Five social media trends that offer new opportunities by Prohibition’s Chris Norton

2014 is set to be a watershed year for social media, as the biggest brands continue to up-skill and internalise processes, while previously outsourced social media functions like community management and influencer engagement become commoditised. That means agencies more than ever will have to “add value” and provide deep strategic counsel for their clients in order to maintain their place on the roster.

So, what are the big opportunities for agencies when it comes to social media in 2014?

Here are five trends that will shape the social web in 2014, and keep your agency on the roster.

1) Content marketing becomes the marketing

Google’s relentless algorithm changes are placing increasing emphasis on quality, original content. Throughout 2014 we will see less and less impact gained from curated content, and a greater onus on original, high-quality content. It’s going to be a lively market too, as PR, advertising and SEO agencies continue to fight to claim the market as their own. Brands of all kinds will increasingly view themselves as publishers, and perceiving a brand as being too boring for content marketing is no excuse – agencies demonstrating creativity and lateral thinking, even for the driest of brands – will win the day.

2) Data is in, but the right kind of data

The last few years have seen an increasing emphasis on data and reporting, but 2014 will see low-level reporting on its way out, with a new focus on sophisticated data and analytics that demonstrate genuine business value. That means a further shift away from “counting” metrics – for example, how big a brand community has grown – in favour of a clear ability to demonstrate the fundamental value that social media can bring. And yes, that probably means your team undertaking Google Analytics Qualifications.

3) Real-time marketing

Social media means that brands can (and indeed have to) respond to the news agenda faster than ever before. So that means bypassing traditional approval channels, sidestepping compliance and making a judgement call on the spur of the moment. Oreo is the master of this, with its now-famous, "you can still dunk in the dark" ad that appeared minutes after the Super Bowl power cut. However, we’ll see brands of all kinds – whether it’s B2B or B2C – expecting their agencies to develop reactive, razor-sharp responses to what’s going on in the wider world, and this will increasingly form a major part of their broader marketing mix.

4) Smart communities

Brands have been building online communities for years, and are now starting to take that community management role back in-house from agencies. However, the real opportunity for agencies is to take a more strategic approach to community management, and look at ways of using brand communities in unusual or unique ways. That means a shift in power back towards the fans, with fans themselves now firmly back in control of a brand’s destiny. Those that get it right will find interesting, creative and exciting ways to empower their fans to tell their brand story, resulting in a truly authentic word of mouth.

5) Facebook black belts

Despite mutterings from every quarter, Facebook will not decline – at least not in the next 12 months – it will remain a crucial part of the social media mix. However, the continued choking of brand content to force advertising spend means that agencies will have to up-skill when it comes to planning media campaigns around existing Facebook content. For those that get it right – that means super-targeted messaging resulting in real business value, and for those who get it wrong – that means ever-diminishing returns from content and a wasted budget.

Chris Norton, managing director, Prohibition

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