It’s not always easy to keep your finger on the pulse of the latest social media trends.
Some come and go, while others show some real staying power.
Keep reading to check out our predictions and learn how your brand can get in on the action early.
Influencers will Stick Around
Influencer marketing is changing, but it sure isn’t going anywhere.
Social media influencers give brands a chance to connect with an audience authentically. For brands, the right influencer can help them reach a whole new audience—and help them get away from stock photos and generic hashtags.
Today’s customers know the difference between a personal recommendation and an advertisement.
So, brands and influencers need to take a more strategic approach when it comes to establishing partnerships and ultimately, achieving goals.
For example, the influencer and the brand need to make sense as a team—otherwise, that authenticity consumers crave falls by the wayside.
That’s why there’s been this rise in the use of micro and nano influencers over the Kylie Jenner types.
For reference, micro influencers are generally defined as those with 2,000-50,000 followers. Though their followings tend to be smaller, their engagement is higher. Smaller influencers provide brands with a word-of-mouth-style marketing strategy, as their followers see them as more friend than celebrity.
Ultimately, this makes smaller influencers more relatable and trustworthy to their audiences.
Why it’s Sticking
Okay, influencer marketing has been on the receiving end of a lot of jokes. However, when used correctly, influencer marketing is more than a social media trend: it’s a powerful tool for connecting with users.
Think of influencers as a middleman between a brand–which (often) feels faceless and impersonal–and the end consumer, who values things like trust and transparency over flash and polish.
In a time when transparency and trust is more important than ever, we don’t see the need for that human connection going anywhere anytime soon.
In fact, a recent survey by Talkwalker found that nearly 70% of respondents indicated that influencer marketing is a top priority in the coming year.
Now, there’s some evidence that the influencer payout model is shifting. Amazon rolled out a revamped version of their influencer program earlier this year, which pays influencers based on how much money they make for the brand.
How Can Businesses Leverage Influencers?
Brands are getting savvy about influencer marketing.
It’s no longer enough to pay for a placement from any influencer you can find, it’s now a data-driven strategy. You need to know exactly what type of influencer brings the most value to the table and drives your audience to make a purchase.
Because the influencer space has become increasingly crowded, marketers need to identify the influencers that will best help them reach their target market.
That said, many brands hesitate to incorporate influencer marketing into their social strategy because it’s hard to prove ROI.
Before you launch an influencer campaign, you need to set some goals. What do you want the influencer to do for your brand? Just like Facebook advertising and boosted Instagram posts, you’ll want to approach influencer campaigns with an objective in mind.
Possible objectives include:
- Generate leads—measured by number of opt-ins such as signing up for a newsletter or filling out a form.
- Increase awareness—Look at engagement rates, impressions, and the amount of content produced.
- Boost direct sales numbers—Track sales through custom links or unique discount codes that tie back to the campaign.
It’s worth noting that brands are using influencers more and more as a way to increase awareness rather than secure leads. That same Talkwaler survey mentioned above found that of those surveyed, the majority of marketing strategists (66%) plan to use influencers to build brand-name awareness. Only 17% of them will use influencers to generate leads.
Finally, you’ll need to know the rules before you dive into the influencer game. Think back to 2017. The FTC sent letters to influencers warning them that the government would soon be cracking down on those who fail to disclose their sponsorship agreements. You can check out the FTC guidelines here.
Social Media Trends: Transparency
From the data breaches and privacy issues to the spread of fake news, it’s no wonder that consumers are more skeptical than ever. Social media has given consumers more access to behind the scenes content and an opportunity get to know celebrities and influencers as, you know, actual people.
According to research from Sprout Social, 81% of today’s consumers say that brands have a duty to be transparent on social media. Yet, only 15% of those respondents say that brands are “very transparent” on their social channels.
Why it’s Sticking Around
It’s hard to call transparency a new social media trend, but customers have a renewed interest in brand ethics that we think is here to stay.
For brands, transparency drives customer loyalty, breeds trust, and increases employee advocacy.
