Social media continues its rapid evolution through to 2015, with the market maturing and becoming more concerned with monetisation after years of looking primarily of ways to appeal to end-users. This year will be the moment when social media brands confidently make the move into the commercial side, thus offering opportunities for smart start-ups that see new opportunities. 2014 was the year of social media analytics companies, but 2015 is set to be one for advertisers and social commerce players. These dynamic areas are set to provide significant activity for business transfer agents this year.
Western social media players have long observed the strides made by Chinese players in social commerce. As demand for social media shopping is high among Chinese consumers and local majors own the entire s-commerce cycle (e-commerce sites, social media platforms and marketing channels), implementing s-commerce has been an easier process. By contrast, Western players have been less confident about the introduction of purchasing tools, understanding that social media is about customer engagement and building genuine relationships. MySpace has become the poster child for a social platform that sought to monetise too early and aggressively, and failed as a result.
However, 2014 saw the first baby steps towards s-commerce rollout, with the introduction of Twitter Product Cards and innovative campaigns on Pinterest, as well as both Twitter and Facebook pioneering the testing of ‘Buy’ buttons. Consumers have responded positively to non-intrusive processes and the major social media players will look to standardise s-commerce instruments in 2015.
With established social networks becoming increasingly forced to monetise their large user bases, advertising was always a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’. Unsurprisingly, 2014 was the breakout year for the introduction of ads, with Snapchat launching its first ad, Facebook introducing auto-play video ads, video ads on Instagram and a larger selection of Twitter cards. Even the social dating app Tinder started integrating ads.
In 2015, social media ads will largely become the norm across most social networks, with consumers largely accepting of the trend in return for more free content. However, the year ahead will also see social brands herding businesses into paid advertising models by limiting their free marketing output. Facebook has already stifled organic promotional posts in the news feed from January 2015 while Twitter is in the process of launching a similar algorithm.
Wearable tech has started 2015 with a splash, as the Apple Watch was unveiled alongside numerous fitness bracelets. The Internet of Things (IoT) segment is also buoyant, with a number of digital majors actively developing software for use in web-connected domestic durables. However, the early excitement of the devices market is now transitioning into a ‘content-concern’ environment: how can wearable tech and IoT devices such as smoke alarms and thermostats actually fit into consumers’ lifestyles.
The answer in many cases is social media integration. Smart watches and other gadgets will live and die based on their ability to tap into social streams, and consequently most are pushing notifications to Facebook, Twitter and other networks. Therefore, 2015 will see new devices present on social media platforms, with innovations likely to keep this space dynamic. Beyond just updates and notifications, smart devices can utilise social networks in more sophisticated ways: for example, a smart fridge that tracks created events and reminds to stock up on goods, or a smart watch that tracks the individual fitness exercises of groups of friends.
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