This article is contributed by Abel Velazquez.
2012 was a huge year for social media. We had the Facebook IPO, the emergence of Pinterest, and the arrival of Google+ as one of the giants in the social space — at least in terms of size. What does the future hold? It is a legitimate question to ask seeing how a new year is right around the corner. Anything could happen, but these five trends have already generated enough buzz to warrant monitoring in 2013.
1. The SEO Influence
Search is constantly changing, sometimes it seems, all at the ever moving hand of Google. At one time, strategies that involved establishing a network of inbound links and implementing the right keywords were looked at as the most effective ways to improve search rankings. Although those elements still matter, search has steadily been shifting towards factoring various social signals into the mix. 2013 could be the year that likes (or +1 clicks), shares, recommendations and other social activity has its biggest influence on rankings thus far.
The moral of this story? If you want to maximize search visibility, you better get to socializing.
2. Socially Generated Content
Content will always reign as king, but the ways in which it is created is steadily changing. With the search players shifting more of their focus to social activity, using this channel to develop new content is the only logical way to go. It may sound challenging, but social content takes many forms. For instance, it could be the tweets and status updates you post, or even the videos you embed from YouTube. Any way you look at it, betting on social content increasing in power is a smart wager.
For social marketers, the challenge will be creating content that not only looks attractive to a search engine, but actually resonates with an audience of real people.
3. Social Apps for Business
The rise of distribution outlets such as Google Play and the Facebook App Center have made owning a social app an attractive proposition. Having your own app sounds even better when considering the growing number of tablet and smartphone users who could potentially use it. The social app craze is bound to get even bigger in 2013, but instead of just hopping on the bandwagon, marketers will need to find ways to maximize their potential. While some titles are enjoying a viral impact, several others are sitting there unused.
4. Deeper Web Integration
Marketers were integrating their sites with the social web before Facebook introduced its suite of social plugins in 2010 — well, sort of. To this day, most sites have a marginal connection at best. One site may have an icon suggesting that visitors follow them on Twitter, while another may encourage readers to click a button and share their blog posts on Facebook. Integration goes much deeper, and we could start seeing those depths explored more extensively in 2013. Tighter integration not only offers greater reach, but a more engaging experience for the user.
There are numerous ways to incorporate a social component into your website. From comment functionality to streams of live updates, this activity will likely increase in 2013 and the years that follow.
5. Niche-based Networking
It’s fairly easy to place all social networks in the same category, but just about every platform has something that makes it at least a little unique. And distinguishing one social outlet from the next is getting much easier. Pinterest, for instance, stands out because unlike the Facebooks, Twitters, and LinkedIns of the world, its entire presence is based on a visual experience. Image-sharing application Instagram offers a similar experience, but one that is entirely different from what Pinterest brings to the table.
The niche aspect has provided a way for newcomers to not only survive, but thrive in a market dominated by seemingly untouchable giants. For brands, it offers a way to target marketing strategies and stand out in social venues that are considerably less crowded than the major arenas.
Social media took some huge steps forwards in 2012. In the eyes of the business community, it evolved from a tool with a lot of potential, to one of must-have value. Brands that had been avoiding it for one reason or another finally made the jump, while several more started considering how this vibrate channel can be added to their existing mix. If it’s one thing we can count on for 2013, it’s social media growing in importance and reminding the world why it is here for the long haul.