The Hottest Social Media Trends This Season

Trends in social media are difficult to pin point. But there are some overarching trends that have survived and are still going strong this season. Some of these trends are mentioned below.

Focus on images

The meteoric rise of Pinterest is testimony to the fact that images are in. Pinterest is a content sharing service and a social network that allows users to make extensive use of images. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that after Pinterest’s latest round of funding netted the company $100 million, the company was valued at $1.5 billion. The popularity of Pinterest is a pretty good reason why other companies should place a premium on visual content. Facebook has already shifted to timeline. Humans process a lot of information visually and will respond to imagery in a positive way. Since people like images, social media websites have capitalized on it.

Going mobile

Nearly half of Facebook users log into their accounts using their mobile phones. Mobile internet users are going to overtake desktop internet users by 2015. And social media on mobile is still in its infancy. But mobile phone companies are coming up with better audio, video, location selection and third party application integration.

Social media websites embracing open platforms

When it comes to adding new users, Facebook has seen continued success while Google is moving at a snail’s pace. One reason is Facebook allows third party application providers to contribute to users experience. The result – consumers stay longer on such sites and engage more.

Crowdsourcing

Wired.com’s Jeff Howe defines crowdsourcing as outsourcing the creation of content to groups of people rather than tackling such tasks in-house. Sites such as Wikipedia, Tumblr and Pinterest are leading the pack here. People tend to trust their friends and relatives more than corporations who they perceive won’t give them bipartisan information. So everything from starting a new company to learning how to bake a cake can be accomplished through crowdsourcing.

Online Video

With the advent of faster internet connections such as 3G (and now 4G) and the proliferation of smart phones, video content is only going to become more popular. Some years ago, production of video was deemed to be expensive, but not anymore. Smart phones with share capabilities and HD technology have changed the rules of the game. Now we have budding entertainers, citizen journalists and YouTube campaigns.

The privacy vs. personalization debate

Social media sites and online retailers are mining information about us constantly. They are logging data such as our likes, dislikes and even the interests of people with whom we interact. The issue here is the breach of privacy that social media sites are being accused of. Government regulators have increased their scrutiny and users have become more sensitive. On the other hand, some social networking sites have gone public and their shareholders are demanding results. The pressure to collect information is only going to grow.

How Social Media Can Help Your Small Business

Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn help millions of people around the world connect. But did you know that you can also use them to connect with your customers? Susan Barnes, an associate director and professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s social computing lab says that small businesses can benefit from social media in two ways. Customers can provide testimonials about the business on small networks. On the other hand, employees can contribute by sharing information through social media.

One of the appeals of social media is that social media companies don’t charge fees. There are few barriers for entry. One businessman quoted, ‘If someone is offering me an opportunity to market my products for no extra cost, then why shouldn’t I take advantage of the offer.’

Some tips on how social media can be used to enhance business are mentioned below

Choose social media carefully

There are dozens of sites where small businesses can begin. LinkedIn has often been called the best site for business networking. As you upload new information on Facebook, your ‘friends’ will come to know where your interests lie and what it is that you are doing.

Set goals that are realistic

Don’t try to participate in as many social networks as you come across. You will be quickly overwhelmed. The idea is not to make it look like a chore but to enjoy the process. Make a list of goals. What is your idea behind using a social network? To create a buzz? To sell products? To get feedback or build relationships?

Find the audience

To get the best results, you will have to segment your customers, Go where they are, in order to be found. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Your search may lead you to other social networks that are not in the mainstream.

Open up

An important reason why social networking as a business tool is so effective is because it gives us a chance to meet new people. But you’ve got to keep an open mind. Jorge Olson, an expert on social networking and the author of two books on marketing says, ‘whenever you join a social network, be an open networker‘. Who is an open networker? It is someone who will accept invitations to be ‘friends’ or will connect with anyone. It sounds very simple but it isn’t considering that many people still don’t network, post their photos or give their email addresses online.

Avoid ‘over-sharing’

Assume that everything posted on a social network will be read by everyone. You have to be careful posting details about your personal life, like your political leaning, jokes and personal beliefs. Among friends, this information may be considered appropriate, but others may find it misconstrued. You are a businessperson using social media as a channel to promote your business, communicate a bit more formally.

