As 2013 comes to a close, many are pondering how social media will change and how it will affect their business.  The environment of social business is never stagnant. Change is always in the air, social-businessand smart innovations are adopted quickly. It is vital to look to the future as you revise and refine your marketing and business plans for the next year. 

Real-Time Marketing Will Take Center Stage

Real-time marketing will become indispensable to brands, prospects and consumers alike.  Oreo’s real-time marketing during the Super Bowl blackout stirred up a whirlwind of social media activity—casting a bright spotlight on the brand.  Oreo effectively set a new standard for relevant, of-the-moment content.  Let events, such as professional sports games, big-time concerts and popular TV events, inspire your company content.  Ideally, you should have a social media point-person on call at all times to join in on the real-time action and help you capitalize on the next great social moment.  Savvy companies know that creating newsjacked content or at least participating in related social media discussion is essential.  Being immersed in the moment can help your followers fully experience it, greatly expand your social reach and boost your social lead generation.  Make sure that you can deliver, when it matters most.     

Visual Content Will Become Even More Prominent

Visual content—including videos, infographics, webinars, podcasts and SlideShare presentations, will continue to hold more and more sway.  Visuals allow you to educate and entertain your audience simultaneously.  Since it takes less time and focus to watch a short video, prospects are more likely to watch a video in its entirety rather than read a lengthy, complex blog post to its completion.  Always include captivating photos or even video elements in your written content in order to capitalize on the appeal of visual content and beat your competitors. 

Social Media Investment Will Be a Necessity

As demand for high-quality content and social media ROI soar, more companies will invest capital in social media positions.  If you intend to do social media marketing in-house, do it right; hire a social media manager.  Companies of all sizes are realizing that they need to understand and practice effective social listening in order to truly reach, inspire and connect with their audiences.  Managing and protecting your brand identity is a full-time job; treat it with the gravity it deserves.  If you desire outside help, find an agency that really understands the full-range of social business—rather than just social media tools.

Engagement Will Be More Important Than Ever

In the social business environment, it is crucial—certainly not optional—to build and maintain a stellar social presence.  Winning social media marketing requires serious dedication and organization.  There are a multitude of social resources and tools that can streamline content curation and the promotion of your original content across all your social networks, such as HootSuite, Klout and Topsy.  Again, a social media manager is a critical resource. 

Social media is not going anywhere, and the influence of social business grows stronger by the day.  There is a potential client behind each of your social media interactions.  Social media is becoming more diversified; it is no longer dominated by a single network, such as Facebook.  The social media landscape is vast, and your prospects are increasing driven by social media influence.  Social business requires a consumer-centric outlook.  You need to welcome your prospects, when they enter social spaces each day—whether that is on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest or Instagram.  Your prospects may arrive via a mobile device on social media, so ensure that you are ready for the influx of social leads with responsive website design.  Excellent content creation and genuine engagement are the cornerstones of strategic social business.  Neglect social media in 2014 at your own peril.