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Not too many years ago, social media was more about having fun, meeting new people, and making new friends.  Today, it’s much more than that; in fact, if your business isn’t taking advantage of social media, your company is at a huge disadvantage in terms of building your brand and SEO presence – not to mention gaining new customers and increasing revenue.  If you are participating in social networking, good for you!  Now, what about the trends for 2014?

Social media will become essential, not just something you do if “you have time.”  Many businesses have put social media on the backburner, one of those online marketing strategies that sits in the back of their minds, but never really gets done.  In 2013, it has become evident that companies who engage in social media benefit tremendously – next year, it will become a “must do.”  Investing your time and efforts in social media will improve search engine rankings, help increase brand awareness, build trust and increase customer loyalty, and help you reach a much larger audience.

Sharing information in a visual format will continue to gain popularity.  More and more we have seen users of social media sharing through videos and images rather than content that’s text-based.  Tumblr, Mobli, Slideshare, and other social media sites based around images will continue to become more popular.  As a business, it’s crucial to keep in mind whether your photos, images, and content are easily “sharable” across your blog and website.  Real-time video sharing has become common, considering the emergence of Twitter’s Vine and other micro video apps – and Instagram has become a prominent player with its video sharing feature.

Remember MySpace?  Once the biggest player in social media, many predict MySpace will make a big comeback in 2014.  Considering their new iPhone app and radical makeover, it may once again become a favorite of music-lovers and band members – but it’s doubtful it will ever be in the same league with Twitter and Facebook.

The growth of Google+ will skyrocket.  While no other social media site comes close to Facebook in terms of users, Google+ continues to gain ground at a rapid pace.  In second place behind Facebook with 343 million users, Google+ has become important for businesses in terms of social signals and search engine optimization, as Google Authorship is predicted to be a key factor in the search engine giant’s search algorithm by the close of next year.

For B2B businesses, LinkedIn will be a must.  Designed more for B2B professionals, LinkedIn continues to grow and attract more users.  After launching its Influencers program (designed to make it easier to follow thought leaders in your industry), the social media network for businesses has positioned itself as a leading source of content curation and creation for professional business people.

Foursquare may become a distant memory.  2013 proved to be a difficult year for Foursquare in terms of raising capital, and with Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms providing location-based features, the future of Foursquare doesn’t appear too bright.

Hopefully 2014 will be the year that business owners realize the necessity of putting time and effort into social media.  The benefits are too many to count; what will it be for your business next year, continued growth, or a struggle to keep up with the competition?