What do you think were the most commonly used words online in 2013? A quick office poll proffered guesses of ‘twerking’ (placed at a respectable 13) and ‘hashtag’ (an impressive third place) – but the winner revealed was ‘404’, the near-universal numeric code for failure on the internet. Top twenty ditties like ‘fail’, ‘@Pontifex’, ‘Nano’, ‘The Cloud’ and ‘surveillance’ are a clear mirror of our online activity; our habits and preoccupations.
2013 was full of surprises (I refer once more to @Pontifex, the Pope’s Twitter handle) – read on for our predictions in 2014.
The evolution of social media powers on at breakneck speed, spawning a seething hub of comment from marketing analysts, keen to anticipate the next move from the tech community and consumers. Well-publicised Twitter #fail’s by the likes of British Airways have highlighted how mis-managing social media customer service can result in gleeful digital brand-bashing overnight.
A lot of UK brands, however, are getting it right. With 80,000 followers, @UKTesco (now @Tesco) have their work cut out – though research shows they answered 65% of user questions in an average of 81 minutes in Q1 this year. The authors of this research, social analytics experts, Socialbakers, placed @VodafoneUK and @O2 second and third in their global gauge – a great result for UK customer service. *
Our predictions for 2014:
- Greater investment by brands in social media customer service with more attention paid to CRM integration. A focus on faster response times and utilisation of support ticket systems such as Zendesk to optimise process efficiency.
- Peer-to-peer recommendations will continue to be trusted more than brands, though due to proliferation, testimonials and reviews on websites will be treated increasingly with a pinch of salt.
- Ongoing speculation about Twitter’s true market value and how brands can demonstrate ROI from social media marketing.
- Further attempts by major brands to dodge the watchful gaze of the Advertising Standards Authority and engage in more celebrity-led product endorsements on social media.
- Even the most unexpected brands will have a social media presence.
- Increased focus on B2B lead generation on LinkedIn.
- Social media communications extending to non-marketing related departments in an effort to tell a wider, unified brand “story” and further peer and community engagement.
Big Data, Smart Data, call it what you will – but be sure to know how to manage for the benefit of your business and customers. Big data is basically extensive data lists with a lot of detail, so you can imagine the opportunities available to those who optimise its potential.
Our predictions for 2014:
- A handful of more high-profile data breaches reported by email providers/banks/government departments.
- Vertiginous rise in consumer concerns about data privacy and controls. Marketing initiatives such as Tescos facial recognition ad targeting will be met with increasing opposition from privacy campaigners and an attendant barrage of Minority Report analogies.
- Further confusion for more modest organisations on how to handle data. Brands caught in a paranoid frenzy, driven by data management “solution” providers; brands convinced they are missing out on something enormous by not spending a small fortune on the proposed solution. Read more about preventing data breaches.
Have you future-proofed your smart data? Are your thought showers designed to engage digital natives? Yep, we are sick of unnecessary jargon too. More than ever, brands must show authenticity and transparency to win consumer trust – if not used appropriately, jargon alienates and excludes. Conversations with your prospects and community should be inclusive and in the language that they can relate to. Any fluff simply distracts from what you really do and the true value and benefits of your brand.
Our prediction for 2014:
- Scaled-down marketing communications that eschew faux-matey or jargon-drenched copy in favour of honest, direct, benefit-led, personalised (where possible) messages.
You can bet that 2014 will throw up as many challenges and surprises as 2013. Perhaps Google Plus will finally truly infiltrate the UK’s social psyche? Perhaps Twitter’s floatation will sink? We will see.
Above all else, our advice on how to stay on top in 2014 would be, be there for your customers – I have lost count of the amount of conferences I have been to where the brand professes to have the customer “at the heart” of everything they do – and whether or not this is demonstrable in reality, this ethos is spot on. Without your customers, your business is nothing.
Modern digital culture may engender more demanding, time-orientated customers but brands must rise to the challenge; look at, and anticipate, the needs of their community and respond accordingly. Listen and learn, plan and evaluate, engage and entertain – and 2014 should be a great year.