As the social media landscape is changing at a fast pace, it’s important to keep up with the latest trends every year to ensure that your strategy is still successful.
It’s the perfect time to review your existing social media marketing strategy to find what works and what can be improved.
2018 had been a busy year for all social media platforms. There were lots of positive and negative stories that had to do with their usage and it’s now time to review our social marketing strategies.
Here’s a closer look at the key trends of the year and how they will affect 2019 to help you proceed to the necessary changes to your tactics.
Engagement is more important than ever
Facebook has announced early in 2018 the focus on meaningful interactions as part of their updated algorithm.
This meant that their algorithm started favouring content that sparks a genuine conversation, which inspired many Page Managers to create more engaging content.
As organic reach becomes harder, the only way to survive is to aim for content that is:
Algorithms are becoming smarter so there’s no short route to genuine engagement. It’s not enough anymore to encourage people to like, comment, share on your post. Social platforms are trying to cut down on engagement bait techniques so you may risk losing your existing reach in the longer term with such techniques.
Thus, it’s time to stop ‘cheating’ to win engagement and start thinking of an improved engagement strategy for every channel to continue reaching your followers.
Influencer marketing and the rise of micro-influencers
Influencer marketing is becoming an established element of your marketing mix. Influencers can make thousands of dollars through paid sponsorships while brands are constantly seeking for the best influencers for their campaigns.
As influencer marketing grows, big influencers are becoming more expensive for small and medium-sized brands. That’s when micro-influencers came in to make up for the gap between being interested in influencer marketing and having the right budget to try it out.
Micro-influencers may not have the outreach of celebrities, but they may have an even bigger influence on their own followers. Even 40k followers as an audience can be perfect for a brand, provided that they are working with the right influencer for their target audience.
For example, a food brand may see better results by working with a rising food blogger with 30k followers than a well-known chef who may ask for 20x of the budget.
And just as micro-influencers keep winning ground, there is also the trend of nano-influencers, or else influencers who have up to 10k followers. They may not have a big audience to follow them, but they can still have a great influence over them, either by their job, their engaging social presence or their passion about a specific industry/topic.
Nano-influencers don’t require a big budget to work with them but you may need to spend more time on the research to find the perfect one for your brand.
Since they may still be new to the influencer marketing world, they may be seeking a partnership that matches their values and could possibly last in the longer term. They can also be easier to reach since they don’t have to deal with thousands of messages every day.
Social media for sales enablement
Social media is already helping customers in the phase of product discovery. Brands are able to promote their products through social channels and customers are finding out about them before making a purchase.
Social media is not anymore just about awareness and engagement, but it’s heading even more towards consideration and sales enablement in the business funnel.
According to Mary Meeker’s report of Internet Trends in 2018, 55% of respondents who discovered a product through social media proceeded to purchase later on. Facebook seems to be the first channel that people discover new products, with Instagram and Pinterest following up.
What do these mean for 2019? Brands have a great opportunity to benefit from this trend to improve their social strategy. You don’t always need a sales pitch in all your messaging to convince people to trust you. Social media can help you tell your story and improve consideration. Right after someone discovers your product online, it’s up to you to provide a smooth experience that will make sales easier.
AI and customer service
Bots and automated messaging have already shown up in many brands’ customer service. Social media has made it easier for customers to reach a brand, which means that the expectations about the response time are increasing.
Chatbots have started becoming popular through Facebook’s Messenger when brands realised that it’s an easy way to add additional customer support to the mix.
Not all customers were convinced that this is the best way to reach a brand, but the adoption rate is improving thanks to the enhanced intelligence and programming of the latest bot experiences. More brands are spending the time to program the bots in a way that they seem as authentic as possible. Whether it’s about giving them their own character or simply predicting as many customer questions as possible, there has certainly been great progress in how they work.
AI can also come in providing automating messaging to customers who want an answer to a common question. Brands can set up messaging that keeps their customers satisfied while they’re also saving time in repeatedly answering the same questions.
2019 will bring an improved adoption of AI as part of social customer service and it’s time for more brands to give it a try to ensure that their customers are finding the answers to their questions as fast as possible.
