social media research Want to know where social marketers are focusing in 2014?

Looking for the latest social media trends to inform your marketing?

Based on new research, here are five areas you should start paying attention to right away.

Note: This article is based on Exact Target’s 2014 State of Marketing Report, which shows top marketing objectives, priorities and concerns for 2014.

#1: Social Listening Becoming Important

More brands are beginning to really listen to their customers.

According to the report, 60% of marketers were using social listening strategies in 2013 and 24% plan to do so in 2014. The sad news is that only 31% of marketers think their social listening is fully effective.

istock ear image 14926379

Consider the context of social conversations and respond strategically. Image source:

Key Takeaways

Social listening offers opportunities to interact directly with consumers. But it’s not just about setting up a HootSuite account and watching tweets that mention your brand’s name.

If you really want to see results, you need to listen and respond strategically, according to another study by JD Power:

  • Don’t just listen; understand first—are you hearing one loud voice or a growing trend? Is positive sentiment due to great advertising or an awesome product? Understand the full picture before you respond.
  • Consider the context of online updates and conversations—are consumers reaching out to you directly or venting to their friends? It’s their context (not yours) that matters. Your response should fulfill their expectations.
  • Engage with the intention of delivering mutual value—consumers have shown they’re willing to give up some level of privacy in exchange for better service and incredible value.
  • Demonstrate how listening builds relationships, rather than simply “intruding” on consumers’ conversations. People are still sensitive about privacy and listening for listening’s sake is simply creepy.

#2: 57% of Marketers Use Social Advertising

The lure of social advertising is fascinating. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others are daily destinations for millions of U.S. consumers who spend an average of 37 minutes per day on those channels.

No wonder 57% of marketers used social ads in 2013 and another 23% are expected to start using ads in 2014. But again, only 23% of digital marketers find their social advertising efforts effective.

marketer budgets statistics

Marketers’ budgets indicate the appeal of social advertising.

Key Takeaways

The problem for marketers is that social ad options are very confusing. What’s the difference between a Facebook promoted post and a Facebook sponsored story? When should you promote a check-in story? And do social ads even work?

These are some of the questions that make social advertising very tricky. But don’t be caught flat-footed when what used to work starts failing. Educate yourself and learn the most effective ways to leverage social ads in the current market. Here’s a simple plan to get started with social ads:

  • Establish measurable marketing goals.
  • Set your budget (start small).
  • Know your audience’s needs.
  • Pick the channel.
  • Research different ad types (how they work, how to leverage them and how your audience will perceive them).
  • Check out the competition.
  • Optimize your landing pages.
  • Experiment and create ad copy (two or three versions).
  • Test and measure.

#3: Email and Social Integrate

You would think the widespread use of social media has made email obsolete. But email is alive and well, according to 68% of marketers who say email is core to their business. In fact, social media has made email even more powerful than ever. Take a look:

email marketing statistics

Email is core to business performance, but social is the other side of the coin.

Key Takeaways

It’s important to understand the relationship between email and social. With email marketing, you have the ability to stay top-of-mind with existing customers, which helps bring them back to your door. Then by encouraging your email subscribers to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, their friends will see your brand on their news feed, thus generating more social visibility for you.

On the other hand, you don’t want to leave your social connections at the mercy of Facebook’s arbitrary algorithms. You want them to receive your content straight to their email inbox, where you have more control and can extend those relationships.

Check out these tips to integrate your email and social media marketing. For Facebook and email integration, here are some more nifty tips (courtesy of Convince & Convert):

  • Use email subject line testing to optimize Facebook ad headlines and vice versa.
  • Incorporate your most popular email content into status updates (and vice versa).
  • Test image effectiveness via email and incorporate into status updates (and vice versa).
  • Just like sponsored stories, incorporate your fans’ enthusiasm for your brand into your email content.
  • And finally, tease upcoming emails via a Facebook status update.

#4: Assemble Your Social Media Dream Team

The survey found that social media teams are becoming more common, with 57% of respondents having a dedicated team to strategize, execute and steward social media initiatives. Typically a social media team has three people or fewer.

social media team size statistics

Having a dedicated team is key to social media marketing success.

Key Takeaways 

Most brands understand that having a dedicated team is key to social marketing success. It’s also clear that one-person social media “teams” are most common (probably due to small budgets or lack of buy-in from upper management).