What are the Latest Trends in Interactive Marketing?

Diligent marketers are always on the lookout for new trends they can leverage to improve their marketing efforts. In the process they also contribute their own trends to the market.

A recent study by a Forrester Research Inc. company reveals the following:

  • Mobile marketing is growing at twice its average rate and will surpass social media and email advertising in 2012.
  • Search engine marketing is going to be the largest category in interactive marketing.
  • Companies are adding interactive marketing staff and are becoming more customer centric.
  • Many companies are cutting traditional marketing budgets to spend money on interactive marketing. As a result, interactive marketing is expected to grow from an annual 18% of  budget  to 35% of their marketing budgets by 2016.

Additional trends that are influencing interactive marketing are mentioned below.

Display marketing

  • Better measurement: Attribution models have made it easier to measure branding influence. As a result spending on online media is increasing.
  • Online video: Online videos have proliferated, helped in part by the abundance of video players. It is expected to contribute to increased consumer usage.
  • Media buys based on performance are increasing: Marketers are favoring the easy measurement and immediacy of pay-per-click marketing over other impression linked buys.

Search marketing

  • More inventory: More and more consumers are using search engines. Marketers are using longer keywords. As a result the number of searches for sale has gone up. New Google inventories are coming up and advertisers will soon be able to place their ads on many more sites.
  • SEO spending increasing: Paid searches are turning to be more expensive than SEO. As a result companies will continue to invest in SEO.
  • Bigger, smarter search programs: 80% of marketers have embraced paid searches and SEO.  And the number is growing. More than 2/3rds are managing search programs with help from outsourced partners and advanced tools. Marketers are expanding their efforts into more businesses and markets.

Social media

  • Better understanding of social media: New social media measurement tools have made their debut and marketers are improving how they reach, engage and target consumers through social media.

Mobile marketing

  • Increasing usage of mobile data: Devices are improving and applications are proliferating. This means more people are going to use internet enabled mobile phones, presenting a golden opportunity for marketers.
  • Marketers are investing in building targeted applications instead of the broader applications out in the marketplace .
  • Email marketing costs have been showing a steady decline.

Importance in Proper Navigation Development Of Websites

It is widely acknowledged that the website’s design and it’s content are the main areas of concern when creating an effective website. That’s true, but only to an extent. The usability of the website is largely determined by the usefulness of the content and its accessibility. This is where website navigation comes into play. You must remember that no matter how valuable and superior the website’s content is, it is worthless if it cannot be found or accessed by the visitor.

Proper navigation within the website is vital because it ensures that the site’s visitors find what they are looking for. The more extensive a particular website is and the more voluminous its content, the better its navigation should be. What good can a well-written blog or product page be, if your visitors cannot find it on your site? From this perspective, the importance of proper navigation in a website cannot be overestimated.

User-Friendly Website Navigation

Proper placement of the website’s navigational links is one of the most overlooked aspects of site design and development. If the links to your site’s pages are poorly placed, the chance that your visitors will read what you want them to, or even find the pages you want them to see, are slim. Similarly, if your webpage’s links are not properly named, they will not be able to guide the visitor as they should.

Remember that your general online audience, are generally impatient and do not have the time or the energy to search through your site to find what they want. If the visitor cannot find what he/she is looking for, they will waste no time in clicking off from the website and look for a similar site that is easier to navigate.

Keep it simple

In their attempt to create unique websites, many business owners end up with complex site designs that are hard to comprehend. The simpler and neater the website is, the easier it will be for your visitors to browse through it. A successful site design focuses on all the website elements and creates a hierarchy, such that the most important pages are on top and easily accessible to the user.

When designing website navigation, you should consider not just the site’s visitors, but also the search engines. Keep in mind that the site’s navigation should be simple enough to use and smart enough to guide the customers to the webpages you want them to reach. Designing website navigation requires detailed planning and once done, it should not be altered too often, or else you could end up confusing your regular visitors, or worse, lose them as well.

 

What is Interactive Marketing?

There was a time when the only option company’s  had was the traditional push marketing model, forcing their offerings on people through print and other forms of media to consumers who were more often not likely to buy them. Now with the advent of the pull marketing model, we see a change in the way businesses are approaching their marketing campaigns. The strategy, in this case, is to go after an audience that is actually interested in what the company has to offer.

