Sunday, February 16, 2014

2014 Social Forecast: Topic Clouds With Lots Of Chatter

While most of the nation was under the frozen grip of the Polar Vortex, the marketing world was being showered with social predictions for 2014. A quick query of “Social Predictions” produced 7,700 mentions from December 1, 2013, through January 6, 2014.

After scouring through these prognostications, two patterns emerged. One was that most predictions included one of these three common threads: mobile dominating, content remaining king with video leading the way, and big data morphing into smarter data. The other pattern was that most of these predictions weren’t backed by any sort of data.

This brings us to our forecast for 2014. Like a meteorologist who uses Doppler radar to forecast the weather, we use social listening to forecast trends and get a “temperature reading” on current chatter over the Internet. Does it help us get it right 100% of the time? No. Is it better than using a crystal ball? Absolutely.
For this forecast, we queried keywords gathered from predictions to detect any steady or upward trend for the New Year. The following are five social topics rising for 2014.

1. Ephemeral Networks

In 2013, there was a ton of talk about these disappearing content networks like Snapchat and with nearly 700k mentions (and the conversations weren’t all about the Snapchat hack). For 2014, it doesn’t look like the chatter will vanish anytime soon (pun intended). These networks fulfill people’s desire for spontaneous and unfiltered fun that doesn’t merit archiving on a timeline forever. Early adopter brands are utilizing these time sensitive platforms to prompt immediate action in the way of sneak peeks and exclusive rewards.

2. Paid Social

As social platforms adopt more traditional media models and shift their algorithms to the detriment of organic reach, the topic of paid social will continue to trend upward. The keyword “paid social” received a steady flow of mentions throughout 2013 with 7,572 in total. Pay-for-play isn’t new to big brands, but how to leverage the explosion of social ad products and networks like Facebook Exchange is new and will continue through 2014.

3. Social Media Advocacy

Another keyword we saw trending in 2013 was “Social Media Advocacy,” with 11k total mentions. This trends nicely with the “Paid Social” topic. Brands are realizing they can buy a like through promoted posts and sponsored stories, but they can’t buy love. That comes from their passionate customers, partners, and employees. Brands that tap into that will hit influence gold.

4. Social Customer Service

On the subject of brand love and advocacy, “Social Customer Service” surfaced as another upward trend for 2014. This term received 10k mentions, gaining momentum in positive sentiment in late 2013. As brands focus on building longer-term relationships with their customers, providing responsive customer service on social channels will continue to grow in importance.

5. Social Listening

Along with identifying trends, social listening helps brands understand and connect with their customers as well as keep an eye on their competitors and detractors. Mentions of “Social Listening” were steady throughout 2013 with good volume (72K). While the topic cloud is somewhat negative in sentiment, listening tools are mostly positive. The negative sentiment around social listening falls in line with sentiment around big data and the need to harness its power, something companies will put more focus on in 2014.

These are just a sampling of the topics we found trending. Other keywords that showed a steady or upward trend in mentions included “Social Business” and “Social and Gamers.” Interestingly, there were several topics that showed a downward trend in mentions that were included in many of the predictions we came across, such as “Big Data and Smarter Data,” “Social and Video,” and “Social and Content Marketing.” These are the keywords that have been talked about in the past and had a decrease in mentions volume towards the end of 2013. That’s not to say that they won’t play an important role in 2014, but in social listening terms they are part of yesterday’s weather report.