So once again, it’s that time of the year. Come the month of December, and you start looking back at the year past and forward towards the future. One of the things I’ve been doing for the last two years is to try to see the upcoming trends in the world of Social and Digital media in the coming year, and I will try to do it again this time. Looking ahead at Digital and Social Media for 2014, here are the 5 major thoughts I have running through my mind:
1] New trends in Content Marketing
The first thing we’ll talk about is the key trend stating that exciting content will be big, and of that, video content will continue to do well in the coming year. Any form of interesting rich media content, and infographics are going to be hot property, and that’s your first trend. Let’s look forward to that happening in 2014. As for the second thing, the most significant thing that comes to mind is that it will be the ‘election year’. And yes, we’ve already got the state elections going, we’ve got these humongous 75% turnouts at the elections in the States. So it’s definitely going to be a big big year on digital media, as far as elections go. I know what you’re thinking, what have elections got to do with digital or social media?
2] Social Media Shaping the 2014 Elections
Everything! I’m sure candidates and parties are going to thoroughly active on Social media and we’ll probably see some of them going a little crazy. I mean, the recent events around Operation Bluevirus is a clear indication of things to come. There’s a lot of half baked knowledge out there, and with people believing that it’s an easy medium, they could just set up a bunch of accounts and start attacking their opponents anytime! What I just described is barely the tip of the iceberg, in terms of all the crazy things that can be done, but aren’t done only because they get exposed. However, whether you like it or not, these things are still going to happen. A lot of heavy advertising is going to take place from candidates and parties, and considering the tight elections, there will be a lot of seats that are going to be closely fought for. Nobody wants to give away the social and digital space then. What if the margin of victory or loss is a small 5,000-10,000 votes? What if these votes could have been swung over digital media?! So the parties make sure they cover the television space, they cover print media, they cover the hoardings, come out in morchas, and in addition to that, they make sure to be covered on digital media as well. Ergo, digital media will be seen playing a big role during elections, along with agencies and other partners also participating in that space.
3] Increase in Digital Media spends
The next item on my list we look at is our current situation, in terms of our economy. With the elections, and, let us say, other bullish activities coming up, the grim reality is that our economy is in a tough situation. With the economy in such a bad state, and infrastructure projects not doing well and money being tight overall, what happens to brands? They can’t do their expensive television commercials and big print campaigns but that, in turn, is leading a lot of them onto digital platforms, because they still need to get word out to their customers. If they can’t do multi-crore campaigns on mainline, they are going to spend at least a few crores on digital. And we’re already seeing that happen. We’re seeing pretty much all of our existing clients increasing their budgets. We are seeing briefs coming in for new client pitches where budgets for digital are extremely large as a percentage – and as an absolute number – of their marketing budgets. So this is the trend I see happening, on account of the challenge in the economy.
4] Social Media Strategy meets Business Goals
We thus segue into the fourth idea, which is relevant because now the budgets for digital and social media marketing are coming in with a clear business intent or purpose. Brands want to achieve through digital and social media, what they could not or found difficult to achieve through other mainline and traditional channels – a clear business goal. So, the early age of social media, where brands just seemed to be creating Facebook pages and finding ways to just add up to their Likes, seems to be over. A maturity has set in, with brands no longer appearing fascinated by the social media space, but how does this add up to business? Brands are using the digital media space to meet sales targets, reduce customer service cost, and are watching credible results taking place. A couple of days ago, we were in a conversation with a real estate client, and he shared data from their back end analytics and records, showing us that 35% of their new sales came through digital channels! Now if that is the fact, would he not invest potentially, at least 35% of his marketing budget on this space? And if he does, we are certainly moving on from the times when digital budgets were a meagre 2% or 3% or 5%. And now they’re putting in more money because their efforts produce tangible results. We are soon going to be a 100 million Facebook country, and with size like that, brands will want to spend more and also want to see how their spends convert to business goals. So, a focus towards business goals is going to be a fourth big trend.
5] Social Media is not free anymore
And which leads me to the fifth trend, which is simply to say “Paisa pheko, tamasha dekho!” Basically, what I’m trying to say is that nothing is going to happen without you spending money. Whether it’s on account of the fact that Facebook is not going to allow you access to your fanbase without you spending money or the fact that Twitter is going to enable promoted tweets and other paid options, or Instagram starting to experiment with advertising, it is very clear, the days of the free lunch are gone, forever. So if you believe that digital and social media is the route to your audience and your consumer base, then you should also know that it doesn’t come for free. Yes, you can do better than most other media forms, you can get engagements which are much better, you can get noticed better, you can create a different kind of a brand persona there, but it certainly will not be free. You have to put money out there, and the more you put, the better the engagement, and the better connections you forge. So let’s accept that as a reality. So all these are the 5 top things which I think are going to happen in the coming year. I continue to remain extremely excited about the space, and am looking forward to a great 2014. Here’s hoping you too are looking forward to the coming year, and I wish you a fantastic new year!