Eight Social Media Trends to Watch in 2013

Guest article! The inimitable Beth Becker returns to our pages to muse about developments in the social ‘net that’ll matter to online communicators in the year to come. My (irreverent) comments are included as (ed notes) in the text below. Take it away, Beth:

Eight Social Media Trends to Watch in 2013

By Beth Becker

It’s that time of year again: folks in our field are thinking about the coming months and predicting trends for the year to come. Below are my picks, eight ongoing developments I think everyone should keep in mind when creating Social Digital strategy for 2013.

From social media to social networking to social sharing to social shopping

This day was coming. On Pinterest, when you see a $ in the corner of a pinned picture, you can click to buy. With ActionSprout, a new Facebook App from some of the people behind Groundwire and other great digital companies, you could take payment for something right thru the Facebook app…meaning that a person doesn’t have to leave the Facebook environment to pay.

We can expect this model to affect politics as well: ActBlue, for example, has experimented with what it calls ActBlue Express, which lets you can actually tweet your donation and have the money transferred from your credit card to the campaign or organization’s account using a specific tweet syntax. Lowering the barriers to purchase — or give — online? A win for both the campaigns/organizations and the buyers/donors involved.

Additionally, today it was announced that Pinterest has bought recipe site Punchfork. They didn’t buy it for the food…they bought for the underlying software that has some of the most robust tagging, context and search algorithms around. Look for developments like this to accelerate ways to make purchases online. And of course my favorite example…Zappos Pinpointing, which lets you enter a Pinterest user’s name and then get shoe recommendations that are based on the things that person has pinned to his or her own Pinterest boards.

Online rapid response — more important than ever

It wasn’t too long ago that Oreo won the internet with their now famous “dunk in the dark” that got a lot of movement during the Superbowl Blackout. Such rapid response is just as important in politics as anywhere else. A few key things to keep in mind:

  • In the days of the 24-hour news cycle, even 2 hours can cause you to miss your chance, so make sure your decisionmaking process is as clear and direct as possible. Nowhere is that more important than in online rapid response. Oreo’s key to winning was that they had all of their decisionmakers in one place for easy access during the game, so they were able to create and distribute content within minutes. We saw this play a big role during the debates of the 2012 presidential race — bayonets, binders full of women and Big Bird, anyone?

    It’s also important to make sure that the person you’ve empowered to run your social media can speak for your oganization. Much as your press relations person speaks to the press and you trust them to do so, you must trust your social media manager to speak for your organization to the public. If you don’t, you’ve got the wrong person running your social media. The more cumbersome the approval process is, the more likely you are to miss the cycle completely.

  • Anticipate when big moments for winning might happen. Again, the key is timeliness. Think about the Obama campaign’s visual response to Clint Eastwood’s empty chair rant. If they had waited a day or two to release that, do you really think it would have had as much of an effect?
  • As important as speed is, appropriateness is also key. Recently Applebee’s was raked over the digital coals for the firing of a server after a tipping incident. Not only was Applebee’s slow to respond, they did it wrong when they did — their middle-of-the-night response to online comments was buried immediately by MORE comments. They should have used a clear and concise standalone post that could have been seen easily by anyone visiting their site.

Online Advertising will continue to grow at a phenomenal rate

We saw this trend begin in 2012, but in 2013 has roared into action we’re already seeing some exciting developments in online advertising that will not only cause more ads to be placed but will make those ads more relevant to those seeing them and thus more successful in the long term. Some of those advances include:

  • Facebook’s new email and phone number targeting for ads
  • Facebook is rumored to be testing a demographic lookalike for targeting, where they can take a demographic you’ve already targeted and create a new yet similar universe for targeting
  • Twitter’s self-serve ad platform is rolling out to more and more accounts (and how long until people start using Twitter ads to serve up short videos with Vine?)
  • B-roll ads for YouTube, Vimeo and more will continue to provide steadily increasing ROI

Cross-pollination of platforms will play an increasing role in content development and optimization

Last year I noticed more and more platform-specific content, and for good reason. It’s become clear that people can in fact suffer from what I’m calling “content fatigue” and as a result eventually will tune you out — and in the digital space tuning you out isn’t too difficult to do. It’s more important than ever to make sure that the content you are delivering is appropriate not just to the audience but also to the platform. It’s also important to keep in mind that many of your supporters will be following you via multiple platforms — so give them something fresh to look at/think about on each one.

I also think now we will start to see strategic thinking play more a role in actual content development, leading to content being presented in different formats across multiple platforms but (ed note: in theory) all consistent in narrative. For example, if you’re doing a Twitter townhall, it goes without saying that you’ll promote it via email and Facebook as well, but you might also might video-tape (ed note: “video-tape”??? what decade is this?) someone giving an answer and post the results to Pinterest and YouTube.

Mobile and tablets will continue their march towards digital domination

At past trainings I’ve conducted, I’ve predicted that by the 2020 Presidential elections very few people will lug around laptops — everything we need to do online will be done on a smartphone or a tablet. I may have been too generous with how long that will take, since already we’re seeing hybrids between smartphones and tablet (like the Samsung Galaxy Note and Ipad Mini). Plus, some notebooks that double as a tablets already. This trend will only continue, particularly as competition drives the price down. The average person won’t need a laptop to do much that can’t be done on these smaller but powerful machines.

So why is this important? Everything we produce for online must be created with the smaller-sized screens in mind — all content must be mobile-friendly. We are already seeing that with websites, but it’s also true of videos and pictures and more (ed note: fundraising emails and landing pages, too).

Watch for a noticeable increase in the importance of curation vs. original content development

I’ve long argued that part of engaging an audience on social media is to be generous, i.e., to share/retweet/repin other people’s content while giving the original creator credit. That trend will continue as campaigns and organizations realize that being an expert also means being an expert in recognizing that others have content worth sharing and that doing so makes your social media presence a go-to feed to visit for a full picture of what is going on (ed. note: content aggregation has been key many sites’ online success since the start of the internet; social curation continues the trend in a new setting).

The game-ification of social sharing

Contests, giveaways, trivia contests and games aren’t new to social media by any means, but 2013 will see them taken to new extremes. For example, the LA Dodgers have set up a rewards system whereby one can earn points just by checking in at the games on social media. Campaigns could use such systems to reward hardworking volunteers, to acknowledge those in the digital world that are generous with the RTs and Shares. The sky really is the limit. And platforms like Nation Builder and Facebook even have such mechanisms built in without the need for an add-on app.

Embedded action

Facebook bought Instagram. Twitter has Vine. Third party options like Call2Action and ActionSprout make it easy to embed action right into the digital platform of your choice. Just like Social Shopping in point 1, anything that lowers barriers to action is a win.

So those are my thoughts on the social digital trends for 2013…what else do you think will be important to pay attention to this year?

Thanks Beth! We’ll check-in again on these points in December and see how you did…attempted punditry must be held to a high standard. And remind me to fix the &%$# Epolitics.com commenting feature so people can actually LEAVE their own ideas below. – cpd

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Beth Becker
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