock price was just over 700p and now it is over 1100p). They have proved themselves over the long term whereas Facebook and Twitter need to do so.
So what are my thoughts (and from others as you will notice).
1/ The continued growth of Google+ I felt, back at the start of 2013, we would see Google+ finally start to break through as a social network – it is owned by Google after all. Throughout the many updates this year to the Google search algorithm there has been much talk about how Google+ is being integrated not to mention the worth of a +1 to a post (especially considering the belief in author rank where a persons brand is more powerful than the websites). Two great articles I have read recently include Eric Enge’s post about how Google+ is affecting SEO and a recent article looking at the recent Hummingbird update to the algorithm. Eric has done some immense studies on Google+ and its influence and I highly recommend reading the two articles which are both put far more eloquently than I could put here in this article. I have long believed in a person’s brand being more important than a corporate brand or website (in fact, a long time ago, I read the book Me 2.0 by Dan Schwabel which still influences me today) and feel this is where Google is headed – an author of a blog and their influence is starting to impact search – especially if you know the person who has written the piece. In fact, Martin Shervington, arguably one of the most influential Google+ advocates puts it particularly well in his feelings for 2014.
“Forget out the future, focus on now (I think I heard that from Seth Godin too). Look at what you are giving to your community and how they in return are helping you. It is when social can be leveraged into Search that Google+ that you step outside the Stream. As the web becomes the Stream through the ad network we will see emerge those who pay for exposure and those who leverage community. Darn it, that last bit was a prediction, but with +post ads it is already starting to happen.”
Interestingly Martin mentions +posts which brings me on to two other factors within Google+ which I will believe will influence 2014. The start of Google’s paid advertising within the platform looks to be an interesting move (and we discussed it in the post about the Toyota Collaborator tool recently here) and I will be discussing how the recent launch of +posts is going in a Hangout at the end of January – comparing them to other forms of paid social advertising. I have just mentioned Hangouts and I am going to treat these as a separate entity entirely from Google+ as I believe them to be that powerful.
2/ People will be hanging out more
There has always been two jewels in the crown of Google+ – the ability to segment your following into “circles” and the ability to Hangout with people. Put simply a Google Hangout is like SKYPE on speed and with some extra, incredibly positive, side effects. Firstly, let me say that Social is meant to be social and the ability to truly engage with your following through Hangouts is a bonus on Google+. Someone once suggested the following:
- Twitter is where you talk to people you don’t know,
- Facebook is where you talk to people you know,
- Google+ is where you talk to people you want to know
Hangouts facilitate this. Not only is the platform positioning itself well in terms of the social layer and the SEO benefits but it is covering itself in glory based on the basic principles of human interaction – engagement face to face. For me, when I started out in Social many years ago I saw it as a means of communicating with people again. They no longer wanted to call my sales teams, they wanted a more reactive approach of communication i.e. through a computer using e-mail. Social was my way of speeding up that communication. Hangouts are now adding the finishing touches to a social relationship – they are putting the human element back into communication which I feel is vital.
Penny Power (an influential social media spokesperson from the UK whom I lived but 10mins from when I grew up strangely) was a great advocate of the following saying (and has now written a book about the topic – here):
Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me
I feel this was where we were in the last 5 years but Hangouts offer the ability to add a couple more on
Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me, Hangout With Me, Work With Me
I have only focussed on the point of engagement thus far and nothing on the point that there are fantastic SEO benefits to Hanging Out. There are many ways to hangout; both private and live public streaming, Private hangouts offer fabulous collaborative opportunities especially if combined with the rest of the Google Suite of applications but it is the the public hangouts that offer incredible business and SEO benefits.
I see growth here two fold. Firstly public live streaming of discussions offer amazing potential with too many concepts to discuss here. Take one though as an example – enquire with your customers their top list of questions about your product and service and then discuss them as a company (even inviting your customers to hangout with you) to discuss these queries. Not only is this a positive exercise as you are seen to be listening and engaging but you are also producing fabulous content – this is especially as Hangouts are streamed live through You Tube (and can be embedded in Facebook/websites and other places) meaning that the moment you finish your broadcast you have a recorded video ready to use and broadcast as piece of content for all your audience in the future. The ultimate in killing two birds with one stone.
There is also the potential for those of you concerned with lead generation. There are applications you can use in collaboration with Hangouts to lead capture. Business Hangouts is a classic example (but there are others) and still said to be one of the best around allowing you to create almost completely bespoke landing pages and facilitate additional Hangout options. A fantastic opportunity.
