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2013 was a big year for social media as more organizations than ever turned to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest to learn from and engage with their customers. As we enter 2014, it's important not only to look back at the past year to determine what worked and what didn't in social but also to think about the year ahead: What major trends will persist, which new ones will arise, and how can social marketers make the most of the changing landscape?

Social marketers should keep in mind the following five insights to help their brands and organizations prepare for and succeed in 2014 by connecting with customers.

1. Clever, smart marketing is more important than ever

Recent trends have forced brands to compete for consumer attention unlike ever before. Audience behavior is fragmenting, people's personal and professional selves are merging, and there is a tremendous shift in how consumers make purchase decisions.

To successfully address those changes, brands must first understand their audience. Despite the ability to pull all kinds of customer data, many brands fail to uncover meaningful audience insights. Making use of customer data allows brands to determine their audience's preferences, and, accordingly, how to effectively engage them.

In addition, increasingly marketing must come from a place of helping, rather than selling. As we move into the New Year, we'll see brands continue to focus on content that's useful rather than solely promotional.

2. Social data will guide the future of relationship intelligence

Millions of actions are taking place on social networks every minute, presenting both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge lies in actually analyzing and developing meaningful insights from the data, to take advantage of the great opportunity to learn and strengthen customer relationships.

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image of Aaron Everson

Aaron Everson is president and chief strategy officer of social relationship platform Shoutlet.

LinkedIn: Aaron Everson