In the summer of 2012, I created the Social Media Marketing Department at WebiMax. Since then, our social media revenue has more than doubled. Why? Because social media marketing works.

As WebiMax’s Social Media Strategist, it’s my responsibility to analyze the results of the tactics we implement for clients in dozens of industries to figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s also my responsibility to stay on top of emerging trends and update our clients’ campaigns accordingly.

Based on my experience and analyses over the last year and a half, here are my predictions for social media marketing in 2014:

1. Ads will be imperative. Social media marketing is massive. You can’t turn on a network TV show without seeing a hashtag in the corner of the screen or eat at a chain restaurant without noticing social media icons on their happy hour menu. Because social media is so hot right now, it can be difficult for businesses to cut through the clutter in order to get their messages seen. One of the most effective ways to break through the social clutter – short of a viral miracle or a PR stunt like WestJet’s – is through the use of ads.

Whether a client is looking for ways to boost engagement (promoted tweet) or grow leads (Facebook ad that bring users on a landing page or a Facebook tab with a form and a strong CTA), there are advertising options to reach just about any company’s online marketing objectives. As social media becomes a bigger part of ad buying efforts, platforms will have to respond accordingly. Instagram recently introduced ads, and I predict that other platforms will follow suit in 2014.

The graph below is a screen shot from one of our client’s Facebook page insights – it’s an overview of “reach” sorted by posts. This particular account has consistently high levels of engagement; regardless, posts that are “boosted” trump our organic efforts substantially. Now that Facebook is finally acknowledging that marketers are going to have to pay for reach, I also predict that paid ads will become a bigger part of WebiMax’s social media marketing campaigns.

organic-vs-paid-chart

2. Brands will take social media marketing offline. Some brands are already doing this. I took this photo last night at my local Target store where they are clearly using social media engagement to drives sales in their stores. If 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations [source], why not take advantage of that psychology? Pointing out popular Pinterest pins, like Target does, is an effective way to show shoppers what their peers are recommending. This tactic is also an opportunity to show your audience that you are listening to their feedback and tuned into what they want.

If you have a storefront and you haven’t incorporated this into your marketing strategy, consider doing so in 2014.

pinterest-product

3. Google+ is here to stay. There’s no doubt that Google+ has struggled as a social network, but its impact on SEO is undeniable. Recently, Google announced a new product, their +Post ad system, that will allow brands to take content from their Google+ pages and turn it into a display ad that can run across the Google Display Network (this goes back to my #1 prediction that ads in 2014 will be more necessary – and more available – than ever).

See how Toyota reached new customers with +Posts:

More features are expected in the future as Google integrates its social network with other services, so it’s important for every business owner to have a grasp on their Google+ page before the end of the year. Don’t know where to start? Follow this basic checklist:

  • Create a Google+ page for your business
  • Make sure it’s properly branded to be consistent with your website and your other social profiles
  • Claim your custom URL
  • Create engaging content that will resonate with your audience & post it regularly
  • Follow & interact with other users: belong to communities, start conversations
  • Add a Google+ button on your website
  • Share your Google+ profile on other platforms: email marketing, social channels
  • Don’t give up: do not get discouraged if it takes a while for users catch on. Social media is a marathon, not a race!

2014 is poised to be huge for social media marketing. This year, skip the traditional New Year’s resolutions and commit to something that will produce real results: implementing a social media strategy that incorporates these three projections.