5 Things Likely To Shape Social In 2013
As we approach the end of another year, it’s a good time to think about what we, as marketers, hope to achieve in the next 12 months.
But to do so, we also need to think about the things that are likely to have an impact on our businesses, and the products and sites that they increasingly rely on. So, let’s think about what the key factors are likely to be that will impact how social platforms and technologies are used for marketing in 2013.
1. Whose Data Is It Anyway?
This issue isn’t going anywhere. A recent WSJ article highlighted just how much personal data the likes of Facebook and Twitter hold. With regulators around the world still focusing on things like cookies, major advertisers should be pushing the social platforms to use data more sensitively, if they don’t want to risk politicians stopping them using it at all.
2. Anti-Social Media
There’s probably not a court in the developed world which hasn’t witnessed the ongoing Apple vs. Android battles* over the last 12 months. But more recently, we can see a similar battle playing out in Social. First, Twitter told the eco-system of apps that had grown around it since its launch, that it was going to start controlling who used the data from its API and how. They’re now being sued for doing so.
But it’s not just David vs. Goliath. A recent spat between Twitter and Instagram, with the latter withdrawing its support for Twitter’s Cards product, hints that in 2013, there won’t be anything social about how different companies in social media treat each other (or their users).
For brands, and for users, this should be another reminder that if you build your business, or your life, around a 3rd party platform or application you need to start planning for what happens if it changes, or even disappears.
3. Wisdom Of Crowds, Or Mob Mentality?
When a prank call by an Australian radio station ended in tragedy, with a nurse taking her life, I think most people would agree that it was probably time for some thought and reflection.
Instead, large numbers of people took to Twitter and Facebook to bombard the DJs in question with abuse and even death threats. In 2012, this sort of chain of events (the anonymous hordes taking to Twitter to vent their fury) became the norm.
Brands, too, have found themselves on the wrong side of these twitchfork mobs, including a spate of incidents where consumer complaints made on Facebook have gone viral. Whilst many will argue about whether this is due to changes in Facebook’s algorithm, or whether Twitter will look to protect commercial partners in such cases (they have said that they don’t), what’s not up for debate is that this trend is unlikely to disappear.
This means that marketers will need to have thorough crisis management processes in place, particularly now that, in some markets, the comments left by consumers on brand pages are the brand’s legal responsibility.
4. Integrating Paid, Owned And Earned
When Facebook updated its ad formats earlier this year, I suggested this meant that it was more important than ever that strategies around paid, owned and earned media should be fully integrated. In 2013, this will stop being an option, and become a must.
In the last couple of months Facebook has made a number of anouncements about how it is going to start plugging in its ad products, and the data it holds on users, into external technologies and networks.
And, with recent reports that Facebook is in discussions to buy the Atlas ad server from Microsoft, it seems inevitable that 2013 will see Facebook launching its own ad network, essentially turning the Open Graph into an advertising platform.
Get ready for a socially powered version of AdSense.
5. Expect The Unexpected
The worst thing about making predictions is how often they prove to be wrong. And if the last twenty years or so of the Web has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t take anything for granted other than the fact that, more often than not, you’re likely to be caught on the hop.
Pinterest, Instagram and many others all suddenly exploded, though Pinterest was a slow-burning “overnight sensation,” having originally launched in 2010. Equally, many apps and platforms, such as Gowalla and Quora, that were expected to take over the world, have since seen stalled growth, or even disappeared entirely.
As marketers, it’s important that we keep up with overriding trends in consumer behaviour and the technologies that power these. But we should be careful about getting swept up by hype and piling into the “next big thing.” So, we need to stay nimble and open to new opportunities; but, we equally need to be realistic about what deserves our focus and attention.
Because whilst there’s always a new big thing, it’s more than likely that the “next Facebook” hasn’t even been built yet, and with the increasing difficulties involved in scaling on mobile — which is quickly becoming the defining consumer access point — it may well never be.
Image courtesy of Facebook.
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