If you've found yourself on the sidelines, hesitant to commit to social media until now, it's time to get in the game. Social media is here for the long haul, and every day that you delay, you're losing market share and handing your competitors a coveted competitive advantage.
Now is the time to integrate social media into your overall marketing strategy as a source of lead generation, referral traffic and even direct revenue. Like most technologically driven tools, social media sites are constantly evolving, so you must stay current to remain relevant. Watch for these top predicted social media trends in 2014.
Google+ is destined to become a more significant factor. While Facebook continues to be the Goliath of social media sites, Google+ is picking up steam, now boasting the second highest number of monthly users. Just one of the reasons for its growing popularity is its impact on search results, as Google search favors Google+ postings.
What a difference a year can make. With social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram adding location-based functionality, former social media darling FourSquare struggles to find relevance with its users. Short of a fourth quarter Hail Mary pass, FourSquare is likely to fold or get purchased by a rival.
Pinterest and other image-centric sites will continue to grow in relevance, expanding their reach beyond women to attract a broader target. More retailers will appreciate the importance of providing the market with sharable imagery as a way to drive web traffic and sales.
Fragmentation is occurring in social media as younger people continue to move away from Facebook to sites like SnapChat, Instagram and Tumblr. It's a double-edged sword for marketers. While brands must develop custom content for a wider variety of channels, they have an unprecedented opportunity to target various segments of the marketplace.
Brands will begin to rethink the typical corporate brand website in lieu of "social websites," where social-media-type interactivity with visitors is seamlessly incorporated into site functionality, encouraging greater engagement.
Digital marketers are shifting gears away from traditional online banner ads in favor of social media promoted posts and newsfeed ads -- called native ads -- which are generating higher engagement levels.
Social networks will begin offering shopping cart functionality, allowing users to more easily purchase products that they see on the spot.
Consumers will increasingly turn to social media versus the phone for their customer service needs, expecting brands to be readily available. If retailers in particular don't step up to the plate accordingly, buyers will quickly shift to a brand that will.
Tweet @loriturner and @StateGazette to share your own social media predictions for 2014.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover, a sales training and marketing firm based in Memphis, Tennessee, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).