Before putting your social media management strategy together, here are a few trends you should be considering as the social landscape develops and the content that people respond to is changing.

People love pictures!

Whether it’s that grumpy cat meme or an informative infographic, the way people respond to and share information is shifting to be more illustrative and visual. The fact that images are undoubtedly more persuasive than text can be utilised to enhance your brand by generating more customer interest as well as prompting prospects to get in touch.

If you consider the growth of social media sites such as Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr; each of these demonstrated strong growth in 2013 and has in the region of 100 million+ users worldwide. In addition to this, both Facebook and Twitter have rolled out new designs which focus around fully displayed images in your timeline. To further emphasise the point, here are a few stats:

• Since Twitter has rolled out its new timeline, retweets have shot up by around 150%.

• Since Facebook has introduced the new timeline design, engagement with photos and videos has increased by 65%.

• A 37% increase in engagement is experienced when Facebook posts include photographs.

So, whichever social media platforms you are using, ensure that visual engagement is always a key consideration. A few ideas to get you started are:

• Explore the benefits that using sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr could bring to your business and how they could be used in conjunction with your existing channels.

• Make sure that every blog post published has at least one high quality image with ALT tags.

• Don’t forget video! Set up a YouTube channel and share your videos across all social networks that you are using.

• Use images as a Call To Action (CTA). If you have something important going on, post an eye-catching image which includes your CTA and points to a landing page to all your social networks.

• Memes never get old! If you can use some of the most up-to-date images along with a clever marketing tagline, your meme could go viral!

Social listening is a thing now!

According to ‘The State of Marketing 2014’ report by ExactTarget, 60% of marketers were using social listening strategies in 2013. Social listening is not just about monitoring when and where your brand appears on social sites (and the web in general); it’s about understanding about where noise is coming from (one loud voice or a trend) and responding strategically. Use social media conversations as a way to interact with and understand your customers better. Simply shouting about your brand or your latest product is likely to be annoying, especially when customers are having a conversation with friends, rather than with your company directly.

When you engage with your customers or prospects, ensure that you meet their expectations. Consumers have shown that they are more willing to give up some level of privacy in exchange for better service and/or value and as this is a relatively new area, ensure that social listening has been considered and planned for by your social media management services provider (or your in-house team).

It’s Time To Pay To Play

In 2014, we are likely to see an increase in companies using paid advertising across all social platforms to gain more visibility and competitive advantage. Major sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are leading the change with sponsored posts and advertising, which is usually paid on a cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-impression (CPI) basis. As more and more businesses are adopting paid for social media advertising strategies, good organic rankings will be increasingly difficult to achieve and maintain.

These key trends are likely to be the social media game changers in 2014. If your business has already considered and incorporated all of the above then you’re ahead of the game, but remember to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. New trends are always emerging as competition increases and the way in which we view and interact with social media changes. If your business already has a social media management services provider then you are likely to have discussed these topics at length. If your business doesn’t, this may be the time to consider getting one as social strategies become ever more sophisticated and of course need to be integrated into your other marketing activities.