The Next Big Social Media Marketing Trends for 2018

Here we are again, another year, another trip around the sun. That can only mean one thing: another evolutionary push on the social marketing playing field. But what will 2018 bring, you are no doubt musing?

Below are our predictions.

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The new year is like a metaphor for a reset button. After the period of holiday excess, people feel refreshed and motivated to take on new challenges and set out to tackle big undertakings. What lays ahead is anyone’s guess and will unfold in due time, but folks are fueled by the thought of a clean slate, eager to make things happen.

As far as social media marketing methods are concerned, we figured we would take a stab at forecasting what awaits us. After much reflection, it’s clear that 2017’s digital media landscape laid the foundation for 2018’s incoming advertising trends, product marketing trends, and social trends. A big time evolution is in the cards.

Social media and marketing have been going steady for a few years now, and their relationship is about to be taken to the next level. Keep reading to see our 6 predictions for the new social media trends that will arise in the next twelve months.

3, 2, 1…🎉

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1. AI-Powered Content

We are well aware that there is no buzzier acronym than AI. It was all the rage last year, and while the term has been thrown around haphazardly for some time now —seemingly for dramatic effect— businesses that are marketing online will actually start applying it to their content efforts in the era of social media marketing 2018.

We’ve witnessed how computer vision-powered Instagram activity can provide a staunch performance boost, and those who jump on the bandwagon this year will change the game. Machine learning will help businesses incur tremendous improvements when marketing online and beyond. That includes all output of creative assets, from email marketing, to social, to e-comm, to whatever your heart desires.

In fact, AI is going to seep into all aspects of branded visual touchpoints, as new technologies do when they’re hot and ready to go.

2. The Year of Activism

We witnessed a big rise in do-gooding and socially-charged content in 2017, from supporting causes to political activism. Brands were not afraid to participate in polarizing conversations that were once controversial subjects to be avoided at all costs. The tense geo-political climate has ignited a fire in people, and consumers want their favorite companies to assert their position on the issues. They want to know that the brands they support share their ideologies.

Get ready to see more brands and influencers align themselves with a cause and make their values and beliefs heard. Our trend expert, Sarah Owen at WGSN, called this out a few months back, so you can bank on it.

3. More Focus on Community

In 2018, brands are wise. The days of “figuring out” this “social media thing” are behind them, and marketers are finally ready to focus on fostering their community. It’s something we’ve been touting for a long time, and that disruptive, revolutionary businesses had already instinctively engaged in. The rest of the world is now catching on.

The companies that were behind creating meaningful connections with their audiences are now understanding the importance of community, and that you can’t have a successful Instagram account without one. Brands like REVOLVE, Glossier, and Everlane have led the charge as it relates to cultivating their tribes, while the bigger corporations have not.

Popular social channels are where consumers now live, and growing a brand community online is a vital part of any marketing strategy. Brands will start devising more game plans slanted towards nurturing fan love, like expanding social roles to include both an editor and a community manager. Or the creation of ambassador and brand evangelist programs. Or the development of private customer focus groups and chats.

Marketing ideas abound when listening to what consumers have to say, and those that once treated social like a one-way street will realize that it ain’t so after all.

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4. Indie Brands Will Multiply

Independent brands are somewhat the forebearers of social media marketing, more specifically on visual channels like Instagram. Their short supply of resources and liquidity made it an attractive free marketing opportunity that their millennial leaders understood how to navigate.

Small, modern companies virtually wrote the playbook on boosting a brand through social visual storytelling, which, as it turns out, gave them the edge over well established big box corporations.

Older brands operating under the grips of the status quo were not recognizing that consumer response to marketing had shifted in the new age of digital media. A seismic change was unfolding, and (spoiler alert) these power players don’t tend to fare well with change.

Those factors combined enabled fledgling independent businesses to take over entire industries by simply having found success with the new tools of the trade. Indie brands are celebrated, they speak the language of this generation, and they have capabilities that allow them to be nimble, moving at the required (insanely rapid) speed of social.

Heck, our blog post about the indie fashion niche even made our top 5 this past year. Younger consumers are demanding something that their predecessors did not ask for: transparency and authenticity — two traits that tend to be prioritized by small businesses of today.

We think that the uptick and success of independent companies is just beginning, and that 2018 will solidify them as leaders. Small, but oh so mighty.

5. There Will Be (More) Podcasts

2017 was unequivocally the year of the podcast. It seems that anyone with anything remotely interesting to say can start one, and smart brands like eBay and GE have been hopping on that bandwagon.

While this is not social per se, it still counts as a way to create experiences and engage audiences beyond directly advertising to them. Podcasts contribute to a brand journey, offering insight into its values and culture.

We suspect that more businesses will join the ranks of social broadcasting (podcasting?) as people look for new, more practical ways to inform and entertain themselves. Podcasts allow brands to connect with their consumers, to offer another perspective, to gain the trust of audiences, and to bring more value.

If you’ve got a pleasantly-voiced wannabe disc jockey on staff, along with the resources to allocate to a multi-episode endeavor, go forth. People are thirsty for it.

6. Paid Promos Will Boom

At the end of the day, brands do the things they do because they want people to buy whatever they’re selling. Between the algorithm being increasingly difficult to navigate and an accessible advertising functionality, the paid lane will ensure that businesses get the kind of reach they want.

Instagram, unlike its mothership Facebook, continues to provide organic reach, but in more limited quantities than that of a chronological feed (RIP). We can thank the learn-to-live-with-it-algorithm for the growth of quality content and niche segmentation, since the complex data code rewards high performing posts. Brands have had to step up their standards to make sure they garner those double-taps… And eventually those sales.

“I think brands are going to continue to invest in Instagram as a secondary audience to drive traffic to site/drive sales,” asserts Mariana Rittenhouse, our senior director of brand strategy. For that reason, she predicts “there will be more investment into ads, boosting posts, and shoppable posts with brands trying to figure out what the winning paid strategy is on Instagram.”

Essentially, Instagram ads will become common practice. Prepare to witness an onslaught of promotions in your feeds as the year unfolds.

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The growth of social media for business has permeated our lives, particularly on Instagram, where consumers willfully choose to be served up branded content when they follow companies. Mobile marketing was intensely amplified last year, and shows no signs of slowing down. A lot of things changed and evolved in the landscape in the last twelve months, setting the stage for what will come in the future.

We can look forward to the recent trends in marketing picking up steam, and for social media growth to be propelled by the introduction of new technologies. Who’s excited?! 🙋‍♀️🙋‍♂️

Want to learn more about social and visual intelligence? Get in touch today (right after you sign up for our weekly newsletter👇).

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