Social media and mobile technologies are now forces to be reckoned with. Over the past few years, companies across industries have come to recognize each channel's massive potential. Many brands have put much effort into laying the groundwork for their social and mobile strategies, yet most have yet to move to the next level of leveraging them to engage directly with customers. Though some entered into the social sphere blindly, creating Facebook and Twitter accounts that failed to engage, most have come to understand each network's advantages. And, while mobile technologies have only recently begun to gain traction with consumers, companies of all shapes and sizes recognize they must connect with customers through this increasingly preferred channel. Both social and mobile now stand on promising foundations, which companies are sure to build upon throughout 2013.
Though no channel comes with an accompanying one-size-fits-all guide to success, the following trends highlight what we can expect to see on both the social and mobile fronts in the coming year. Each strategy displays how companies plan to connect with customers, boost engagement, and better learn how to target their marketing efforts.
Get In the Game, Get Consumers Engaged
Whether we're at our computers, or on the go, social gaming is always right at our fingertips. Some choose to play Facebook games (i.e. Farmville), while others prefer mobile applications (i.e. Words with Friends). But, regardless of the user's game of choice, brands and mobile advertisers have the ability to connect with consumers on an interactive level during a prime moment of engagement.
"In-game ads offer a new creative canvas for brands to reach engaged users during key breaks in the game so that user experience is not disrupted, but rather, actually enhanced," says Ari Brandt, CEO of MediaBrix. "According to a recent Harris Survey, 72 percent of people prefer to see immersive and interactive ad units. There are many ways to get creative with in-game advertising, including video, interactivity, surveys, social sharing, and even branded content. One key opportunity is value exchange video ads, where players are rewarded for engaging with ads at pivotal moments, such as when they might need to be rescued. This has proven to be a highly effective strategy for increasing brand favorability."
In-game advertising offers companies the chance to reach a massive, highly engaged audience. By embracing these fun, interactive moments as opportunities to add value to the user's gameplay, brands will be able to take advantage of the positive emotions attached to gaming, thereby causing consumers to associate these 'good feelings' with a brand's messaging while reinforcing a great relationship and impression of the brand.
Broaden Your View of the Big Picture
From infographics to images, visual content dominates our social and mobile networks. Budding social networks, such as Pinterest and Instagram, allow users to shares pictures and snapshots directly from their PCs or mobile devices, essentially blurring the line between social and mobile. This move toward the visual Web will allow brands to rethink their current content strategies so they may leverage each platform in engaging, unique ways.
Apu Gupta, CEO of Curalate, notes that companies must pinpoint the relevant social networks they wish to embrace and figure out innovative ways to maximize each platform. By getting to know these networks well, brands not only come to understand what it's like to be part of these social communities, but they facilitate a stronger sense of community among their own followers, as well. These new networks will also provide a new venue for existing content as companies look to repurpose their messaging and humanize their brands through imagery.
Gupta also emphasizes the benefits of these photo-centric social networks when it comes to granular customer data. "When you like something on Facebook, you like the entire brand," he says. "However, sites like Pinterest allow customers to like products, putting them on a much closer level. These specifics provide much deeper consumer insight, going well beyond social."
Earn Customer Trust, Embrace Mobile Payments
Mobile payments are gaining momentum, but such technology has yet to truly excel. Though tools, such as Google Wallet, were introduced quite some time ago, these payment methods remain rather dormant compared to traditional payment methods. As Troy Brown, president and CEO on one50one, suggests, these actions (or lack thereof) stem from the typical consumer's inability to trust this newfangled technology.
"The key to success is how companies go about leveraging trust so customers become comfortable with mobile payments as a way of commerce," Brown says.
To lay this trustable groundwork, businesses will begin to embrace the average consumer's increased mobile usage by embracing location-based technologies that engage customers where they are. As Steven Rosenblatt, chief revenue of Foursquare says, companies will also introduce native content in order to develop their brand's trustworthiness and reliability—an essential steps for those who hope to incorporate mobile payments.
"Marketers don't want to put something that's intrusive or disruptive to the consumer," he says. "Marketers are starting to create really relevant content, but in stream, so it's not disruptive to the experience." Such actions will not only bolster the given brand's product or service reputation, but their reputation as an important, trustable information resource, as well.
Build Your Strategy Brick By Brick
While eagerness and ambition are sure to drive a company's social efforts forward, they must first take a moment to align their focus before blindly diving into these channels without a plan or strategy in place. As Sarah Carter, general manager of social business at Actiance, says, "The first part of jumpstarting efforts is actually to take a step back and ensure a proper plan is in place to educate, train, engage, and ultimately meet the objectives of the program."
Carter emphasizes that brands must educate their employees on effective social communication in a way that pinpoints the important role social plays within the organization and how to properly engage across networks. These companies must also empower their social customers to become advocates. Brands can no longer make do by simply creating an online presence. They must engage and offer customers something valuable that they will want to share with the rest of their networks. But, above all else, these companies must make sure to evaluate their progress effectively. Carter notes, "Measuring clicks is not the same as measuring engagement." Brands will need to assess whether their followers are sharing messages and content and how these interactions impact ROI.
When it comes to mobile technologies, Dave King, executive vice president of mobile solutions at Confirmit, cautions companies to act with purpose. "Be careful," he says, "because whether you like it or not, you're in the mobile business."
Often times, companies fail to take their mobile presence into consideration. King highlights that many consumers take to mobile when interacting with brands. For instance, when participating in market research, consumers use their mobile devices to take surveys and provide feedback. However, if the layout fails to satisfy, consumers are much more likely to disengage quicker than those taking the survey on their PCs. Moving forward, companies need to remain aware of how they appear across all mediums, or else risk brand erosion.