Ronnie Bincer, known as the “Hangout Helper” and basically the guru of all Hangout information puts it simply:
“Google Hangouts and Hangouts on Air (HOA) are a wonderful gift for all of us to use freely. They are a tool that encourages global meetings at the touch of a button and also give any person or business instant access to a Public or Private Broadcasting Network. The ability to develop real relationships at light speed and clarify your communication efforts is unmatched. Learn to use this magical communication tool so that the technology disappears and soon you’ll wonder how you survived without it. Phone calls and Webinars where you are not seeing the person you are listening to will quickly seem like ‘olde’ technology.”
As you can see from above, I do think 2014 will be a continued year of success for Google+ – it should be interesting as marketeers start to see its many benefits.
3/ Facebook and SnapChat continuing to battle for the Teen market
2013 was the year that Facebook begun to face a severe challenge. Take this article entitled “Facebook Dead and Buried as Teens switch to SnapChat and WhatsApp”
I struggled to see the attraction for some time with the platforms like SnapChat where you were only shown content for a period of up to 10seconds until someone said the following “people want to share content that their parents won’t “like” or
“share” with others. Basically SnapChat fills the market of embarrassing photos that others state “please don’t put that on Facebook” – it is the longevity of Social that is now a concern for the younger market place. It has always been a concern ofthings on Social; The Long Tail effect. If you put it up there it never goes away. Teens are clever in that they have cottoned on to this and embraced platforms that mean a moment, however brief, will no longer stick around in the public domain forever. They will no longer be defined by something they did the night before and regretted.
But how will this impact on the marketing world. When I put the question out there several people mentioned that 2014 will be the year that marketeers try to monetise SnapChat. I find this a fascinating battle. It is suggested that the other reason that people have moved to these platforms is that they just don’t want to be found for marketing purposes too.
If you click here you will go to a very interesting discussion I had with several marketeers about SnapChat and how marketing may work with it next year. However, one strongly worded comment from Andrij, the community moderator spoke some sense in my mind:
“My prediction? People realize the popularity of the apps like snapchat is because people are sick of being marketed to and monitored, and they wanted a quick and easy way to pretend they had some privacy in conversation, and that investing too much money or time into a “snapchat campaign” will be a waste of said time/money. Permanent, lasting, public content is more effective over a longer period of time. Marketing has not changed all that much. Stop worrying about gimmicks, and instead offer your client something they can’t live without. Yes, that may involve snapchat as one of the tools in your arsenal, but it’s in no way going to be the centerpiece of a campaign – at least not for most companies.”
So Facebook has lost out to SnapChat on the number of daily photo shares (SnapChat now shares over 400million photos every day according to TechCrunch) but I think this decay may continue to be seen into 2014 in other areas. However, one word of caution here as you will see in that string above. Warren Chandler stated the following:
“Remember, all it would honestly take is for Facebook to change a few default nofollow links to dofollow and the whole SEO world would be in love with it again. It has the platform, but isn’t using it to its potential”
With over 1 billion active profiles I think Warren has hit the nail on the head. Watch this space – a lot can happen in a year….
I decided to limit my thoughts to just 3 this year, though there are many more – and I know I will look back in a years time and look at my bias toward Google+ and it is niggling at me already but I can’t help how I feel right at this second.
No doubt next week there will be other influences but for now I do think Google+ will do exceedingly well into 2014, I think Facebook will suffer but hang on…..I haven’t even mentioned Twitter. And….that is precisely the reason I think Twitter will just continue to do what Twitter does best. If you notice in the article about why Teens are leaving Facebook, they state they are aware that Facebook is the smoother platform with better functionality but they like the paired down aspect of SnapChat.
Twitter is a little one dimensional and basic but that is precisely why it seems to do well. People like its simplicity, its privacy can be controlled, its advertising isn’t too intrusive, it is just Twitter. I am sure it will have an interesting year but I think it will be what I call a Ronseal product – it will do exactly what it says on the tin as the tagline for Ronseal once suggested – Twitter is Twitter.
2014 will be another fabulous, fast changing, exhaustive year in the realms of social media and one where I expect to see even more businesses take it to their hearts – some will do it well, others not so well. However, you need those companies to make you understand why the business of social is so fascinating.
What a great medium it is.