Social Media: A Year in Review and What to Expect in 2014

With a new year just starting, we can’t help but reflect on 2013 and all of the changes that evolved  in the world of social media. From Instagram videos to LinkedIn’s addition of paid promoted status updates, a lot has happened over this past year. As we all know, social media is ever-changing, which  means there are always more updates around the corner. With the path that 2013 had paved, here is a recap on developments throughout the year and predictions for what we can expect from social media in 2014:

Social Media trends 2014

Facebook

Highlights: Facebook introduces graph search, a new algorithm, and clickable hashtags.

The new algorithm gives brands the opportunity to have their content appear, or reappear, at the top of newsfeeds due to relevancy now bearing more weight than chronology. This update also established a new 20% rule where the newsfeed only allows 20% text within an ad image.  Although the hashtag has been a predominant feature on other platforms, Facebook implemented this to allow brands and users to view a stream of similar content, but it hasn’t proven quite as useful beyond emphasizing sarcasm or keywords.

However, the fact that Facebook has decided to include the infamous hashtag on its platform means it’s here to stay #forever. And not just on Facebook, but across all platforms. With the 20% rule, we can only assume that Facebook is moving towards even more visual opportunity for paid advertising, including video. Rumored to already be in the works, we can bet there will be a major shift toward video ads within Facebook’s ad space. Let’s also not forget that Facebook tried to acquire Snap Chat, but were turned down. Don’t worry, they still hold the reins on Instagram and we can expect to see more of the big wigs like Google, Facebook, and Twitter will continue to try and expand their portfolios by attempting to purchase other platforms.

Twitter

Highlights: Twitter (finally) goes public, images are now shown automatically in feeds, and more advertising opportunities have been implemented.

It’s safe to say that the infamous Oreo tweet during the Super Bowl in January sparked the epiphany of visual marketing in social media. In an effort to support this trend, Twitter decided to show images automatically within feeds. While it kept to its 140 character limit, Twitter is now giving more space for visuals in its streams.  The platform has also given small businesses and individuals the opportunity to run promoted tweets and promoted account ad campaigns. At the time of its IPO, Twitter wasn’t doing so well, but it is using the ad platform as the focal point in driving revenue.

Now more than ever, brands are looking to reach and grab audience attention whether through targeted paid ads and/or taking advantage of the opportunity to capitalize on larger real estate now given to visual communication.  These changes confirm that visual marketing will continue to be a best practice in social media marketing and that this trend, as well as paid solutions, are here to stay.

Instagram

Highlights: Instagram rolls out advertising, as well as video and direct messaging.

Backed by its parent company Facebook, Instagram launched a huge update giving users the ability to take and share videos as well as photos. The other big gift from the parent company this year was sponsored ads. Instagram will now show ads within feeds that are tailored to users based on who they like and follow.

As previously mentioned, the prominence of visual marketing, particularly video, has officially made its mark on social media. This video feature offers brands even more leeway to get creative in reaching their audience. Posts with video are shared more often than links and texts so brands will continue to integrate this component within their marketing strategies.  On another note, Instagram has proven its willingness to adjust the platform with the new direct messaging feature. However, they still have yet to offer the ability to include links to drive traffic elsewhere, which is a major element they will need to consider if they want to get and keep more advertisers on board.

Google+

Highlights: A redesign, new dashboard, and related hashtags.

Google+ got a makeover this year and not only did it come with a brand-new layout, but it now allows brands and marketers to manage their presence in search, social, maps and AdWords all from one unified dashboard. The platform also rolled out related hashtags; a new feature that looks at a user’s posts to determine the subject, add relevant hashtags and then rank conversations based on relevance.

Allowing brands and marketers to manage other Google services from the platform is just another effort towards getting more people to utilize Google+.  The related hashtag feature is a great research tool for marketers and it also means that the platform in and of itself has become even more beneficial for SEO purposes. It is likely that brands will continue to use Google+ for additional SEO value if not for convenience purposes.

LinkedIn

Highlights: LinkedIn unveils Sponsored Updates and Showcase Pages.

LinkedIn recently introduced Showcase Pages, where brands can create niche pages for users to learn more about a company’s product, services, business units and/or initiatives. The platform also rolled out a new advertising solution with Sponsored Updates. Companies with a LinkedIn Company Page can now target their updates to relevant leads within the platform.

LinkedIn is starting to get more flexible with information sharing which means marketers will have an easier time reaching specific audiences. With the new Showcase Pages, brands can now offer even more detailed information about their services and products and tailor information to varying buyer personas. The addition of advertising opportunities means marketers, most of which will come from B2B brands, will begin to rely more heavily on paid options to extend their reach and target potential leads.

Pinterest

Highlights: Pinterest adds analytics and promoted pins.

Pinterest made a big move towards becoming a more established platform by adding analytics. Now you can measure your efforts, which is key for marketers.  Another big addition to the platform has been ads. Like other platforms, Pinterest is going to continue rolling out promoted pins as a form of advertisement.

With the rise in visual marketing and the benefits for SEO, this platform is one marketers will definitely be paying more attention to in the year ahead.

Although we can’t predict the future, we know two things are for sure, paid ads and visual marketing will definitely continue trending in 2014. As we look forward to the continued evolution of social media, we can only imagine what’s next. Fingers crossed for hologram features by 2015.

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