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5 Social Media Trends in 2011

Will you be a player…or warming a seat on the sideline?

When people search on the Internet today, they are just as likely to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and other sites to find a business, make reservations, or find a job.

Twenty years ago you would never thought about advertising without having a listing in the Yellow Pages.  Today it’s search engine marketing, also called SEM, that is a required tool in the business strategy toolbox. Social media is the new “look-up” portal and a primary source of word-of-mouth referrals.  Looking forward, I predict the following 5 trends will re-shape how customers buy, businesses sell, and non-profits prosper in 2011.

 1. Location-Based Marketing: Location services will grow in popularity as people get more comfortable checking in to a business. This will be the result of enhanced safety features — such as privacy options that block your location from public view — and more enticing brand offers.

It’s time to acquaint yourself with sites and applications such as Google Places, Foursquare, and Facebook Places. These sites will help you better target prospects’ likes and interests, pique interest and influence purchase decisions by offering discounts, promotions or giveaways when they “check in” to your business.

2. Text Campaigns: As the mobile arena grows, small businesses will continue to move marketing campaigns to mobile phones.  Local businesses will create campaigns specific to neighborhoods, area codes, or regions collecting mobile phone numbers and offering instant discounts and special offers.

3. WordPress-Based Websites: Open source publishing application WordPress will become the platform of choice for blogs and websites. Why? It makes it easier for websites to implement search-engine optimization at little to no cost with plug-ins. To stay competitive, I recommend that you consider moving your website to a WordPress platform. These sites are user-friendly and do not require knowledge of HTML code to design, update, and change.

4. Review Sites: Websites dedicated to customer reviews will dominate the social media landscape. Consumers want to be heard, and more importantly they want answers. Sites such as Yelp will achieve this by consolidating common user-submitted complaints and instantly exposing a bad customer event to millions of potential customers, demanding answers for their wrongdoings. Consumers are even creating blogs specifically about teaching people how to complain effectively. This is another reason to monitor conversations about your products and services online. Moving into 2011, make sure you have a plan for how to respond to positive and negative reviews. Remember to respond immediately. Reviews will start to spread like wildfire with these sites.

5. Monitoring Conversations: Show your customers you’re listening and responding. Creating a Facebook or Twitter or launching a new website is only the first step. Observing trends, building a community, and responding to comments is a must. You can choose social-media dashboards or keyword-alert services to help key an eye on hot topics and customer updates. These dashboards not only allow you to monitor but participate in live conversations. And if you haven’t set up Google monitors yet, they’re free. Go to www.google.com/alerts.

If your business isn’t listening to, engaging with, and monitoring customer (and employee candidate) activity regularly, you may find yourself on the outside looking in. For the millions of small businesses who will be using social media, new target markets and profitable opportunities will open. For those who choose to remain on the sidelines, Leonardo Da Vinci offers some sound advice:

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

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