5 Social Media Trends to Watch in 2014

There’s many new platforms and apps emerging every couple of months, but here are the key players that will move and hold strong in 2014, particularly in our Asia Pacific region and wechat and weibo for the Chinese market.

1. Pinterest

One of the platforms that drives the most traffic and in many online retail cases-sales. The highest level of pins engagement takes place on Saturdays. The gradual adjustments Pinterest has made has been subtle and non-intrusive, which hasn’t changed user behaviours. In 2013, they introduced promoted pins, place pins and rich pins specifically for recipes, products and movies. And the travel industry has done a fabulous job of curating bespoke itineraries to inspire travel: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts were the first to launch Pin.Pack.Go, collaborating on Pinterest destination boards with guests and the Visit Sweden bureau who picked up T+L’s Social Media award for best use of Pinterest in 2013, launched a brilliant campaign to showcase the country through more artistic lenses, collaborating with avant-garde Hilton Brothers and inspired over 1,000 Stockholm itineraries.

I predict the online scrapbook of the world’s most interesting nuggets is going to get more versatile and exciting incorporating more videos – since this hasn’t quite taken off yet and there’s plenty of room for the retail fashion industry as well as aviation, travel and hospitality industry to bring experiences as close to life and inspire via Pinterest. Just last week, a beta personalised homepage in the testing and from the looks of it looks pretty intuitive.

2. Google+

slo mo cat in the snow

While Google+ has launched a while back and still haven’t quite made it’s stand, I think 2014 is the year for it as the Google giant already has ownership of some of the most widely used platforms like Youtube and google – it just haven’t quite figured out it’s positioning as it seems to be able to do – everything which can be a marketing challenge. But as social platforms get more diverse and if people could update all their social channels through one platform (without compromising privacy and security) that could be a solution. Plus, all content that goes on the google platforms should inevitably help with SEO and google search algorithm. And while it got a less than favourable plug on Mashable last year, I’m convinced that some of the Facebook traffic is going to start flowing into Google+.

Jay Oatway social media guru based in Hong Kong has long been an advocate of where Google was headed, and he regularly live-streams the Hong Kong Monthly HKSocial meet ups via Google Hangouts and it works fabulously.

Most Android phones particularly Samsung is linked via a google account for most apps and is the predominant smart phones in use all over Asia, conquering a large part of the mobile users pie, with huge  online communities in Indonesia (one of the top 5 Facebook using nation), Philippines and China.

Google+ is currently also the 3rd largest site in terms of usage and accounts (after Facebook and Youtube – the latter linked by google accounts anyway). Usage is highest in Middle East and Africa (both developing markets) followed by APAC and Latin America.

3. Instagram

It’s the fastest growing platform globally as visually led content continues to lead engagement. We’ve long forgotten that outcry when Instagram announced the publics photos could be used for ads and that photos uploaded didn’t belong to the photographers. Many people shut their accounts, but Instagram got past that hurdle and is doing better than before with the introduction of their version of 15 seconds Vine videos (Vine only allows for 6 seconds). I still haven’t got my head around the featured accounts because most of them are not made up of stunning photography but self absorbed #selfies and poor photo compositions… and really you see lots of legs and boobs in poor taste.

While the new function for private sharing was introduced in recent months, I see little use or benefits for that since private accounts don’t have intentions of sharing their feed anyway, so having a selective option doesn’t make a big difference.

4. FourSquare

LBS – Location Based Services an important tool for businesses and the good news for Foursquare (and Jiepang the Chinese equivalent) is that it’s the leader in its market – with Pinterest and Instagram both linked up to Four Square for Place pins and locations on each platform respectively. The data on Foursquare is invaluable complete with tips and recommendations when you check in. If you haven’t yet created a Foursquare account for your business, 2014 might be the time to do so. There are plenty of opportunities to run short term promotions on Foursquare which businesses and retail outlets don’t seem to do yet. The last interesting campaign ran on Foursquare was MOMA New York that sent visitors on a hunt to discover 21 architectural gems of New York. And another great eg is the Local’s Guide pulling real time user generated Instagram photos integrated with Foursquare Stockholm airport.


