Social media, the relationship hotpot and community capital. A marketers dream and the number one place to communicate with your audience, but where is social media marketing going? Here are seven major marketing trends taking over your feed.
1. Free Exposure has Ended. Pay to Play is Here to Stay
To market your brand, you’re going to need a budget. The question, however, is how much to spend? As Facebook continues to retract the level of organic exposure businesses can receive via their platform, paid ads are beginning to rule the roost. While Instagram and Twitter remain to be the best channels for exposure, it’s safe to say as more companies start to use paid posts, this may not last for long.
Whether you use Pay Per Click (PPC) promotions, boosted posts, or have a social media specialist at hand, it’s important to set a weekly social media plan, developing your budget around important events that bring significant exposure to your company and its culture. While the folks at Facebook, Twitter, Google and Linkedin HQ make it easy to understand where your budget is going, it’s still important to make every penny count. As pay to play will continue to rise, it’s essential to make the most of it while you’re on a level playing field with the big companies in your sector.
2. Influencer Marketing Is far From Peaking
“Influencer” isn’t a new term suddenly coined by Millenials and Gen Z because it sounds cool. Influencers are the latest and best way to receive digital exposure through social media. Initially being recognised as a strategy for a young demographic, this is beginning to change as the kids grow up – affecting their decision making and interests. According to Forbes writer Clare O’Connor, “An Instagram user with 100,000 followers can command $5,000 for a post made in partnership with a company or brand.” And that’s on the low end of the spectrum. YouTubers with several million subscribers, on the other hand, can command a healthy six figures for a video partnership and reach millions of individuals.
As Forbes has outlined, the presence of influencers is growing exponentially year on year; they don’t even need to have thousands of followers to make an impact. Micro-influencers are becoming just as powerful when it comes to niche consumer targeting, having a select number of followers that are highly engaged. Below is why you should adopt micro-influencers already advocating your brand.
3. We’re Live!
Live video content made big waves in 2017, flooding our feeds with the most personal aspects of people’s lives and bringing to life exclusivity among influencers and individuals alike. It should come as no surprise that this hasn’t stopped, continuing as a popular trend all the way through 2018.
In fact, live video content has become so popular that roughly 95% of brand executives say it will be a crucial part of their 2018 marketing strategy, according to a recent study.
Why? Because consumers love it. Research shows that 80% of audiences prefer watching live video from brands as opposed to reading a blog. This is because of the personal level it sets among the brand and its following. It’s more than just a face to a brand, it’s the face of the brand right now, talking to you and the many others interacting with the video. It’s so popular in fact, 82% of consumers say they would rather watch live videos than read social media posts. So how can you take advantage of this? Use live video to show projects your working on, the culture of your office and how you and your team work together. Film fun events and discuss relevant topics that will get those watching to interact. Nearly all the big social media channels already include a comment section to generate discussion, so why not optimise this? Use a Q&A to debunk some queries about your product or service. Follow this up with content, be it a blog or whitepaper. Just because your followers are more inclined to watch a live video, doesn’t mean they don’t want something more physical to refer back to – not forgetting those all-important inbound marketing points you get from content.
4. Chatbots are Taking Over
Chatbots are getting smarter. We’re no longer talking AOL instant messenger or MSN Messenger; we’re talking banking chatbots, food chatbots and health chatbots. They’re everywhere and slowly becoming a leading solution to personal management.
In the first year of the new Facebook Messenger platform, we saw the number of chatbots jump from 33,000 to more than 100,000. As chatbots become increasingly popular and growing more accessible to smaller businesses, they are becoming the perfect solution to communicate with customers on social media and even provide services like financial management.
This trend is expected to rise as AI’s become more complex and accessible to businesses globally.
5. Brands are Leveraging User-Generated Content
As we’ve previously highlighted, influencers are becoming more powerful among digital users as we get closer to the end of 2018, so it makes sense that user-generated content is on the rise also. User-generated content is basically like free advertising. It’s one of the best ways to grow your business by doing less work.
