by James Baker
Well happy new year everyone. It's nice to be back at work after a bit of a recharge and absence from everything social and digital. I did pretty much abstain for the majority of the duration bar a bit of old school YouTube streaming of Christmas classic music vids. (East 17, Macca and Wham still being untouched by Maria's sorry sorry efforts...)
This did mean however that when I did eventually click the Facebook, Twitter, Vine and Instagram apps - I was feeling like I was playing catch up and had missed out on what seemed like loads of really important info and exciting stuff in both my personal and professional worlds.
Not only was I getting the back to work anxieties, but now I had the social and digital anxieties - had I made the wrong decision and made myself disappear from the world? Had I missed the oportunity to produce loads of great content because of Christmas (no xmas jumper pics from me I'm afraid). Why did everyone else's pictures have so many likes? - and what's all this new stuff that's emerged in the last two weeks?!
Well it seems like I'm not the only one who has realised that social and digital media has become fully ingrained in our lives. A Global Web Index study points to Internet users finding it more preferable to give up watching TV for a month, over Facebook if they had the choice (Really?! That would mean no Sherlock!). And despite the popular claims over Christmas that Facebook is pretty much dead and buried for teens - active usage shows us that Facebook is still the most popular social platform for 16-19 year olds, with 56 % of 16 -19 yr olds globally using it on a monthly basis! (See attached from Global Web Index).
So getting back to the new year - predictions, resolutions (and of course maybe eating less chocolate) what might we expect to see in the digital world over 2014? After catching up on the webs own Mystic Meg crystal ball gazing, here's the top 5 things that I think we'll start to see more of in 2014:
1. It's time for Government departments to learn some digital skills, and actually use them.
I think 2014 will be the year that government departments will actually start to do social and digital properly. It's not about the youngest person in the office, it's not (always) about outsourcing to a PR agency. No one wants to engage with a 'corporate' vine, or instavid trying to be cool online (it's got to be real yo?!). It's not just about Facebook and Twitter either (Snapchat and Google + will be 'where it's at' for some). And it's certainly not just about Comms anymore. It's about everyone learning how social media and digital skills are fitting into our (and our stakeholders) everyday lives.
Even if you don't do it, you need to know how to do it. And there is enough help and guidance out there now. The days of 'could you Tweet this for me' will soon be over. It's about the best advocates for your organisation or 'brand' being able to reach the right people in the right way (hopefully your employees.... or why are they in the job?), in the places that they are. Go on. Be Brave.
2. The Internet of Things (IOT) becomes the norm and we start to install more and more data points around everything we do.
We've probably all started to see or hear about 'smart living'. Philips 'Hue' bulbs means we can turn our lights on remotely, British Gas' new advertising push for their smart meters have hit TV advertising in the first few weeks of 2014 showing how we can control our energy from anywhere via our phone. We can open doors and can control and integrate our appliances. Things that we thought might never need to talk to each other are suddenly giving way to amazing innovation and possibilties.
The issues are that someone, somewhere is going to be able to know more about our behaviours, even down to when we're most likely to put the kettle on, how often we do it and perhaps even the type of kettle we do it with. Although its going to be great for business, industry, research (and to help satisfy our ever growing curiosity) - we might start to wonder even more about who knows what about us, and what they do with the inteligence. Privacy invader isn't going to be just about Google Glass, Facebook or email hacking anymore.
3. The importance of visual 'content' will continue to grow and grow and grow and grow.....
As we saw in 2013; video content (even at 6 seconds long!), expanded pictures in timelines, helped to make or break great engagement, build and nurture proper relationships and help orgs and brands to gain meaningful influence across a sea of people all shouting for you to listen to them.
Buffer did a few experiments last year and found:
4. Mobile Content will (soon) be King
By all accounts (and thanks to smarter tech, affordable devices and the tablet boom) It's expected that mobile internet usage will overtake desktop usage by the end of 2014. Everything (and I mean everything) websites, content, outreach, marketing, sales, the integration of real and online experiences and more will need to be optimized for mobile devices. For whoever you are. It won't be a nice to have, It'll be expected.
5. Promoted posts and proper investment in social media....are you know, becoming quite important.
Promoted posts are becoming a really important way to target and reach new and relevant people nowadays. Especially if you haven't got the resource to trawl through peoples individual profiles. It's really important for government departments to recognise the importance and the relevance of paid for and earned media in the digital and social space. Facebook and now Twitter both offer options for 'pay as you go' post promotion and targeting and it's a lot cheaper than you'd think.
It will however always boil down to what you actually expect (and really want) to achieve. Wide reaching engagement success isn't going to come without the investment being put in. Whether that's time, resource, promoted posts, learning how to produce great content (preferably in house of course) and understanding how to use the right channels, in the right way.
The next step is to then keep up the organic engagement and conversations with the people you do end up reaching in the future, and being clear why you want to reach them in the beginning....there's no point in building a community if you've not worked out what to do with them once you've got them there.
But of course that'll all be in your strategy :-))
James Baker is Social Media Manager at The Food Standards Agency
Pic via Flickr creative commons