That last part—employee advocacy—is especially useful on social media. Think about it, if you’re an employee who works for a brand with a great culture and you’re empowered to share content on social media—you’ll post about your day-to-day, upcoming activities, and behind the scenes tidbits.
Just like influencers, a company can leverage employee advocates as an authentic voice of the brand. Customers want to see a human face and are more willing to give information about themselves when they see brands doing the same.
How can brands incorporate transparency?
There’s a lot you can do to move from faceless brand to friendly face. You can talk about your brand on social media, create live streams, and create an employee advocacy program that encourages staff to post about their experience.
On the social side, lean into “oversharing.” Brands like Patagonia are sharing day-to-day activities on their site through a blog called The Footprint Chronicles. Brands can easily follow a similar approach–whether they choose to share blog posts on social or skip the content and post straight to social.
Video content is also a powerful way to introduce the humanity behind the brand.
Yet, a lot of brands skip out on video because they’re worried that they don’t have the experience or the equipment to deliver commercial-quality content. In reality, your customers prefer “realness” over super-produced branded content.
The other side the coin is how you use data. If you’re using data, let people know. AdAge recently published an article that dove into the conundrum facing today’s brands. They know that third-party data has prompted major growth, but there’s also the ethical question of whether it’s okay to use purchased consumer data.
Social Media Trends: Stories on the Rise
Ephemeral videos, made famous by Snapchat a few years back is now ubiquitous with Facebook and Instagram engaging all over the place with this tool.
We’ve been hearing a lot of talk about storytelling as marketing these days. While it might sound like a passing trend or the buzzword du jour, storytelling has been at the core of every brand’s marketing since the beginning of time.
And what better place to bring your brand’s story to life than through the function aptly named Stories?
The Stories format on Facebook and Instagram is huge. We’re talking 250 million Instagram users and 300 million daily users on Facebook.
Why Stories Are Here to Stay
Stories encourage users to spend more time on the platform. Kevin Systrom, one of Instagram’s founders, told Recode that one of the main problems with the platform was users weren’t spending much time on it.
Stories present a solution. They get eyeballs on the feed. Because they disappear after just 24 hours, people need to check in more often to stay updated.
Stories also provide an antidote of sorts to polished branded content you’d see in an ad spread or even in Instagram’s static photos.
They don’t need to be polished, so there’s this opportunity to connect with users like they would engage with their friends.
Brands can also encourage viewers to take immediate action through a series of quick clips. It’s an excellent way for brands to be transparent, show off what’s happening behind the scenes and offer some hot takes from employees and execs.
Facebook Stories appear on the top of the mobile app. For brands, this is a huge advantage, and it’s like bypassing all of the SEO rules and rising to the top of the SERPs.
Of course, you’ll need to make sure that you deliver top-notch content to your audience. We’re starting to see a shift from news feed ads to stories ads, so this advantage likely won’t stick around too much longer.
How Brands Can Use Stories to Grow
Effective social media marketing is about more than promotion. It’s about engagement and personal relationships. Yes, you can create stories about your products and make announcements, but you need to entertain and provide value first.
A few tips for making the most out of Stories whether you share on Instagram or Facebook:
Take Advantage of Advertising Opportunities
Story ads are relatively new and feel fresher and more urgent than their static, feed-based counterparts. Brands can create organic Stories, just like the average user—the benefit there is, one, you don’t have to pay for it, and two—that’s your chance to introduce your brand and build relationships.
Now Stories Ads–are a little different. On Instagram, these look a lot like regular Stories but have a “Sponsored” designation and the ability to include a live link in your post.
As with Facebook ads, you can tie Instagram Stories ads to a series of objectives including:
- Brand Awareness
- App Installs
- Video Views
- Lead Generation
Viewers can swipe up on your CTA—represented by an arrow—and they’ll be redirected to a landing page.
Build Stories into Your Content Strategy
Stories might feel overwhelming at first, but brands can take on the medium by planning ahead, considering how video fits in with other marketing elements such as content marketing and paid search ads.
Many B2B brands use social media as a way to show off their internal culture and recruit new employees. B2C companies, by contrast, use Instagram and Facebook to put their product front and center.