You’re probably wondering how this is possible, I mean free marketing is as unbelievable as ‘free real estate’, but it’s true. You just need to put in the groundwork first.
Start by encouraging your following and broader audience to use hashtags and post about your brand on social media. This is obviously easier said than done. Start by incorporating a social media marketing campaign that promotes your hashtag; this can be anything from a competition all the way to simply posting user content to your own profile. If people see you are willing to feature user photos, more people will post about you in an effort to be selected. This may even lead to thank you’s for merely sharing their content. Over time more followers will become interested in being featured with your brand as well as be encouraged to take action on the comments; essentially broadening the reach of your product or service to a broader audience.
Once you’ve captivated your audience and they begin promoting your brand, this is where the momentum from the user-generated content will drive your company following.
Remember, one individual could open up a whole new customer base, for free, by sharing your brand. If successful, the user-generated content should begin a snowball effect of thousands of individuals sharing your name. People trust recommendations from their friends and family over a big corporation, and this is a great way to develop this.
6. Blurring the Lines Between Social Media and Reality
By now you should have heard of the terms Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, or AR and VR for short. If not, here’s a little break down:
Augmented Reality – Layers computer-generated enhancements atop of an existing reality to make it more meaningful through the ability to interact with it.
Virtual Reality – An artificial, computer-generated simulation. It immerses the user by making them feel like they are experiencing the simulated reality firsthand, primarily by stimulating their vision and hearing.
For this topic will be focusing mostly on AR, as it’s more accessible and the fastest growing form of digital reality out of the two, only requiring a smartphone, which 96% of 16-34 year olds in the UK own. VR, on the other hand, is predicted to grow at a slower rate, as it’s something people want to be fully involved in for deeply immersive experiences in the comfort of a contained space – look at the success it’s already getting from the gaming market. Before Facebook got their hands on AR, Snapchat was leading the way in integrating AR with social media, providing face filters as a new and exciting special effect. Soon as Facebook jumped on the bandwagon, this is where the momentum picked up, fiercely competing with each other on who could provide the most fun AR experience with the broadest range of filters.
Unfortunately for Snapchat, this is where their brilliant idea, like many before them, began to get eaten up by the blue social giant – upgrading features to a whole new level and building an AR studio for developers to design their own dynamic filters. To deliver the final blow, Facebook stepped up their game further, offering filters that responded to motion and interactions in real time, even during live streams.
So you may be asking how you can use a terrible dog face filter to promote your brand? While the answers may not lie so much in 2018, unless you’re a dog groomer and want to show your fun side, AR as a tool is something that will become more practical for marketers in the near future as developers flood Facebook’s AR studio to generate new and creative ways that implements it into their marketing strategy.
7. Ephemeral Content
Another one first established by the geniuses over at Snapchat and later stolen by Facebook. If you haven’t heard of ephemeral content before, it doesn’t mean you’re not familiar with it.
Ephemeral refers to something being short-lived, so in the world of social media, ephemeral content is something that lasts no more than 24 hours and is then removed forever – usually being represented as “Stories” on Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.
Why would customers care about something short-lived? The reason why this type of content is so popular is because people feel as though the experience is more authentic and exclusive compared to a traditional sponsored advertisement. While it can’t beat the authenticity of live video, it certainly comes a close second and is the perfect solution for companies feeling a little shy. Brands should jump aboard the ephemeral train (our latest blockbuster movie) and take advantage of its 24-hour window. As well as providing a more authentic experience for customers, it also gives you the opportunity to post as much as you want without feeling like your spamming your followers and heading towards a mass unfollowing. Not to mention the scarcity of the picture or video creates a sense of urgency among followers, due to the short timeframe they have to view it. If your business starts to share ephemeral content regularly, users will make sure they check back frequently, so they’re not missing out on anything important.
We’d recommend using this strategy to run flash sales and insights into how the company runs, maybe in the format of a weekly series to keep them returning. In the future, we are going to see more businesses, as well as regular people, focus more on Ephemeral content to boost their social engagement.