The beauty of a brand new year is the fresh start it provides — the idea that you can shake off all the past mistakes, assumptions and misunderstandings and start with a clean slate.
It’s also a great time to get rid of a bad habit, like smoking or swearing. We could stand a little of that out-with-the-old feeling in social media marketing.
With an eye to the past year’s news and themes, here are 5 social media trends that (with any luck) will expire in 2014.
1. Making Everything “Viral”
Last year: Perhaps the biggest trend of 2013 was the “viralization” of… well, everything. Publishers like Buzzfeed and Upworthy piled the hyperbole higher and higher until regular old good content looked positively boring in comparison. The Upworthy-style headline was so ubiquitous it even spawned a parody Twitter account and its own headline generator.
The only problem? When every headline promises something so amazing, so mind-blowing, so wondtacular that you can’t possibly believe it, readers will click — at first. But they’ll eventually start calling your bluff, and where can you go from there?
This year: The viral content backlash was already upon us in 2013; but, it’s reached a fever pitch in the last few weeks. Combined with the inevitable click fatigue and Google’s growing emphasis on in-depth content, 2014 could be the year that viral content stabilizes and yields to stuff that’s actually worth the hype.
2. Social Media Desperation
Last year: Is it just me, or did social media take a really weird turn in 2013? Companies “hacked” their own accounts for publicity, everyone’s favorite spam Twitter account @Horse_ebooks turned out to be an avant-garde art project all along and all of us (journalists included) fell for social media hoaxes left and right. For a young industry that’s still trying to earn its respectability, all the hijinks didn’t help.
This year: Look, I get it. It’s hard out there. When you’re doing everything right and still not getting any traction for your content, it’s tempting to give up and go for a gimmick instead. But why not opt for true creativity instead of hoaxes and hacks? If Cards Against Humanity can do it, so can you.
3. Facebook Dependence
Last year: For a long time, social media marketing began and ended for many businesses with just one name: Facebook. But in 2013, the social media monolith started showing a few cracks. Leaders admitted usage was declining among teens — a sure sign that the cool factor is gone.
Meanwhile, upstarts like Snapchat gained ground while Google made Google+ more relevant by incorporating it into personalized SERPs, Gmail and YouTube comments.
This year: Facebook isn’t giving marketers much of a choice — it’s time to pay up for exposure (more on that in a minute) or diversify your social media holdings to other platforms. Smart marketers likely will be doing both.
If you’re moving into a secondary platform, make it Google+. It’s impossible to ignore the lengths Google is going to in order to make its social network a success. Google+ is nearly unavoidable, and Google won’t stop until it’s your all-in-one communication app. Start building your presence now.
4.The Idea Of “Free” Social Media
Last year: Social media has never really been “free,” but in 2013 social media marketers began to get a little more acquainted with its true cost.
Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest all launched ads and sponsorships into their platforms. LinkedIn added sponsored updates. Twitter launched its Ads API. Facebook, already no stranger to ads, experimented with video ads and upped the ante with social media marketers by limiting organic reach.
This year: The free ride is officially over. In 2014, it’s no longer enough for social media managers to create, optimize and analyze content. Now it’s on us to also be familiar with all the strategies — whether paid or organic or a combination of the two — that get the best results for each platform. Oh, and then there’s the small task of lobbying for the money to get the job done.
Savvy marketers have been preaching the paid-organic hybrid for a while now, and it’s not too late to get on board.
5. Word-Biased Content
Last year: 2013 was a banner year for creative, multi-media storytelling. Vine and Instagram emerged onto the scene, creating new opportunities for short-form online videos.
Pinterest continued its ascendance as a visual leader, and Facebook made videos even more compelling by auto-playing them (without sound) in the News Feed.
And some of the best marketing moments of the year – like Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, Chipotle’s Scarecrow and Westjet’s Christmas Miracle – were memorable because of the emotion that multi-media storytelling can convey.
This year: And yet for lots of us, content still means a written blog post with a photo or two. Marketers are known to wear out tactics that work (who remembers the infographic fatigue of 2012?); but, multi-media storytelling isn’t a gimmick – it’s the new normal.
If “content” still equals “words” in your mind, it’s time to expand your definition.
Video, photos, audio, cinemagraphs, music, designed information and more are more available to us than ever before. Look at the way publishers like Pitchfork are combining them all for a truly immersive experience. Could this be the year marketers begin to do the same?
What trends do you see dying in 2014? What trends do you wish would die? Let me know in the comments.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.