In both cases, brands should make sure their content strategy (on social and off) highlights their brand, delivers a consistent message, and aligns with their business goals. To get the most out of your Stories, consider the following:
- Why is your brand using social media?
- What will Stories help you accomplish?
- How will Stories fit into your social media strategy and your marketing strategy, overall?
- Who is your target audience—are they using Facebook, Instagram, or both?
Social Media Trends: The Polished Look is Out
Instagram has become synonymous with uber-polished, heavily filtered photo feeds.
So much so that influencers and businesses have been known to shell out hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars on unique, pre-set filters through outside parties.
And it used to make sense. Since it’s early days, the shiny, polished look is what worked. Users didn’t look to influencers to supply them with the same kind of photos they could get from their friends; they wanted the model backdrops and drool-worthy foodie finds.
But tastes are changing.
The rise of features like Stories and the trend towards transparency hark on the fact that people are simply over the sophisticated look that Instagram’s known for.
Instead, they’re opting for raw and real.
The swing here can be summed up in one word: authenticity.
It’s the new buzz word in marketing and appeals to an audience that is increasingly disillusioned with the glitz of a product and more concerned with what it can do for them.
Why the unpolished look is here to stay
The only thing constant is change, right?
And it seems the high-res, retouched photo trend has simply run its course.
But on a more human level, people simply don’t want to see the unattainable. They want to see what’s real. They want to know that all selfies aren’t taken with perfect lighting and at the perfect angle, and that when an influencer eats avocado toast it looks just like theirs.
Think back a few years ago to Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, which featured real women and touched on real pain points. It was so successful because these were people Dove’s target audience could relate to, embracing insecurities that have long plagued women everywhere.
It’s the kind of transformation we’re seeing on Instagram, as its audience increasingly gravitates towards the posts that are most relatable to them.
There’s evidence of this all over rising Instagram’s stars feeds, as the younger generation opts more and more for unstaged, untouched photos.
It is important to note that the shift tends to be generational. An older audience will likely still be drawn to the high-quality photos and videos they’re used to, while the up-and-coming Instagramers are all for the raw approach.
But, as that new generation becomes more prevalent, it will become increasingly important for brands to show off the real, behind-the-scenes photos that aren’t taken with fancy cameras and retouched by hired designers.
How brands can embrace the changing aesthetic
Again, this doesn’t mean there’s no room for well-designed and curated social content.
It does mean that there’s a lot more room for brands to be off-the-cuff and in-the-moment.
The easiest way for brands to embrace the realer side of marketing is by utilizing features like Stories and Live video. In many ways, the trend towards unpolished should make things much easier. At its core, it’s about not over-thinking. It’s about snapping something real and posting.
This could be behind the scenes at the office, after hours at a gathering, or of your product being used in real time.
Keep in mind, this also applies to messaging. It doesn’t need to be perfectly curated, but it does need to say something to your audience. We’re seeing captions trend towards the longer side, almost being used as mini-blog posts to convey real, educational content. It’s a tactic that I recommend brands try to further separate themselves from the pack and further establish their thought leadership.
It’s also good to keep the changing aesthetic in mind when selecting influencers or other partners to work with. It’s not about the look of their feed anymore. Instead, look for influencers with high engagement rates who offer helpful and educational content to their audience.
Social Media Trends: Conversational Marketing
The past few years have been all chatbot this, chatbot that. But, the thing is, they’ve proven useful beyond their initial purpose of answering basic questions.
When Facebook brought chatbots into Messenger, bots got a new lease on life. We’re seeing this shift toward messaging platforms, and it’s shaking up business communications as we know it. There are 300,000+ bots on Facebook as we speak.
Today’s brands—both B2C and B2B—need to step it up when it comes to customer support. Because of this influx in data, consumers expect fast response times, personal offers, and a dash of the human touch.
While chatbots aren’t exactly human, they help companies deliver exceptional customer service without stretching their teams too thin.
Why Chat is Here to Stay
A messaging platform is a versatile addition to any brand’s strategy, whether they take the Sephora approach or they use the tool as a way to collect leads for their sales teams.
