As usual predictions for 2014 abound. Rather than add to the melee with only our voice, we asked some of the most influential movers and shakers in digital to tell us what they thought would be big this year. Interestingly, even though we asked for opinions individually, the feedback revealed a consensus of views.

So here we have it, SIX predictions sourced from the leading digital authorities in the UK…

1.     Social media everywhere!

The importance of social will move up the management ladder and across divisions and functionality. Partly because the discipline is maturing, but also because of its ubiquity: mobile, tablet, wearable, integrated, and frankly, in every corner of our working and personal lives.

Follow Catriona on Twitter

“You’re going to see an influx of senior business folk appearing on social media platforms as their organisations will demand it.” @RichardNAtDell

“Social media will increasingly be owned by the CRM department: too much rich data to be ignored. The need to build ongoing relationships (as opposed to the still prevalent campaign mentality), the integration of ‘traditional’ loyalty programmes into social (or vice versa) will continue to drive this trend.” @tomhux

“The worldwide proliferation of more and more usable and engaging social media on mobile devices means that brands need to engage social-thinking!” @catrionacampbel

“Instant messengers will try and go to desktop too (become truly cross device) and create more social networks with smaller tribes.” @dannydenhard

“As social and digital increases in complexity, there is going to be a greater need for expertise to help simplify and hold the integrated elements accountable. No easy task, but one that demands real expertise embedded in marketing as well as digital. My hope is that it sees the end of the social media guru and the rise of the professional who can pull the strings of communications together across devices, technologies and people.” @katyhowell

2.     Pay to play in social media

Well we definitely saw this coming – brands are going to have to pay to reach their audiences through social. With the major platforms having secured IPO the focus is not only on growing users but in generating revenues. And tapping brands for revenues is a tried and trusting model. The consequence is that you cannot be serious about social media unless you include social advertising. 

Follow Danny on Twitter

“We will see a sea-change in ad formats – going from what we have now to more native ads, featuring integrated social media.” @catrionacampbel

“The line between organic, earned and paid media on social will merge even closer.” @dannydenhard

“Users rebel against deceptive native ads.” @velocitytweeets

“Paying for the customer relationship will force brands to consider the value and accountability of social. Brilliant! This year companies will move to more accurate performance measurement and a focus on ensuring social delivers value at every stage.” @katyhowell

“People will (hopefully) get better at targeting, improving results from & user experiences with promoted posts.” @RichardNAtDell

 3.     Sophisticated social media apps

Social integrated apps launched last year tended towards basic functionality (likes, tweet streams, etc). This year we will see better blending between app functionality and social connectivity, as companies (and platforms) endeavour to keep user attention.

Follow Doug on Twitter

“I also suspect that Zeebox and similar businesses mashing up social into apps to make their offerings more engaging will happen more and more.” @catrionacampbel

“Native browsing – social media companies will attempt to keep users on their apps and properties and stop users leaving.” @dannydenhard

4.     Content marketing – the big deal for 2014

All the research at the end of last year suggests that marketers know that content is crucial. And without a doubt we will see a proliferation of videos, images, white papers, news stories, vines, etc. But what is going to be hot when it comes to content – well that is still up for grabs!

Follow Katy on Twitter

“Video is going to be even bigger as the content created and platforms hosting it continue to improve.” @RichardNAtDell

“Content consumption will stay on social platforms and not be pushed to branded destinations, and more apps will be made to ensure quality content stays in newsfeeds.” @dannydenhard

“Demand for trusted news – the demand for the first story will probably be replaced by the reliance and quality of the story shared.” @dannydenhard

“Digital and social convergence will continue: traditional brand to peer websites and display advertising will continue to fall by the wayside. User generated, dynamic website and display advertising content will pre-dominate. Social content will be aggregated, curated and published into websites and display ads.” @tomhux

“Content production will have to work hand in hand with real-time community management. It will no longer be enough to plan social content across the customer journey, map measures and optimise. This year there will be a greater need to create content from posts to video on the fly: following trends, spikes in conversation and the zeitgeist.” @Katyhowell

5.     Audiences won’t settle on one social network

Looking for the most popular platform will no longer be the priority. Brands will follow customer behaviours and understand how customers drift between networks. The result is that this year companies will focus on being flexible and creating touchpoints with specific behaviour goals across the multitude of social platforms. 

Follow Richard on Twitter

“Tumblr will have a second coming.” @dannydenhard

“Google+ will be a forced yet desired platform global companies will have to leverage and target.” @dannydenhard

“Social networks such as Soundcloud, Slideshare and LinkedIn will all be leveraged more by brands and become core destinations to share quality content with very tailored audience(s).” @dannydenhard

“Facebook starts its slide. LinkedIn takes off. Google+ gets stronger.” @velocitytweeets

“Social activity will be increasingly network agnostic – the rise of the ‘we go where our consumers are’ will accelerate. Brands are finally questioning the ‘build it and they will come’ traditional approach to media planning and campaign activation. Platforms like EngageSciences are enabling brands to create interactions and campaigns that can be activated across multiple networks at the push of a button. From Facebook and Twitter to website and Google+, Kik and Instagram: the content or campaign needs to be where the consumers are…” @tomhux

6.     Influence and reputation will matter more

With so much chatter in the networks audiences are looking for those networkers that are highly connected and influential. Fingers have been publically burnt for not checking the credibility of sources and increasingly active networkers will turn to those with proven authority. Social influencers will move centre stage.

Follow Tom on Twitter

“The influencer will evolve and amplification will become even more important.” @dannydenhard

“True Social Media Influencers will start to enjoy more benefits of their online celebrity as businesses get better at identifying who they are.” @RichardNAtDell

And one more…

The prediction that we hope doesn’t come true!

“Someone will coin more buzzwords that we all secretly hate but somehow can’t stop using!” @tomhux

Voila! There you have it; top social media recommendations from some leading figures in the industry. Let’s check in at the end of the year and see if they happen!

With special thanks to Richard Nicholson, Dell: @RichardNAtDell, Tom Huxtable, Engage Sciences: @tomhux, Doug Kessler, Velocity Partners: @velocitytweeets, Danny Denhard, Traffic Optimiser: @dannydenhard and Catriona Campbell, Seren: @catrionacampbel for sharing their predictions!

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