Of course, having a social media team of more than one person would be great. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the budget to make it happen. There are always things you can do to create social media success. However, you also have to adjust your expectations to match the level of investment in your budget and team. Here are some basic tips if you’re a one-person show:

  • Start with a strategy. Know what you want to accomplish from social media and choose your social networks wisely.
  • Create a workflow process. Schedule some time each day for routine social media activities (e.g., listening and monitoring, posting updates, networking and so on). The more you repeat these tasks, the better you’ll get at it.
  • Develop quality content. You’ll need to create original content on a regular basis (e.g., blog posts, images, videos, graphics, etc.). Even with a small budget, you can get other people to create high-quality content for you by using a service like Fiverr. You can also get free images from Flickr or Wikimedia Commons.
  • Get the word out. Let your co-workers and customers know that you have a Facebook page or a Twitter profile. Encourage them to engage with the company on these channels. It’s also a good idea to join an online community where you can tactfully get the word out to others (without spamming them). The more value you add to their conversations, the more receptive they will be to discovering and engaging with your online brand.

#5: Social Media ROI Remains Elusive

While marketers are dedicating more time and resources to social, they’re not 100% sure how effective it is in terms of ROI. Thirty-four percent believe they’re currently seeing ROI, while 52% believe their social media efforts will eventually produce ROI. This is not good.

social media roi comments

Measuring social media can be tricky, but not doing it at all is damaging to business.

Key Takeaways

Many business owners make the mistake of not measuring social media ROI. Know this—As long as you’re not measuring, you will never understand how social media marketing can benefit your business.

Measuring helps you to be intentional about your marketing activities instead of spending time and resources on useless tactics that don’t work.

Start by defining clear, measurable social media goals such as brand awareness (e.g., Facebook likes), lead generation (e.g., email opt-ins or content downloads) or customer retention (compare cost of retaining a social media customer vs. a non–social media customer). Then develop a content strategy to achieve those goals (remember that content drives social). Focus on one or two social channels where your target audience hangs out and gradually scale as your audience and your resources grow! Soon you’ll be counted among the 34% who are seeing ROI on their social media efforts.

What do think? Which of these social strategies will you be looking to improve this coming year? Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Images from iStockPhoto.
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  • Patricia you nailed it! From a pure SMB marketing veiw-point: marketing should sell your offering and it should move your product or service at a profit. “Measuring helps you to be intentional about your marketing activities instead of spending time and resources on useless tactics that don’t work-sell your offering”

  • predsicker

    Hi Patrick – thanks for reading. Isn’t it interesting that social media measuring continues to be such a big problem! What do you think is the root of this problem Patrick?

  • Patricia, In my opinion the root of this problem lies in the first step to successful marketing: setting goals. You can’t hit a target you cannot see, and you cannot measure a target you do not have.

    I like to say, “goals before strategy!” That marketing without goals is the noise before failure.

  • Excellent Post Patricia 🙂 Nowadays people sharing their feedback through social networks instead of review sites such as complaintboards,sitehabber, because of the trust level! According to ASK statistics 23.72% brands paying more attention for social media users feedback instead of review site feedback! There is no doubt,it’s a booming viral platform 🙂

  • //marketing without goals is the noise before failure.// well said patrick 🙂

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  • Thanks Sharanyan!

  • Tatyana

    Thank you for some insightful ideas (like: consumers have shown they’re willing to give up some level of privacy in exchange for better service and incredible value)!!! =) Fully agree that strategy is a KEY point in social media. But not still sure any ROI can be measured. The ideas you give do not let have the full picture, esp. when they are turned to KPIs…=(

  • Thanks Patricia for the analysis. And the five areas reflect perfectly the process of listening & understanding first, then contributing and finally assessing the ROI of our actions. 2014 is still early days for social media. Big times ahead 🙂

  • Really like this post! I think in terms of ROI: Social data is normally voluntarily created during the act of using social media; which makes it great for analysis. If you get the strategy and listening parts right, the insight gained can inform other areas like product dev, customer service and offline marketing activities such as events.
    Anyway, nice article Patricia!

  • Michael Heipel

    Thanks for this, Patricia. One thing is missing in my view: Whatever you do in social media marketing, if it doesn’t work on mobile platforms, it doesn’t work at all. A recent study revealed that 9 out of 10 teenagers use a smart phone.

