With emerging trends and technology in social media moving faster than your busy Twitter feed, it's hard to know what to pay attention to and what to discard.

I turned to the experts to see what to watch for as 2014 unfolds. Massive change is no longer on the horizon--it's here. It's worth investigating these opportunities to boost your social impact and improve your marketing results.

The social Web will have more impact than search-engine ranking.

In 2014, the way that consumers interact with your product online (whether through an Amazon review, Yelp rating, or simply a Facebook like) is much more critical. With the release of Google's new Hummingbird algorithm, more weight will be placed on how your business, product, or service is being talked about on the social Web. We will see it directly impact your search-engine ranking in 2014 more than ever.

As Instagram, Pinterest, and other newer social networks continue to gain the attention of consumers, you will need to continue to use a combination of various analytic programs (because there still doesn't seem to be one that can give you all the information you need to truly measure the impact of your social-media strategies) to determine the best use of your time and budget on specific social sites.

--Holly Berkley, author, The Social Media Advantage: An Essential Handbook for Small Business

Simplicity will become critical.

The triumph of simple will continue in social networks. Communities that achieve a truly fundamental simplicity and utility will gain traction over those that are complex. Keek, Pinterest, Twitter, and Snapchat will thrive. Disaffection with complex platforms like Facebook will accelerate. Simple will win for three reasons:

  • It speeds adoption. Because attention spans are shorter than ever, immediate gratification and easy learning drive growth.
  • Simple translates better to mobile. Small screens need to be simple.
  • Simple means you won't make mistakes.

Interestingly, Facebook will play a key role in helping these canonically simple platforms to grow. They can all import your Facebook friends list, eliminating a key sticking point in spreading your social identity across sites. Facebook becomes your contact list, but you don't hang out in your contact list.

Businesses seeking to take advantage of this trend will need to achieve a new level of simple, concise messaging and engagement models. How can you productively interact with your customers in short bursts? What can you say in a 35-second video that will have impact? How about a six-second video? Find the core of your value and explore ways to deliver it in minimal, targeted bursts.

--David Ritter, director, Boston Consulting Group

Social customer service is on the rise.

In 2014, social media will be used more and more by consumers to force companies into rapid response. With more than one billion smartphones at work in the world, the masses will increasingly begin using social media via mobile devices to express issues and complaints instead of dialing the traditional customer support line. Call centers will become obsolete or at least change the way they work, resulting in the rise of mobile customer service apps.

Because of the changes in how customers are communicating with the brands they follow, companies will begin developing strategic customer support teams. This dedicated team, consisting of customer service, sales and marketing, and public relations professionals, will focus on delivering a positive social experience for each and every one of its users.

This rise in customer social service will also cause an influx in the adoption of social engagement by new industries. Until now, B2C companies have predominantly owned this space, taking advantage of community building and competitor tracking, but lead generation is huge for any business, and B2B companies are beginning to realize how many potential customers will emerge by utilizing social customer service.

--Folke Lemaitre, CEO and founder, Engagor

Small businesses can--and will--become big players.

In 2014, marketing/social-media management software will become more affordable, allowing small businesses to better manage their digital marketing and social-media campaigns. We will also see many of these tools fuse search and social marketing. Search will be a particularly important component for small businesses to monitor. Only 22 percent of Americans use social networks daily, meaning the 78 percent of word-of-mouth advertising is being discovered through search. Small businesses need to have touch points with all of their customers, not just those on social media, to truly understand the sentiments and tastes of their audience.

Also, short-form video will become vital for small businesses as an affordable, and often free, form of creative content. YouTube, as part of the Google universe, is undoubtedly the best place to be, but short-form engaging video content/storytelling on Vine and Instagram will become more important.

Lastly, the days of free social media are ending. With so many players looking to be heard on these networks, paid advertising and sponsored content is becoming necessary to be seen. But there is strength in numbers and in strong, engaging content. By combining the two, small business can compete for a share of voice in the social sphere.

--Patrice Francois, co-founder and associate director, Digimind