Google+ still searching for relevance

The five emerging social media trends for 2014 indicate this could be a key year for Google+ to garner mainstream attention. As someone who works in social media marketing on a daily basis, I’m skeptical. But first, the facts:

In March, a study by eMarketer found that Google+ has the second-highest number of account holders, behind Facebook.

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But simply having an account doesn’t mean users are actively using the social networking site. In October, Google reported a 58 percent jump in users, with 300 million monthly active users, up from 190 million in May.

Frederic Gonzalo, a fellow skeptic, writes: “An active user is considered someone who accessed its account during the past month. Knowing how Google has integrated its Youtube, Gmail and other accounts under a single password and platform that includes Google+, allow me to be doubtful about the true level of ‘activity’ users are having.” I agree – Google+ is likely padding its popularity thanks to its connections with actually popular sites.

In its 2013 State of Social Media Report, Pew Research doesn’t include Google+ among the social network use it examines. Instead, Pew focuses on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

I promote our news content on social networks, including Facebook, Twitter and Google+. I see the most success on Facebook, where we get the majority of our referral traffic. We have more than 29,000 fans. On Twitter, we see moderate success, with our more than 4,000 followers. But on Google+, we see almost no engagement and no referrals, partially because we only have 248 “likes.”

Maybe this will be the year for 2014, which means I need to figure out how to make sure my company stays relevant on the network. But how do you go about building a following on a network it doesn’t seem like many people use? Does anybody have suggestions on how to build a Google+ following?

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A ‘Snap’ look at the future of marketing

acura-sent-100-followers-a-snapchatSocial Media Today’s top 5 trends to watch in 2014 include the introduction of Snapchat marketing.

Snapchat is a mobile app that allows users to send photos and videos to other users, which are only visible for up to 10 seconds before self-destructing. Pew Research examined Snapchat for the first time in October 2013, and found that 9 percent of cellphone owners use the app. Pew Research found the app is primarily used by a younger crowd — 26 percent of cellphone owners ages 18-29 use the app, while less than 5 percent of older cellphone owners use the app.

Snapchat use

Source: Pew Research

Late in 2013, brands began picking up on Snapchat’s marketing potential. Taco Bell was one of the first adopters, using Snapchat to introduce its beefy crunch burrito.

The app’s new Stories feature, which lets photos and videos linger for 24 hours, provides more opportunity for brands to market themselves. Todd Wasserman at Mashable wrote, “Eventually, Snapchat could charge brands for the ability to create Stories or — more likely — to promote those Stories beyond a brand’s fan base.”

With any emerging media, there are innovative ways for brands to capitalize on the potential. When it comes to Snapchat, however, the only brands that will have success are those that have young target audiences.

What ways can you think of to use Snapchat for marketing?

Facebook facing facts: Twitter is trending

Social media is a big part of teenagers’ lives; Pew Research indicates that 95 percent of teens use the Internet, and 81 percent use social networking sites.

But while Facebook has been popular for the past six or seven years, it is slowly losing ground to newer networks like Twitter.

Image from Business Insider/Huffington Post

Image from Business Insider/Huffington Post

The graphic above represents what is likely to be an ongoing trend. Twitter is becoming more popular than Facebook. Instagram is also quickly gaining steam among teen users.

One reason for the slide away from Facebook is the prevalence of older adults on the social network. Pew Research indicates that 60 percent of Internet users 50-64 use Facebook, and 45 percent of Internet users older than 65 use the site. For comparison, less than 10 percent of adult Internet users older than 50 use Twitter, and even fewer use Instagram.

Most teens indicated they prefer sites that their parents, grandparents and other relatives aren’t using. A 19-year-old focus group participant said, “Yeah, that’s why we go on Twitter and Instagram [instead of Facebook]. My mom doesn’t have that.”

I can’t argue with that rationale; when I was in high school and college, there were probably things posted to Facebook that my parents would not have approved of.

Emerging media — a social media beast

Before we can talk about emerging media, first we have to understand what it is.

Emerging media encompasses the ever-evolving world of media in today’s Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) landscape. Advertisers, public relations professionals, marketers, communication specialists and brand executives are constantly adjusting to keep abreast of the changing way consumers are engaging with one another and the brands they purchase.

One of the biggest, constantly changing forms of emerging media is social media. Brian Solis and and Jesse Thomas developed the conversation prism to offer a detailed overview of the emerging world of social networks:

The Conversation Prism was developed by Brian Solis and  Jesse Thomas.

As you can see, there are hundreds of networks out there, but they don’t all have the popularity of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, etc. The challenge falls to IMC professionals to figure out which of these emerging social media networks is being used by their target audience.

Social media is the current king of the emerging media playground. Although social media has passed the novelty stage, it is still an emerging area for IMC. A study by Adobe found that most marketing professionals say social media marketing is what they are most concerned about for the next three years.

Based on that analysis, Social Media Today listed its annual top 5 social media trends to watch for in 2014. Predicted emerging social media trends for the upcoming year are:

  1. Facebook will decline, Twitter will gain popularity
  2. Snapchat marketing
  3. Google+ popularity
  4. Collaborative economy becomes mainstream
  5. Video, video, video

As with anything, these are just predictions, and anything is really possible. While these are the most likely areas to emerge over the next 12 months, social networks that we’re not even aware of yet could surprise us all.

I’ll go more in depth into each of these trends, and how marketers can capitalize on them, in future posts, so check back.