Behind the explosive growth in social media
January 4, 2013
When it comes to social media, anticipating the next big thing is part of the fun each new year. Going into 2012, few people forecast that Pinterest would take off the way it did, with time spent on the site skyrocketing by 6,000 percent to 721 million minutes. If Pinterest was the year’s biggest surprise, Instagram was a close second. The site, which was purchased by Facebook in 2012, saw visitors soar by 724 percent in a six-month period. This year both of the still-hot sites will be pushing to monetize their millions of users in the growing social media ad market. Ad revenue for social networks is poised to hit $4.6 billion in the coming year, according to a ZenithOptimedia forecast. While most of that will come from the big sites, namely Facebook and to a lesser degree Twitter, the smaller sites will attempt to start making money as well. And second-tier social networks like Google+ will be looking for ways to become more relevant. Bill DeRosa, principal at Connecticut social media agency Talking Finger, talks to Media Life about 2012’s most notable social media developments, what 2013 may hold, and the future of Google+.
What was the most notable development in social media in 2012 and why?
The recognition that playtime is over.
Analytics, return on investment, and creating integrated social marketing strategies with “traditional” and other online resources and tools is moving to the forefront.
I truly feel just a year ago it was still very experimental. I also believe more and more people understand that the number of likes or follows is meaningless as a metric. It is one of the reasons why the ROI on using social was slipping away.
For quite a while, it was thought that large numbers meant a better chance of ROI, when in fact the opposite occurs. The audience becomes so watered down it becomes tough to actually create content that would be valuable to a specific audience. That audience should be those who would purchase your product or service, your advocates that could help propel your brand to their connections and so on.
It also becomes more difficult to build meaningful relationships.
What trends in social media will you be watching in 2013?
The movement into more and more visual content. Pictures and video rule the social content world. My business partner, Erik Granato, coined the term “social currency” for these objects. I believe you will see more and more focus on creating branded visuals.
Development of advanced tools for measuring ROI and advocacy. There are some clever ways currently, for example, to link Google analytics into your social initiatives to get really good metrics. It won’t be long until developers create specific tools for this type of measurement.
We have come a long way just in the last year on this front, but with ROI being such a hot topic for social, I think you will see a lot stronger measuring tools.
More creation of strategy based on market research and analytics and deeper integration with all other forms of marketing. No marketing can live in a silo any longer. If you only use social, you will lose market share. If you only use traditional, you will lose market share. Strategies help understand how much time to put into each marketing initiative and how they play off of each other for an overall snowball effect.
Are you seeing more client interest in using sites beyond Facebook and Twitter in social media campaigns? Which ones are attracting the most interest?
Absolutely. Pinterest continues to grow on this front as they strive to monetize their network by letting businesses create verified accounts. I am sure you will soon see this as a step towards the ability to promote your content in the near future.
Pheed, for example, is starting to gain momentum as a niche network for art, music and culture though it is still in its infancy stage.
Instagram is always a discussion as well, though the success stories for monetization are very limited at present. They are owned by Facebook, and a potential mobile ad tie-in may be coming.
What do you think the future holds for Google+?
I am becoming a bit more bullish on G+.
It still does not have an audience of consumers per se, but I am seeing it trend towards being more like LinkedIn. The audience there is very Linked-In-like with many self branding themselves as thought leaders.
The difference is G+ is more enjoyable and not so stuffy. In addition, G+ has a ton of tools available for business. LinkedIn is actually cutting back on some applications.
Of course, more than anything, G+ is owned by Google. G+ pages get ranked well and a good integration with YouTube (another Google product and VISUAL) could be powerful as time goes on. However … you still need an audience. So time will have to tell on this one.
What’s the most important thing media people can do in order to stay abreast of developments in social media?
Be sure to follow trusted sources such as Mashable and Social Media Examiner and of course us at Talking Finger. Fortunately, there are so many ways now to stay on top of the social world and get real-time news and information. I think we all do a good job of telling it like it is, and not fluffing it.
For example, we all blast Facebook for their faux pas and praise them when they do something good. We all show the good and bad faces of social. In the end, social is so fluid that having resources is vitally important.
Facebook could disappear in the next five years, so knowing what network people are moving to and ways to utilize it are paramount.
What sort of growth do you anticipate for social media in the coming year?
We are actually running a survey and one of the questions are “Will you be increasing, decreasing or maintaining the current amount of social media marketing for 2013”? Seventy-one percent of the one hundred and twenty three respondents chose “increasing.”
This is a bit higher than the number you may find in a Google search, as the respondents are people who may be a bit more in tune with finding success in social since a bulk of them are clients and are already attaining ROI in various forms. However, most similar surveys are showing that most are increasing their social presence for 2013.
Do you think “native advertising” will play a big factor, and why or why not?
Let’s take Pinterest as an example here. You will never see a banner ad there. The future monetization for Pinterest will be to have a promoted piece of content show “organically” in the feed.
Facebook has had “Promoted Posts” for a while now, and it does a great job of circumventing the EdgeRank algorithm by getting my eyes on your content.
I do believe this will be factor in 2013. What businesses and organizations must realize is that this does not take the place of creating good content. Promoting content that isn’t what your audience wants to connect with trumps all. In the end, content is and always be king regardless of how it gets found or promoted.
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