Want to know what will win in social media in 2019?
I asked some of the social wizards at Ignite to weigh in on the trends and content they think will have the most impact in the coming year.
Here’s what we came up with.
1. Social Media Predictions: Genuine Content Will Win the Day (And Consumers)
Humor me for a minute here, and think back to the very early days of social media.
I’m talking back when Facebook first launched. Before business pages, before boosted posts, before a myriad of apps hit the market to enhance your photos.
Before all that, the purpose of social media was simply to form a connection with those you might not otherwise easily keep in touch with.
It was a place for conversations and photo sharing with those closest to you. It was – at its core – genuine.
Social media has changed, and I’m not saying it’s not for the better (especially from a marketing point of view).
Now, brands use it to compete to see who can deliver the most polished photos and over-produced videos.
But the problem with polished and over-produced? It’s not genuine.
And it doesn’t look good to consumers. According to a study by Cohn & Wolf, three in four respondents (75%) said “brands and companies have a credibility problem.”
The study also “found that authenticity weighs significantly on how consumers behave, with 90% of respondents saying they are willing to reward brands for being authentic, and 20% replying that they’d be willing to invest in such brands.”
So how does a brand increase their authenticity?
A couple ways.
- First, work on transparency and honesty. Take away the shiny filters and product shots, and instead show real people using your product in a real environment. That also means using natural, conversational language that brings more of a human element to your brand.
- Show your users who you are – whether it’s through live videos lead by your CEO, Instagram tours through your office, or product creation stories.
- Don’t hide from your mistakes. One of the worst things you can do for your credibility is to try to cover up a blunder. Instead, own it. Take Facebook – they suffered one of the worst breaches in its history, but being (somewhat) upfront about it and taking action to correct it, have retained most of its users.
- Plan to post engaging content. Take the time to create a calendar that does more that push products and posts, but engages with your audience. Ask them questions or opinions, run contests, post a funny quote or meme, etc.
2. Social Media Predictions: Storytelling and the Personal Connection
Along with genuine content, content that connects with consumers on a more personal level will have a larger impact.
And the best way to make that connection is through powerful storytelling.
Now, storytelling is nothing new in social media. In fact, those brands that succeed in telling a captivating story are the ones that have historically performed the best.
But going into 2019, social media will be more crowded than ever. More brands and less brand-friendly platforms make it hard to cut through the noise.
Which is why finding a way to connect with your audience will continue to be one of your biggest priorities going into 2019.
To be clear, in this scenario storytelling means finding the overlap between your brand’s core values and those of your target audience.
Dove’s been killing it in this arena for ages. Their core values of promoting “real beauty” resonates with women everywhere, and they found a way to bring that value to life by embracing everyday insecurities and promoting empowerment.
The key takeaway here is to delve into your mission statement and your user’s pain points. Tell the story of how your company can ease those points, and do it in a visual way that supports the tone of your brand – whether its whimiscal, humorous, or matter-of-fact.
3. Social Media Predictions: User-Generated and Community Building Will Drive Engagement
You know who might be even better at telling your brand’s story? Your customers.
Content created by your users provides a lot of benefits for brands.
For one, with the decreasing reach of brands on social channels, it’s becoming one of the surest ways to get your brand in front of a wider audience.
But the bigger motivation here is that customers simply respond better to content from other customers.
That’s why collecting reviews and case studies is so important to brands right now.
The same goes for social media. User-generated content acts as a form of social proof, which essentially encompasses the popularity principle: if someone sees another person doing something, they’re more likely to do it themselves.
And time and again, UGC proves to connect better with conusmers, so much so that 85% of consumers find visual UGC more influential than brand photos or videos.
Beyond that, UGC is inherently shareable – and these days, content that is shareable is the new “word of mouth.” It’s something consumers can trust.
One of the best ways to use UGC is simply by encouraging your users to post photos or videos of them using your product.
