By Owen Andrew
At the start of the New Year, many small business marketers think about what the social media landscape may look like as they strive to reach their business goals. It seems that each passing year brings more competition as social media platforms shift in popularity and networks continue to change the rules for marketers.
In this ever-shifting environment, we look at some of the social media marketing trends that small business owners can expect in 2015.
7 Social Media Marketing Trends for Small Business
1. Facebook Continues Encroaching on YouTube
In August 2014, ComScore's co-founder, Gian Fulgoni, said that Facebook overtook YouTube in total videos consumed by desktop users, capturing a billion views per day. Those views were up 30 percent from July, just one month prior. Video posting has shifted significantly—away from YouTube and on to Facebook—since February of 2014, according to data released by SocialBakers. YouTube still dominates across all devices, but this trend could lead to a tipping point sometime in 2015.
Content marketers and small businesses that want to get on board the video juggernaut should spend time this year developing a solid strategy. Publish short videos, which are relatively easy and inexpensive to produce, in regular, episodic increments. Another great way to generate content is to involve customers in video contests, giving them the opportunity to promote your brand and win prizes.
2. Businesses Must Pay to Play
In the last two years, we’ve seen a major shift in social media. Remember when Facebook was free, and businesses could rest assured that their fans and followers would see every posted piece of content? Things have changed dramatically, and social networks will continue pushing businesses into a paid advertising model in the upcoming year.
Small business social media: What are your customers talking about online?
Last November, Facebook warned marketers that it was going to phase out organic promotional content from news feeds, and Twitter has been toying with the idea of implementing a similar algorithm for its feeds, as well. Even Instagram has started expanding its advertising platform, though this should come as no surprise since Facebook owns the network.
Businesses that have avoided social advertising up until this point may be forced to enter the game in 2015. For brands to succeed, they must know which platforms their customers use the most.
3. No Funeral for Google Plus in 2015
The reports of the death of Google Plus have been greatly exaggerated over the years. Yes, it’s true that Authorship is dead. However, Author Rank is still very real. Google Plus is also the key to a strong showing in Google Local search results, yet many businesses have not yet claimed their listings.
Once a business claims its listing and receives five posted reviews, star ratings appear next to the business name in search results. Though the star system does not affect rankings, it can have a major effect on click-through rates. Consumers view those stars as social proof, and they're far more likely to visit a business website that has a four-star rating than one with no rating listed at all.
If you have avoided the platform, consider adding Google Plus into your social media strategy—especially if your business has a strong local customer base. Doing so can only benefit the business in terms of SEO and potential lead generation.
4. Social Media Versus Privacy
Blame it on the NSA if you’d like, but more consumers are becoming privacy-conscious. While your best customers will have no trouble sharing their personal information with you in exchange for personalized attention, there has been a widespread pushback against data mining on social media platforms.
Anonymous social media sites, such as Whisper, Ello and Facebook’s independent Rooms, emerged in 2014. It might be difficult for brands to break into these spaces, since users take advantage of them because they are marketing-free zones. However, it stands to reason that at some point those platforms will need to use businesses to make a profit. Look for 2015 to be a year of growing pains, as platforms try to balance anonymity with their ability to make money.
5. Focus on Your Social Media Niche
For several years, social media experts have urged content marketers not to overextend themselves on social media. It's impossible to be on every platform and see positive results from all of them.
As social media platforms proliferate, 2015 will be the year that small businesses finally focus on the platforms that bring them the best results.
Every business is unique, and every customer base has its own unique preferences. If you’ve been trying to make Twitter work for you and you don't see results, close up shop and shift your efforts to social media platforms that drive site traffic and convert customers. Discover where your customers hang out online and get to know them. For some businesses, this may mean branching out into new platforms or even tackling "older" social platforms like discussion groups.
6. Mobile Domination
As smartphones outpace desktop and laptop computers as the primary device for online access for many people, mobile-optimized websites sites and tools gain prominence. Facebook’s Rooms, for example, is a mobile-only platform and QR Code scanning—performed mainly with mobile devices—is a key component of its functionality.
Of course, this model has worked for social networks such as Instagram and Snapchat in the past, and that trend is likely to expand in 2015.
7. SlideShare Becomes a Must-Have Marketing Tool
B2B marketers know the importance of being on LinkedIn, but many merely dabble in the world of SlideShare. This could change in 2015 as more customers discover the value of the information available on the platform.
SlideShare is a place to post, distribute, and consume presentations and infographics, and many people use it to conduct research when they're thinking about purchasing new products and services for their businesses. SlideShares are easy to share with colleagues. Instead of downloading and sharing entire Powerpoint or PDF files, you can view the presentation on the site and simply share the links with other members of your team. SlideShare also provides great link juice for SEO, drives page views, and helps generate new leads.
If you want to start using SlideShare, gather existing presentations from your sales and marketing team, and then develop new presentations around products and services. Promote the presentations on LinkedIn, and develop blog posts that connect readers with the presentations, and vice versa.
This will be a year of continuing change in social media, but if you can spot and ride upcoming trends you'll find that social media is, despite its challenges, an excellent marketing platform for sharing content and connecting with customers.
Owen Andrew is a journalist and tech enthusiast who has written for numerous publications, both in print and on the Web. He enjoys researching and writing about ecommerce and entrepreneurship.
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