More friends, more fans, more brands, more stories.

More people are using social media than ever before – and for longer, on an increasingly diverse array of devices. As a result, newsfeeds are cluttered, and fans are more distracted and discerning.

In order to succeed, brands will increasingly turn to real-time creative, analytics and paid media to ensure that high-performing content reaches as many people as possible, at the moment they are most interested, to spark conversations and deepen customer relationships. As media converges, brands will invest in ways to complement original, visual content with fan-sourced creative.

Promoting high-performing content that aligns with new “real content” search drivers will become essential. Brands will host epic social events to excite the base and invest in tools that help them target and engage one-on-one more efficiently. And brands will have a little fun in the process, remembering that brandplay can go a long way to telling their story.

There are 10 social media essentials that can help guide brands to achieve success in 2013. We explore these essentials and case studies of brands in action.

1. Consider Mobile First

61% of smartphone users access social media on their mobile device. Nearly one-third of all time spent on smartphones is with social media. More people access Facebook on mobile than PC. Second screen is changing the entertainment experience; 85% of viewers use a second screen while watching TV. Brands are placing mobile at the heart of their retail experience to deliver an experience that enhances engagement, deepens the relationship with the brand and increases loyalty. Mobile must be at the middle of the brand experience, not on the periphery.

2. Leverage Converged Media

The convergence of paid, owned and earned media has blurred the distinctions between each. Great editorial content is now your ad. According to eMarketer, Sponsored Posts in the newsfeed have 46 times the CTR as ads in the right rail. The conversion is even higher for mobile. By posting, monitoring and boosting content with paid media in real time, brands can extend reach and engagement with their fans. Sponsored Posts and Promoted Tweets give brands the power to boost high-performing content so that it can drive more engagement with the community.

3. Amplify Sourced Content

Some of the best visual content and most compelling stories about a company and its products come from fans and enthusiasts who are sharing great stories about the brand each and every day. Brands are increasingly supplementing engaging original content with compelling content from fans, bloggers and influencers. By actively monitoring online conversations, brands can identify original fan-generated content that can be cross-posted on owned channels, celebrating the fan, the brand and the story they share.

It works for Volkswagen. VW regularly repins awesome fan pictures on Pinterest. Those that generate the most love on Pinterest or Instagram are shared on to the brand’s 1.5 million Facebook fans. VW even launched a website, Why VW, that celebrates fan pictures and stories side-by-side original VW content, so that the brands and enthusiasts share the love.

4. Focus on Visual Storytelling

300 million photos are posted to Facebook every day. 5 billion photos have been shared on Instagram. Visual sites such as Tumblr and Pinterest have surged in interest, with 23 million unique visitors per month. Consumers aren’t just visiting visual sites, they are interacting more with visual content. According to Simply Measured, visual content generates 5x more engagement than non-visual content on Facebook.

Brands are taking note. Johnnie Walker made the shift in 2012, launching on Instagram by partnering with established Instagram influencers and evolving its Facebook presence to highlight fan-generated photos in cover photos. Visual storytelling is evolving on mobile as well. Twitter’s purchase of Vine is driving a surge in campaigns using bite-sized videos. McDonald’s. Skylanders and Toyota have each jumped in with games, fans and a stop motion ad to start.

5. Launch a Creative Newsroom

There are 1 billion Facebook posts and 400 million tweets per day. The amount of content we see grows exponentially, but our time to consume it stays the same. In order to cope with the constant stream, people filter the content they see based on time, visual nature of content and platform. Facebook is also filtering content. Only 8% of fans see a brand’s Facebook post on average.

These changes are leading to a real-time, creative content revolution for brands. In order to break through the clutter, brands must be able to create engaging, visual content that connects with consumers about the things they are thinking and talking about in near real-time. Brands were put to the test recently when the Superdome power outage caused half the stadium to go dark and the world’s most watched TV event come to a grinding halt. Oreo, Audi, Volkswagen and Tide rose to the occasion, developing timely, engaging, visual content that capturing audience attention and changed the storyline about which marketers won the Super Bowl.

The real-time creative process doesn’t happen by accident. It is a purposeful, and challenging, undertaking. In order to be successful, brands must be able to align community management, analytics, creative, and paid media in real time. Community managers and trendspotters actively monitor the conversation for opportunities.

Edelman has developed three real-time creative programs for our clients – Trendspotter Programs, Newsroom Campaigns and Daily Desk – which can be activated around a launch, topical triggers or actively on a daily basis. Clients such as Volkswagen, PayPal and Adobe are seeing surges in engagement for real-time creative content.

We will continue to explore the 10 Social Media Essentials in a second post tomorrow. Part 2 addresses lightweight interactions, driving excitement through social events, fostering one-to-one engagement, keeping up with the changing search game and joining the brandplay.

The following white paper addresses all 10 trends:

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