So here we are, a few months into the new year and finally settled enough to start dusting off our crystal balls and peering pensively at our tea leaves. What will 2015 hold for marketers? Well, according to our Magic 8-Ball here at Sketchfolio, we need look no further for an insight into our future than…the past.
What we’ve learned in these first few months of 2015 is that the experts are saying exactly what they said in 2014—that the wave of the future for marketing success is paid advertising on social media, quality content, and more direct customer engagement. This repeat prophecy begs the question: what did marketers do in 2014 to cause this Groundhog Day effect? Did we do it so well that all we have to do is repeat our success? Did we do it so poorly that we need a redo? In reality, it’s probably a mixture of both. It’s a complex issue, and we’re not above using a little black magic to divine the answer to increasing brand presence and sales.
But let’s not make this harder than it is. Why should we look to the stars when we can take a look at what we already know, and get some tangible insights into how to outshine the competition in the remaining months of 2015?
Social Networking – A Pastime of the…um…Past?
LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. These are the social networks B2B marketers are using, at a 91%, 85%, and 81% rate, respectively. Although usage is high, only 62% of marketers will tell you that LinkedIn is effective. Half of marketers consider Twitter worth the effort, and a mere 30% find Facebook an adequate platform for B2B marketing.1
What this tells us is that B2B marketers have some doubts about the effectiveness of their social media strategies. And they should! Because here’s what we know: statistics indicate that LinkedIn and Twitter are effective when the social strategy includes targeting and appealing to their ideal clients. But because it can be tough to generate germane content on a timely basis, marketers are inundating their social streams with non-relevant topics.
The takeaway here is pretty straightforward: no more cat pictures! Unless your ideal customer is actually a cat-loving crowd. If you want better engagement, provide content that is focused on your marketing message.
Although many marketers are egregious offenders of the cat-pic rule, LinkedIn and Twitter are getting better results than Facebook. As a result, many marketers are shying away from the platform. With organic reach at sometimes less than 5% per post, it’s not surprising that marketers are moving in different directions. But there’s a compelling reason marketers shouldn’t be getting completely out of the game: paid advertising. Facebook’s ability to target very specific demographics still makes it a prime component of B2B social strategy. Marketers who continue to focus on paid advertising continue to see results. Statistics indicate that paid social is leading to 25% more conversions than organic social.
Here’s what we think: we don’t need an hour and a half with Bill Murray to know that we’re reliving 2014 because we just didn’t quite nail it. Our posts weren’t always targeted at our ideal audience, and we underutilized the power of paid advertising. The good news is, we’re on the right path. We’re already using these platforms—we just need to use them a little better.
What’s In the Cards for the Pariah of Social Networking?
While proof of the benefits of appropriately engaging LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook users is in the statistics, there may actually be some magic involved in understanding Google+. Because all Gmail users automatically receive a Google+ account, the true reach and numbers are tricky to define. But outside the conversation of numbers, it’s easy to see that Google+ is operating as a cross between the social atmosphere of Facebook and the business networking of LinkedIn, making it a unique platform worth marketing consideration. It offers the possibility of following influencers within specific industries, using the Google+ circles and hangouts.
We don’t have any psychics around the offices, but we’re willing to go out on a limb and say we think this capability has the potential of making Google+ a big player in the future of social media.
The Future of Social is Mobile
Smartphones. You have one, I have one, my kid has one, my cat has one (which explains all the pictures). From social sharing to banking, mobile phones are taking over many of the functions of traditional desktop computers, allowing consumers, decision makers, and executives to get their information on the go. According to an article by Andrew Lipsman, Vice President of Marketing & Insights at comScore, mobile platforms combined accounted for 60% of total digital media time as of May 2014, and that number continues to grow. Social interaction continues to grow as well.2
Fact: Mobile engagement on social has grown 55% in the past year.
Fact: Social networking on mobile devices accounts for 31% of all growth in total Internet engagement in the past year.
Fact: Social networking now generates more than 70% of its activity on mobile.
Fact: We should all be paying attention!
It’s true that social networking is not the most mobile-skewing content category—but it is arguably the most important. Its importance is due, in part, to the fact that social networking is the top category when it comes to overall digital engagement—it accounts for 20% of total digital time spent. Social networking’s contribution to total digital ad spending marks a very fast, very colossal change in the Internet economy.
We don’t have to dig too deep to see proof of this shift. In fact, we don’t need to look any further than the very top of the mobile property list. Today’s #1 mobile property, Facebook, accounts for 24% of all mobile time spent. That’s one mobile property eating up nearly one-quarter of all mobile time.3
Fact: Social networking has already gone mobile. If your B2B marketing strategy has yet to take that into account, put it on your 2015 (first quarter) to-do list.4
Why Say it When You Can Play It?
Here’s what we know so far about content: it needs to be focused on your intended audience and it needs to be mobile-accessible. I’m sure many of you are out there thinking, “Tell us something we don’t already know!” To which we say, we’re not responsible for the redundant predictions—we’re just calling them like the experts are seeing them. And according to the experts, it’s time to get serious about incorporating video into your B2B marketing strategy.
“But we’re on YouTube,” you say. “And YouTube is the leader for calculating ROI and final destination,” you say. “And we took advantage of that and now we’re a leader in our industry,” you say. “What could you possibly say about our amazing YouTube strategy,” you ask.
YouTube is for the birds.
OK. We don’t actually believe that. You’re right that proactive marketers who have used YouTube to promote their organization have a real competitive edge. But here’s something you may not be aware of: in October 2014, comScore reported that Facebook surpassed YouTube in the number of video views on desktop devices in August of that year. 5
Sure, YouTube still has more views across all devices. But as of September 2014, Facebook was attracting a billion video views per day – a roughly 30-fold increase since July of that year. And according to SocialBaker’s research, Facebook is receiving more shares than YouTube.6
So if you’re not already leveraging video content, it’s time to start. If you listened to the video predictions of last year, now’s your chance to take your video content to the next level. Get yourself a tall folding chair and a bullhorn, because 2015 is your year to be the director. Here are a few ideas to get you started on your video content:
- Instead of (or in addition to) blogging or putting out a press release for a new product launch, create a video promo.
- Create FAQ videos to help your customers and let them see the faces of your organization.
- Get creative with some “behind the scenes” videos. These are great for sharing and showing the human side of your organization, no matter the size.
The Future Foretold, The Present Evolved
So there you have it: our take on the B2B marketing experts’ predictions for 2015.
- Focus your content.
- Don’t snub paid advertising.
- Give Google+ a chance.
- Make it mobile.
- Play it, don’t say it.
Even if we had a crystal ball (OK, we totally have one), we wouldn’t need it this year. We’ve already been down this road. The landscape has changed a bit, so we’ve updated the map. Go forth into this familiar territory; and if you find that here there be monsters, make sure to video them and get them on Facebook.