With everyone from makers of fizzy drink brands to NASA competing for attention online the need for great content is critical. These are just some of the trends affecting social content this year.
Expect more de-cluttering of newsfeeds
As social media matures in South Africa, expect users to become much pickier about who they follow. Experienced users have twigged that if they 'like' or 'follow' a brand they will have to put up with content from it in their newsfeeds.
Expect regular culling of brands that aren't adding value or wandering off topic with their content (or posting lame memes!). Brands will also need to be much clearer about what followers will get out of joining a community.
Bad content will be penalised
Facebook and other social networks are increasingly worried about newsfeeds being filled with 'low value content' (those lame memes again for example). Algorithm changes have been made within Facebook specifically to prioritise quality content such as articles from 'credible' media outlets. Brands putting out lazy content should expect to have their reach throttled back as nervous social networks clean out their content feeds.
Less ads, more content
The less ads feel like ads, and more like useful content, the more successful they will be. With promoted posts on Facebook and Twitter substantially outperforming (in our experience) digital display advertising in terms of engagement, the move from hard sell to high value content continues to be one of the biggest trends transforming digital marketing.
The return of the blog
Blogs were all the rage in South Africa a few years back and then brands got excited about Facebook and Twitter and blogs were pushed onto the back burner. But they are coming back into vogue as their value as content hubs is being recognised; and with more budget going into content production (such as videos, infographics etc), having a place that can keep this content working after its disappeared from newsfeeds makes a lot of sense.
The rise of tablets - which make longer-form content much more user-friendly to consume - should also drive this trend.
Content eco-system strategies needed
Most brands now operate multiple social media channels as well as producing content for websites, newsletters and other channels. Having unconnected strategies and separate content production streams is inefficient and will feel fragmented for followers.
Brands have to think about how the eco-system of different channels work together, both from a planning and production perspective, and how to make content work as hard as possible. I believe a mind-set shift is required from bringing consumers to a single destination (e.g a website), to enabling them to receive a message via any one of a number of channels.
So in other words, it doesn't matter if a brand video was watched on YouTube, Facebook, a website, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn, what matters is the video was viewed and the message absorbed.
There has been some really interesting experimentation with adding multimedia to articles from publications such as the New York Times. Check out its amazing Snow Fall article.
Also, a number of services launched last year that are taking content beyond just copy and images on social platforms. Thinglink allows you to add links within images (kind of hyperlinks for images); this is currently compatible with Twitter, Tumblr and a number of other platforms (but not Facebook yet).
Also with Vine, Instagram video, increased use of animated gifs, and soon Facebook video ads (and don't forget about YouTube), there will be a lot more video content on social platforms.
Don't forget about mobile
We finished off (or started) almost every conversation with this last year but we'll keep repeating it in 2014 I'm sure: a large proportion of social media traffic in South Africa is mobile - if the content you're embedding or linking to isn't mobile friendly, it's not likely to be effective.
Dan is the founder and creative director of Society, one of the fastest growing social media and content agencies in South Africa (and part of the King James Group). Since moving to Cape Town from London in 2004 he has worked on award winning social media and PR campaigns for the likes of kulula.com, Santam, Johnnie Walker and Steri Stumpie among others. Dan was previously creative director at Atmosphere (also part of the King James Group). Follow @workofsociety.
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