9 Trends for Social Media: State of the Web for 2014

Recently, Blyth Morrell and I presented to Duke Communicators on the state of the web for 2014. The full slide-deck can be downloaded here and the highlights from my social media section are expanded on below.

Social Media Trends 2014

  1. Post-Facebook Strategy Conversations

This is without a doubt the most talked-about social media topic on our campus this year. As Facebook has gone public and they continue to tweak their algorithm, organic post reach is miserable for pages.

First, I want to make the point that Facebook itself is not dead. It continues to be the social network where most americans have an account. But, the way people use Facebook is changing, and the way Facebook serves content for brands is drastically changing.

Facebook just turned 10 this year. It has allowed companies to basically do free advertising for the bulk of this time, and now they are focusing more on a revenue-based model. Facebook is becoming more and more a space where pages need to pay to play with audiences. Because of this, brands are looking at either investing in ad spend on Facebook, or retooling their strategy on different channels and platforms.

It’s important to at least be thinking about a day when we all wake up and Facebook organic reach for pages is at 0%.

Duke Implications:

Start by taking a close look at how your work on Facebook is going. What are you getting out of your page, and what are you putting into it?

Is Facebook driving traffic to your website? Are you engaging with your community there? How much time are you spending creating graphics to post there, or moderating discussions in groups or comments? Take a look at your Google Analytics to see which social media channels are driving traffic now, and think about beefing up your use and/or presence on those sites. For instance, if Facebook is driving most of your traffic, but Twitter is second and linkedin is third, think about what you might do differently or better if you were to shift your focus to those secondary channels.

  1. Google+ on the Rise… or, on the Chopping Block?
  • 300 million people visit Google+ (or use it indirectly) per month.
  • That is far less than Facebook’s 1.2 billion, but more than Twitter’s 241 million.

Especially given the decline in page reach on Facebook, communicators are talking a lot about other social networks where they can reach their communities. Google+ is one of those places. We’ve all referred to Google+ as a ghost town, but it does have active communities in certain areas, especially science, research, medicine and health. These are areas where Duke is strong.

That said, while Google+ is on the rise in terms of user numbers, Google Authorship was killed last year, and many marketers are wondering if G+ is next on the chopping block. Also, google recently made it optional to create a Google+ profile when you sign up for a new Google account, for the past 2.5 years it’s been mandatory.

Duke Implications:

If you have great content in the medical, education, science or health fields, consider sending it along to the Duke’s social media team to consider posting on our main Google+ account. Graphics are a must!

  1. LinkedIn Growing as a Publisher

LinkedIn’s core demographic are those aged between 30 and 49, i.e. those in the prime of their career-rising years. Not surprisingly, LinkedIn also has a pronounced skew toward well-educated users.

This year, LinkedIn launched a new publishing feature, allowing people to share their stories, articles and blog posts through the platform. It’s a great way to showcase knowledge and expertise, and also raise visibility in search. Both connections and followers see published posts just like on the Facebook news feed.

Duke Implications:

This could be an interesting way for us to encourage faculty to promote themselves through the LinkedIn platform. Duke’s Office of News and Communications is incorporating this as a part of our regular social media training for faculty.

  1. For Millennials, There is no One True Social Network

Facebook is like their yellow pages: Millennials have a profile, but don’t comb through the listings every day. They are splitting their time among networks and using Facebook as a sort of baseline social network. Instead of Facebook being “cool” it’s “useful,” seen as a utility and gateway to the rest of the web. Millennials aren’t locked into one network of choice.

Duke Implications:

For recruiting and communicating with undergraduate students, it makes sense to have a presence (even better if run by student voices) on a variety of channels to reach students where they are.

  1. Trendjacking

This is the act of capitalizing on an existing trend in order to bolster one’s brand in the virtual marketplace. We are seeing more and more of this happening on social media this year. Think about the Oreo dunking tweet that went live when the lights went out at the Superbowl. Oreo’s content manager saw a trend spiking, acted swiftly and amplified their brand with a viral message.

Duke Implications:

We have migrated the way we manage the editorial calendars for featured content on duke.edu and social media, thinking more about these platforms as a google doodle space. Our content managers are paying more attention to weird/geeky holidays and tapping into what’s trending – as it makes sense for the Duke brand.

  1. Video Marketing

We’ve all cared about video marketing for a while now, and the topic has only gotten more serious in 2014. For video, user statistics continue to soar, people are seeking for more content in less time, mobile apps continue to rise and storytelling through video platforms is an established format. The Ice Bucket Challenge is a prime example of how prevalent video creation has become and the ubiquity of video sharing on mobile devices.

Duke Implications:

We continue to focus resources on video marketing, experimenting with video on newer channels like Vine and Instagram in addition to a large presence on YouTube. We happily welcomed Sonja Foust to ONC this year to manage Duke’s YouTube channel and video marketing efforts.

  1. Contests and Campaigns

In my opinion, 2014 is the year that social media contests and campaigns got really good. Some of my favorites were the National Geographic Covershot contest and the Travelocity Gnome’s #iwannago photo campaign. Also, don’t forget the Oscars selfie shot was a viral campaign thought up to market Samsung.

Duke Implications:

We’re doing more and more cool campaigns and contests on our social media channels. Just this year, we have run #MyDukeRoom, #MyDukePath, #BlueDevilLove, #WisdomWednesday and #WhatsYourForever. Something I’m thinking about for 2015 is how we better coordinate all of these campaigns and align our resources to be more consistent and effective across accounts.

  1. Brand Ambassadors

As social media has become an integral part of our lives and how we all communicate, it’s important in our jobs to tap into our communities of interest online.

Duke Implications:

We are taking a harder look at using our alumni/faculty influencers to spread messages, and using student street teams to be roving communicators to tell Duke’s story.

  1. Taking Social Media Seriously

Gone are the days of social media just being a small part of a  marketing and communications job. Social media is a real line item in many budgets, and the importance of this work is reflected in increased advertising spend and jobs being created to support social media efforts.

Duke Implications:

Many new communications positions at Duke have a strong focus on digital and social media. We are also preparing to enter an enterprise-level agreement with a social media management and reporting tool that will bring Duke’s social media efforts to the next level with collaboration and data analysis.