Do you still remember Geocities? It was launched with the concept for users to create their own websites, characterised by one of six “cities” that were known for certain characteristics. Geocities was created in 1994, it was one of the first social media sites. Fast forward 2 decades later, social media has evolved leaps and bounds. There are over 500 social media sites now!

I joined Facebook in 2007. During then, it was just fun and frivolous, a way to stay in contact with my friends. Today, Facebook and Twitter have become public companies. Let’s also not forget China’s social media site – RenRen, which got listed in 2011, as well as microblogging site Weibo which now has more users than Twitter.

Social media is evolving all over the world! Not only is it just a personal social activity, it is now a job for some, a business or an integral team in a company. All these means that social media will impact all businesses, at various levels and intensity, from marketing, customer service to sales. The social media game is ever changing, and at a fast pace, you will need to start and continue to learn, adapt and evolve.

We are already halfway through 2014, so what are the trends that have emerged thus far?

1. Hashtags and more hashtags

We may be seeing hashtags everywhere, but there are still tons of people clueless about how hashtags work! And hashtags aren’t going anywhere. Once limited only in Twitter, hashtags are now also commonly used on Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram and Vine. It is not just used for content search anymore, it is also used as a way of expression. From the widespread use of #Yolo, #throwback, #selfie, to expressions such as #iamfat, #sillyme and #iloveholidays, the number of hashtags are countless. I wonder if anyone has done any research on how many different hashtags there are and which are the most popular hashtags.

2. No more free play
Businesses now got to pay to be seen on social networks. Facebook’s ever changing algorithm is a pain in the ass. Just when we get adapted to the last change, a new set gets rolled out again. Whether we like it or not, Facebook being public means its shareholders want to see a return, and this is how they can increase their revenue. Businesses now have to pay to advertise to increase their reach and engagement. Twitter also has self-serve ads, a way for businesses to promote their accounts and tweets. Pinterest’s first promoted pins and advertising went live in October 2013. Nothing stays free… at least not for long. More social media platforms will soon follow suit.

3. The shift towards mobile

The rise of mobile means that social media content has to be optimised for viewing on mobile, it is now almost compulsory to do so. A study conducted in 2013 indicate that almost 40% of time spent online is through a mobile device. The average person checks his/her phone at least 110 times a day. Mobile marketing is one of the most prominent social media marketing trends for 2014.

4. Social rules search 
Facebook allows users to search with very specific terms (e.g. interests, favourite movies, etc). Google Plus on the other hand uses its +1 feature and integration with Google searches to place Google plus posts higher in rankings. With the rising important of “social search”, many people are wondering if Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for their websites are still important, as social media pages now ranks higher than individual websites. Let’s not debate about that on this article.

5. Work smart, not just work hard
Many companies are struggling to capitalize on the use of social media. Some companies have as many as 5 to 6 social media channels. How does one manage all these channels well? This calls for strategizing, planning and automating. Facebook allows scheduling of posts, while Twuffer let’s you schedule your posts on Twitter. There are of course the more comprehensive paid tools such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social which provides you with such services as well.

6. Influencers 

Online influencers in their niches have grown large followings on social networks. Well known food bloggers in Singapore now get countless invites. If you want to send a media invite to one of the top food bloggers in Singapore, be ready to wait for months. Unless you have something which really interests them or your food is really distinct, you may not even hear back from them. All these effort for the sake of seeing a post on their blog, Facebook or Instagram accounts. Brands have done this for years on traditional media such as SKII getting celebrities to endorse their treatment water. Thus, there is no reason why this should not also occur with social media.

7. Location, location, location

Foursquare was the first successful player, rewarding users for “checking in” and seeing where their friends have visited. Facebook and Instagram followed close behind, allowing their users to “check in” as well as tag their locations. With the mass adoption of smartphones, location-sharing features will continue to see growing usage. Even mobile application – Whatsapp, allows users to ‘share location’.

8. Visual social is Big
I am talking about images and videos. Images are still big, videos are growing. We all know that generally, images still higher engagement on Facebook than other types of posts. Instagram is not only all about photos now, it allows longer and edited videos to be uploaded now too. Let’s not forget Vine as well. Just a tip, for best results, keep your video catchy, short and simple because you are demanding attention from a world full of people with increasingly shorter attention spans.

That’s it. What other trends have you seen emerged this year? Share them with me.

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