With less than a month left in the 2014, it’s time for small business owners to develop a plan to maximize their marketing efforts in the New Year. What will 2015 bring for small business owners? Here are 10 trends to keep an eye on as you develop your marketing plan.
1. Social media will continue to propel consumer spending. In 2014, both Twitter and Facebook began testing a new feature that will make it easy for users to buy products and services in just a few clicks. Both social media networks rolled out “buy” buttons, which appear alongside status updates and tweets, and give users the ability to make purchases without having to leave the network. In 2015, expect Twitter and Facebook to drive consumer spending in a major way. One huge advantage to the “buy” button for small businesses is the ability to attach concrete revenue metrics to social media messages.
2. Your friends influence your wallet. As your peers post about the latest products or services they bought, it’s sometimes hard not to be swayed. In 2015, expect your customers to be increasingly influenced by their peers’ purchasing habits. Pay attention to millennials — those born between 1981 and 2000 — on social media. According to a Harris Interactive poll conducted earlier this year, 68 percent of them were at least somewhat likely to purchase after seeing a friend’s post about a product or service.
3. New social media networks will rise, and others will fall. 2014 gave rise to a number of new and innovative social networks — including Yik Yak, an app that allows users to anonymously create and see posts within a 1.5-mile radius, and Ello, an ad-free social network that doesn’t sell your private information to third parties. Then there is Tsu, another social network that promises users a cut of its ad revenue based on how popular their posts are. These social networks presumably have risen to fix the perceived problems of major social networks like Facebook and Twitter including privacy and pervasive advertising. But will these social networks be around for the long haul? Time will tell.
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4. Advertising on Facebook and Twitter will become an essential part of your marketing mix. As a small business owner, you may not be advertising on Facebook or Twitter yet. But in 2015, you may want to reconsider. Facebook continues to aggressively limit the number of posts your fans can see on your page. So the demand for promoted posts and ads will continue to grow. As with anything, increased demand will necessitate increased pricing. Facebook ad pricing already has gone up 10 percent since 2013. In 2015, expect this trend to continue. Advertising on Twitter will become a “must” for small business owners as they embrace the social network’s new advertising fee structure, which allows companies to pay for performance instead of paying for retweets, app installs and clicks.
5. Image-based social media will influence buying habits. Using images to influence consumer purchasing behavior is nothing new. By leveraging image-based social media networks like Instagram, which boasts over 200 million users, small businesses will be able to use compelling pictures and video to showcase their products and services. Pay particular attention to Instagram because the social network recently rolled out in-feed video advertising, which gives companies the opportunity to pay for 15-second video ads based on targeted metrics like age, gender and geographic location.
6. Publishing on LinkedIn will become more popular. If you haven’t yet tried LinkedIn’s publishing platform, explore it before the year’s end. In 2015, LinkedIn will continue to dominate among the business set. LinkedIn has quickly become a strong publishing resource populated with excellent content on business trends, insights and careers. You can use LinkedIn’s publishing platform to express your thoughts on these topics or to build your brand.
7. Content marketing will remain an important tool to spread the word about your business. Content marketing is a great way to reach your customers without aggressively selling to them. But it requires work. In 2015, take the time to explore it to determine how might benefit your business.
8. Social media will continue to drive customer service in 2015. Many major brands have been taken to task by irate customers on social media. What this means is that your customers have latitude to say what they want about your products and services. They can influence whether your product sells successfully. This is where social listening comes in. You need to track what’s being said about your brand on social media and respond to customer questions and issues in a timely manner.
9. Marketing to millennials will be essential. If you aren’t specially tailoring your marketing messages to millennials, you’re missing out. According to Leaders West Digital Marketing Journal, there are 76 million millennials in the United States, and they make up 27 percent of the population. They’re well-educated, with 63 percent having at least a bachelors’ degree. They are also major influencers, with 46 percent reporting that they count on social media when making purchases online.
10. Minorities’ purchasing power will increase. For small businesses, failing to recognize the growing buying power of minorities will have a negative impact on their bottom lines. According to an analysis of data conducted by USA Today, over 50 percent of U.S. cities now have majority non-white populations. And according to the U.S. Census, Hispanics make up 17 percent of the U.S. population have purchasing power that exceeds $1 trillion. That figure is expected to grow by 2017.
For more online marketing trends for 2015, check out the Herald’s Starting Gate blog.