Social media focus: What has been the biggest change in social media so far this year?


By Ishbel Macleod, PR and social media consultant

August 8, 2013 | 8 min read

As part of a supplement looking at the world of social media, The Drum caught up with a cross-section of people working in the industry to discuss their views on a series of topics.

Stephen Waddington, European digital and social media director, Ketchum and chairman, CIPR Social Media Panel

In 2013 if a company creates a social channel as a marketing vehicle it is inevitable that consumers will use it as a mechanism for customer service and sales. It’s no secret that the fastest way to resolve a customer service issue is to complain noisily via Twitter. If you haven’t seen this consumer behaviour before, check out the Twitter profiles and conversations of any of the mobile, broadband or train providers. The simple fact is that it’s a lot simpler for consumers to complain via Twitter than to visit a retail store or deal with an offshore call centre. As a result businesses are starting to integrate social into all aspects of these business, not just communication, but internally to communicate with staff, and externally for marketing, customer service and sales.

Jan Rezab, CEO, Socialbakers

There have been a lot of exciting changes! From new video formats like Vine and Instagram to new hashtag options on Facebook, but for me I think the biggest change that will benefit brands this year is the new advertising options on all social networking platforms which are taking the industry to a whole new level, allowing companies to better amplify their social media. Promoted posts are becoming the new "SEM" equivalent in online, and one with a more promising outcome.

Kristin Brewe, director of marketing and communications, IAB

The medium’s legitimisation. People are no longer asking “Should I do social?” but often—quite urgently-- asking “How can I do more/do what I do better?” Acquisitions in the space have been so numerous this year, a definite signpost for a maturing industry. When you see companies like Yahoo! acquiring assets like Tumblr and platforms themselves like Twitter really leveraging their acquisition of Vine, you know you’re looking at a sector that’s serious business. Furthermore, efforts like the IAB’s social media effectiveness research have begun to outline the real return of investment of social media. Being able to effectively measure the value of interactions is another sign of a more mature medium.

Pete Durant, social media director, Manning Gottlieb OMD

This has to be the development of Facebook’s advertising products. Opening up the newsfeed and mobile to advertising, combined with the ability to track post-engagement and post-view on paid content in both newsfeed and run-of-site placements, has given the platform a long-awaited new dimension. We are now closer to an accurate, measurable assessment of return without relying on the simple ‘last click wins’ approach that has been used for the last two years. Although some will argue that this privileges those who can afford to promote, the platform has moved towards amplification, even at small increments, as a necessity for regular success.

Todd Herrold, senior director for product marketing, Kenshoo Social

Two seismic events stand out - both should have significant positive impact on social media marketing adoption. The first is the launch of the Twitter Ads API earlier this year and the expansion of the number of partners in the program. By opening its ads platform to third party technology platforms, Twitter greatly expanded marketer access to its audience and simplified the process of creating and optimising programs. Related to simplification, the second seismic event is Facebook's announcement that it will reduce the number and complexity of its advertising products.

A major obstacle to widespread adoption of social media advertising and increased budgets has been the overall complexity and rapid change in the ecosystem. These changes by Twitter and Facebook demonstrate that social media is beginning to mature and we should see broader adoption, better performance and increased budgets as a result.

Luke Farrell, social media strategist, Profero

The rise of user generated video content via Twitter’s Vine app and the newly launched Instagram video functionality has been stratospheric. Posting video content up to this point required far too much commitment from users and brands alike.

Till now, video content has been viewed as a costly option in comparison to far cheaper formats with comparable, and often better, engagement rates. Micro-video offers small brands the chance to play in the video content space, mix-up their content strategy (surely we’re all tired of brands posting up fluffy cats by now? No?) and tap into new audiences.

Iona St Joseph, social media account manager, A Social Media Agency

I don't think it's necessarily a change, but I think people are really starting to embrace the power of video, what with Vine and Instagram both becoming huge this year. Brands are now using video like nobody's business, from small start-ups to some of the world's biggest luxury brands and Instagram and Vine are battling it out to become the biggest video social networking platform. Apparently, 68 per cent of the top 50 internet retailers use video on their site, so it's no surprise that everyone is embracing video specific social networks. It's also yet another way of creating sharable content, with a difference.

Jim Dowling, managing partner, Cake

That the written word is becoming increasingly sparse. All the moves in platform development and usage are in images and video. The battle lines in the ongoing 'war' are now drawn around Instagram, Pinterest, Vine and Flickr. Social media is gradually eroding a younger generation's ability to communicate by writing.

Marketers aren't hugely fussed by that development just yet, but they might be if we consider that it is enabling users to reveal less about themselves. If the consumer is spending more time taking photos of coffee or looking at videos of cats, they are spending less time writing "I want a new shirt/phone/album/pair of shoes/trainers." That makes it a little tougher for brand marketers.

Wayne St Amand, executive VP of global marketing, Crimson Hexagon

The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” springs to mind as one of the most notable changes in social media in 2013 has been the evolution of social media to incorporate digital images and videos. From Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram to Twitter introducing Vine, the focus is shifting from words, thoughts and sharing news, and moving more towards visuals. This greatly impacts the way users interact with one another as visual communication often yields a higher response than the written word. There is now a far greater ability to incorporate video and imagery into social networks than ever before, and this will most certainly continue over time as sites and users become more visually orientated.

Delia Goldsby, director PR and social, RBH

Social media continues its rapid progress. What to keep your eye on is a Big challenge in itself. Social-Local-Mobile (SoLoMo) from the Search perspective represents important current change as smartphone penetration ever increases. The growth of visual social media and what highly engaged user platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Polyvore do next is definitely worth watching. It seems we love that images can communicate so much more than words…

But the BIGGEST change underpinning all social media is mainstream recognition that ‘Big Data” is really now crucial to the way organisations and marketers will move their marketing engagement strategies and activities forward. Smarter analytics tech now means marketers and PR’s can bring together their structured and unstructured social data - tweets & videos etc. - and correlate this information into one platform for more relevant customer insights.

Daniel Stern, account manager, Essence

The biggest change this year has been Instagram’s launch of video to improve its offering and compete directly with Vine. Since the platform has been acquired by Facebook it has elevated its offering, bringing visual-led social media to the next level. There will always be a place for longer-segment video, but for brands, well produced shorter video posts are a more impactful way of engaging with customer audiences, especially on mobile.

Steve Cater, head of digital, whynot!

In with the new. Consumers of social media in 2013 are hungry for faster, richer and fresher formats. Popular social has become exactly that, popular. Mainstream popularity over time is a pressure cooker for change and the past is littered with the gravestones of those such zeitgeist. Whilst 2013 so far has rapidly expanded our social ecosystem, it’s also apparent that consumers of social media are, well… starting to see other people. They’re expanding their comfort zones and picking up their phones to share more things with more people in more ways. Getting a Snapchat from your mum/client/supermarket is not as ridiculous as it sounds!

This interview is part of our social media supplement, out on 2 August.


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