What will be the hot social media trend in 2014? Article icon

What Helen Dunne reviews a lively morning discussion


I suspect that 80 per cent of what we say is going to be wrong, and that's okay. The reality is that the world changes incredibly quickly when it comes to social media. It is very difficult to predict what the next thing is going to be. [But I predict] the return of walled gardens, closed social networks that only people who are invited can participate in. Over the past five years, you've moved into more public social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, where if you publish something, everyone gets to see depending on your privacy settings. Walled gardens bring back the idea that Actually I only want to connect with people that I choose. And it's their return that underlies the next trend - disposable content. The disposable content platform of the moment is Snapchat; these are platforms where people have one-off interactions that occur and disappear. This poses a challenge for brands: how can you interact with someone that is very intentionally cutting themself off from you?


If you've got millions of followers on Twitter, it becomes very difficult to have the kind of engagement that social media is really for. And if all you are doing is broadcasting messages, you're not making the most of the idea of social media. Platforms now offer tools that allow us to look at our communities in smaller groups. Facebook Custom Audiences, which is a paid tool, allows us to do much finer targeting around specific interests. Twitter has a similar platform on the way.

[We are also seeing] the erosion of organic reach. Facebook is aggressively rationing the number of people that we can reach in our branded communities. As of about six months ago, Facebook's rule of thumb was that your organic reach was about 16 per cent of your community. It is now eight per cent but I think, with changes to its algorithm in December, it has gone down to three. The average Facebook post is reaching three per cent of your community. This means that to be effective with Facebook, in particular, you will have to budget for paid media which is interesting in a PR context. The challenge for us is to be a) more comfortable with paid; and b) understand that, in the context of social media, paid is the same as community management.

Any social media strategy has to be outcome focussed in the sense of your business. We recently helped BA sell £3 million of tickets on social media; it was a consumer marketing effort with a clear business outcome. The challenge is to identify business objectives and understand what social can do to impact those, and then build social media strategies that actually do so. That is the key to unlocking all measurement solutions and actually the value of analysing metrics like 'likes', comments, shares and share of voice. These metrics become about optimisation. They are only significant in that they help you improve what you are doing. Whatever business objective you set, the things that are significant are Did I sell more product, Have I improved my reputation? and Did I improve my search ranking on Google?

Google+ has a disproportionate impact on how your content, and therefore your business, scores in search. Taking all the content used on Facebook and re-publishing it on Google+ is not the solution. You have to consider the right approach for Google+. If you're B2B, that's going to be more about thought leadership. It is about content that connects with potential buyers around substance rather than product or offering.

LinkedIn has become a platform that is more about engagement and shared content. People are spending more time on the platform and returning more frequently. As a result, Google+ and LinkedIn have become genuinely very good platforms for B2B content marketing.

Today, the way we tell our stories has to take into account the available platforms. In other words, rather than picking a platform and saying Because I am on this platform, I am going to tell my story this way, we have to now say This is the way I want to tell my story, and in order to do that I need to be present on Facebook and Instagram or Twitter and LinkedIn. The questions you need to ask are What story am I trying to tell? Who am I trying to tell it to? and Who am I trying to interact with?.

We should think about the social opportunity in even thirds. Consumer marketing is one third; corporate reputation and B2B is another; the last third is employee engagement. And what is really interesting to me about social in employee engagement is the role that mobile can play.

I have a client with 180,000 employees, most are in developing markets in the southern hemisphere and don't use PCs. They work in fields and factories and don't have access to a corporate email address, let alone a corporate smartphone. The idea that you can email out communications to them and everyone is going to be on the same page across the global business is crazy. But there are increasingly wonderful ways to connect with people with old-fashioned phones doing 'content for air time' trades. You say to an employee We will give you two hours of air time if you give us your mobile number so we can sometimes send relevant information. This opens up a whole new opportunity to engage with employees and, frankly, to get around middle management.