To announce the 2012 opening of it’s Maison 16th global flagship., Louis Vuitton in China ran a campaign on Jiepang – the equivalent of Foursquare in China and linked up to Sina Weibo.

Louis Vuitton Jiepang campaign, “The Meaning of Travel” (旅行的意義)

Check in at any Louis Vuitton store in China, write a short post about what travel means to them on social media networks like Jiepang or Sina Weibo, then share with friends. Those who check in via Jiepang received a special virtual badge featuring the Louis Vuitton Express, with 10 lucky participants to be chosen to receive one of 10 copies of the

“Louis Vuitton: 100 Legendary Trunks” book.

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 3.33.10 PM


5. Wechat

Everyone’s talking about it, but when you ask brands what are their objectives that are driving strategy and how do they measure their goals, you get all sorts of vague answers. We’re in the era where it’s the consumer’s perogative to let you into their world. Wechat has strict privacy settings, it’s exclusive and pretty much incorporates the best of the apps we use regularly – It’s whatsapp with richer graphics and free and ever evolving interesting emoticons (including funny and satirical time sensitive events like infidel politicians and the popular rubber ducky) and tighter privacy functions than Facebook on it’s Moments wall. Branded pages don’t get access to KOLs nor do they know the number of fans and followers a particular KOL has.

The good news for brands is that once they’ve reached their niche audience, all of them are qualified  – unlike Facebook with over 100,000 fans on a page, what percentage of those fans are in the income bracket that affords that level of brand lifestyle. Wechat is also synced with Google, Facebook and has an e-commerce function in place and have broken into the emerging markets like Brazil (just in time for the world cup), India and Russia and have put their stake in the ground as one of the leading mobile chat applications – by sheer global numbers alone.


I haven’t seen a best practice case study till recently where British Airways engaged over 350,000 fans on Wechat, giving away “golden tickets” à la Charlie and the Chocolate Factory  with 3 random lucky winners selected to go on a China-London trip and the first 2014 followers got 300RMB in their red packet (hong bao).

Key learnings here:

The 2014 red packets alone cost them over 100K USD, and they also invested in targeted advertising to demographics on several channels (website, online travel platforms with real time bidding). There were 3 golden tickets of return flights from China to London, so that alone was a big PR hook and on traditional media, which broke down the exclusive boundaries of wechat. Launching an online campaign alone targeting wechat alone is a challenge with the closed network,  so the novel idea and PR support boosted engagement.
They also fully leveraged the British Tourism Board on weibo to spread the world in partnership. Given how the UK is the new China tourist destination with France on its way out, the government and tourism board has injected lots of funding into this as well as readily support British brands seeking to engage the Chinese market. (see Harrods eg)
This campaign works brilliantly as is simple to claim, visas unlikely an issue with the tourism board support. Challenges for luxury hotel companies offering prizes for amazing stays are sometimes prohibitive. Winners of the prize first have to get through the hurdle of buying the flight ticket, and more often than not, winners don’t fall into the luxury target demographics. Airline companies and tourism boards offering flights as prizes gives the sense of instant gratification and a prize the winner can readily claim.

Finally, let’s not forget about Facebook and Weibo. Both platforms are in lukewarm waters – floating along, until new developments take their apps and the platform to a new level. The younger audience seems to be moving away from Facebook and Weibo has been ousted from the limelight by Wechat. But both Facebook and Wechat will continue to be important to reach the masses and for messages to go viral as they still continue to serve functionalities that other platforms don’t completely replicate.

I did some tests on Facebook ads and whilst they have denied that they are punishing pages with unpaid content by not showing them on the feed regardless of how interesting, there’s definitely something fishy going on there based on the number of likes a post gets which doesn’t correspond with how many people have seen it. So, that’s a sign of eventual decline if you choose the unpaid option regardless of how much interesting content you have.


Juliana Loh

Juliana is a freelance marketing communications strategist with more than a decade of experience in the field of advertising, journalism and luxury hospitality, with a focus on China and the Asia Pacific region.

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