Five Social Media Trends for 2013

by · December 6, 201236 comments

You be the judge – did I hit my 2011 and 2012 predictions correctly? Assuming the answer is yes, I’m going to try and go three-for-three with this year’s crop of prognostications.  While these are all broader marketing trends, I’ve outlined what I think you, the social media marketer (or digital marketer), should give some brainspace to in 2013.

Transmedia Storytelling

We’re starting out with a content-focused trend. I felt that 2012 was all about content marketing, and 2013 will be no less so, but it’s gonna get a bit more complicated. It’s not enough anymore to just put out great content in your blog. Brands (and individual bloggers) will need to start ramping it up and telling their stories across multiple platforms, from blog to video to Twitter and back around again.

Currently a hot topic amongst filmmakers and game developers, transmedia storytelling will start to enter the mainstream of marketing in 2013, as brands start to leverage multiple platforms and properties simultaneously in support of the same campaign or goals. In a practical sense, transmedia storytelling for brands will incorporate visual platforms such as Instagram and video into campaigns; more broadly, brands should start to think about gaming and augmented reality (see next trend).

The emergence of transmedia will be a big shift for many digital marketers, most of whom are only recently (and perhaps reluctantly) comfortable with the idea of telling the brand story through the written word of blogs, eBooks, Twitter and Facebook.  Add in photos, videos and possibly games, and the digital marketer’s job scope is going to change dramatically.

Augmented Reality

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard about Google’s entry into the world of Augmented Reality (AR) with their Project Glass effort. Google wants you to be able to wear glasses that annotate or gamify your world, and they’ve already got an app, which does just that.

Yeah, yeah, it all sounds so Star Trekky and futuristic, but is it meaningful for brands? It sure is.  Particularly for brands that need to drive real-world actions: purchase in a store, choose a restaurant, attend a movie, augmented reality (and their attendant mobile apps) may be what the C-suite is buzzing about throughout 2013. So marketers, wise up. If the C-suite already knows what this is, you need to too. They’re interested in it because many luxury brands are already using AR, and where luxury goes, the rest of consumers will typically follow.

For most digital marketers, AR is something to consider when developing mobile apps, creating new ad campaigns, or extending the brand through transmedia offerings.  A cool and clever AR app could be just the right thing to propel your brand ahead in 2013.

Influence (Again)

I wrote about Social Media Influence as a 2012 trend and I think I got that one dead-on. From changing Klout algorithms, to challenges to Klout from PeerIndex and Kred, and with the publication of Mark Schaefer’s Return on Influence, influence was undoubtedly a very hot topic throughout this past year.

But as I predicted last year, influence had to get beyond social, to incorporate offline factors.  While this is not yet perfect, some platforms, including Appinions (disclosure: they’re a client) and, theoretically, Klout, have managed to bring together social media metrics with other factors including whether or not their opinions manifest in major publications or if they have a presence on Wikipedia.

Then there’s the question of personal influence (Kred, PeerIndex, Klout) vs. contextual influence (Appinions and Traackr). The former assign an individual a score which supposedly represents their influence level – but I personally find it impossible to believe in any system which assigns a score to the hair of a fictional character. The latter, which rank influencers within a particular topic (and typically don’t allow influencers to see how they rank) feel more credible, but there’s still room for improvement across the influence marketing spectrum.

Digital marketers who want to work with influencers need to figure out which platform to rely on in order to determine who will be the best fit for their brand or campaign. And as my friend Paull Young has said (quoted here by Allyson Kapin): the most powerful analytics is the human brain.

Big Data

For digital marketers of the analytics and data persuasion, the growing corporate focus on Big Data won’t be much of a shift. SEO people and marketing analysts have been using internal and external data for years to help tell marketing and brand stories, and glean valuable insights out of numbers.  For the rest of us, who are “gut” or creative marketers, Big Data will represent a sea change in how we approach our work.

The ability to take sales, customer, or even Twitter data and turn it into patterns and segments is at the crux of what Big Data is and does. All of this data is no longer locked deep in the bowels of your corporate systems, and so now you need to figure out what you want to get out of it to inform your marketing efforts.

Your way through the thicket of Big Data: a smart data analyst or data scientist. Hire one now. Or become one. Because digital marketing based purely on your super-creative ideas may not get past the boss, once they know that you can back up your gut with cold, hard numbers.

Evolution of the Marketing Team

You may have noticed that I’ve gone away from calling these themes “social media” to “digital marketing” in this installment of my predictions. That shift is very deliberate, and relates to many of the things I’ve been writing about over the course of the past two years:

  • Silos are going away – marketers need to individually have broader skillsets than just “PR” or “ads” or “SEO” and need to know a lot about many things – as do social media practitioners.
  • Budgets are moving. Advertising no longer holds the big bucks. The convergence of earned, paid and owned media means that marketing budgets must get spread across many efforts.
  • If you used to segment offline and online for spokespeople or events, those distinctions are gone. It’s all one big pool of people, events and opportunities, online and off. People who used to be just bloggers are now celebrities, and celebrities are bloggers. What is this world coming to?

A few years ago, at the advent of formalized social media marketing, it made sense to have someone with a title of “social media manager.” I predict that’s a title which won’t be in play much longer.  All marketers will be expected to at least understand social media, though specialists will continue to do the day-to-day heavy lifting of social media execution (as with SEO gurus).

And, as my colleague Nichole Kelly recently wrote, we’re also seeing a huge shift in how people work, how teams are formed and managed, and where and when they work. So your team may soon be distributed across time and space, and you’d better be ready for that shift too.

And that, friends, wraps up my predictions for the coming year. I’ll be checking on these throughout the year to see how they hold up, and I hope you will too. As always, if you feel like I missed the mark, or forgot a key theme, please let me know in the comments.  My best to all of you in 2013!

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About Stephanie Schwab

Stephanie Schwab

Stephanie Schwab is the Principal of Crackerjack Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in social media planning and execution. Stephanie is also the founder of the Digital Family Summit, the first-of-its-kind conference for tween bloggers and content creators and their families. Throughout her 20-year career, she has developed and led marketing and social media programs for top brands and has presented on social media and e-commerce topics at numerous conferences and corporate events. Stephanie writes about social media at CrackerjackMarketing.com, sometimes hangs out at Google+, and tweets @stephanies.

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