This is a guest post by Carly Fierro. Carly is a blogger and content specialist, and the co-founder of blog pongra.com
You can’t ignore social media. Well, you can, but do so at your peril.
As we all know, business are increasingly turning to social media to build brand loyalty, connect with customers, and gain free public exposure.
The rewards can be great but, despite this, many businesses remain tentative about diving into the turgid waters of social media.
And yes, creating a social media campaign is a little like whitewater rafting; the medium is fluid, unpredictable and ever-changing.
To help you navigate the wild rapids of social media, here are five trends of 2012 that look set to stick around (or at least stick around as long as social media trends can):
1. Consumers with a cause
Consumers increasingly spend their cash on products and services that reflect their own ideals and goals.
Social media is a powerful platform for a company to express its interest in a cause.
Businesses are increasingly ‘going public’ with their support or opposition to specific causes. For example, we have seen ice cream and cereal companies, as well as fast food chains, making public statements on gay rights.
In stating their views so publicly, companies may lose the business of consumers who disagree with them, but in return they will gain the loyalty of like-minded people.
One word of caution however: supporting a cause just to attract customers won’t work. Businesses that truly believe in the causes they espouse and actively work for that cause will gain much more support than companies that only provide lip-service.
Want to get people interested in your social media campaigns? Make a game of it.
Gamification, or the application of game theory to other areas of life, is taking off in business and social media.
It’s early days for gamification, and it is still somewhat a novelty, but it is certainly becoming increasingly popular. Brand consultancy Millward Brown predicted back in 2011 that it would be a leading digital marketing trend for this year and beyond.
Some companies create their own game apps, while others reward loyal customers with online titles and achievements. Either way, the best way to attract people seems to be to entertain them.
However, effective execution of gamification is tricky; gimmicks must be avoided, as explained in this blog by brand consulting firm Landor.
3. Going mobile
People increasingly access social media from mobile devices. A study by ComScore earlier this year found that 38.2 million people in the US alone use social networks on mobile devices on a ‘near daily’ basis.
There are over 1 billion active smartphone users globally now, a number that is increasing every day, and it is thought that one in five people in the world will have accessed a social network this year.
Mobile means that brands can reach potential buyers at the exact time and location that they are looking for your service/product. Companies can take advantage of this by keeping consumers up-to-date on local sales, specials and events.
Twitter, especially, is well-suited for connecting with the mobile market, as the platform’s roots are ingrained with handheld devices. There are over 13.4 million mobile Twitter users.
With mobile continuing to grow, marketers must not ignore the opportunities it presents.
4. Video Marketing
The viral video remains the Holy Grail of online marketing: the video that breaks out and generates millions of views, spreading through the social networks like wildfire.
Chances are you may never achieve this elusive marketing coup, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use videos to augment and add value to social media sites. If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine how many a video is worth.
If you’re looking for evidence, take a look at this impressive list of statistics about video marketing.
Seriously … just, Pinterest.
The image sharing network is the newest social media powerhouse, with over 12 million monthly users and more traffic generation (clickthroughs) than YouTube, LinkedIn and Google+ combined. That’s a staggering amount of traffic that could be heading to your website.
The site also just entered the top 50 most-visited sites, according to ComScore, and apparently a Pinterest user is 72% more likely to have found an item to buy on the site than a Facebook user on Facebook. It is also the third most popular social network in the US, according to ComScore.
Plus, a case study from jewellery retailer Bottica found that Pinterest users spent more than twice as much when purchasing on the site than Facebook users.
The site is predominantly used by women and is especially popular with food and home decor enthusiasts.
If you need some inspiration, here are six brands that are using the site well.