  • AmandahBlackwell

    Personally, I want to work on email marketing. I handle a non-profit’s email marketing service but haven’t spent time on building and developing my own email platform.

  • Geri Lafferty

    If Facebook wants marketers to use their advertising, they might do a better job of educating their (potential) customers. As it is, we have to rely on other marketers to teach us and that seems backwards. Why can’t Facebook have educational webinars to explain the nuances of their advertising platform? Seems like it would increase their revenue if customers weren’t left in the dark and on their own to wade through pages and pages of copy.

  • predsicker

    Thanks for reading Sharyanyan. Interesting stats about user feedback!

  • predsicker

    Thanks for reading Tatyana. Please click on the link attached to the words ‘social media ROI’ under Key Takeaways. Hopefully you’ll get the full picture from that article 🙂

  • predsicker

    Absolutely Clement. Thanks so much for your comments!

  • predsicker

    Thank you Ben. You’re so right about social data being created during the ‘act of using social media’. That’s when you hear what consumers are saying, gauge their sentiments and so on and as you say, that informs customer service, and product development. I wish I had included that in my article 🙂

  • predsicker

    Hi Michael. You’re absolutely right about mobile. I’ve written so much about mobile in past research articles, I just didn’t want to sound repetitive. But I guess mobile cannot be over-emphasized, right? 😉

  • predsicker

    In that case Amandah, check out this article I wrote a while back about email marketing –

  • predsicker

    I feel your pain Geri. I can’t speak for Facebook but look at the bright side. Their “omission” allows saavy marketers to capitalize on ‘Facebook training’ and sell it as a product. That’s a win-win for everyone don’t you think?

  • Geri Lafferty

    Absolutely! Thank heaven for Mari Smith and Social Media Examiner 🙂

  • I am not surprise that the ROI of socail media is vert elusive, thougfh I do not use social media ads, not intnd to use them anytime soon, because most people on social media networks are not thee to look for who is selling what, they are there simply to socialize and would be happy if there are not disturbed with ads of any sort

  • Margie Wagner

    Thank you Patricia! Your post arrived exactly at the right moment for our brand new focus to master social media, in this case Facebook. Our initial thinking was to blend our weekly email with Facebook posts to maximize effort and time. It is reassuring to know that we are on the right track. We really appreciate the strategies you have outlined and now, at the end of your post, feel that with clearly defined we can go forward and ultimately join the 34%.

  • Mark Peters

    Very glad to see email and social integration made the cut, Patricia! Thanks for that.

    (And if anyone doubts you, get them to create a segment or track those coming from email in their web analytics tool and they’ll usually see those visitors engaging and converting at a higher rate!)

  • Great article, Patricia! One trend that I would love to see explode in 2014 are ‘photosations’ (photos as the sole driver of a conversation). While it isn’t a new wave of interaction amongst people, I have seen very few brands take on this form of engagement with their audience or community. In my opinion, photosations are the other side of the coin to user-generated content. Among the few brands that I’ve personally been in contact with, Warby Parker does this very well! Just wanted to add my two cents!

  • ritesh jaiswal

    Good article n social media trends

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  • Great article Patricia, it summarises the basic principles of an effective Social Media strategy. Many companies are just publishing content without a clear understanding of why they are doing it. I wish they would read your post.

  • Love that quote Patrick!

  • Ads could be used for other things, like: promoting your content to reach as many of your followers, promote some events or important community messages, create brand awareness, etc…

  • Thank you for this Patricia! The key takeaways here are great; you’ve explained them clearly and have also pointed out the importance of each item – what an amazing resource!

  • Jayanta Dey

    Social Media is a fast-moving area, but for a while now it’s revolved around two main sites:
    Face book and Twitter. But since late last year, a new competitor has entered
    the fray in the form of ‘Pinterest’. It is an image-based social networking
    platform. From your post learn more about social media and its effect. Thanks a
    lot for this awesome post. Keep sharing with us.

  • Thank you Antonio!

  • Balmiki Padhan

    Thanks Patricia for posting such valuable information,, keep it up..

  • Thanks for analysing the trends Patricia. While sending the campaign, choosing to auto post it for Twitter and Facebook accounts works a lot.

  • Rebecca Harris

    Just started a new job and this well help a ton! Thank you

  • predsicker

    Thanks so much for reading Rebecca – all the best with your new job!

