It’s no surprise that with the New Year comes even more opportunities for brands to grow in the digital space. To get a better understanding of what’s to be expected this year, I sat down with Mom it Forward, a leading social media community and worldwide network dedicated to enhancing the lives of women, their families, and the communities in which they live.
[Photo Credit: Flickr User, mkhmarketing]
Alyson Campbell (AC): With the ever-changing social environment, what are some of the main shifts you’ve seen in the space in the last year?
Mom it Forward (MIF): Facebook’s ever changing algorithms have caused frustration for many organizations. While still a popular platform, brands are more limited when trying to reach customers, consumers, and communities. Because of that, brands are finding it easier to connect with their consumers in spaces such as Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram, which do not limit or dictate who your post will reach. Facebook is still a useful tool, as it’s a space so many consumers are comfortable with, but it’s proving to be less of a focus for future marketing research.
As a result of this and the grand adoption of platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, brands are making the shift to image-driven spaces. Ultimately, this is another issue with Facebook (where image sharing can actually prevent your posts from getting the reach brands desire), but it also provides the perfect equation for video and image-based platforms to become more popular and more important.
AC: In your opinion, what are the key trends we’ll be seeing in social media/online in 2014?
MIF: While the trends for brands and organizations to create solid social strategies has been evident for several years, experts tend to think (and we agree), that 2014 recognizes the necessity (not luxury) of social marketing for long-term success (big or small).
Socially, the biggest trends being forecasted revolve around video (YouTube) and Google+.
Google+ has been a dark horse in the space for the last couple of years, but it is quickly sneaking out of the shadows as social media professionals begin to recognize the power of Google+ being part of Google —the same people that house your personal info (Gmail), geo-coordinates (Google Maps), and have the SEO upper-hand, among other things. Google+ and YouTube’s strong tie make them a dynamic duo and platforms that should be considered strongly in 2014.
Additionally, and on the topic of video, because the gradual shift toward images and video has already been in the works, 2014 will most certainly be the year of such. Visual content will prove to be an even more critical piece of any social, marketing, or content strategy. Additionally, the quick and painless micro-video options via cell phones to Facebook, Instagram video and Vine are making consumers more comfortable with both consuming content and producing their own video clips to share or be shared.
AC: What should brands be thinking about as they’re approaching blog-based communities for opportunities?
Blogger networks are powerful for brands to tap into for many reasons:
- The people who subscribe to a blogger network are typically already vetted by the network itself or have relationships with the managers, making the brand’s job easier in attracting influential, professional, and quality bloggers to promote your products, services, and/or causes.
- Bloggers in these communities are typically social media powerhouses and encompass a wide array of blogging niches and backgrounds, making it easy for a brand to mandate specific and different criteria depending on the campaign and generate ROI from just the right people.
- The networks handle the sourcing, vetting, communication management, FTC and campaign requirement compliance, contracting, payment and taxes with bloggers, making a brands’ job easier.
- Blogger networks typically offer a cadre of campaign opportunities and services, allowing brands to get creative and utilize them in many capacities.
- Most offer both strategic consulting as well as execution, giving brands options as to how to best use the networks.
As brands approach blogger networks, they should look for communities with a proven track record in working with and producing results for brands. Asking for a client-facing website, sales capabilities/sponsorship deck, and hopping on a call to get a feel for the community is always a great way to start when researching who is a great fit for you. Also, many communities have sales representatives who are willing to come into your office or conference/video call to get to know you as well. Take advantage of that opportunity when possible.
AC: Why are more bloggers looking at paid models for their work versus strictly editorial?
MIF: Bloggers that seek opportunities and partnerships with brands often do so in the position of providing sponsored content or display advertising. Just as a spot in a newspaper or a radio ad would not be given out for free, nor would space on a blog. Bloggers put a great deal of thought, time, and effort into crafting each message (branded/sponsored or not) into something their audience would want to consume. They also carefully build their audience and thus their traffic to ensure your sponsored content gets the most eyeballs (reach, impressions) possible. Thoughtful content and attention to reach ensures not only that you get the impressions you’re after, but also that you get the most organic representation possible from an audience that truly trusts the voice from which it’s being received.
AC: Why is it beneficial for brands to consider paid partnerships?
MIF: According to a 2009 study by BlogHer, 42 million US women participate in some form of social media. A 2012 Needham Insights study showed that women are review loyal, not necessarily brand loyal and that 66% trust reviews from women they do not know. In that same study, it pointed out that 52% of women spend their time in online activity. Finally, in a white paper Mom It Forward Media and 360 Public Relations produced, we found that 93% of moms are influenced to some extent by other moms’ recommendations.
These combined studies and more show that women are online and trust other women, even those they have never met. Brands that engage influencers via social media and blogs, even in a paid capacity, are able to generate buzz about their product, services and causes in way that is sure to influence that bloggers’ audience.