We were able to short circuit a notification process using a dumb phone, a SMS notification to a Twitter account to post something that had happened in a plant in South Africa. That notification made it from an employee on the line to a global head of communications and therefore straight to the chief operating officer in five minutes rather than a day, which would have been how long it usually took to filter up through all the channels. It is about flattening organisations in a way that is profoundly interesting.


Banter is about picking the moments. It is not just about two brands having banter, but when you are engaging with customers as well. There is a true moment when you can have an effect and achieve more reach or engagement than you typically could. O2 has some good examples around trying to help a customer out and matching them tone for tone. It is about choosing the right opportunities. We worked last year on a brand campaign and were able to bring it to life working with other brands, with similar messages and similar attributes.

This year is about real-time moments and being set up for that, with social insights and listening in place and a team ready to act. Facebook and Twitter are moving to allow brands to do this. This year Twitter is introducing a TV targeting tool that will enable brands to jump on moments happening in real life across the world. There's the Super Bowl and this year the World Cup is going to be huge. A lot of brands will be looking at their social listening and using their analytics to really catch these moments.

There are two ways brands [can capitalise on walled gardens] and a lot is dependent upon resource and budget. A brand can either start investing in these in terms of broadcast social advertising, or they can go back to where we were a few years ago and start re-engaging with key influencers. They can find those advocates within closed gardens and find ways to allow them to distribute their message and engage with their target audience.

The brilliant thing about LinkedIn is thinking about the state of mind the user is in when they are using it; they are in a professional state of mind and thinking about their career and opportunities. There is a great opportunity for businesses selling high-end products in the B2B space, because you're getting users right at the moment when they are thinking exactly how you want them to be.

At O2, we have seen a lot of success using Twitter to reach out to businesses. We were so successful we actually partnered with Twitter last year to help them launch their SMB targeting platform. We do a lot of listening in this space to really understand the topics and pieces small businesses want to engage with. We have teams specifically set up in that area to produce this content on an ongoing basis. It's not about just reusing what you have, you really have to listen and understand what the businesses are interested in.

'Empower' is a word we use a lot at O2. It is about empowering the rest of the organisation to adopt social media, whether it is the front office sales team or local stores, we encourage them to create their own profiles. We have guidelines in place that they should state they work for us and can't use certain types of language. But it's about allowing the rest of the organisation to catch up and adopt the tools we have whether it's in marketing, operations or customer services.

We have an internal social network, using Yammer. It is a great way to empower employees, and everybody has the ability to share their opinions and connect with others. Every day you see somebody in the retail store group saying I don't know how this tariff works or Does this phone do this?, and you see someone come back within one or two minutes. It allows our organisation to adapt and service our customers in this digital world.


[image3]The whole big movement of last year was about shareability and how to create content that gets shared. How can we get our communities to do our marketing work for us? I think the disposable content piece speaks a lot to three trends that happened last year that are actually shaping this year's trends, because trends don't just start on 1 January.

One is obviously the need to generate shareability. And I think three negative things have shaped that. The first being hoaxes and fake stories which we saw a lot of last year. The second is gaming engagement, where someone says Retweet this and we will adopt an orphan and people say Yes, I will retweet this out of guilt and nothing to do with your brand. And the third is the mass of content that is just about getting people to post things on their social networks. Essentially, your news feed is becoming crowded which leads to this organic erosion. This means brands are going to have to re-evaluate what they are actually measuring, and rather than looking at engagement in terms of 'likes', shares or anything like that, go back to what the advocates are saying. Do they believe in our brand? Why are they connecting with us?

Not all 'likes' are created equal. It's the same with shares or comments. Someone is sharing something simply because they want to be the first person of their friendship group to share something. Another person shares because they really believe in what the brand is doing. I don't think it is viable to look at metrics in that numerical way. We have to dig deeper. I think that will lead to not just disposable content at one end, but content that is more profound and in depth. There will be a polarisation. Either people are looking at six second Vines or ten second Snapchats or they are looking at things in more depth.

