Social Media circa 2014

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It is no secret that brands have embraced social media. What was once the platform for college party planning is now the world’s go-to destination for photos, news and updates from brands ranging from apparel to banks to hospitality.

We are no longer going to clients and pitching the need to go social. We are pitching how to do social right. So how do you do social right when the space has become more crowded than the community pool in high summer?

Here are three trends that we see revolutionizing our social experiences before the year is out:

Social Website

Consumers are the best advocates of a brand, and social media has given companies the ability to handover the loudspeaker to their most vocal fans.

Pepsi Co. has lead the way in embracing the story-telling power of social media. The company’s website, both in the US and internationally, is a dashboard of social media channels, highlighting user-generated content.

What no brand has yet achieved, and which is only a logical next step, especially given Facebook’s latest announcements, is to forgo the website entirely and exist purely on social channels.

The brand gains the ability to gather data from every user and every impression; the user gains the ability to interact seamlessly with the brand – never needing to click away from the site to like, comment and share.

Shopping Social

Online shopping revolutionized the retail industry in the early 2000’s. In 2012, global e-commerce sales topped $1 trillion. Although e-commerce platforms have grown in size, revenue and type, little revolutionary has happened to the merchant-customer relationship.

Social has the power to do something very interesting here, in several ways.

Many brands have taken to offering discounts to their social customers; however, the market has been slow to relate e-commerce to social media. Hoteliers have been leading the charge, building bookings tabs into the social pages. One hotel has even taken to twitter to enable hashtag-activated bookings.

All businesses need to do this.

There is too much noise in the social media sphere for a brand to stand out by virtue of its voice alone. Enabling the user to browse, review and purchase items on the brand’s social page will revolutionize the user’s and the brand’s digital experience.

This is the website’s comments section, shopping cart, “share” button and database capture tool all in one.

Social In-Store

Few brands have brought social media into the shop in a meaningful way, but the technology to create a revolutionary, in-store, social shopping experience exists. Stores can capitalize on this tool not only to track customers, but to engage and delight.

Imagine you are standing at a shoe rack at a department store and a notification pops up: “Tweet an image of this shoe with the hashtag #gottahaveit and receive a 50% discount. Active for the next 5 minutes.”

Imagine you check into your neighborhood coffee shop. A notification appears “This is your 10th check-in this week. Enjoy a cuppa on us!”

Card or token-based loyalty programs are irrelevant and inefficient. Moving your brand’s loyalty bonuses to social creates an experience that is delightful for the consumer and significantly more powerful for the brand.

Imagine walking up to a custom-built vending machine, tweeting a special hashtag, and receiving your drink.

Brands will be trading incremental monetary gain for exponential social gain, driving profits along the way.

Not-So-Distant Future

Today, the web exist in two spheres: the website sphere and the social sphere. The only logical, mandatory solution is that these spheres be joined: that any web experience becomes at once social and transactional.

In a nod to Einstein, let’s call it Web UFT.

[Illustration: Pixel People via Shutterstock]

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