What’s On

#Flashback 2013: Bringing order in the social media chaos

Social media has grown year on year and 2013 was no different. However, with an array of investments, acquisitions, roll-out of new features making brands reconsider their marketing strategies, social media got more organised in the year. Digital Market Asia rounds up the top 10 trends that are not only defining the social media space but are also paving way for future growth.
#1: Mobile strategies come first: One of the biggest noticeable trends in the social media sphere is that of an increasing number of users logging in via mobile devices. More so, the percentage of mobile-only users is seeing a rise. Facebook had reported that 48 per cent of its daily active users only use mobile devices. Not surprisingly, 49 per cent of Facebook’s total revenues come from mobile ads. Thus, Facebook launched its autoplay video ads feature simultaneously on the web and mobile platforms. In another major development Tumblr launched its mobile-only native advertising feature. Twitter acquired MoPub, a mobile-focused advertising exchange, thusshowcasing its seriousness towards mobile advertising. LinkedIn too invested into making a mobile-friendly site which is being said to be better than its app version. Another big development came in when Nielsen reported that Instagram has an average monthly smartphone audience of 32 million, compared with Twitter’s 30.8 million. The challenge however remains in making the ads contextual, which is the most effective way of mobile advertising on social platforms.
#2: Content marketing becomes established: In 2013, brands started investing a lot more in content marketing. Remarkable content has the ability to aid brand amplification. Even B2B enterprises increased their spend on content marketing. A recent study by MarketingProfs demonstrated that 93 per cent B2B organisations now use content-based tactics for their marketing promotions and 73 per cent specified they now produce more content than the previous year. Social media companies are aiding this transformation by playing an active part in content curation, and not just personalisation. LinkedIn is the biggest example which has used this effectively. Yahoo-Starcom inked a deal to offer personalised video content created by brands to users. In another major development, appointment of leading news anchor Katie Couric as Yahoo’s Global Anchor shows how online content marketing will become as serious as mainstream. Soon, job titles such as Head of Content will become vied for.
#3: Social media gets symbiotic with mainline media: Social media has always called itself as a platform that is symbiotic, and not a competition to mainline media. In its efforts to be more of a collaborative and complementary platform, Twitter and Facebook have initiated features to integrate themselves into conversations on live television. Also, social media is largely becoming a discussion board, and a platform for dissemination of news or announcements of breaking news. This shows where the discussions are heated, and audience more involved; thus making brands realise where to place themselves efficiently.
#4: Native advertising rises: Estimates say that ad spend on the social platform is poised to reach over USD 10 billion by 2017. Interestingly, up to 40 per cent of those outlays will go towards native ads. Considering its high visual appeal and rich, relevant content placement, native ads are considered one of the best ways to connect with consumers, rather than the display banner ads. On Facebook, native ads in the News Feed generate 49 times higher click-through rates and a 54 per cent lower cost-per-click than traditional placements in the display advertising option on the right-rail sidebar. Tumblr made news when it released its Sponsored Blogs features, while LinkedIn too is making major investments in its native strategy. Pinterest recently piloted native ads – Promoted Pins on its platform. In-stream native ads look, feel, and function seamlessly across mobile and PC, which is precisely what brands want, as they seek to build cross-device campaigns.
#5: Images in messages: Twitter announced its decision to allow images in its direct messaging service and Facebook decided to add the direct messaging dimension to its photo and video share platform Instagram with Instagram Direct. These are touted as a new way to send photo and video messages to friends. Needless to say that in both platforms, the expected growth driver is mobile. Even on their handsets, users are not just connecting with Instagram and Twitter for messaging and photo or video sharing. The instant messaging aspect, provided the experience is as smooth and simple as it is for existing messaging apps, can make some serious difference to social platforms,as it would allow for more audiences engage on these platforms. At the same time, it can create place for advertising real estate that can be utilised without interfering with, or annoying, current users.
#6: Social media expands its influence: As social media surpassed the influence of traditional media in broad cultural arenas including news, politics, entertainment and even marketing, it also made headlines in the biggest financial stories of 2013. Most of them were with regards to social acquisitions and IPOs. The biggest newsmakers being Twitter’s IPO and Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr. Also, Pinterest’s buyout of Punchfork, a recipe-sharing website, marked its foray into acquisitions. Not just that, advertisers increasingly took an integrated cross-channel approach across social media and traditional channels. On the agency side too, there was heightened activity in terms of acquisitions of social media agencies as GroupM acquired ClickMedia in Vietnam and a majority stake in Vocanic, China’s BlueFocus acquired social media agency We Are Social. Besides, brands increasingly turned to social media to deploy customer service and support, thus speaking hugely of its rising influence.
#7: Investments in analytics increase: To give a clearer picture to brands about their impact and maintain an edge over competition, social media companies invested heavily in analytics in 2013. Not just Facebook, but nearly all of the other major social networks introduced and upgraded analytics features. Pinterest brought new analytics capabilities for verified businesses, thus enabling brands to measure pin views, clickthroughs and re-pin rates. Twitter acquired social TV analytics firm Bluefin Labs, besides building on its existing partnership with Nielsen to develop the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings. Its major analytics news was however the launch of its own free tool for users of its ad service which provides a graph showing a month’s worth of follows, unfollows and mentions, as well as how a post performed in terms of retweets, replied and how many times it was favourited. LinkedIn also joined the analytics race with a new suite of analytics tools.
#8: Social commerce sees growth: 2013 established how effective social media platforms can be towards commerce. As it is all about inspiration and product discovery, there was growth of visual-aided sites like Pinterest and Instagram. Though Pinterest’s reach is not as huge, its impact on e-commerce is outsized, accounting for nearly 23 per cent of global social-mediated e-commerce sales in the second quarter of 2013. Also Twitter, controlled 22 per cent share in the same. These platforms behaved more like digital catalogues or even virtual malls where shoppers can not just browse but also connect with people interested in the same products and brands. Retargeted advertising on such platforms witnessed growth. Twitter’s deal with American Express enabled users to pay for items via the social platform, thus taking browsing to the next level – purchasing, on social media. The next big thing to watch out for will be mobile commerce via social networks.
#9: Videos ring in brand amplification: Social media put greater impetus on video, touting it to be one of the most important and engaging factors for brand amplification. Twitter launched Vine, Facebook and Instagram introduced autoplay ads. As brands humanised themselves, aided heavily by social media, they saw greater recall and trust. The impact of videos not just garnered higher likes and followers, but also converted sales for most brands. (Click here for the complete analysis of trends in online video advertising – 2013)
#10: Social media combats its darker side: Social media also unleashed its ‘anti-social’ side, and faced criticism because of its overly-open platform, with little or no control of content management. The campaign #FBRape gained momentum thus forcing social media companies to play an active role in content curation, in an attempt to control cyber-trolling and age-sensitive content. A baby step in this direction was taken by Twitter as it introduced a filter to verify ages of users if they wish to follow alcohol brands.