You Need to Understand These (Social Media) Marketing Trends Today

It seems that every few weeks you hear that Facebook has some new algorithm that messes up all the energy you’ve been putting into it. Then a new feature appears and everyone tells you how amazing it is for branding and marketing. And then it turns out that it’s not as amazing as everyone says (remember Periscope?).

How do we keep track of the social media marketing trends? How do we adapt? How do make sure to stay atop of the ever-flowing changes but at the same time never waste too much energy on them either?

Most recently we’ve seen the introduction of Facebook Stories. Brands and businesses aren’t sure what to make of them; do we hire someone to manage stories? Do we make it more authentic or more polished? What does our audience really want from stories?

Today I interview an expert to help you answer all those questions about social media marketing trends. During my recent trip around the world, I was able to go to the Falcon.io “Spark” conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, where I finally had a chance to meet up with someone I’ve known and respected in social media for quite some time:  Matt Navarra, a social media consultant and former social media director for the The Next Web as well as consultant to organizations such as the United Nations and BBC.

In this interview I talk with Matt about what has happened to social media in the past 12 months and what’s next for the future with regards to social media marketing trends. Should businesses continue experimenting with Facebook? How can brands make use of both Instagram and Facebook Stories? What is the next big thing? Read on to find out what the heavily experienced social media marketer has to say on social media!

Facebook is evolving (surprise surprise)

Matt explains that in the past 12 months social media has evolved quite a bit, especially with Facebook. People are moving away from Facebook pages and profiles and trying to figure out how to use Facebook Stories, as well as the underused timeline. This is simply because we’re not really sure what to make of Facebook Stories – it seems that Facebook keeps changing its algorithm and function every 5 seconds, and so we’re deciding to tread carefully and see what happens.

But Matt feels there is a lot of potential in Stories – we just don’t really know what to do yet. However, you can probably see more and more people using Instagram and Facebook Stories, and that it’s a trend that’s definitely going upwards.

Instagram and Facebook stories – what exactly should you make of them?

What are the benefits of using Stories? First of all, the large range of creativity – this can go both ways of course, but the huge amount of flexibility available means that you can test and experiment a lot with your brand. This could be using different colors, different logos and even different messages towards your audience.

However, Matt explains that many brands try to DIY it, when story management is really something that can be easily outsourced to an agency. It is pretty straightforward to make Stories work if you know what you’re doing, basically. Matt advises that the more authentic the better; that Stories do lose value if they are too polished.

The swipe up feature – something he gets asked a lot – is an interesting add-on. On Facebook, the feature is not available to many, although Matt is confident it will become more available in the future. For Instagram, you either have to be verified or have over 10,000 followers. This feature allows you to add a link into a story so the viewer can easily swipe up and access the page you’re promoting. A great way to get traffic, but does it really work? Matt says it does depending on how creative you get.

What does this mean for brands? Since Instagram Stories aren’t exactly geared towards traffic, you need to work on making an enticing call to action, and really motivating the followers to click on the link. If you get the right message across, the swipe up can be a really top feature. Matt also mentions that Instagram is building an ecommerce shopping functionality into Stories – so even better if you’re selling products!

In terms of specific tools recommended, Matt says the native ones work fine. Since authenticity and simplicity are what work best, simply using a phone camera and normal text should do the job. You can also use the features within Instagram itself to add gifs, funny pictures or add-ons. The one thing he does feel is missing is more data analytics and a better dashboard analyzing the traffic and results going through your instagram account. Crossing fingers this will get added in the future!

Pinterest – to do or not to do?

Since Pinterest has recently opened up its platform to influencer marketing platforms, I was wondering what impact this might have on future social media marketing trends.

Matt does not use much of Pinterest professionally or personally since most of his clients are media publishers who traditionally have not leveraged Pinterest to a great extent. However he has heard from others that Pinterest can be very powerful for brands with a lot of inventory and content.

I should also point out that while most of social media is global, Pinterest is still very America-centric. Pinterest still generates traffic for my sites, so I believe it’s a tool that we need to keep experimenting with but that could provide a lot of value in the future.

Since Pinterest is more of a search engine in itself rather than a social media platform, it can be useful to some more than others. Anyway, it seems Pinterest is adding more interesting functionalities to make it more appealing to business, so we’ll see what happens!

Social Media Marketing Trends for the Future

Matt explains that the leading trend for the near future is more of the messaging function in social media. More and more people are using sharing in private or through groups with people the trust. Gone are the days of sharing everything happening to your life on Facebook – now, people are more aware of the implications of privacy and who gets to see their posts (check out Instagram’s most recent feature with only sharing stories to ‘close friends’). Matt explains that the novelty feeling of sharing everything on a public platform has gone now – it’s not as exciting now.

Facebook is now focusing more of its attention on messaging apps and the chat for businesses. Same with Whatsapp – you can now attend your customer directly through the popular messaging platform.

How can your business use this? Two words: brand ambassadors. These are basically people who enjoy your product or service and promote it through private messaging or groups. This is an interesting new behavior – showing that people really are looking for more authenticity and transparency with people that they trust. This means more word of mouth and more focus on quality products. If you can get one customer to love your product and share it to others, you got yourself a potential brand ambassador.

Voice Assistance

Voice assistance such as Alexa and Google Voice are slowly being adopted around the world. People aren’t very sure what the potential is for business in terms of advertising and branding, but Matt is optimistic. Although people can’t exactly link through to your product, in a not so distant future it might be possible to link your business to another larger business such as Walmart and put out ads through there. Soon you’ll be telling your voice assistant what you need done and they will get the tasks completed all online.

What can you do in preparation? Matt recommends getting involved. This means learning as much as you can about voice assistance, checking out forums and even becoming part of test groups or early adopts to check out the new tech when it comes out. Matt finds that just using the products yourself can be eye opening; you realize how you could use a specific function for your own business, or how you might improve this that and the next thing. People aren’t sure what’s to come of voice assistance, but if you keep learning you’ll be sure to be on top of the wave!

Augmented Reality (AR)

The final of the social media marketing trends that Matt foresees is the long-term growth of AR – Augmented Reality. When Virtual Reality first came out, everyone thought it would be the next big thing, however it turns out that really it’s only the “ultra geeky” that use VR and because of the pretty high cost, it’s not being adopted very rapidly.

Matt predicts that we are already using a lot of AR and that this will only increase going forward: using your phone to measure, to buy furniture, to try on clothes, to test make up, and much more.  AR is probably a stepping stone for VR – which means it will come first. So before going crazy with VR, check out implementing AR into your business beforehand!

Conclusion: Make sure to use brand ambassadors be prepared for messaging, voice assistance and AR to handle future social media marketing trends!

In this fascinating talk with Matt we discover what has evolved in the past year and what is to come in the not so distant future vis a vis social media marketing trends. Facebook keeps changing, as usual, and so brands are moving away from Facebook pages and profiles and moving more towards brand ambassadors and micro influencers who will have an influence in a Facebook group. These influencers and your brand will also be using Facebook and Instagram stories – an area which hasn’t totally been explored yet, but looks optimistic for the future. For the future, Matt advises brands to keep an eye out for messaging, voice assistance and AR. Test the products yourself, try the messaging and be open to using these newer products!

Make sure you connect with Matt on Twitter as well as check out Matt’s Facebook Group.

What do you think – is Matt on target? Any other social media marketing trends you see on the horizon? Please chime in in the comments below!

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Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping educate executives and professionals on social media as well as in implementing successful social media strategies for businesses.
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