One of my favorite things to do this time of year -- in addition to spending the holidays with friends and family -- is to look back on the year that was and also look ahead to what the New Year holds in store.
When it comes to the state of social media, the past year could be summed up in a few words: real-time marketing, content, video and mobile. In a space that's continuously changing and technology that's advancing quickly, it can be a challenge to know where you should be spending your social-media efforts.
Understanding what's ahead can help overcome these frustrations. Here are my top five predictions for where we're heading in social media in 2014:
1. Look for a shift toward visual storytelling through short-form video.
On my Inside Social Media podcast, we talk a lot about telling the story of your business through social media. It started toward the end of this year, but a shift toward short, concise videos that tell a deeper story than pictures will only become more important in 2014.
Platforms like Twitter's Vine app and Instagram's 15-second video make it incredibly easy to create and share this short-form content so take the time to not only understand how to use these platforms but also how users consume content on them.
2. Businesses will embrace the 'fandom.'
I hadn't heard much of this term before I had Tom Fishman, MTV's vice president of content marketing and fan engagement, on the podcast. Fandom is essentially the sub-culture of raving fans that exist within your overall customer base. These are the fans that are going to do a lot of your marketing for you, the ones who will promote your brand to other people.
In the New Year, I think businesses will make a bigger effort to identify and embrace the fandom. Connecting with and giving these fans the tools to help them spread the word about your business will go a long way.
3. Google+ will continue to grow in size and importance.
Google said that Google+ now has 300 million monthly active users. To put this in perspective, Facebook and Twitter have about 1.2 billion and 232 million monthly active users respectively. Not only has Google+ become a popular social platform but its integration with Google search results and Google Authorship makes it a no-brainer in 2014.
This means that being active on Google+, even a little bit, should improve the search engine optimization (SEO) for your business. Google+ is only going to become more mainstream in the New Year.
4. There will be a bigger focus on context.
We've all heard the cry that businesses need to focus on creating more content and that "content is king." And, for the most part, I think businesses have started to embrace content marketing. But for 2014, I think the need to put out more content will become less important, in favor of focusing on and creating content that's contextually relevant to the social channels you're using.
Brands should start asking themselves, "How are people using a particular social channel?" and "What makes a channel unique?" Then they will create contextually relevant content based on that insight.
5. More businesses will get into paid advertising.
I don't think it's a secret that your Facebook fans are seeing less and less of your content. The recent changes to Facebook's News Feed algorithm -- the one that decides what people see and don't see in their News Feed -- has further limited the reach of most organic posts.
With so many brands using Facebook to market their business, paid advertising will need to be a critical part of their social strategy if they want their content seen by more of their fans.
In addition, Twitter is beefing up its paid advertising options with products like the recently announced "tailored audiences." Look for more ad products from Twitter as it creates ways to make more money now that it's a public company. If you're serious about reaching your tribe on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, paid ads will need to be part of your plan in 2014.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.