To get them to do so, provide a little incentive. It may be a chance to be featured on your website, they could be entered into a contest, or you could promise to do some good in return.
Check out how women’s brand Aerie did it. Following in Dove’s “real beauty” footsteps, they pledged to donate $1 to the National Eating Disorders Associations for every untouched bathing suit photo submitted by users.
In the end, they raised more than $10,000.
Key takeaways here:
- Find out what motivates your users, and use it to encourage them to share content
- Cause-based marketing is another major priority is big for the millennial generation and great to tie into your campaigns when possible
- Use a campaign-specific hashtag so people can easily tag themselves using your products
On another note, you can clearly see that the use of UGC is an incredibly effective way to build your community.
And when it comes to social, one of your biggest priorities in 2019 needs to be community building.
No matter what channels you’re using – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. – you need to have a dedicated community-building strategy for each.
A UGC-centered strategy is ideal for photo-driven platforms like Instagram, but tactics like ongoing contests, an emphasis on genuine, great content, and a clear focus on interacting with your friend and followers are key.
Pro tip for you: when in doubt, look to your competitors.
Study what they’re doing and who their followers are. What kinds of posts have produced the most interaction? Then, you can target those followers – and the content that engages them – in your own strategy.
4. Social Media Predictions: It’s All About Micro-Influencers and Digital PR
Influencer marketing is another game changer for social media.
It’s an incredibly effective way to expose your content to a much larger audience, and like user-generated content acts as an even stronger form of social proof.
And in 2019, it will be all about the micro-influencers.
Micro-influencers are those with anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 followers.
Why micro? Because I’ll be honest, they’re easier to deal with and you have an overall better shot of getting them to promote your content or product.
Often, you can exchange only products with micro-influencers, not money.
Mind you, this is only effective if the influencers you contact appeal to the same target audience, so be absolutely sure and all influencers you work with suit your niche market.
To find micro-influencers in your niche, use the help of a tool like BuzzSumo. Ultimately, you’ll want to gather a list of roughly 20-100 influencers to target.
From there, put together a small package that contains a free sample of your product and a short one-sheet to introduce your brand.
Make it a point to reach out to influencers on a monthly basis, and promote any content they share with your product.
Outside of influencers, you’ll also want to keep tabs on all the major news sources and blogs in your industry for publicity opportunities.
These are the sources you want to interact with, and who could send you referring site traffic.
For this one, you’ll want to use tools like SimilarWeb and SEMRush to find all the referring traffic to your competitors. Then, create a PR outreach strategy to interact with these channels.
5. Social Media Predictions: It’s All About Creative Campaigns
For brands, social media isn’t a place for random status updates and employee selfies.
It’s a place for campaigns – and every update or “selfie” you post should be contributing to that campaign in some way.
And in 2019, cookie-cutter social campaigns won’t be enough. Instead, brands need to get creative.
That means each quarter, you need to come up with a new, creative campaign to appeal to your audience.
Your campaign goal doesn’t have to be something lofty like downloads or total conversions (though it absolutely can), but rather, focus all social campaigns on how to best build engagement.
Because these days, it’s harder to get than ever. It’s also more important.
The Facebook algorithm prioritizes content that garners the most engagement from their followers. So if you want more eyes on your content, you need to be focusing on engagement strategies.
Try using tools like WooBox to run social contests, or encourage hashtag use or tags to get people involved – and spread the word.
Remember, just one major creative campaign can have a huge impact on your brand.
Outside of your major campaign pushes, content should be planned and updated on the daily. Think of your social channels like a TV channel – what’s playing on which channel today?
Strategize what kind of content you want to put on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and assign a post to each day to stay current and keep your audience engaged.
6. Social Media Predictions: Brands Will Embrace New Technologies (AR/VR, IGTV, etc.)
Altered reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are quickly expanding.
With the introduction of new features like Snapchat Lens, Facebook 3D photos and Facebook AR Studio, it makes sense that marketers will soon need to jump on the trend.