Chatbots have some distinct advantages over traditional marketing platforms. For one, they allow companies to take a more conversational approach to interacting with their customers. Users can quickly find the answers they need—and get connected with a real person, if needed.
Brands benefit from this new ability to collect feedback in real-time, deliver personalized offers directly to the customer’s inbox, and quickly qualify incoming leads.
How Brands Can Use Messenger Bots
How you use chatbots and Messenger bots depend on your brand and your goals. B2B companies can take advantage of the ability to qualify leads without forcing users to fill out a form. This speeds up the sales cycle, as the bot can ask qualifying questions that help teams weed out poor-fit prospects.
Bots collect a lot of data, too. B2C brands can use Messenger to present personalized offers using Facebook’s behavioral targeting tools and track their results.
When customers ask questions, they’re offering feedback, in their own words. This is important, because it means that companies have an opportunity to identify issues that they might not have found on their own. From there, they can fix any issues as they emerge, before they become a PR nightmare.
The concept of omnichannel isn’t the exclusive domain of social media; instead, it’s about creating a cohesive experience across all channels from Twitter and Facebook to your website and beyond.
For reference, ominchannel marketing refers to using multiple channels to deliver your message to your audience. The key is using each of those channels to provide a seamless, cohesive experience. Your audience needs to be seeing the same on-brand messaging across platforms and devices.
According to a study from Google, 98% of Americans switch between devices every day. This isn’t exactly news to anyone, as you’re likely scrolling through your phone and laptop right now.
Customers no longer interact with brands through a single channel—and marketers are responding by shifting their strategy to address a multi-touchpoint buyer’s journey. What this means is, brands need to think about paid ads, content, reviews, and email marketing as parts of the same greater whole.
Why Omnichannel is Sticking Around
Omnichannel marketing sounds exhausting. Can you count the number of possible touch points that a customer might use to interact with your brand? Probably not by hand, but we’ve got better tools at our disposal these days–like chatbots, social media targeting, and Clearbit’s data-collecting API.
The level of data at our disposal has made omnichannel more accessible to brands of all sizes. Brands from Bank of America to Disney are going all in when it comes to omni.
How Brands Can Embrace an Omnichannel Approach on Social
As we mentioned above, omnichannel success depends on getting the whole team on board to create a better experience for the customer.
For example: Starbucks.
The coffee giant was able to create a cohesive experience using real-time updates to users’ loyalty accounts while they were in the store.
Let’s go back to this idea of planning your content mix as one overarching strategy. Brands looking to get their feet wet with omnichannel can benefit from mapping out how social content fits in with the in-store experience, their influencer campaigns, and the mission statements posted on their website.
Consider how different formats can fit into one cohesive strategy. For example, social media is a great place to grow your text marketing lists. You could use a Messenger to advertise a deal you’re running, telling users to text a shortcode in exchange for a coupon. Then, you can text them reminders to use their coupon before it’s too late.
On a truly social level, you should be using your accounts as a step in a customer’s journey – likely for inspiration before they’re enticed to buy.
Use Instagram and Facebook to show off the products you’re most excited to push, and create content that explains why it’s essential to your audience. Use videos to show the product or service in action, answer FAQ’s, or stage interviews or explainer videos. Link those posts and videos back to your website, where they can learn more or even reserve a product to buy or pick up in store.
Instagram is perhaps the leader here, as they recently unveiled a new feature that allows users to shop within the app – no outside websites needed.
Omnichannel marketing is about accounting for the entire customer journey. Your job is to figure out where social media fit’s into yours.
Wrapping up the Social Media Trends Most Likely to Stick Around
Social media trends come and go. We’ve seen the death of MySpace, a shifting perception of Facebook, and a serious slump in Snapchat users.
One thing that these trends have in common is that they all come together to deliver a better experience for the customer. Stories, influencers, and employee advocates bring some humanity into the data-driven world of automated marketing.
Omnichannel and chatbots allow marketers to collect data in larger volumes than ever but need to build trust to be successful.