A shift in consumer relationships is driving businesses to change their mindsets, embrace a number of social media platforms, and interact with consumers where they are. But just where is all this social change leading?
1. The Rise of Google+
To many social media fans, Google+ makes more sense than Facebook, because it allows you to separate contacts into groups, or “Circles,” and then choose what you share with each.
Google+ also makes finding information easier, with a feed tool called “Sparks.” Tell Google+ your interests, and Sparks will deliver appropriate articles, blog posts and videos, which you can then easily share with the right Circles.
Google recently began a long-awaited move to combine search with personal content from Google+. This means blog posts, articles, recipes and photos by people or businesses in your circles will begin to show up in the new “Search Plus Your World” results. For example, if you search for “planting tomatoes,” your results might include a blog post written by your favorite gardening expert, a photo taken by your mom, and a cooking demo video by a famous chef–if they’ve been previously shared with you or are labeled “public.”
For marketers who are active on Google+, the opportunities are clear. First, the more content a brand has on Google+, the more potential it has to appear in search results–particularly for any posts sent to “public.” In addition, with Google+ search features, a social media pro can easily find new prospects, host “Hangouts” (video group chats) and interact with current and potential customers.
While it’s too early to say whether Google+ will significantly affect Facebook’s reach, it looks like it will give it a run for its money–which Google has plenty of.
2. Location, Location, Location
Location-based marketing is where social and mobile collide. With people tethered to their smartphones like they’re lifelines, mobile use is skyrocketing. Product and services searches are no longer originating from the comfort of home, but from city sidewalks and on mass transit. That’s why businesses need to be able to target their audience and find customers wherever they happen to be.
Apps like Foursquare, Gowalla (recently acquired by Facebook), Loopt and Yelp allow users to find info, read reviews, find their friends and share their locations, so friends can find them. Even more important, these services help build brand loyalty by rewarding users for checking in with your business in a friendly, competitive way.
While these services have not yet become mainstream, their influence is growing. In fact, NBC and Foursquare recently announced a joint effort to map, in real time, the comings and goings of the GOP candidates for the 2012 presidential election. Check-ins by candidates and political reporters will be visible online, so visitors can track the action. With all the attention it’s garnering, smart social media mavens will do their homework and include location-based marketing in their plans.
3. Hospitals and Healthcare Go Social
In the face of dealing with disasters and emergencies, more hospitals are using social media in innovative ways. Some use blogs and Facebook pages to engage with the community. Others post wait times through their RSS feeds or Twitter, to route patients to the closest healthcare facility with the shortest wait.
In addition, GPS-based location services, like Foursquare and Loopt, allow emergency responders to broadcast their locations. The American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) each have a number of Twitter handles for emergency situations, and provide safety tips, and updates on transportation, weather and emergencies, through ties with other national, state and regional agencies.
4. It’s All About Influence
With smartphones, the number of people with Internet at their fingertips is growing rapidly, fueling the rise of social media. As an avenue for opinion, social media has led to a plethora of user reviews and opinion sharing by ordinary consumers, some of whom are gaining in influence, a noticeable trend in social media.
You don’t have to be a celebrity to be followed, to respond to a tweet, to share a good (or bad) experience with a local business, or to write a movie review. You just have to be active and provide content for an interested community. In time–and with consistent effective messaging–anyone can become an authority with a big following. Klout seems to have survived a post-algorithm blowout, and is still considered one of the top measures of influence.
5. Closing in on the Competition
Competitive interaction through games and activities drives location-based social media. This trend will continue to evolve with badges, points, rewards and higher levels of participation. You can expect a frenzy of social app development for mobile devices.
6. Sharing is Social
Word of mouth has always been the best marketing. On the social networks, the parallel would be social sharing. Smart marketers are adding sharing options to their content, so visitors can broadcast to their friends and family. Expect to see more social sharing options on web sites.
Social integration through television became popular with the singing competition “American Idol.” Viewers were asked to vote through their mobile devices, to advance their favorite contestant. “The X Factor,” “Top Chef,” and other competition shows also allow voting through Facebook, Twitter or texting.
Another leading social networking site is GetGlue, which encourages users to check in and share what they are watching, listening to or reading with friends. Based on their interactions and recommendations, GetGlue users can earn exclusive stickers, discounts and other rewards from GetGlue partners.
Photo credit: midiamoda
This article was submitted by the University of San Francisco’s online program, which offers an online masters certificate in internet marketing, including advanced social media marketing training. For more information on the courses offered please visit http://www.usanfranonline.com.