Social media marketing is changing. And we all need to adapt before it’s too late.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The time that we start predicting what’s coming up in the world of social media. It’s been quite an interesting year for social networks with several changes and of course, algorithm updates.
Social media marketing is steadily heading towards a more mature phase, where every decision needs to be justified. This shift is becoming evident both from the latest updates among social platforms, but also from the methods that social strategies are shaped.
It’s not enough anymore in social media to focus on your number of likes or how to accidentally become viral.
Social media ROI is not a myth anymore and this means that we all need to blend our creative and our analytical sides when implementing a social media strategy.
What should we expect from 2018? How can we adapt our strategies to be ready for all the changes?
Here are my predictions on the social trends that will dominate 2018.
1) Video content
Stats speak on their own about the popularity of video content across social media:
- More than 500 million hours of Youtube videos are watched every day.
- A Facebook video receives an average of 135% more organic reach than a Facebook photo.
- Videos on Twitter are 6X more likely to be retweeted than photos.
- 73% of marketers plan on increasing their use of videos
Video content has been very successful in 2017 as part of a digital strategy and there won’t be a change in 2018. In fact, it will become an integral part of more social campaigns.
It has been observed that videos up to 2 minutes long get the most engagement. Moreover, 85% of Facebook videos are watched without a sound. These two stats indicate two key trends in video marketing:
- The focus on short videos and the need to capture the audience’s attention as fast as possible
- The importance of adding captions to facilitate the viewing experience
It’s useful to remember in 2018 that video content is not destined to be shared across all social platforms in one format and length. Every platform has different suggested uses and creative limitations. How about creating one video and splitting it into smaller ones to test what works better on each platform? Don’t be afraid to be creative!
2) Messenger bots
I’ve recently read several interesting use cases on how chatbots can improve a brand experience and strengthen their relationship with their customers and followers. As strange as it sounds, chatbots and Artificial Intelligence can fill a gap between a human touch and a larger scale of support and automated responses.
What’s important is to remember that a personal touch is still needed to ensure that your bot content doesn’t sound awkwardly automated. Explore how your branded voice and your authenticity can be part of technology and replicate your brand’s experience through AI.
As Facebook makes it easier for brands to create their own bots, there will be more experiments in 2018. Bots can help you in:
- brand awareness
- customer engagement
- enabling sales
- customer support
They can serve as the mediator between frequently asked questions and live support. Some of my favourite uses were featured in this post on how bots can contribute to social good.
3) Instagram Stories
As of October, Instagram Stories had 300 million daily active users worldwide, up from 200 million in April. The growth has been impressive and the engagement among users has made brands consider new creative paths.
2018 will be the year that more Instagram Stories campaigns will show up from brands, trying to blend engagement and ROI.
I personally believe that Instagram Stories will bring the most practical change in social media marketing during 2018. The growing number of users engaging with this feature makes brands consider how they can join the conversation.
Instagram has recently announced the option to make Stories last more than 24 hours with Archives and Highlights. This can provide an even greater opportunity for marketers thinking of Instagram Stories campaigns. There’s no need to be afraid anymore that your content won’t last more than 24 hours. All you need is to get used to the idea of creating short, fun, engaging content that speaks to your audience.
4) Messaging over public posting on social media
People have increased their usage of various channels, with messaging being the first one at 67% and social media coming second at 48%. Think of your own personal use, how often do you use a messaging app, a social network and an email? How often do you use your phone to make a call?
Our personal use of different forms of communication can also reflect a similar usage from our target audience in social media.
There is a growing preference for private and/or safer messaging comparing to the public posting of social networks. People are starting to feel more confident in using messaging apps and they tend to prefer sharing content to specific groups of people rather than a larger audience.
This is a combination of context, privacy, but possibly an attempt to stay away from branded pitches that turn into a social media noise.
How can a brand adapt to this new era? Think of bots and other creative uses that can make your brand more conversational.
Customer support can be the first test in applying conversational techniques to your brand’s strategy.
Use the opportunity to develop your own voice and turn the challenge into a big advantage for your brand’s engagement with its audience.
Explore how to measure the traffic of ‘dark social’ (the so-called private and encrypted networks that show up as unattributed sources in reporting).
Except for the rise of messaging, another big trend that will change social media marketing as we know it is the power of personalisation. People want to consume content that is relevant and personalised.
There’s no need to craft content for every individual, but you can still explore how to create social posts that speak to your diverse target audience.
A closer look at audience insights and an experimentation with different types of content can be the first step towards personalisation.
As we get access to more data, it becomes easier to learn more about our audience, what they want and how they will probably react to new ideas. This makes it easier to create the right content that will meet the brand’s objectives.
Moreover, gamification can bring your campaigns closer to personalisation. This can help both with awareness and engagement, keeping your audience interested while exploring customised content.
For example, Breast Cancer Now wanted to make their #WearItPink campaign special this year. They decided to create personalised videos to thank their supporters in the most creative way. These ideas tend to motivate more people to support a campaign, as they feel valued and appreciated enough to continue promoting the cause.
In 2018 there will be more brands testing the idea of personalisation as part of their campaigns. The challenge will be to find the balance between ultra-personalisation and generalisation. Your content needs to be general enough to make sense to your wider target audience with the right touch of personalisation when trying to make a difference.
6) Brands focusing on social good
There has been a negative association with social media usage over the past year. An increased number of hate speeches, bullying, fake news, safety hacks and trolls have brought up the ugly side of social platforms and their users.
However, as reality becomes scarier, there is still hope with a growing community of people interested in social good. The rise of communities that support a wider cause or the planning of inspiring movements through social media has sparked a new positive fire across social media.
A great example was the use of social media for the Women’s March on Washington and how it quickly became an international movement.
Moreover, there seem to be more organisations and brands interested in social good (or a broader way of defining a campaign). We’ve seen some great campaigns last year, with Airbnb’s, Heineken’s and New York Times’ being my favourite examples.
It’s about using the momentum to create a campaign that serves your goals while focusing on a powerful message.
I’d be happy to see more of these campaigns, provided that they’re delivered in the right context. (Remember this backlash?)
Instagram has also announced new features to strengthen their safety and promote kindness with the use of the hashtag #KindComments and the available stickers for it.
As it becomes harder to be optimistic, it will be even more important to create authentic and inspiring campaigns.
The use of social media, even as part of a brand campaign, can become more interesting and impactful.
After all, it’s easier to grab your audience’s attention with an inspiring message.
What these trends mean for social media marketing
- Social media marketing = more social than media. Going beyond the rise of brands turning into publishers, it’s time to be genuinely social. Find your voice, create authentic content and engage with your audience. Start a conversation, don’t just broadcast your content.
- Social media strategies of two years ago will feel outdated. It’s the perfect time to evaluate your current strategy and explore the areas you need to update.
- Quality over quantity. There’s no need to keep chasing all the new shiny social platforms. Focus on the ones that work better for your target audience.
- Focus on listening. Social media monitoring and listening will be more important than ever. Don’t assume what your audience wants without really hearing their thoughts.
- Invest more time and resources in visual content. The budget should not be a barrier to creating visual content for your social networks. Luckily the abundance of free tools and the use of your phone can still help you. Use your available time and skills to find inspiration across other accounts and take your visual branding to the next level.
- Keep learning new skills. A modern social media manager wears many hats. More than we sometimes expect. That’s why it’s important to review your skills at least once a year and find the best ways to improve them. Social media management requires a diverse combination of digital, marketing, design, editorial, creative, and analytical skills. From writing and graphic design to marketing and ROI measurement, there’s always a new skill to improve.