There’s no doubt that the way we use the internet continues to surprise, giving media professionals across a wide range of disciplines constant food for thought in how to make the most of an ever evolving medium.
Social media is perhaps the single most important aspect of internet users’ day to day experiences when it comes to understanding how people in general interact with each other and with businesses.
With the landscape shifting all the time, what does social media marketing have in store for businesses in 2014?
• Different Strokes
Of course just as people use many different devices to access online information and content, there are various strands and approaches that can be used to develop a marketing strategy.
Traditionally, SEO methods have been seen as the most effective way of making an impact and achieving all important rankings in search engine results. However, due in no small part to the changes that Google has made to its algorithms SEO has changed beyond recognition for only a few years ago.
Today a successful campaign approach is no longer just focused on links and keywords, but must take into account good content and also web design aspects.
Whereas website design used to be about functionality regarding speed due to slow bandwidths and longer loading times, today aspects such as making sure visibility covers a wide range of operating systems and devices is probably the most important consideration.
Effective marketing to mobile users is also critical, with a good quality mobile site and the potential use of apps being at the top of the must-do list.
Neil Walker, marketing consultant at Quaero, explains: “If you don’t have a mobile site it converts at half the rate of your standard desktop site. That’s a problem for any business.”
Another consequence of the use of mobile devices to access the internet is an increase in the use of various apps on mobile devices. It might mean that people are starting to rely less on web searches. This is a major reason that social media marketing is increasingly decisive in a campaign, as reaching people whilst they are inside the Facebook mobile app could be the best way to connect with them.
Most commentators believe that social media has a key role in winning customer trust because it can lead to recommendations, and this kind of word of mouth publicity has always played a strong part in purchase decisions.
The Pew Research Center, a non-profit organisation based in Washington, D.C. undertook a project called ‘Internet and American Life Project‘ and found that 73% of “online adults” are regularly using social media.
Facebook dominated the results with 71% of adults using it, but 42% revealed that they used multiple networks including Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. This changing landscape means it is all the more vital to accurately target the demographic you want to aim for and work out the best way to engage with them.
For instance, LinkedIn is popular with higher wage earners, whilst Facebook has the highest percentage of people that have completed higher level education.
Pinterest has a much higher proportion of female users than males, whilst Instagram is most popular among people between 18 and 29.
The benefits of social media can be hard to grasp for a company with a traditional business model which is used to a direct advertising approach based on simply selling their goodz or services.
Paul Smith, EMEA vice-president of salesforce.com’s ExactTarget Marketing Cloud explains:
“Most organisations have a pretty good handle on their SEO strategy, but are comparatively under-resourced on their social strategies. There is a discrepancy there that people need to start addressing.”
This view takes on more weight as analysts now say that one third of new content discovery involves some form of social engagement online.
In order to really utilise the power of social media it is vital to interact, and this means replying quickly to users rather than simply posting marketing messages.
In the beginning Google ranked sites in search results by the number and quality of links that pointed towards it. Penguin and Panda system improvements mean that content is now the watchword, as with the development of ever more intelligent systems brute-force SEO techniques of the past will soon become even more obsolete.
However, the best digital marketing strategy still needs to include both SEO and social media and they are most definitely not to be seen as alternatives to each other. Getting the right blend of SEO and social marketing is difficult; especially as the social media landscape is forever changing and evolving.
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One difficulty that presents itself within companies is that for people in their 20s social media is something that they have been used to all of their lives. However, older people who may have started in a non-digital environment may have a clear separation of personal and professional profiles.
In essence there has been a revolutionary cultural paradigm shift and it must be addressed in order for a modern marketing campaign to have any chance of success.
Do you have any social media marketing tips for businesses? Do share your views in the comment section, we’ll be glad to hear from you.