Where is Social Media Heading?

Trends in social media are difficult to pin point. But there are some overarching directions 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.

Positioning the Effectiveness of 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.