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The 4 Biggest Changes Coming to Social Media Marketing in the Next 6 Months

So many small business retailers struggle with social media. How to build a fanbase, how to drive engagement, how to track return. Even experts need to constantly keep up with all the changes since there are so many, so often, taking place. This is – in fact – one of the biggest reasons for the continual struggle in social media. What was hot last year is cold this year. What worked for a while doesn’t work anymore. It’s impossible to keep up. But it’s that defensive philosophy of ‘how do I keep up?’ that’s a big part of the problem.

If you’re just keeping up with social media you’re falling behind. You need to be on offense. The opportunity is for those on the bleeding edge; the ones who are ahead of the curve on what’s new and next.

Here are four changes to get ahead of in the next 6-12 months:

  1. Pinterest advertising is coming, and it’s going to be huge. Pinterest isn’t just a social network. It’s the search platform for the visual web. Think of it more like a Google than a Facebook in it’s potential for advertising, especially for retailers. (I wrote about this last year for AdAge). If you sell something tangible, chances are people are pinning it on Pinterest. The advertising team there very much has small businesses in mind (just like Google did with Adwords). When the ad product comes, it will be huge for those who can get it right. So, make sure your site is verified. Join the waitlist for advertisers. Ramp up your Pinterest game. And get ready.

  2. Facebook dark posts are the best secret weapon in social. For many small business owners, social equals Facebook. It’s the cornerstone of your social media strategy. And that’s fine. It offers the biggest reach, the broadest demographics, and it’s probably the platform you understand best. But the real reason Facebook is so important is even simpler: data. Facebook is a place where people go to follow, connect with, and share what they like. And for 10 years, Facebook has been collecting that data. Now it’s offering that data to you as an advertiser. When you post on your page you reach your audience. But the real magic happens when you use ‘dark posts’ (posts that you pay to boost to a targeted audience of non-fans). You can get WAY more specific with targeting Facebook dark posts than you can with any other media. Want to reach 46-year-old divorcees living in Madison Wisconsin with a birthday in the next 2 weeks? Dark posts. Want to reach 19-year-old college kids in the state of Texas who like the Cowboys and major in marketing? Dark posts. Go play around with it. The targeting capabilities will blow you away and bring in serious business if you learn how to use them right.

  3. Twitter has problems that aren’t going away anytime soon. Twitter might be the social network that’s the most polarizing for small business owners. I know some who swear by it and say it’s the most valuable marketing tool in their arsenal. We at Danish Country, for example, aren’t even on Twitter. And here’s why: the engagement just isn’t there for us. Twitter is a firehose of information. It was more manageable in the past when the social graph was smaller and Twitter wasn’t trying to push all those trending topics, promoted tweets, suggested accounts into your feed. Engagement is the only thing that matters in social. Until Twitter drives deeper engagement, many small businesses should (re)consider if Twitter is the right platform to be investing your limited resources. This said… every business is different. Test your use of Twitter. Does it work for you? For us, our customers aren’t engaged there. But for you this may be different.

  4. Instagram advertising is further out, but it will be a monster. The biggest thing Instagram has going for it is the attention of its user base. Instagram keeps people engaged, browsing through photos from friends, celebrities, and businesses in ways that other platforms just don’t. The second biggest thing Instagram has going for it is that it’s owned by Facebook. We’ve already covered how valuable Facebook’s user data is. And when they open up that data to Instagram advertisers you’ll get a massively engaged audience that’s highly targetable. Gold mine. It’ll take a while for Instagram to roll out a small business offering, so this might be something more for your 2016 plans, but don’t get left behind when the chance comes to jump in.

Change, as you can see here, is inevitable. Social media will continue to evolve and change will happen as a result. Your business, as a result, must change too in order to keep up.

Contributed by Eric Fulwiler. Eric is the Director of Social Media at Mullen Lowe, Boston. He also manages all marketing for the family furniture business – Danish Country Antiques & Mid-Century Modern. You can reach him on Twitter @EFulwiler. 

Photo Credit: Image provided by Danish Country, a Massachussetts based retailer. Owner Jim Kilroy – featured in the picture – travels to Scandinavia personally twice a year to handpick every piece sold in their store. Their selection highlights the durability and grace of Scandinavian and Asian antiques and vintage mid-century modern.

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