  • predsicker

    Thanks for reading Balmiki – glad you found it helpful 🙂

  • predsicker

    Hey John – I started listening to your podcast and taking notes on how to work a great podcast (learning a lot!). And thanks for reading my post. So glad that you (and many others) like the key takeaways. My goal is always to provide something that’s actionable!

  • predsicker

    Thanks so much Antonio, I appreciate your great feedback!

  • predsicker

    Cheers, Ritesh.

  • predsicker

    Hmmm…thanks for enlightening me Darryl. Must confess I’ve never heard of the term ‘photosations’ although my kids are familiar with the concept I guess. Just checked out – very cool environment. That guy model looks like Prince William though doesn’t he 🙂

  • predsicker

    Couldn’t have said it better Mark!

  • predsicker

    Sure thing Margie. Glad to be of help…and I have no doubt you’re on your way to the 34%!

  • Although the concept is not new, I thought I would give this form of engagement a name and came up with ‘photosations’ very recently which explains the unfamiliarity. 🙂 It’s simply the bridging of the words “photos” and “conversations.” The app that comes closest to performing photosations is Snapchat, however my idea is to have brands respond to their audience/community in a similar fashion but through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. I don’t like to spam, but if you’re interested in an existing example, here is Warby Parker having a photosation (in video form; “videosation”, maybe?) with myself: While it may be cumbersome for a brand to always reply with a photo, just imagine how deeper the connection between a brand and its audience could be with personalized photos and/or videos to an individual. I lost my mind when Warby Parker sent this to me! 🙂

  • Rick Keller

    Interesting reading Patricia. In the Netherlands we are early adapters of social media, but the bigger corporations are lagging. There is still a big fear of uncontrollable bad publicity. thankzz for you insight.

  • Eddi85

    Hi Patrica, Thanks for the article. But what about local networks (like, nextdor etc.) that are becoming more and more popular?

  • Brian H.

    Thanks for the good article, Patricia. I hear a lot of mixed messages online. The one thing that very successful people in the social space (e.g., Gary Vaynerchuk) talk about is that social media is all about relating to people and sparking discussion. When I have a conversation, it might be to move that person, but I don’t typically engage people because I have a target or goal in mind beforehand. It’s more of a “let’s talk and see where this goes” type of approach.

    On the other hand, marketers (and those who court marketers and business owners) tell us to set out a clear strategy of goals, achievements, etc. Some of them are highly successful at marketing.

    So which is it? Or is it both? Can just getting out there and talking be successful, or do we all need to lay out strategies and goals? Is the creation of all these strategies and goals just to appease the top brass? To justify the work of the social media guru? Shouldn’t we, instead, be educating bosses on the “great cocktail party” that is social media and how (just like a real cocktail party) there is a lot of benefit from just talking and discussion?

    Thanks for the article. It’s good for stimulating the conversation.

  • christianguthier

    Nice article. As for ROI, talking to people will never get you ROI. But it will leave a good impression and make your audience more receptive to your pitch elsewhere.

  • predsicker

    Hi Dan. Sorry…never heard of them. Will find out more though 🙂

  • predsicker

    Thanks for your thoughtful feedback Brian. Trust me, a guy like Gary Vaynerchuk doesn’t get to where he is without setting clear goals. It could be that his main goal is ‘building relationships,’ which means talking to people and investing time in conversations. Nothing wrong with that. But it might not be the next guy’s goal. So it’s not a matter of ‘either/or.’ It’s a question of what do YOU want to get out of social media, and what do you need to do to get there! My two cents 😉

  • predsicker

    Sure thing Rick!

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  • Eddi85


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  • John Waghorn

    Nice post Patricia. I think that as more companies begin to understand how to use social media in the best way it will become easier for them to listen to the customer and act on this information. Social is great for understanding their needs and responding appropriately –
    whether this is via comments and engagement or creating content to solve people’s problems.

    I’d also expect that as social continues to grow, the need for larger and more dedicated business teams will increase too in order to meet the demand of social interaction. Essentially if you are using social, you need people in your business who can respond promptly before
    interest and custom is lost.

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  • Keep me posted

  • Nathan Brook

    Thanks for the info. Those trends are helpful to business and easy to publish to costumers. I think this will become more entrenched with businesses as they figure out how they take advantage of it.

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  • John Allred

    Nice, informative information. Thanks for sharing with us.
    Hope it helps people very much.

  • Sumintra Ramnarinesingh

    What is trending?