In a Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Facebook 76% of marketers reported that they view Facebook as critical for brand building. If the services of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest are critical for online marketing strategies, the problem is that each of these services can change their price structures or terms of service.
There is no long term guarantee that brands can continue to use their services for free or in the ways they prefer, and this means that marketers will need to consider what the future of social media marketing could look like.
Social Media Marketing Will Be Marketing
Just as online merchandising is no longer called “E-business,” social media marketing will soon be known simply as marketing, fully integrating the social aspect of a marketing strategy into a business’s long term marketing plan. David Meerman Scott of HubSpot argues, “The sooner people realize that what we are talking about is marketing and communications; that what we are talking about is reaching people in the ways that they want to be reached, using these sorts of networks that they are already on, then the faster they can become successful at using those new tools.”
Marketing teams who want to plan for the future will need to develop cohesive marketing plans that fully integrate social networking into their plans.
Social Media Marketing Will Predict Trends
Future marketing strategies will need to take into the account the large amounts of reliable data they can use to quickly jump onto a trend. It won’t be good enough to pick up on the trend of today. The data now available from some services can help marketing firms capitalize on the trends of tomorrow, but they will need to plan on paying for it.
Services such as bitly offer Enterprise accounts that allow marketers to track trends associated with trends across a variety of platforms. The bitly blog notes, “Unlike other search technologies, which weight results by the quantity of references or links, bitly search weights results by cross-platform social engagement. Collaborative filtering (the wisdom of crowds) is an obvious value of social media, and real-time search is an obvious way to package that value.”
Social Media Marketing Is Not Free
Some social media sites are charging companies for inbound links to their websites, and the terms of these agreements could prove not only costly but disruptive. According to Kipp Bodnar at HubSpot, “Pinterest is making money off organic interactions on its site, and some marketers can only opt out of paying for it if they cancel their entire affiliate marketing program.” In the case of Pinterest, companies use a service known as skimlinks to create affiliate links on Pinterest images.
A service such as Skimlinks goes beyond just providing inbound links on a site like Pinterest. It also provides the data that marketers crave. The CEO of skimlinks writes,“The insights that can be gleaned by running Skimlinks have helped thousands of our publishers understand their customer base more, understand their shopping preferences, purchase behaviours, all without infringing on their privacy or interrupting their browsing experience.” In other words, while social media began as a low-cost marketing strategy, there will be more costs in order to derive the valuable data that is generated in the process.
The Only Marketing Platform You Control Is Your Own
While social media sites will continue to be critical hubs for online engagement with customers, a brand’s website and blog will continue to be critically important platforms for building relationships with customers and encouraging brand engagement. However Facebook or Pinterest modifies their policies or costs, the one marketing platform that you can always adapt to your current marketing needs is your own.Kipp Bodnar of HubSpot writes, “The handful of successful social platforms that attract a critical mass of users that business [sic] want to reach have the leverage to make more aggressive monetization changes. The fact is, with the higher costs involved with offline marketing, social networks can make significant changes without pushing businesses away from the platform.” Besides budgeting for these inevitable price shifts, marketers need to invest in a better website that acts as a home base for their online marketing.
Shifts in social media will take place each year as new social media platforms emerge and the existing leaders adopt new monetization strategies. If current social media trends are any indicator, your future marketing plans will need to be well-funded, nimble, and connected to an engaging website that you control.