In early 2013, Ernst & Young released a report on social media trends in India based on a survey of 48 senior professionals who were responsible for managing the social media presence for their respective organizations. Nearly 42% of social media-savvy organizations said that they spent about 1-5% of their marketing budget on social media. About 75% of the respondents had their social media budgets below INR 10 million while about 25% of the organizations had social media budgets exceeding INR 20 million. Ninety six per cent of the respondents used social media to build communities and advocates and nearly 50% of the respondents said that they have not measured their revenues from social media efforts. Facebook was the unanimous leader in social media efforts of Indian companies.
In the world of digital media and social media, a year is a long time. While the survey gave a good perspective on the thinking of Indian companies, the intervening 12 months have seen a lot of changes. Here are the main trends as we see them:
SEO is more than just keywords
From September 2013, Google stopped providing all keyword information to site owners by moving all searches to HTTPS by default and ensuring that all search details are encrypted. When Google first initiated this in October 2011, it was only for logged-in Google users and impacted only about 10% of the searches. Now that all organic search data is hidden, the only source of keyword data access is in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Speculation is that Google did this to either prevent NSA from getting access to private information or to drive more ad sales (pay for ads if you want access to keyword data). Whatever the reasons, the job of marketers just got a bit tough.
Takeaway: SEO is not just about doing well on your users’ keywords anymore. It’s about consistent, great quality content along with business outcome focused metrics. Leverage PPC of Google or Bing / Yahoo keyword data if you still want access to keywords.
Social media advertising is part of the experience
Recently, Pinterest launched promoted pins and Facebook-owned Instagram launched sponsored photos. Facebook is also charging a premium to embed advertisements in the exact format of a newsfeed story, thus aiming for a higher engagement rate. Social media advertising is moving to be non-intrusive, engaging and an integral part of the experience to ensure that the audience is not put off by them.
Takeaway: Gone are the days of creating an ad in a few minutes. Marketers now need to work on every single ad by creating visually appealing creative ads that are tailored to the specific social network.
Mobile usage up, but value not quantified yet
It is estimated that nearly 189 million Facebook users are mobile-only. Thirty per cent of all Facebook ad revenues are from mobile ads. Given the growth of smartphone and tablet users globally, it is a significant trend that mobile devices are going to be the medium of choice for a large population. While no marketer wants to miss out on reaching this huge user base, they are grappling with estimating the ROI on mobile ad spends. One problem could be that the ability to complete the full cycle of ad view, ad click, product view, purchase is still not available across the world. With the ability to make payments from the mobile becoming more prevalent in the coming years, this is sure to help the growth of mobile advertising.
Takeaway: As a large marketer, it is imperative to leverage mobile advertising, if only for the learning. As a small marketer / startup, it might not be worthwhile to spend on mobile ads for a few more months.
Facebook is not the only go-to network
From the beginning of 2013 various global surveys show that Facebook has lost its number one position as the social network of choice among teens. Twitter has risen to the top position, with Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram tied at the second spot. Facebook fatigue has resulted in niche networks such as Path creating a place to share with close family and friends with each user having a limit of 150 friends. Google Plus is now the second largest social network with more than 350 million users. With Google having tied the search engine ranking algorithm to Google Plus activity and introducing YouTube comments only as a logged in user, engagement levels are bound to go up rapidly.
Takeaway: Marketers now cannot afford to take the easy route and stay just on Facebook. There is a need to create and manage digital presence on Facebook and Google in addition to some of the handpicked smaller networks that are home to your audience.
Content marketing rules
There are pin-boards such as Pinterest; then there are image sharing sites such as Instagram; this was followed by micro video sites such as Vine. But the one strategy that has endured is content marketing. LinkedIn now boasts of more than 240 million users and with its introduction of Influencer series, it is moving from being a professional network to the world’s largest curated content source for working professionals. In addition, blogging networks such as Tumblr, Medium and even the newly-introduced Quora blogs are all filling different needs for different audience. There are also private blogs maintained by businesses on their own sites.
Takeaway: Invest in professional bloggers or at least leverage connections to get good quality and equally important, regular content created on the platforms that matter to you. If you are in B2B sales, LinkedIn is mandatory to position your company and to generate leads.
As a digital marketer, what other trends or patterns have you seen? How have you calibrated your strategies based on these trends? Tell us in the comments below.