This is a guest post by Peter Heffring, president and CEO ofsocial software company Expion.
2012 was the biggest year for social media to date. Brands were all-in, campaigns were bigger and better, and more social platforms divided the pie, including Instagram, Pinterest and Google+.
However, if we take into account Gartner’s technology hype cycle,* we spent most of 2012 eating from a “trough of disillusionment.” The Facebook IPO defined inflated expectations, which drove us (and the state of California) to the trough. But Facebook was not alone — disappointing financial news from Groupon, Zynga and others also dominated the news in 2012.
As expectations and priorities readjust, the continued growth in a growing number of social media platforms has set a new stage for social media growth as we start the gradual climb up the social “slope of enlightenment.”
With 2013 around the corner, we’ve made some predictions, rooted in our experience of working with hundreds of brands and leading social platforms. 2013 will be all about social integration and social business.
2013 Top 10 Social Predictions
1. Facebook Users Will Continue to Be Disenchanted. One of the main attractions of Facebook has been surprise and discovery — of old friends, fun vacations and family events. Facebook’s algorithm today is driven by frequency of conversation with you, versus excitement of stories, so users regularly see the same people in their feed. Facebook is caught in a dilemma of trying to stay relevant to their users while maximizing the value to brands to spend more resource and money on their platform. The result of this challenge will favor brands, at the expense of the user, in order for Facebook to meet their revenue goals.
2. Google+ Will Take Control of Local Social. Google+ has become more business-friendly through its Pages offering and this is a much bigger deal than most think. Having Google+ at a local/store level aligned with Google Search, Maps and Reviews means that search and location are now strongly tied to social. This is a huge boon for retailers and restaurants all over the U.S. — enabling them to talk about their storefront in a meaningful way, directly linked to search.
3. Visual Content Will Continue to Rule Social. Visual content, including photos, videos and memes, will continue to dominate social content, based both on Facebook’s Timeline changes and the continued growth of platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. Visual content has a crowd-sourced, conversational and authentic feel but with an easily searchable format thanks to social tagging.
4. Pinterest Will Open to Third Party Developers. Pinterest has launched its business pages, and we predict an API soon. This is the same track Facebook took and it helped the platform gain widespread adoption by companies. Brands are excited, and Pinterest has already proven it can be lead generator. Now it needs to create business value by allowing integration into social media management systems that brands depend on for marketing, advertising and analytics.
5. Mobile Apps Will Still Under-Deliver on Promise. The proliferation of apps will keep adoption very low for most brands — there are just too many apps and the consumer is not getting a compelling enough value to download even a small percentage of those being developed. Two strong exceptions: loyalty and geo-targeted/geo-fenced apps that deliver users real value in real time.
6. Peer Reviews will be Integrated into Operations. As reviews get integrated into the operational process, their prevalence and reach will ensure that the consumer masses are the collective lead reviewer. Social review sites, including Google Places, Trip Advisor and Yelp, will be integrated more deeply into operations to improve customer service, facilities and product.
7. Social Apps Become Social Utilities. Next year, we will see less focus on creating fun apps like contests and polls and more focus on utility applications that actually improve the purchase process for the consumer. For example, a national theater chain created a social app that allows customers to purchasing ticket and also share trailers with friends as they search for movie times.
8. Social Co-Branding Will Accelerate Reach and Engagement. As analytics allow companies to see the crossover in fan bases, more companies will move to co-branded social promotions to leverage additional fan bases. This will enable brands to see the value of a fan across all of its brands as well as those brands it partners with. A good example — a major CPG brand is currently looking at how its fans cross over with a national entertainment in order to plan its cross-promotion.
9. Social Is Centralized With Customer Support. Existing customer service centers will integrate all of their social and digital channels into their service model. This will allow brands to coordinate consistent, well thought out responses regardless of the customer communication vehicle that brought the feedback to the company.
10. Social Media Management Will Move to Social Relationship Management. Smart businesses will finally solve how to integrate customer relationship management (CRM) databases with social behavioral, lifestyle and demographic data in 2013. This will provide a boost to traditional loyalty programs that have primarily been email-based in the past, opening additional channels to communicate with its loyalty customers.
*“Understanding Gartner’s Hype Cycles,” Gartner Research Methodology.
Peter Heffring is president and CEO of Expion, a social software company that empowers retailers, brands and agencies to localize and manage their social marketing efforts. Founded in 2009, the company is privately held and headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina.