For many of us, it’s hard to believe that 2013 is almost over. It was a big year for social media, as Twitter went public, Snapchat rejected a $3B offer from Facebook and the emergence of mobile as a primary device caused advertisers to scramble to reach their target audiences via social networks on mobile devices. I had a chance to sit down with Ashley Coombe, the Social Media Strategist for All Inclusive Marketing (a full-service marketing agency) to discuss what changes social media marketers experiences in 2014, and what they need to know about social media – especially Facebook – in 2014.
As Coombe said, “2013 was the year Social Media Managers earned legitimacy in the business arena. Business owners began to realize that they could no longer hire their friend’s daughter to do their social media just because she had a lot of friends on Facebook. Funny cat memes and quotes with pretty backgrounds would no longer suffice.” Ultimately, in 2013 social media managers proved they needed to be more creative and relational than before.
2013 also challenged these strategists when Facebook rolled out Timelines in place of pages while yet offering more job security than ever before. Coombe explained that “Businesses were invited to tell their stories, rather than make announcements. They had the opportunity to highlight important moments- and to create a narrative. Timelines made businesses more accessible to their audience.” However, while she said that “many businesses embraced this change and fashioned name for themselves by showing the human side of their business, some business owners were afraid of what it might do to their reputation to have customer service issues broadcast to all of their followers. This gave social media managers the opportunity to be responsible for walking them through understanding these changes.”
2013 was also the year that sorted the professional social media managers from the rookies. Coombe explained how many companies earned notoriety for “newsjacking,” or using a current event to promote their brand. While some succeeded beautifully (one great example is Charmin, which tweeted pictures of individuals in fancy clothes trailing toilet paper from their shoes during the Academy Awards, while led to a massive gain in following), others failed epically. For example, Urban Outfitters tried to use the announcement of Hurricane Sandy to promote one of their sales. In another example, Celeb Boutique tweeted with the word “Aurora” when was trending, thinking that it was about Aurora brand dresses, when it was actually about the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. The brand did apologize, but earned a reputation for not paying attention to current events.
Additionally, many businesses relied heavily on social media automation during 2013. Though this practice does save time and advertising dollars, Coombe says it can cause more trouble than it’s worth. Coombe noted that her favorite example demonstrating this as a poor practice was “when Pace Picante had software “favorite” every tweet that included their name. You can imagine the kind of fun Twitter users had with this.” She added that “During the Boston Marathon tragedy and Sandy Hook shooting, many social media managers were scrambling to delete auto posts that were appearing on Facebook. Posts promoting running shoes or guns were suddenly offensive and insensitive.” Ideally, in 2014, social media managers will rely less on automation and more on personal connection on social media.
While very few social media managers made epic mistakes in 2013, it was a critical year for growth in this industry. As Coombe said, “In 2013, we learned as social media managers to help our clients cultivate a voice, to help them appear human on social media. We helped them be creative, helpful, informative, and share their story.” As we approach 2014, she explains it will absolutely critical for social media mangers to develop your client’s voice – especially with Facebook advertising. She advises to “Use this voice in your client’s ads so you can reach the brand advocates that will help you spread your message. Use a voice so that your audience recognizes your brand.” Coombe explains that Facebook did an excellent job of enticing marketers with the idea that social media is a way to advertise for free – then once the social network got social media mangers got hooked it “jerked the rug out from under us when we saw posts were no longer reaching our audiences. As Social Media Managers, we are forced into a paradigm shift: in order to get the most out of Facebook, we have to pay.” To that extent, in 2014 social media mangers will need to become well versed in ad spend, best practices with Facebook ads, and educate themselves on how to engage the specific audience of each of their clients. Coombe further explains that “In order to get the most for every dollar spent, ads must invite engagement rather than just announcing a message. It will be our job to inform clients of these changes, helping to reframe their view of social media as free advertising.” Unfortunately, Facebook users are already beginning to tune out the messages from businesses and developing ad blindness, ignoring any posts that have the word “sponsored” attached to them.
This leads Coombe to a final piece of advice for social media managers in 2014: Focus on relationships. She advises that social media managers need to have a second paradigm shift, and to look at Facebook not platform to force their client’s message onto consumers, but a way to cultivate relationships. “Facebook will be a place that social media managers can draw, engage and communicate with individuals. These relationships will help to create a small army of brand evangelists or brand advocates that will organically spread the client’s message. This strategy will be particularly essential for clients who have a smaller ad budgets; relationships via social media will become key,” Coombe explains. She suggests using your client’s Facebook Timeline to focus on your audience instead of reading like a press release by taking the time to learn the problem that your client’s company resolves and offer solutions to these issues through education or services. While many social media managers focused on “EdgeRank” in 2013, it will be all about relationships and engagement in the new year. Instead of focusing on gimmicks to “like” and “share” posts to game the system, it’s critical to think about ways to establish real trust and communicate with your customers.
This approach to Facebook – and social media as a whole – in the new year will not only set professional social media managers apart from the rookies, but also help your client’s actually see an ROI…which is what marketing is really all about.