South Africans are looking forward to an exciting 2011 as social media becomes the norm for businesses and consumers alike.
Consumers are spending more time and effort to take their lives onto these platforms, while businesses are taking the plunge as they start to understand social media marketing possibilities, writes Ryan Silberman, chief operating officer of Popimedia.
Popimedia believes that the rapid pace of technology innovation is feeding the social media frenzy, and it is becoming easier for people to have real-time conversations with their networks on any platform.
So let’s take a look at the major trends:
Television will make a strong play in consumers’ lives this year, as TVs, computers and mobile phones become integrated.
Skype already comes installed on various TVs. Apple, Google and other independent companies offer a “connected” TV experience which brings not only streaming video content to a TV, but a whole host of applications which will allow users to access weather, news and connect with social networks.
This in turn will allow users to “like” their favourite movies or leave comments on what they are busy watching. Obviously this will depend on Internet connection speed, and only the luckiest few will have access to these services in South Africa.
Video calls, face time and conferencing
With TV, mobile and PC now connected, video calls will begin to flourish across platforms and devices. Up until recently, only platform-to-platform and device-to-device video conferencing has been possible, and even then both users had to use the same setup.
So while trying on a new pair of jeans, for example, users will be able to call friends on their mobile, TV or laptop and get their opinion on the spot.
Online, Facebook is still South Africa’s social media platform of choice, and there are many innovations planned for 2011:
*Facebook Places – gives users the opportunity to let their circle of friends know where they are and what they are up to.
*Facebook Deals – should see competition with the Groupon business model for small businesses.
*Facebook Personalisation – in essence, an “automatic Facebook Connect”, will add more partners to make the online experience with friends seamless across favourite sites.
*Facebook ads outside of Facebook – Facebook should leverage Facebook Connect to bring Facebook advertising to connected sites.
With 250-million people accessing Facebook Connect through third party sites, the time is now right for Facebook to offer third party sites a tool to serve Facebook ads outside of Facebook.
This would effectively one-up Google’s offering as the same sort of targeting that is available on Facebook would now become available to any site using Facebook Connect.
These and other existing applications combined with the fact that South African businesses have been interacting with Facebook and growing communities for the last few years, has made the management of a Facebook page vitally important.
The following questions need to be asked by brands on how to do this:
*How do they ensure that the page is being monitored and vetted?
*Is there an audit trail of interaction?
*What if they have multiple pages for different purposes under one brand stable?
*How do they ensure that the right people get the right information in order to make the right decisions at the right time, such as customer service issues and sales leads?
*Do they actually have a content strategy?
*If so, can they schedule, approve and adapt it?
With that in mind, Popimedia will soon launch its Meedee8 tool which will help to answer these questions.
Offline merges with online (location based services)
Society is moving towards an era where people are literally connected to networks every second of the day, and thanks to the innovative technologies expected to gain traction in South Africa this year (such as Foursquare and a long list of competitors, including Facebook Places), it could be done as easily as just walking into a store.
Recently, people attending the annual Coca-Cola Day in Israel were part of a pilot project where they were each given an RFID bracelet with their Facebook details preloaded, which updated their profiles on the social media site with information on their whereabouts during the event.
In summary, innovation and technology have a snowball effect on how people interact and communicate with their friends and brands, and social media will have an ever increasing role in consumers’ lives.