Marketing in 5: Shane Barnhill on the Future of Social Media

Marketing in 5: Shane Barnhill on the Future of Social Media

Shane BarnhillThursday,7 November 2013

For many digital marketers, social media — or, more accurately, social marketing — is now a mature component of an integrated digital marketing strategy. These leaders have not only been participating in social networks for years, but they have also been generating solid ROI for their employers and clients via social campaigns. And whether you agree with this perspective, or believe that social media is still in its relative infancy, one thing is certain: evolution over the next five years will not be slow and gradual. Over this time period, I expect to see a lot of change in three key areas: automation, increased influence from Asia, and visual communications.

For starters, success in social marketing will depend in large part on the ability of organizations to automate a lot of their tactical social efforts. On the surface, this sounds like a contradiction. “Automation” and “social” aren’t words that you’d normally use together. But just as marketing automation solutions have allowed organizations to scale their email marketing efforts while gaining invaluable intelligence, they’ll improve the scalability of social media marketing for organizations of all sizes. You can only afford to hire so many community managers, and thus software will be needed to augment their efforts. Some brands will differentiate on human-powered support, but most will end up relying on automated solutions.

Next, a lot of the influential changes in social media over the next several years will originate in Asia, and then come to the United States and other markets later. In fact, this is already happening, and digital “stickers” are perhaps the best example. Stickers — such as emoticons — have been a mainstay of Asian social messaging apps for years, and have recently been adopted and/or monetized by social networks such as Path and Facebook. And while stickers may seem absurd to some older users (like me), they’re already a big business. Japan’s Line, for example, earned over $58 million in revenue from digital stickers in Q1 2013. But stickers aren’t really the point; rather, the key takeaway here is that savvy marketers will need to look to Asia to spot important trends.

On a somewhat related note, social media will become even more visually-oriented over the next few years. Twitter, for example, is already becoming more visual, and it soon won’t even remotely resemble the text-heavy communication network that it has been in the past. Emoticons and photos will continue to push text off our screens. In fact, with all the advances in real time language translation technologies, it’s not difficult to imagine a handful of major social networks — think Facebook, WeChat and Line — removing language as a communication barrier altogether. When the majority of a single post on a social network is comprised of elements that aren’t tied to a specific language (e.g. a photo), and social networks can translate related text and display it to readers in their preferred languages instantly, then marketers — assuming they account for cultural differences — will be able to dramatically improve the global reach of their messages.

This post originally appeared on the LaneTerralever blog.

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