More than trends, these five social media staples are here to stay. See which brands are doing a bang-up job on social media and find ways to weave these trends into your social strategy.
1. Facebook Advertising & Paid Promotion
It is now clear that Facebook is on track to become a strictly pay-to-play environment for brands, regardless of who has ‘Liked’ your page. Fail to play by the rules and chances are your content will never see the light of day on fans’ Newsfeeds. Seriously. The organic reach of your brand’s content is now typically less than 3% – a tough blow if, like many, you’ve invested major funds over the years to build a large following on the social network. Yet more than 80% of marketers across all company sizes still view Facebook as a high priority (Source: Socialbakers). And they should. Like it or not, Facebook’s sophisticated targeting, crazy-low CPA bidding, and ability to reach more customers than a TV ad is cornerstone to any great online advertising strategy.
Role Model: Bing
Tell me why: Bing leveraged Facebook ads and targeting to promote the launch of its new social sidebar to 18-34 year-olds in the U.S. Just 1-day into the campaign Bing had already reached 31 million unique users! Overall, the campaign generated 108% lift in campaign awareness!
2. Socially Empowered Employees
Learning to leverage the collective voice of your internal brand advocates is like crowdsourcing-101. But if the thought of letting your team loose on social media is stressing you out, step back and think about your company culture. Chances are, your employees are just as invested in the business as you are. In fact, by encouraging social media advocacy among employees, you essentially create a sense of shared ownership in the brand. Start by educating employees about your brand message and developing an internal social media process. Whether you encourage employees to use social media as a new sales channel (à la Oracle), to collect feedback to improve your products and customer experience (à la Cisco), or to simply spread some brand-love (à la Zappos), the key is to make social sharing as easy as possible so your new advocates can get out there are start broadcasting your brand!
Role Model: Zappos
Tell me why: Zappos’ social media policy gives employees free rein to talk about the brand. Why so confident? Zappos hires only people who share their values and can be trusted to use social media for the good of the company. As Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, says, “Your culture is your brand.” He believes that it’s a good thing if employees are online talking about how much they enjoy their work – and who can argue with that?
You’ve probably seen “Social Media Explained,” the viral photo relating 2012’s top social channels to donuts. Google+ is humorously featured as the butt of the joke; a social network that only Google employees can be bothered to use. That was more than two years ago. Now, Google+ has 540 million active monthly users and can reward anyone who plays by the rules with heightened organic search rankings. Key features include Google Authorship, which helps the search engine identify and score your content based on author expertise and publishing history, and Google Hangouts, which has been used by numerous savvy brands seeking to provide enhanced, face-to-face customer service. What’s more, given the platform’s slow adoption rate – only 14% of marketers consider Google+ a high priority in 2014, while 23% won’t even consider using the platform (Source: Socialbakers) – brands have an awesome opportunity to stand out from the competition!
Role Model: HP
Tell me why: HP has mastered Google Hangouts as a way to connect and interact with customers in real-time. With 20 Hangouts uploaded to YouTube, ranging in length from three-minutes to an hour, HP uses the platform to address trending topics like the Internet virus Heartbleed and mobile security, or provide customer tutorials for migrating to the latest version of its software.
4. Custom Content
Social media is so much more than just another channel to broadcast your latest press release or tradeshow gimmick. It’s a place to bridge the gap between your business goals and your audience’s wants and needs through engaging, valuable content. To amplify your content and boost social sharing, start by creating unique content formatted and targeted for each channel and audience. Think inspiring image quotes designed for Facebook, questions, stats and conversation-starters posted to Twitter, branded photos optimized for Pinterest, visual data formatted for Slideshare, or content published directly to LinkedIn. Organic sharing is great, and your followers likely appreciate your useful links to trending content. But if you want to position yourself as a curator of interesting and informative content (content that stands out from the 27 million pieces of content shared every day), why not make it your own?
Role Model: General Electric
Tell me why: GE is the social media trendsetter among big brands. The fact that it’s a B2B company is even more impressive. What makes GE’s strategy so different? They are creating content for social media; not using social media to distribute whatever content they have lying around. GE’s social sites are loaded with fun images created for no other reason than to boost engagement among fans and followers. Whether posting photographs, videos, or illustrations, every piece reinforces GE’s personality and brand message. (No wonder we’ve praised them for their branded content savvy on multiple occasions…7 Crazy Good Examples Of Branded Content; 3 Megabrands That Hit The Branded Content Nail On The Head)
5. Social Retargeting
There’s a new norm in social media marketing: supporting organic reach with paid advertising. And thanks to Social Retargeting tools like FBX and Twitter’s tailored audiences, advertisers can easily reach prospective customers based on past online browsing history, enticing shoppers to complete a purchase they’ve previously shown interest in. Social Retargeting has become huge in just the past year and a half, and according to a Business Insider Intelligence report, Facebook accounts for about half of all retargeted ad clicks. Know how to effectively leverage social ads in the current market, and be prepared to shake things up in the future as the fast-changing landscape evolves. (Resources: The Twitter Advertising Blog; Facebook for Business)
Role Model: HubSpot
Tell me why: HubSpot was an early beta tester for Twitter’s retargeting services and, according to the social media site, saw a 45% lift in engagement thanks to the retargeted ads! HubSpot targeted B2B decision makers and leveraged Promoted Tweets to get their message in front of prospective customers. The company even placed calls-to-action (i.e. educational downloads) front and center on followers’ feeds, as well as the feeds of users similar to their followers. As a result, HubSpot saw a 150% increase in sales through Twitter and a 32% return on investment!
*BONUS: 2014’s Trend to Avoid…The Selfie
Anti-Role Model: Samsung
Tell me why: Samsung secretly engineered two high-profile selfie-stunts this year (Oscars, Obama) that made a splash on social media, but attracted more criticism than credit for the brand and basically spoiled the selfie for the rest of us. What was once the word of the year is now a taboo among marketers. Our advice is to to find your own untapped trend to hop on and launch your brand into social media stardom!