Every year social media marketers make predictions for the upcoming year, and they’re mostly centered around how social media will perform.

But this year is completely different. Why? Because 2015 is going to be THE year for social media marketing.

Up until now, we’ve been convincing businesses they needed social media, that it wasn’t just a phase, and then educating them about how to incorporate social media into their marketing.

However, all of that changed thanks to the maturity of the social networks in 2014. This year business owners are going to KNOW they need social media, and so the only question they’ll be asking is, “How can I get my business involved?”

In 2015, there are 3 things that will part the sea between the businesses and brands that are committed and those who are not.

And before we proceed, understand I do not consider these negotiable – they must be incorporated. 

Let’s go over these MUSTS and find out how you can utilize them.

1. Personal connection. (Philosophy)

This may seem trite to you, but in 2015 automated accounts are going to fade away. If there isn’t a live person online managing your accounts who’s ready and willing to answer questions, field issues or simply reply – your brand is going to lost credibility and trust.

And we both know, once you lose such valuable assets, getting them back is tough.

So what is a personal connection? Great customer service. Knowledge of your audience. Consistently showing up EVEN when no one else does. Giving insightful answers. Sharing valuable content that empowers readers and offers solutions to their problems. Saying thank you.

It should be infused with every post, apparent in every reply, and consistently applied, every single day.

What you can do:

Make yourself a schedule of what you can do and make a commitment to stick to it.

If that’s being available or keeping abreast of your social networks from 11-2, do it. If that means posting once a day on Facebook, do it. Or if it’s sharing a photo on Instagram once a week, make it happen.

Learn to be consistent, make it a priority, and then expand on what you are doing.

If you’re fortunate enough to hire someone to manage your social media, make sure to hire someone who’s core values are consistency and excellent customer service.

Online audiences will only become more picky about who they share their time with as marketing continues to take over our lives. And the only way your business or brand will make that preferred VIP list is if you offer an authentic personal connection with them.

2. Videos. (Content)

You’ve probably already seen people talking about the relevance of videos, so this may not be anything new, but it’s going to be HUGE in 2015.

It’s going to be so huge that if you aren’t participating with some form of visual content, your marketing will suffer.

But videos or the undertaking of making a video can be intimidating – even for me.

If you’ve seen my #WednesdayWisdom videos posted every week on my Facebook page, then you might understand that starting with something is better than not starting at all. They aren’t professionally shot, there’s no gorgeous background, the lighting can be off, and I’ve even shared (gulp) my morning face.

But that’s not the point, the focus is on my words and the reason behind the videos, not the look.

Don’t allow the fear of doing something different or new stop you, especially when it comes to marketing.

What you can do:

Educate yourself and experiment.

There are a lot of articles circulating right now that offer advice on tools to use, apps to download, and ways to make video as simple as sending a text message. Okay, maybe not that easy, but close.

Video is just another way to express who you are, what your business is about, and share it in a more intimate format than photos could ever be.

An easy way to break into this is with the 6-second videos on Vine or the 15-second videos on Instagram. Research businesses in your industry with the Search function on Instagram and see what they’re doing – film a how-to, a behind-the-scenes, an introduction to products, employees, personal loves, or dole out quick tips.

The upside to starting with super short videos is that you break the fear associated with videos and you learn how to package them quickly for social sharing. Both Vine and Instagram can be shared on any other network, so there won’t be many steps to preparing a video that’s ready to go.

Once you’re ready for a further step, use your laptop camera, desktop camera or video camera. A program I love (but don’t fully utilize for myself yet) is Screenflow.

But use my #WednesdayWisdom videos as an example. People have been telling me for years to get in front of my brand, but quite frankly – I’m shy and very private. However, I’ve seen the enormous difference when I do step out. So I decided to just rip the bandaid off (if you will) and record my first video early one morning. And that’s still what I do. It’s not glamorous or very professional, yet. But as time goes on they will get much better.

My biggest advice here is to not let the perfectionist takeover and hold you back from utilizing video in your marketing strategy, now. Ignore the awesome people with awesome videos and just get started – your audience will love watching the maturing of the videos anyway. We are all on a journey.

3. Ad Spend. (Technical)

This will initially be your least favorite because it means spending money. BUT, I can guarantee you that it’s going to also mean business growth, sales, and an expanded brand awareness – all things that will actually turn into your favorite.

Ads are here folks, whether we want them or not. And they should be!

A few years ago businesses had to invest in both print and digital advertising i.e. magazine and TV ads. And what were these ads? Very, very expensive. When my parents had a TV commercial made for their restaurant it was a BIG deal because it wasn’t cheap.

But advertising on social platforms is still inexpensive. Facebook has been pay to play for over a year now and it’s going to strengthen that distinction even more in 2015. But you can get great results from a $2/day Like campaign, or Boost a post for $5 with targeted specifics and get excellent traction, or direct traffic back to your website or sales funnel successfully with $5/day.

And let’s be honest, if you can’t spend that much in ads per day, then there’s bigger issues at hand.

Twitter ad case studies are abounding daily, Pinterest has begun to let its users get their feet wet, and if you think that other social networks aren’t going to follow suit – you’re highly mistaken.

Basically all businesses are online and are relevant on at least one social network. The social platforms know it, are ready to capitalize on it, and at the same time are dedicated to helping you put your message above the rest.

But that means money – we’ve got to spend money to make money. Simple business economics.

But the great news is that social ads are now reliable, accountable and can be tracked. They aren’t perfect because no one can quantify the taco you bought after seeing one in your Facebook newsfeed, but it’s verifiable enough for businesses to see the rewards.

Personal connection, videos, and ad spend are my top three. And my final prediction for 2015 is that it’s going to be the year of Instagram. If you aren’t on it – make it a priority.

Am I missing anything important? Comment below and let me know!

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