Stories, stories, stories
Stories are everywhere! Visual content in a vertical format that usually lasts for 24 hours became popular from Snapchat and it soon was copied by Instagram to turn into a global trend for people of all ages.
Snapchat may have struggled since then to remain relevant, at least in the way that it was known for, but we’ve already seen Stories to Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and just recently, LinkedIn.
There are currently more than 400 million people consuming Stories on Instagram on a daily basis, while Facebook is trying to integrate Stories to our daily routines.
Advertisers have already realised that Instagram Stories ads can be very effective, with Snapchat and Facebook following up with their current hype and demand.
What makes Stories successful?
- They are easy to create them
- They are engaging
- They don’t require editing or further thought before uploading them
- They rely on authenticity
- They are fun
- They don’t necessarily last long (which was one of the main reasons that they took over on Snapchat)
The end of fake followers
Instagram is currently one of the most popular apps in the social media landscape. Influencers have benefited from the app’s success by rising to fame through their growing audience.
However, it was no secret that several Instagram accounts have artificially increased their number of followers to boost their popularity. Many services provide fake followers for a fee and Instagram knew that sooner or later this had to stop.
Just last month, Instagram announced that they’ve started removing inauthentic likes, follows, and comments from accounts that used third-party apps to increase their popularity. They have actually built machine learning tools to identify such activities so that they prevent it from happening in the future.
This is a big step for Instagram towards maintaining their reputation as a popular social network where people (and brands) can grow their community through genuine interest and engagement.
Since the change has just started rolling out, 2019 will prove that the number of followers will not be as relevant anymore comparing to the actual influence and engagement that you’re having within your community.
As a brand, there’s no need anymore to chase for increasing your followers if you’re not already engaging with your existing ones. Spend more time on growing your community organically to avoid seeing a sudden drop of (fake) followers and likes.
Messaging will grow even more
Messaging apps have already passed social media apps in usage and it seems to be a trend that will dominate 2019. People are moving beyond public posts on social media to private messaging, whether it’s simply about reaching their friends or even to stay in touch with their favourite brands.
What makes messaging interesting is that brands can find the much-desired engagement that they’re seeking by understanding how people use messaging apps.
Back from 2017, marketers believed that messaging is the first trend that will affect their social strategies.
WhatsApp, Messenger, Viber, WeChat hold a large percentage of the messaging market and they already introduced additional features to go beyond messaging, from Stories and news updates to automated bots for customer service and e-commerce functions.
There is a whole new world to try out as a brand and we’re already seeing big brands and publishers tapping into the messaging trend.
I’ve asked Debbi Dougherty, Head of B2B Marketing and Communications at Rakuten Viber, on how brands can use messaging apps as a growing trend and here’s what she said:
“Moving into 2019, media will continue to seek ways to find its place with younger generations. Tapping into these audiences will be impossible without the presence of a centralized location where users can conveniently interact with content. Messaging apps offer the most ideal platform to achieve this, providing ease-of-use and personalized experiences that aren’t possible through traditional channels.”
Data breaches make trust more important than ever
The reason that messaging apps became even more popular is the growing lack of trust in social networks.
It’s been a turbulent year for Facebook, for example, which made many users uncomfortable in sharing their data.
Privacy concerns are increasing and it makes all social media platforms realise that trust is crucial. Facebook is learning the lesson the hard way that you need to be more mindful about the use of data.
As a brand, the growing discussion about social data and privacy concerns brings out the importance of building trust with your audience.
It’s useful for a brand to be transparent with its audience, whether it’s about admitting their mistakes or even to update their audiences on a recent change. Such factors can help their customers trust them and even be more open to hearing more from them in future campaigns.
Narrowing down the focus on specific channels
Social media marketing is becoming more competitive and the most successful professionals realise that you need to focus on the best-performing channels for your business.
Gone are the days when you had to join Facebook simply because ‘everybody was there.’ Nowadays, it’s more important to go after niche audiences that are relevant to your business. There’s no need to broadcast the same message to all platforms if you don’t see a successful result from it.
Don’t be afraid to limit down your work to two channels, for example, if you’re noticing that these two channels will bring you the best ROI.
We can all start the new year by making the most of our time and spending it on the channels that are only worth our attention.
