Are you ready for social media in 2015? Today we published Predictions 2015: Social Media Grows Up. This report details our four key predictions for the coming year in social media — and lists the nine things every marketing leader should do to get the most from social media next year.
The reality is, social media isn’t changing at the pace it once did. Sure, social data breaches and increased government regulation will change the landscape next year — but don’t expect 2015 to be a year of social transfiguration. Instead, as the industry matures, you’ll have a chance to catch your breath and focus on a few really important social initiatives. 
My favorite prediction from the report? That as social media matures, branded communities will make a comeback. It makes sense: Marketing leaders report they’re significantly less satisfied with Facebook and Twitter marketing than with branded forums. But nearly twice as many marketers run Twitter and Facebook accounts as host their own communities. It’s time for marketers to focus their efforts on the social tactics that actually work. Plus, brand-hosted forums can help you all the way across the customer life cycle:
They can drive greater brand reach. Many brands try to garner word of mouth by posting content on Facebook and hoping it goes viral. But this “post and pray” method rarely works. The right way to create word of mouth? Advocate communities. Invite a few hundred of your most satisfied customers into an exclusive forum, issue them word-of-mouth challenges, rank them on a leaderboard, and watch your reach multiply. It worked for B2B vendor Bomgar.
They can convert prospects into customers. When people are researching and considering their product options, they usually end up visiting your brand site. You already know that adding ratings and reviews to your site can drive more sales — and so can a branded community. Adding a Q&A feature or a forum to your site will both convert more prospects and lead to more satisfied customers. It worked for the Milwaukee School of Engineering.
They can cement existing customer relationships. Some marketers turn to Facebook and Twitter to engage existing customers. But US online adults who want to stay in touch with your brand are three times more likely to visit your site than to engage you on Facebook. Both B2B and B2C marketers have found branded communities create more loyalty and lifetime value than Facebook and Twitter marketing. It worked for semiconductor maker Analog Devices.
To read more of our predictions and create your own social to-do list for 2015, read our report Predictions 2015: Social Media Grows Up. Check out the complete list of our other Predictions 2015 reports here