Social media marketing is still in its formative stages, and 2012 will continue to be filled with experimentation and new tools. However, there are some trends that will shape social media marketing in 2012 that you should be looking at right now.
In many cases these trends are still evolving so there’s a tremendous opportunity to customize them to meet your particular business needs. Be the first out of the gate in 2012 and gain the advantage over competitors who have not been paying attention to these emerging social media marketing trends.
In 2012, we’ll see a continuation of trends that have gotten a lot of buzz throughout 2011. For example, the sale of The Huffington Post to AOL and the success of sites like AmEx Open have shown us that crowdsourcing — using other people to create your content — really works.
There are many great content creators out there who are willing to provide all kinds of content in exchange for exposure and publicity. Of course, quality still trumps quantity, so your 2012 crowdsourcing content efforts need to focus on finding people who can write quality content for your target audience.
Similarly, content curation continues to be a hot topic that will continue into 2012. The key to being a great curator is to editorially select content that your audience will be interested in and add your own thoughts and expertise to that content, rather than simply aggregating links.
2012 will likely see more brands as media sources; more companies are realizing the importance of content marketing in building long-term, sustainable, and organic business growth. Brands will hire editors and journalists to help them become online media destinations that attract broader audiences.
Increased Focus on ROI
Businesses will make more significant investments in social media marketing in 2012, but they’ll also be focusing on the return on investment (ROI) from their social media marketing efforts. Of course, the real power of social media marketing comes from long-term strategic growth, but its hard for executives to find a place for “brand equity” on the balance sheet!
Unfortunately, data paralysis will continue in 2012 with decision making stalled, and often misguided, as executives insist on getting numbers that simply don’t exist yet. However, the data that businesses can get related to social media marketing will improve in 2012, as social analytics tools mature and add new features.
Social media marketing strategy will continue to focus heavily on influence with tools like Klout and PeerIndex continuing to be the leaders in this space. At the same time, social media marketing strategies will begin to shift so that companies use these tools for exploratory and directional strategic planning rather than tactical execution.
Google+, the new social media network from one of the biggest and most powerful online brands, will emerge as the “next big thing” in 2012. It’s slowly grown its audience in 2011, but 2012 is likely to be its breakout year as Google uses its Google+ membership activities and behaviors to influence its search algorithm. If you haven’t already created a Google+ Page for your business, make sure it’s included in your 2012 social media marketing plan.
Increased Focus on Local and Mobile Marketing
The continued focus on localization will still be a top priority in 2012, and tools that help businesses connect with local audiences will play an important role in evolving social media marketing plans. This trend goes hand-in-hand with the increased focus on mobile marketing. 2012 will be an exciting year as new mobile marketing and local marketing tools emerge to meet the increasing ownership rates of smartphones and tablets.
What do you think will be the most important social media marketing trends in 2012? Let us know in the comments below.
Susan Gunelius: Susan Gunelius is a 20-year marketing veteran and President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She has authored nine books about social media, content marketing, branding, copywriting, and blogging, and she is a marketing columnist for Forbes.com and Entrepreneur.com. Susan speaks about marketing, branding, and social media at events around the world and is often interviewed about marketing topics by television, online, print, and radio media organizations.