Social media continues to be a major asset to both our professional and personal lives. Not only are more people recognizing the value of things like Tweets, Pins, and +1s, but new social platforms and tools are being expertly woven into successful campaigns.
As 2014 comes to an end, we take a look back at the year’s biggest social media trends that helped shape your present and future strategies.
1. Social Listening
We’ve come a long way from the If-You-Build-It-They-Will-Come mentality. In 2014, we’ve seen that it’s not enough to just have a social media presence. Now you’re expected to be responsive and engaging, and active listening must be part of your strategy.
This year we learned that 30.72 percent of tweets containing company names don’t include their Twitter handles and only 9 percent of tweets are actually directed at your brand. If you’re not actively monitoring mentions without the @ symbol, then you’re missing a huge opportunity to connect with consumers.
Of course, social listening goes beyond just tracking mentions and can include discussions about the industry your brand is a part of or about your competitors. Tracking this involves collecting and analyzing a great deal of social data, but the insights gathered can be valuable to your entire company.
2. Visual Data
Text updates are far from obsolete — in fact, it’s quite the opposite on some social networks — but images are proving to be very effective at conveying a brand’s personality on social media. In 2014, we’ve seen a lot of businesses step up their image game as more platforms put a stronger emphasis on visuals.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 3, 2014
Twitter, for example, confirmed that tweets with photos and videos receive a 35 percent and 28 percent boost in retweets, respectively. The company even introduced two new mobile features that make photos on Twitter more social. That was a key addition since image-based mobile apps like Instagram and Snapchat became even more popular with brands in 2014.
On Facebook, photos account for 75 percent of content posted by Pages worldwide. Additionally, photos are the most engaging type of content on the social network with an 87 percent interaction rate from fans. It’s no wonder that Facebook rolled out a more streamlined look for its News Feed and Pages, putting an even greater emphasis on the images you share.
This year marketers have even found creative ways to integrate disappearing content into their campaigns using Snapchat. The time-sensitive, image-based social app became very popular among brands during 2014, and even launched ads for more strategic campaigns.
So whether you’re launching a new product or sharing a weekly joke, consider complementing your update with a video or unique image. And for the best results on any platform, check out our always up-to-date guide to social media image sizes.
3. Mobile and Desktop Synonymity
Mobile and social have become inseparable in 2014, with more consumers relying on mobile devices than ever before. In fact, mobile exceeded PC internet usage for the first time in history with 56 percent of Americans owning smartphones and more than one-third of users saying it’s their primary Internet device.
But consumers are doing more than just checking email and browsing the web from their mobile devices. Whether keeping up with friends, researching brands, interacting with live television programming, or shopping, mobile has become a fully integrated part of the social experience. As a result, over the past year, almost every major social network launched a redesign focused on increasing mobile activity.
And if there was any doubt that your marketing strategy should be mobile friendly, 399 million Facebook members consider themselves to be mobile-only. That’s about 30 percent of the largest social network’s entire user base. So if you’re planning your next ad campaign or laying out your targeting preferences, mobile users aren’t to be ignored.
4. User-Generated Content
Your content strategy — everything from status updates to full-fledged campaigns — was a major focus of marketing this year. Quality content drives awareness, builds communities, and helps you reach sales goals. So you can see why the creation and distribution of content has become one of the most important things a brand can do online.
But that places a lot of demand on you for fresh, engaging content. And as we’ve seen, one of the best ways of keeping up with this demand is through user-generated content, or UGC. In 2014, new social tools, apps, and trends — like selfies — have changed the way businesses collect UGC, forcing you to rethink some of your campaign strategies.
In a study by the marketing research company Ipsos, the company found that millennials trust user-generated content just as much as professional reviews. It’s also 20 percent more influential when it comes to purchasing and 35 percent more memorable than other types of media. And out of the 18 hours millennials spend with media per day, five of those are spent with media created by peers.
This year alone we’ve seen dozens of successful UGC campaigns from brands including Dove, GoPro, Coca-Cola, Pepsi MAX, and Dunkin Donuts. With so much success, we’ll see this trend carry over into 2015. What remains uncertain is what new tools will be unveiled in the new year to make UGC campaigns even more exciting.
As we get ready to kick off 2015, it’s important that you take some time to reflect on the past year and all of the changes it brought. While we expect more in the new year, it’s helpful to gauge what has worked and what hasn’t so you can carry those lessons with you. Since the very nature of social media is changing, the trends mentioned above might not be the same in 2015. But they are a solid foundation worth building upon for the coming year.
Jennifer Beese: Jennifer Beese has worked as a community manager and social media strategist. When she’s not writing, you can find her studying anatomy and physiology—she literally has a skeleton in her closet—or under the stars with her telescope.