Interactive (pull) marketing has become the preferred solution to traditional (push) marketing, and for good reason. We know marketing is the art and science of connecting with customers. Interactive marketing goes a bit further. It is the process of connecting with customers to facilitate a conversation with them, and to react or change depending on how the customer acts.

It is important to note that interactive marketing is different from online marketing. It can be safely said that online marketing is a component of interactive marketing. Like the former, interactive marketing also leverages the power of the internet to get its job done.

Take Amazon.com for example 

The company is an excellent example for how interactive marketing can be used to connect with customers. When customers search for a product, the site records those preferences. Based on these preferences and recent purchases if any, customers are shown recommendations that match their selections. What would you do as a customer in such a case? You may go through some of the recommendations and if they strike a chord with you and maybe go ahead and make a purchase. What the company did was turn a single purchase into an avenue to promote more purchases.

Companies and business have realized how effective interactive marketing can be and they treasure this ability. IM is also called trigger based marketing, because you are reacting to customers, in effect they trigger action on your part. Surprisingly, it is this function that makes it more effective than traditional marketing.

How can you use interactive marketing to engage customers more personally?

The good news is interactive marketing is applicable to all businesses. Some examples where IM can be used are B2B (business to business), B2C (business to consumer), high/low transaction businesses, prospect management and customer management. There are various approached to IM; here are the commonest (and popular) ones.

  1. Leveraging social networks – Use tools like Google Alert to identify blog posts and online discussions related to your service/product. You can then provide your input on the same and post links back to your website.
  2. Website visits – A great way to bring in new business is to create a website that is tailored to your target demographics’ likes and dislikes. Look to Amazon and Yahoo for inspiration!
  3. Conversational emails – Never underestimate the power of conversational emails. Identify customer interests and have a follow-up system in place that keeps the conversation flowing till the transaction has taken place.

Mobile marketing – promoting your offerings through SMSs – is also an interactive marketing technique that you can consider.

Times are changing for small business marketers, to succeed you need to stay on top of the trends, test and see what works for your business.

Interactive Marketing “Best Practices”

The number of companies adopting web-centric business models is increasing. As such, the internet has become an important avenue for brand expression and customer interactions. But it is also true that though many businesses are investing in driving website traffic, they are not getting the expected results. The reasons are many – low conversions, unsatisfied site visitors and high abandonment rates. But there is good news yet.

These problems can be tracked by technologies and solutions that already exist, and with their aid you can segment customers, target offers and content effectively and test marketing strategies for effectiveness/relevance on an ongoing basis.

Some interactive marketing practices that will help you gain an edge are;

  1. Develop dynamic websites and manage them well
  1. Assemble targeting rules and customer segments.
  1. Deploy/deliver site navigation and targeted content automatically.
  1. Track behavior of visitors to your site
  1. Analyze how effective your content and campaigns are
  1. Make adjustments and improve experiences online incrementally.

Other interactive marketing practices to consider? 

  • Multimedia: By using different communication channels and touch points you become more accessible to your customers. It is not a fire-and-forget execution. It is a long term strategy that enhances and reinforces brand experiences. With the aid of the opportunities that media provides you can create brand messages that are pervasive and easy to recall.
  • Personalize: One of the most useful aspects of interactive marketing is the possibility of creating user experiences that are unique. Think about this. One person can look at a website at the same time as another and yet have different experiences. On websites, personalization has come to be expected and in interactive ads, personalization is what makes the ad unique.
  • Tell a story and enhance usability: All good advertising tell stories. But the art lies in telling stories in a short period. Anything you create online should be user friendly and intuitive. A designer may find it difficult to see defects in his/her creation; this is where a user interface expert can help.
  • Include an offer they “can’t refuse”: If you are running an interactive ad, then include compelling offers. Offers add excitement and improve response in interactive ads.
  • Let your customers help promote your brand: One interesting development in brand affinity and personalization is that users are advertising brands inadvertently. Now, anyone with quality video editing software and a digital camera can make their own commercials. By making amateur commercials and uploading them on video sharing sites, consumers actually help in promoting brands.