When it comes to covering the news, getting the visual word out, and capturing the ROI moment, social media proved itself as an influencer in paid, earned, owned, and even traditional media.
NBC's "Today" show joined the social love club with a rebranding and reinventing this year unveiling the #orangeroom. Headed by celebrity host @CarsonDaily, the #orangeroom is a social newsroom within a traditional newsroom, it's not only part of the physical set of the NBC morning talk show pimped out with everything from sliding high definition monitors with visual social slices of news, but it also increases the reach, power, and influence.
The Social Newsroom
As brands set the social media stage for 2014, social newsrooms are proving to be a critical tool that serve as the hub that merges traditional, digital, social and mobile news.
RebelMouse made significant strides this year and now offers small brands, domains, enterprises, and publishers a way to unleash content in a visual, social and mobile way. Founded by the former CTO of the Huffington Post Paul Berry, RebelMouse powers up a brand's social newsrooms by curating, populating, and publishing real time news.
Brands as Publishers
The concept of brands acting as publishers becomes more of a survival tactic than a novelty in 2014. Content continues to be king, but the stakes are higher and the bar is raised for quality content.
Resources such as TekGroup and Pressfeed offer companies a content publishing solution to give brands a way to easily incorporate online newsrooms as part of a content strategy that hits all the 2014 marks of newsworthy, social, mobile, and visual.
Other bookmark and spin-worthy finds that blend the best of SEO, social media and public relations in 2014 include relationship and influence builder BuzzStream and Inkybee, a blogger outreach and relationship enhancing tool for communications and SEO pros, alike.
Fans Like Brands on Mobile
No doubt, the mobile movement is here and it's taking up permanent residence in the marketing department. That's why brands like the Boston Celtics made it a priority to launch the first official mobile show by an NBA team called "Home Court Advantage", giving fans mobile access to exclusive and unique content before each game.
More Social Media Tools and Platforms for 2014 from the Experts
Rebecca Murtagh, author of "Million Dollar Websites: Build a Better Website Using Best Practices of the Web Elite", said Hootsuite is one of her favorite social media platforms heading into 2014. Why?
"It allows marketers to easily and collaboratively drive traffic from social networks back to owned media such as the company website or blog; a best practice in getting the ROI out of social," Murtagh said.
TheSelfie by GabbaGoods is the trending new social media tool heading into 2014 for Sarah Evans Digital Media Correspondent and creator of #journchat the first TwitterChat. It doubles as an iPhone accessory and social media conversation piece this season. She put it to Social PR work as a visual, mobile, social way to promote a public relations media tour.
"#TheSelfie was the inspiration for my recent #NYCselfietour with my client's team," said Evans. It worked as a means to document the tour in a fun and interactive #selfie kind of way.
Certainly one to watch in 2014 is Majestic SEO Search Explorer tool and backlink analysis toolset, according to Mel Carson, founder of Delightful Communications and co-author of "Pioneers of Digital".
"I'm very proud to be their U.S. Ambassador and have helped them start getting into the digital PR space by showing how Majestic can be used for influencer discovery, building media lists and measuring the impact of PR campaigns," Carson said.
If Kristi Kellogg, content associate with Bruce Clay Inc., had to choose the ultimate social media app heading into 2014, it would be Tweepi, a suite of Twitter account management tools that allow you to easily identify who's following you. Other runners up include: TweetDeck as a dashboard; Pixlr for photo editing; Bitly for shortening URLs; and Klout for social authority measurement.
"I will continue to use all of these in 2014," Kellogg said.
Considering all the stats pointing to video in 2014, Sarah Van Elzen, director of social media at Hanson Dodge Creative, said her 2014 social media must-have list includes any platform/app that showcases video (Vine, Instagram Video, or Snapchat video).
"Creating short, educational videos or brief, engaging videos requires creative talent and strategy," Van Elzen said. These platforms tell stories better than a press release and encourage virality and sharing.
Facebook and CRM Connect!
Dennis Yu, BlitzMetrics CEO, likes Facebook's custom audiences as we head into 2014.
"It is a good thing that CRM and social are finally able to talk to each other and in 2014 brand should be taking advantage of this powerhouse way to email marketing with social," Yu said.
Social Media Plugin Favorites for 2014 Hit List
WpLeadMagnet.com is a favorite of Neil Patel co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics, because it lets you block your content and requires people to share it before they can read it.
Another favorite of Patel's: Flare by Digital Telepathy "as it is pretty social sharing icons, unlike all of the ugly ones out there."
Last but not least is Buffer, "because it helps you increase the chances that you'll get more traffic from the social web," he said.
Aaron Agius, general manager for Louder Online, agreed that wpleadmagnet.com is one of the top social sharing plugins for 2014 because "the content locker is a great way to seed the content out socially to a wide audience."
Agius said he also loves Digg Digg (created by the Buffer team) because of the options available for the different social networks that content can be automatically shared to. He is also a big fan of Buffer, the scheduling options (being able to send messages out when your target audience is actually online and most active) and sheer number of social profiles you can connect through their app are simply awesome.
"The Buffer team is kicking massive goals online and it is for good reason. The app is amazing and used by some of the most famous Internet entrepreneurs, including Tim Ferriss," Agius said.
When it comes getting the party started in the comments section of a blog, it's Livefyre, said Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich.
"I don't know why blogs use any other commenting platform. It is the best out there," Dietrich said.
Data is in, but it's the right data that really matters! Low level reporting and insights are OUT. Social media plans and analytics that show business value are IN.
"Clients don't want to see a ticker of how big their communities have grown; they need to understand the fundamental value that social media can bring," said Van Elzen. "This means setting a baseline with clients upfront and developing strategies that speak to the company's bottom line. It's no longer just about having a presence with consistent posts and tweets."
Another 2013 fizzle was the infamous "(not provided)", the Google bomb that dropped the collective jaws of online marketers. Google taking away keyword and referral source data was the big fizzle, Yu said.
The Free Ride is Over, Social Paid is Here!
"Organic social media efforts are still in, but it looks as though social advertising will gain more traction as the ROI driver in 2014. In fact, reports recently came out that suggest it will be harder to succeed in Facebook unless you pay to play," said Jessica Lee, founder of bizbuzzcontent.
"As Facebook continues to monetize its social platform, brands are going to have to decide if the paid model is worth the effort," Lee said. "My guess is that Facebook is so engrained in the marketing psyche, that brands will continue to focus efforts there no matter what the cost. And this is likely true across the board with all the major social networks. Social advertising is evolving to become a standard in social engagement, even at Google+."
Pinterest Not a Score for Everyone in 2013!
The Boston Celtics gave Pinterest a try to help the team move merchandise in 2012-13, but it didn't prove to be effective, according to Peter Stringer, senior director of digital media.
"We don't have the manpower to spend time and energy on platforms that don't produce results for us," he said. "While Pinterest may be really effective for other brands, for us it never really moved the needle. So we won't spend much time at all with it this season."
What's your social media favorite for 2014? Sharing might be IN, but the stakes are higher, measures are closer, values are clearer and paying to play is part of the game.