By adaptive - December 10th, 2014

With 2015 approaching, what trends, channels and opportunities should corporations have on their roadmaps?

As we approach a new year in marketing, it is clear that corporations have continued to evolve their use of social media as a core component of their marketing toolset. And the market as a whole across the social media space is rising. According to figures from Statistica, by 2018 there will be 2.44 billion users of social media networks, up from 1.79 billion today.

Statistica-Number of Social Media Users by 2018

One thing is for sure: social media will continue to be an essential element of all marketing no matter which sector your corporation trades within. There are though, a number of trends that can be identified.
In this year’s State of Corporate Social Media report, we concluded: 
  • 72% of executives say that social media has impacted on their internal organisation - that’s a deep level of impact, and would be impossible were social simply an ‘addition’ to the normal way of doing business.
  • Social has already begun to deeply impact on customer service, customer insights, employee engagement - and even product development.
  • Importantly, our respondents say that this trend will continue over the next 12 months - witness the increasing number of respondents saying that social will impact on multiple customer departments over the next year.
  • A huge 83% of respondents recognise we’re not fully leveraging social’s potential yet.
  • Next year will see a ratification of the work that corporations have done throughout 2014, as they continue to experiment with social media networks and what this means for their brands. 
Marketers may still struggle to fully appreciate social media in the context of their brand mechanics and how they develop their marketing initiatives, but 2015 will see social media continue its expansion particularly across the digital mobile channel.

Data, data everywhere

All corporations can see that social media generates masses of information. However, making sense of this data is easier said than done. Spending on analytics will rise in 2015 to help them make sense of the shifting sands that is social media today. Indeed, CMOs currently only spend around 8% of their marketing budgets on analytics. And expect to see more automation across social media marketing, as businesses realise that these technologies can help them reduce costs yet increase the exposure of their ad messages across social networks.
As Simply Measured state: “Better measurement means better goal-hitting strategies and tactics for digital teams. By increasing your brand’s social understanding and self-knowledge, you can improve everything from cross-platform strategy to org structure – and make it very clear why you rocked that campaign.”
What these technologies will deliver to corporations is more personalisation that is micro-targeted with hyper-segmented. With the right tools, 2015 will be the year that corporations really begin to see how applying the right analytical systems to their social media channels enables them to increase levels of engagement that have not been seen before.
And engagement in 2015 will increasingly be about connecting with influential brand advocates. Corporations have been doing a good job of nurturing these groups, but 2015 will see brands move up a gear. This isn’t surprising when Nielsen report that only 33% of consumers trust ads, whereas 90% trust personal recommendations. Clearly expanding your corporation’s support of these key groups is a commercial imperative for next year.
In addition, the social space of course is always expanding with new entrants. Here, specialist social media networks can offer the ultimate in focused target audiences. “Closed loop social networks are standalone, niche networks that typically have much smaller social graphs,” says Gavin Hammar, founder and CEO of Sendible. “They are limited to groups of people with the same, specific interests, such as music, gaming, cycling or online marketing. These types of social networks allow brands to segment their messaging and target users of these platforms based on the shared interests of the community.”
With SnapChat having around 100 million active monthly users. WhatsApp hitting the 500 million active user mark in April of this year, WeChat revealing a total of 438 million active users and Line at around 235 million, these ‘smaller’ social networks will play an increasing role in 2015, as brands begin to focus their social marketing efforts.
The Digital Trends report from Hotwire and 33 Digital concludes: “As social media ingrains itself deeper into our day-to- day lives, users are becoming increasingly sophisticated and much less interested in the generic hubbub that dominates their Facebook timeline or Twitter feed. There’s now a choice: whether it’s Strava for cyclists, StyledOn for fashionistas or Jelly for knowledge sharing. These offer not only a true sense of community, but time better spent.”

Mobile matters

Visual marketing will continue to remain dominant throughout 2015. Many industry watchers point to Instagram and its meteoric rise since its inception in 2010. Now boasting 200 million active users, over 80% of leading brands now have an account on this platform, making it one to influence throughout next year.
“In 2015, you will see a big increase in mobile social marketing with mobile advertising, apps and crowd sourced mobile driven content,” said Jeff Bullas, Forbes Social Media Power Influencer. “Brands and users will leverage the power of the two key obsessive technologies (Social and mobile) to new heights. Instagram which integrates social and mobile will maintain its high growth rate.”
Says Social Media Today: “With decreased attention spans and increased need to quality content, companies are focusing on video marketing as a main component of their 2015 marketing efforts. In particular, companies are focusing on explainer videos to show potential customers how their product or service works without just text and images. 
“Companies are focusing on investing in video because it is reported that high quality videos can increase shopping cart sizes by an 174%. In addition, 75% of executives watch videos at least once a week, 50% watch videos on YouTube, and 65% visit the website after viewing a video. Companies should focus on integrating high quality videos into their website in order to improve their user engagement.”
Social media across the mobile channel will also see a major shift in commerce thanks to new payment systems that will be lead by Apple Pay. However, brands should also pay attention to PayPal, Square and Stripe that will all be jockeying for position within this space. Consumers clearly want to shop using their phones – the success that Pinterest has seen this year is a clear indicator for 2015. Enabling fast, easy and above all secure mobile payments will be a major component of mobile social media commerce next year.

Social business

2015 will also be the year where corporations begin to leverage the investments they have made in technology and people to realise their ambitions for social media. The placement of ads on leading platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will continue, but brands will also expand their use of newer channels most notably SnapChat, which will have its own ad platform brands can begin to experiment with. What this will mean for corporations is huge gains in engagement rates. Forrester reported in April that Instagram alone had a 4.2% engagement rate compared to Facebook's 0.07% and Twitter's 0.03%.
And privacy will become a major component of social media interactions in 2015. As HootSuite explain: “2014 saw a number of anonymous and ephemeral social networks – SnapChat, Secret, Whisper, Yik Yak and Telegram, to name a few – surge in popularity. Not everyone wants every conversation over social media broadcast to the world, after all. At the same time, savvy users are increasingly aware – and concerned – about ways personal data is being collected and later sold to advertisers, manipulated in tests or accessed by government agencies.
“The problem is that few of these ‘private’ networks fulfil their mandates. Snapchat has been hacked, repeatedly, with hundreds of thousands of sensitive – supposedly disappearing – user photos posted on the Internet. And in October, it was revealed that the anonymous network Whisper was actually saving users’ posts and locations and compiling this information in a searchable database. As Venture Beat points out, real anonymity and privacy on the Internet is extremely difficult to achieve. While it’s easy to make promises, it’s nearly impossible to deliver. But demand for anonymous social media will only get bigger in 2015."
Brian Fanzo, Digital Strategist at Broadsuite told Simply Measured: “The concept of a social business is here to stay. With the emergence of social selling, employee advocacy, and other social business initiatives, companies and leaders will begin to shift their focus from using social media for marketing or communication, and start using it for connecting and growing communities. This includes investing in employees’ personal brands and empowering customers to have a voice while talking with, not at, them.”
The concepts of the ‘social business’ are now known across the corporate landscape. Tools have continued to evolve, as has an understanding of how social media impacts on every piece of marketing a brand engages with. And engagement has become the watchword for marketing in 2014, and will continue to be so in 2015.
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