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Developing Social Media Trends

Although 2010 saw an increase in brands using social technologies, most posts on Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts were merely announcements or redirects to a corporate website. As companies become more familiar with the etiquette and overall landscape of the Social Web, 2011 will see a truer form of engagement between business and consumer. My predictions – with some personal hope mixed in:

Businesses open up… finally

Brands will move past monitoring social chatter and repurposing corporate snippets from their websites on to social profiles. They’ll ask for questions and feedback on their services, acknowledge negative issues and moderate discussion groups. Managing healthy crowd-sourcing campaigns will build a company’s social confidence and a tougher digital skin. Gathering the social consumer’s sentiment (opinions, comparisons etc.) will become an obligatory part of a product cycle. For companies who have yet to draft a social response policy, it’s time to start. Figure out which spokesperson will moderate a particular discussion, pose questions, and more importantly, who will respond.

Commercialization of the Social Web

Is history repeating itself? The dot com years saw online brands struggle to charge for their online services (access to content, product downloads etc.). Today, as social platforms have gained a solid user audience, some will begin to charge for extra-value features. From SlideShare’s lead generator to PitchEngine’s newsroom for Facebook, to targeted ad campaigns on Facebook, some businesses will pay for features to set them apart from their competitors. At the end of the day, will these features help brands to better engage with the public anymore than the free versions of social technologies? Balance is key: an over-customized, over-featured social presence risks alienating the consumer with too many choices, and resembling what the brand began with: a corporate website.

Location apps target new industries

While socially checking in to a favorite store and receiving an immediate discount via text or some other messaging technology is fun, geo-location applications will begin to target other industries with different needs. Location technology will be used to track and analyze crowd behaviour, particularly useful to governments and emergency response units. Watch apps like http://www.ushahidi.com/ as they evolve into powerful social data mapping tools.

Social connections harder to earn

Users will get choosy. A savvier social crowd means it will take more to convince someone to follow, connect or like a brand. Also, with users relying on social search results to gain instant insight on a product or issue, there’s less reason to permanently socially connect with brands. What will attract the social consumer is useful and interesting content in all shapes and forms, which will result in viral social actions, such as sharing.

Discounts, sales, VIP events, or better yet, companies giving an amount to charity each time they swoop a new follower will continue to be part of the enticements offered on social platforms. Gimmicks work, but there’s nothing like compelling discussions and content to gain social affections.

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@NatashaNDavies

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