But why wait? While some of these are still very new, it pays offs to be one of the first to try it out. It makes your brand seem innovative and authoritative.
Same thing with newer programs like Instagram TV (IGTV). Don’t wait to see what other brands are doing – try it yourself.
You’ll know soon enough if it’s a good channel for you, and if not, it’s still early enough in the game that no major harm will be done.
As marketers, you should be ready and willing to experiment with every new tool and channel that comes your way.
So If you haven’t already, start looking into tools and researching how you can take advantage of new technologies like AR/VR.
And remember – it’s still very early in development, so experimenting is okay (and encouraged).
7. Social Media Predictions: Continued Emphasis on Live Video and Stories
These two aren’t going anywhere in 2019.
We’ll start with live video.
Since its debut, live video has continued to be an increasingly bigger part of social media, especially on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook Live Stream alone has risen in search popularity over 330% since Facebook Live’s rollout.
Another cool thing about live video? It plays right into that “genuine content” category. The beauty of going live is just that – it’s live. It’s you and the camera, displaying what’s happening with your brand in real time.
Use it as an opportunity to connect with your viewers one-on-one or take them on a tour through your company’s world. Consider behind-the-scenes video, streaming live events, hosting Q&As and how-to’s, etc.
Along those same lines, Stories will continue to play a very important part in social media.
In fact, Mark Zuckerberg has said “We expect Stories are on track to overtake posts in feeds as the most common way that people share across all social apps; predicted that Stories would surpass sharing to news feeds in 2019.”
And they’re well on their way, growing 15x faster than feeds.
And it’s only expected to grow, with 970 million accounts post Stories daily on Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger.
That’s 842% lift from early 2016, while the growth was 15x higher than news feeds from Q2 2016 to Q3 2017.
To stay on trend, brands need to embrace the Story format by making it a set part of their scheduled social posts.
Also, find ways to make your Stories interactive by adding contests, polls, and the Swipe Up feature.
8. Social Media Predictions: You’ll Have to Pay to Play
This may not sound like something you should be excited about, but trust me, social advertising goes a long way.
Still relatively new, the rise of PPC on social platforms has not only given advertisers access to tons of targeting data and abilities (in fact, some of the most impressive in the biz), but in light of declining brand reach has also given businesses one of their best chances at actually connecting with their target audience.
The opportunities here are almost endless. LinkedIn can be used for Sponsored Posts and Sponsored InMail to better connect on a B2B level.
Facebook gives you extreme abilities to create Custom and Lookalike Audiences, and remarketing across all platforms is one of the best ways to stay in contact with any lost or missed leads.
How social advertising fits into your strategy will vary. It could very well be performance-based, measuring clicks and driving leads to your website.
Or, you could use advertising as part of your community-building strategy by boosting and sponsoring contests, giveaways, or calls for UGC.
Generally, I like to use a 60/40 ratio. 60% of your advertising should be focused on performance marketing, while 40% should be dedicated to growing the size of your brand.
Social Media Predictions: Tips and Action Items for 2019
There’s a lot going on in social media, and jumping into all of the above can be a bit daunting.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Establish a brand identity. Find a tone and style that works for you, and stick to it. For example, use the same filter on Instagram to make your posts easily recognizable to your followers.
- If you’re a B2B brand, focus on developing your product or service on LinkedIn – this will be your most invaluable network.
- Brands across the board should establish an Instagram presence. This platform is quickly becoming one of the most important.
- Keep an updated list of micro-influencers and reach out to them monthly.
- Include social sharing buttons across all marketing materials – your website, email newsletter, blog posts, etc.
Wrapping Up Social Media Predictions for 2019
In 2019, the emphasis will continue to be on genuine, personalized content.
Brands that understand the need for a more authentic experience and incorporate it into their strategies stand the best chance of connecting with their consumers.
Beyond that, established formats like video and Stories as well as newer adoptions like AR and VR should be considered for brands across the board.