At North Social, we usually leave the end-of-year prediction posts up to top economic advisors like Snooki and political prognosticators like Gary Busey. But for some reason that can’t be fully explained (okay, we had a few cocktails at the holiday party), we felt it was time for our team to get in on the fun with a Facebook-centric list of useful predictions for next year. So without further ado, here’s what our Magic 8 Ball has confirmed:
1. The word “brand” makes a comeback.
Sounds silly to say “comeback”, but the truth is many businesses got so caught up in the A.D.D. world of social media and the desire to provide instant gratification to their consumers on 2011, they failed to take time to work on themselves. As the number of users on Facebook continues to increase, the harder it will become to capture quality “Likes”. Remember, being successful at Facebook marketing doesn’t begin with just creating a Facebook page for your business. It doesn’t even start with putting those cute and colorful F icons on your website or marketing materials. It actually begins with building and activating a B-R-A-N-D. If you can’t bring your own brand to life in a meaningful (and differentiating) way, you’ll have an awfully hard time inspiring new fans in 2012.
2. Social sampling programs go mainstream.
While Facebook product sampling programs don’t signal the immediate death of the street sampling team, they are most definitely putting the first nail in their coffin. Seriously, never before have we ever been able to put our brand’s message and product into the hands of motivated consumers where they learn, live, play, share, and shop with such precision and speed. While outfitting a bunch of college kids in branded t-shirts to hand out a new flavor of breath mints can help unload inventory. It’s also incredibly costly and highly inefficient. So quit force-feeding your product on uninterested people as they are walking by on the street; collect a name, address, email, and valuable feedback on your Facebook page and put your product in the hands of people that actually want it (and can share it with one click…).
3. Growing “likes” alone won’t keep the boss engaged.
While your boss in the corner office or the client across town screamed for an elevated fan count in 2011, that publicly-facing “talking about this” metric has them clamoring for more of something else this year; engagement. Sure, likes are still important, but more focus and effort needs to be spent on getting page visitors to interact with your product, service, or cause on a regular basis. Listen, if you treat your Facebook page like a tourist destination (only promote offers), you’ll attract tourists. Long-term social success is created when you’re able to take a tourist (someone that liked your page because of a souvenir) and actually convert them into a full-time resident. After all, what good is an elevated fan count if those photos of one-time tourists on the left side of your page never visit your online or offline destinations ever again?
4. Consumers fail to fall for “schmalue”.
Last year your Facebook promo for a tasty 15% off a cinnamon roll may have been able to bring in some new fans, but if that’s the only trick up your sleeve in 2012, hit the whiteboard and try again. Your brand is only worth as much (or as little) as the value it provides back. While small percentage off discounts may have been able to ramp your fan count in 2011, you will have to go beyond this year. Sure, consumers want discount-driven offers, but they also seek out elevated experiences. Entertain them. Inform them. Activate concepts and promotional campaigns that provide meaningful value. Because if you don’t, instead of getting a thumbs up of approval, you may find them using their thumb to hitch a ride to another brand’s page.
5. 90% of Super Bowl ads will be tagged with an F.U.
Calm down, nothing profane here. F.U. as in Facebook URL. Yep, when it comes to Super Sunday, a few things are almost always a given when it comes to the show “off the field”; 1) a really old and not-so-relevant music act will go through the motions at halftime (sorry Madge); 2) the average viewer will consume roughly 3,000 calories in food and drink; and 3) expensive ads featuring animals, babies, and boobs will run one after another all the way until the Vince Lombardi Trophy is held high. But one thing Page Admins should be paying close attention to is how these deep-pocketed brands tag the end of their commercials with not their Website, but their Facebook Page URL. Yes, to build a better following in 2012, you should follow the lead of the Fortune 500 and leverage your other media touchpoints to drive more traffic to your most social online destination.
6. Walk the talk or walk the plank.
As more and more digital agencies pivoted to offer social media marketing services as a core capability in 2011, the numbers of huckster and hustlers entering the social fray also skyrocketed. The good thing? The days of dropping buzz words and pitching useless complexity to win new business is over. Brands are a year wiser and now know it’s possible to achieve more with less. 2012 will no doubt separate the performers from the posers, as more Facebook marketing retainers and custom app builds will continue to be won by more nimble, knowledgeable, and transparent service providers. So whether you’re a Madison Avenue shop or a one-man band pitching your Facebook page smarts, do yourself a favor and customize your own Facebook page first. Your competition is steep and the results you generate need to be real. Psst…if your own Facebook Page fails to inspire, no brand on earth is going to trust you to handle their social media budget.
7. Timeline treatment on business pages just around the…not really.
Remember these words, “Changing consumer behavior is hard. Supporting their habits is easy.” When Facebook announced the new timeline profile at f8, every Page Admin on earth was left wondering how this would eventually affect their business page. But as consumers are just now getting used to clicking a “Like” button and navigating tabs on the left hand side of pages, is this really the best time to roll out a massive re-design? While it makes a lot of sense for Facebook to make the user experience a consistent one on Profiles and Pages, this decision is not an easy one to make. With Google+ and Twitter business pages lurking as possible alternatives, now’s probably not the time for Facebook to re-tool something’s that been working well and jeopardize throwing a curve ball at their biggest advertisers and third-party developers. While we believe a switch to the new layout is imminent, our Magic 8 Ball says, “Reply Hazy. Ask Again Later.”
8. Facebook Ad Forecast: Sunny. Clear. More Conversions Likely.
Facebook’s advertising platform is forecasted to pull in more than $5.3B in 2012 revenue and has quickly become a go-to arrow in the quiver of every brand manager and media buyer. Why? It works. New UI updates like Timelines and Tickers will provide varying new possibilities for targeting consumers with improved contextual messaging. Facebook’s roll-out of mobile ads this coming spring will allow marketers to convert fans into paying customers while they shop offline. With an intelligent strategy, brands of all sizes can expect higher CTR’s and lower CPC’s as ad unit offerings and targeting possibilities expand in 2012. Ready. Aim. Fire.
9. More spray paint coming to a wall near you.
Facebook announced at f8 that users would be allowed to comment on pages without liking them. While your first reaction may be “oh shit”, this open door policy has both positive and detrimental consequences for brands unable to interact with fans on a one-to-one basis. A brand experiencing a public relations crisis could see thousands or even millions of users descend on its Page to leave complaints or insults without gaining any new fans. How page admins respond to these crises will greatly affect the future of their brand image on Facebook. We’ll likely start seeing more brands blending their social media marketing and support teams to provide round-the-clock monitoring and responding to both fans and drive-by taggers. Whether visitors are coming to leave unwanted wall graffiti, product feedback, or give praise, you must be ready to respond. What’s your plan?