Although the report covered multiple topics and channels, what was apparent is that social media is still high on the agenda, as the State of Digital report also demonstrates. 

Running in parallel to this is the marketing buzzword of the moment: content. The topic consistently emerged, albeit across elements of personalisation, relevancy and engagement and, more often than not, social media was often seen to sit at the core of this.

Slim down, shape up.  

Quality of fans will matter more than quantity this year, as marketers look to find creative way to drive more relevant interactions with consumers. 

Susan Marshall, senior director of product marketing at ExactTarget, said that this year will see some significant changes in how brands and consumers use social media, which could prove to be quite a rude awakening for many marketers. 

Marshall is predicting that community curating with continue, with consumers limiting their friends on Facebook, hiding irrelevant content from their newsfeeds and clicking “unlike” or “unfollow” on brands that aren’t adding any value to their life.

To combat this happening, brands will need to think very carefully about what content they put out into the social media world, ensuring it is relevant and interesting to consumers. 

Employee involvement 

One contributor to the report, Marcus Nelson, says that brands will need to think long and hard about creating inspired content this year in an effort to try and get employees to share content via their personal profiles. 

Nelson stresses that there is a huge amount of intimacy, influence and trust that exists with personal social accounts, in comparison to faceless brand profiles, but says often, because of fear of saying the wrong thing, employees choose not to say or share anything related to their companies.

Having employees share content essentially turns them into brand advocates, and advocates that consumers can put a face to and trust. But in order to fix the current fear that many employees have, social media policies need to be created to act as a guide.

Marcus does warn however, that unless employees are regularly encouraged and rewarded for their efforts, and unless the content that is being created is authentic and worthy, then the chance of this sharing happening is slim to none. 

The move to continuous marketing 

In the report it is also highlighted how social media is requiring more time, money and staff than ever before as marketing moves from ‘campaign marketing’ to ‘continuous marketing’. 

Gone are the days where a brand would chose one channel (television or radio) and plan their campaigns for the year. Now, marketers are on a consistent and continual social media treadmill.

Each year another social media network pops up and currently there are more options than most people can keep track of, creating high levels of chaos for marketers and brands as they try to connect with consumers across the board. 

Another contributer, Jeff Bullas, stresses that social marketing is a big daily commitment, one that can’t just be outsourced to the current intern. Instead it is something that needs focused attention and serious investment, and above all, it needs creativity and inspiration. 

Social brand conversations 

ExactTarget also focuses on social engagment, a topic often at the front of marketers minds.

Chris Baumann and Iggy Pintado, recently put together an article on social media based on social brand conversations: The tone used on social media platforms and the content produced can literally make or break a brand’s presence, as we continuously see in the social space.

Baumann and Pintado both state that in 2013 it is essential for marketers who are using social platforms to carefully consider their brand’s presence. The messages and content that is placed online needs to be consistent and appropriate, targeting the right audience and putting out the right message. 

B2B social media 

The report also suggests that that an increasing number of B2B marketers will try to raise their social media game in the coming twelve months or so. 

While many marketers are still convinced that social media has no benefit in the B2B world, another contributor, Phil Szomszor, believes otherwise, saying that it helps add to the client relationship by building trust.

Szomszor is quick to point out that B2B success in social media is vastly different to other industries, but he says the key is creating relevant content that is both interesting and easily consumed by readers, like infographics or podcasts. 

Instagram and beyond

Finally, one of the report’s contributors, Mark Schaefer, emphasises hhis belief that the biggest social media trend of 2013 will be the emphasis on visual content, saying that if you are serious about social this year then you need to be thinking visual communication and you need to be thinking Instagram.

Instagram is a very powerful social tool for brands, allowing businesses to connect to consumers in a visual way that is far more personal than that which can be achieved through text.

Schaefer compares the voyeuristic nature of the social network to gossip magazines and reality television, and points to new research released by Social Habit, which shows the popularity of the mobile app is on the rise.

Social Habit found that 61% of those surveyed who had a Instagram profile had used it in the past 24 hours (this figure was only surpassed by Facebook) and 48% were using it more often than other platforms. A huge 83% had even used the social media network while at work. 

[Image credit: Rosaura Ochoa]