From a B2B point of view, the important thing is to remember that buyers won't make snap decisions. There is a process through which they have to go in order to get from the traditional awareness to the purchase phase. As communication professionals, we need to be better at understanding what phase our buyers are most likely to be in. It will shape the type of content that we give them.

Leadership content on LinkedIn and Google+ is going to be really useful for someone who wants to better understand your credibility in a certain B2B area. It might just be an awareness thing, so we need to get better at integrated across the different media channels - paid, owned and social. It could be a question about thinking from a B2B point of view. Where is our buyer right now? Where do we need them to move along on their journey? That's where the listening comes in, all these pieces fit together.

One prediction that is certainly going to come true is investment. Social media is going to cost more this year.

Over the last number of years there has been this centralised control of social media. From a business objective point of view, if you're a business that wants to use social media to sell to customers there is no one central sales person. Generally there is a sales team. I think we will see a lot more businesses enabling their sales teams to do more on social media so there is this distributive presence rather than a centralised hub. And you will have account manager and business development managers on Twitter and LinkedIn doing a lot more for their business through their own profiles.


We have to understand our channels and mediums in a way that we have never done before. We are starting to find that you can't just plonk the intern in front of social media channels. We have known this a long time, but it is still terrifying to see how many issues and problems pop up with brands that are not taking this seriously. Brand banter is really about investing time in highly skilled teams who are able to understand insight and analytics and respond in a manner that has just as much polish as a seasoned PR professional, regardless of the channels they are using. Job titles in adverts are changing: there are fewer gurus. People recruiting for social media are more savvy about what they want and what their business needs. We are moving away from this I need to be on this particular platform and need to have one million 'likes' panic.

Our web teams get very excited about mobile. Most website traffic is now from mobile devices. We have to get our heads round the idea of responsive design; the idea that web content will morph and move according to the screen it is viewed on. This means that your ad, that you spent ages polishing and time convincing people to spend money on, is going to get shunted lower and lower down. Your paid content is going to be right at the bottom.

You need to truly understand who your audiences are. That means really understanding insight and metrics and setting crunchy targets for yourself and ambitions for the brand.

Everybody likes to consume content visually. It is quicker, it's more attractive. The flip side is that we are actually becoming more astute in our ability to assess quality content. The person who is the absolute naysayer within our company, who says I would never sign up to the newsletter or I would never be the chump to click on this is the person we need to be aware of. Our audiences are becoming increasingly intelligent and sophisticated about the kind of content they consume. It is the intelligent brands that understand and frankly respect their audiences that are going to get cut through this year.

You also have to think about how content fits round peoples' lives. In this incredibly fast, ever-changing, consumptive environment, people are managing their work loads. The BBC is playing with Instagram, and producing video news packages that can be viewed and shared later.

Companies are rationalising their social media accounts. We need to be a lot more savvy about the channels we use and do them extraordinarily well and intelligently. If the conversations are not taking place that you feel your brand can add the most value to, then you need to find out where those conversations are.

This year we will see much more of the dark social web, such as emails and newsletters. For some years, we've been fixated by the shiny and new, but there is going to be a lot of interest in communications done well by professionals using all channels available.

At the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills, we spend a lot of time talking to businesses. It is amazing how many people forget that businesses are still consumers as much as they are a business, and are run by people that are incredibly time poor with a lot of expertise in a particular area. They often don't know the information they are looking for or what is of value to them. We spend a lot of time trying to understand the questions that businesses don't know they need to ask. This often means understanding their buying cycle or their engagement life cycle stage before they know it themselves. This puts an emphasis on listening and understanding and doing research thoroughly.

If you don't see your staff as your most powerful brand ambassadors then you are missing a trick. They should care about what you are doing and have a vested interest in helping you achieve your goals, so you might as well give them tools to do this effectively throughout their networks.