Social media sites are huge and growing quickly. Facebook now has more than 750 million users, and more U.S. adults check Facebook every day than read a newspaper or listen to the radio. Social Media isn’t just for kids anymore – most social networks report the largest growth in the 55+ demographic.
Trend #1 – Google Plus (or Google+)
At the end of June, Google announced its own social network, similar to Facebook, called Google+. Despite requiring an invitation to get into the site, Google+ is the fastest growing social network ever. A month after the launch, Google+ had 25 million users. It took Facebook three years to acquire that many visitors.
Why the excitement over Google+? Google+ offers unique functionality that allows users to create both public and private posts, essentially combining Facebook and Twitter into one site. It also connects seamlessly with other Google properties, including photo sharing. Some of the other interesting features include Circles (like Facebook lists), Huddles (group video chat) and Sparks (a way to share common interests).
Should you ditch Facebook for Google+? Not yet. Despite the quick growth and amazing functionality, the reality is that most of your social network is still on Facebook. Check out Google+ and start building your connections, but don’t abandon Facebook just yet.
Trend #2 – Social Media Overload
As social media has grown over the past five years, users are starting to get hit with social network overload. There is just too much going on to stay on top of. Consider that an average user on Facebook is connected to 130 people and an additional 80 groups, events and pages. If an average user posts three times a day, that is over 600 posts a day that an average Facebook has to wade through.
Facebook isn’t the only culprit – Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging sites all have similar problems.
The key to managing social media overload is to use efficiency tools. Mobile applications allow you to keep up with your social networks when you are on the go or only have a few minutes to spare. Also, use applications like HootSuite that allow you to manage multiple accounts from one site and even schedule posts in advance. Don’t get overloaded with social networks.
Trend #3 – Doing Something with Fans
Over the past few years, marketers and businesses have flocked to social media as a way to connect with customers and acquire new ones. Most businesses have obsessed over getting more fans, followers or connections, but now what?
Businesses have spent lots of effort collecting people on social networks, but not a lot of time thinking about what to do with the people once they have them. As a result, most people simply ignore the brands that they are connected to on social networks.
The next wave of social media for businesses will see businesses spending strategic and creative energy figuring out how to engage and inspire action from their fans. To take advantage of this trend, spend some quality time getting to know your fans and their interests, and ask yourself how you can use social networks to provide value to your fans and how your fans can build the value of your brand.
Trend #4 – Social Media Commerce
One of the big trends in social media is social media commerce. Social media commerce includes selling real or virtual products through social networks like Facebook. We’ve already seen a lot of brands selling directly on Facebook. (If you go to the Best Buy fan page, you can buy everything that they sell online right in Facebook.
The next wave of social media commerce involves tapping in to the social graph to drive purchases. The idea is that we are more likely to buy something that our friends have bought – so by leveraging social network advertising, there are huge opportunities to drive sales.
Look for more innovation in Facebook commerce and e-commerce providers offering innovative tools to spark social spread of purchases.
Trend #5 – Remembering the Value of Meaningful Interactions
Let’s face it: A "Happy Birthday!" post on your wall isn’t the same as a phone call, a card or a cake in the mail. Whether you use social networks personally or professionally, they don’t replace real and meaningful interactions with people, charities or businesses.
Today, rather than donating time or money to a charity, we change our profile picture or post something on our wall. Instead of calling a friend to hear about his or her vacation, we check out their Facebook photos. The problem is that Facebook photos don’t actually help charities, and you miss out on the best stories by only seeing what your friends post publicly on Facebook.
Take the time to build real connections with the people who matter. Send a handwritten note to a customer. Mail a letter to a friend. Focus on building real connections again.