The more distractions we are having, the higher the chances to lose our focus. Start by analysing where your audience is and which channels work better for your business goals.
Review your current performance and set goals to improve it in the right direction that you want to move.
The ad spend is increasing but you’ll need to consider ad saturation
Social media advertising has been on the rise the last few years. We are now able to create social ads in multiple channels and it’s up to us to decide on the objectives and the type of ads that we want to use.
There has been an increasing success for many brands that used paid social in the marketing mix. It’s no surprise that there is a growing ad spend across marketers.
For example, Instagram’s level of engagement has intrigued more marketers to increase their ad spend to the channel, both on the feed and the Stories.
As Facebook was becoming more saturated with the existing competition, Instagram started showing up as a great alternative to promote your brand.
A growing ad spend indicates the increasing interest in a platform, but it can also signal the start of an increasing cost to promote your business.
Instagram Feed and Stories seem to bring a good ROI for many brands, but what if more marketers create ads for the specific platform?
2019 will probably see an even further increase to marketers’ social ad spend, with Instagram growing in popularity.
However, it’s good to consider that it’s not a good idea to rely too much on one platform, either for organic or paid growth.
There is only a set space for ads in each platform so the competition may push the costs to increase.
Videos, podcasts, and live streaming
Blog posts can still be effective in 2019. Long-form posts can still engage readers, provided that they are appealing and properly formatted to facilitate the reading experiences across all devices.
Content consumption though goes way further than written text, with videos and podcasts seeing great success.
From the rise of Youtube to the introduction of IGTV, social media platforms were always interested in highlighting video content.
Facebook has even adjusted their algorithm to ensure that video posts show up more frequently on our feeds.
Video marketing is becoming more appealing both for brands but also for users who notice the content that stands out.
It’s only a matter of time until videos take over the whole social media world. 2019 will be the year that more brands will experiment with different types of video among different channels:
- Short videos with captions are really appealing to mobile users and are also accessible to everyone. They can be found on any social media platform with Facebook favouring them in their algorithm. They can make really effective ads and they’ve already been used quite extensively from ads.
- Vertical videos on Snapchat and Instagram Stories grow really fast in popularity and we already see many ads in a vertical format. It’s a format that will grow even more like a trend due to the improved viewing experience in mobile screens.
- Long videos of powerful storytelling can still keep an audience engaged. Whether it’s Youtube, Facebook, or even IGTV, there is an increasing need for video stories that can be interesting enough to convince the viewers to watch more than a few seconds.
- Live streaming is also another big trend that is now available across many different platforms. Users turn into broadcasters and brands become publishers to come closer to their audience. There are numerous opportunities to benefit from a live streaming strategy. This
Except for videos, podcasts have also seen growing success. Audio content is bringing the radio days back as a great way to catch up with your favourite stories and brands when you’re on the go.
More marketers are experimenting with podcasts, either to build their own personal brand or to promote their business. What makes podcasts special is the fact that they still focus on the content rather than the promotion. People subscribe to a podcast because they are interested in the content, whether it comes from a brand or another person.
AR to become more mainstream
Social media and AR are making a good combination the last few years and it’s only a matter of time until we see an even more applied use to further channels.
We have already seen how brands involve AR to facilitate the customer experience. Augmented reality can make the brand message engaging, fun and possible more actionable. Having the option to try out, for example, a pair of glasses before buying them can lead to an increased number of sales.
Facebook is greatly investing in AR in an attempt to dominate the field, which means that they understand the potential that this investment may bring.
They have already announced the introduction of AR ads to make social commerce more appealing. Moreover, AR Camera effects are also available in Messenger to ensure that messaging and customer experience will keep improving.
The goal is to keep the users to the platform, while brands can capitalise the trend by seeing an improved customer satisfaction.
What do all these trends mean?
2018 has been a big year for social networks and it will probably affect their future more than what we can predict now.
Social media marketing is going towards a stage that focuses more on ROI, new technologies and a trusting relationship between the brand and the customers.
The only way to survive in-between data breaches, emerging technologies, and new platforms is to ensure that you:
- Understand your audience
- Review your social media marketing strategy
- Allocate time and budget to new tools and technologies
- Keep your focus on what works
- Do your best to build trust with your users in every campaign