Creating and cultivating an audience online isn’t a passive process any more — your social media followers want to converse, interact, and co-create. That’s why the brands that succeed in this year and the years to come will be the ones that embrace the ever-shifting world of social media trends and capitalize on everything the platforms have to offer.
With that in mind, here are a few trends that are starting to emerge in social media early in 2019.
Spontaneous Content Is Beating Produced Content
It’s tempting to make your web and social content look as professional as possible to stand out from the crowd, but you might be wasting your time if you’re putting all your effort into highly-produced, glossy content.
The rise of in-the-moment content — also called “ephemeral content” — can’t be ignored. Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook have all introduced some form of “story” format in the last few years, and their rise has been enormous.
Why is this happening? Mobile usage is rising, which means that users often only look at an app or browser for a few seconds at a time. A glance at a piece of short-lived content is the perfect bite-sized interaction with a brand for a user on the go.
In addition, Millennials and Gen-Z users are increasingly interested in authentic, meaningful interactions with the brands they follow. A polished, perfectly-lit photo of your product feels corporate and lifeless, as opposed to the organic feel of a Snapchat post or a lightly decorated Instagram story.
What does that mean? It means that you should focus less on the flashy appearance of your brand and more on the personality and the faces behind it. Ephemeral content is the perfect way to break through the barriers of distance and really connect with people.
AI Is Driving Customer Experiences
With tools like chatbots and ad optimization, platforms like Google and Facebook are already heavily using AI to beef up their customer interaction, but most brands haven’t started to take advantage of the tech yet.
Millennials are the quickest adopters of AI-based customer service — 60% of the millennial population has already used some form of chatbot, and 71% have said that they’d like to try one. In terms of monthly active users, messaging apps are completely outstripping more traditional social media apps, and brands are starting to take notice.
Personalization will look different for every platform and every company. Airbnb sends personalized trip and activity ideas based on your upcoming trips. Netflix’s constantly-evolving algorithm offers shows to watch based on your previous habits. Amazon shows similar products on their front page. There’s a balance between personalization and personal privacy, but customers respond well to personalized content. It’s worth looking into.
Social Advertising Can’t Be Ignored
According to Hubspot, social ad budgets increased by 32% in 2018, with marketers producing more ads than ever before. As many as one in four Facebook Pages now use paid advertising as part of their strategy, and those numbers won’t go down in 2019.
The flipside of that trend is that as advertising on Facebook and other social media gets more popular, it also gets more competitive — and more expensive. That means you’ll have to invest a little more time and effort into creating great content if you want to stand out.
One of the best ways to increase your social ad ROI is to boost your high-performing organic content. Lots of people think they should boost the content that isn’t performing well to help it catch up, but that’s misguided. If a post isn’t doing well, it’s because it’s not resonating with people who see it. Boost the ones that are already succeeding, and you'll get them in front of more people who’ll respond the same way as those who have already engaged.
Remember to mix it up. Content shouldn’t just take the form of text posts or photos — not with so many options for how to share your brand’s message. You can create how-to or behind-the-scenes video, do live interviews, curate user-generated content (UGC), poll your audience, or share or retweet things that your followers have said about you. Expand the way you talk to your followers and they’ll feel more involved in your message.
Keep An Eye On Social Media TV
YouTube’s Instagram competitor, IGTV, is new on the scene, and the data indicates that it might still be too soon for businesses to put a lot of their marketing efforts into the platform just yet. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
The same trends we mentioned earlier are connected here. Users are increasingly consuming content on their phones. That means they’re watching them vertically, and it means they’re watching in small doses — both trends that are perfect for the vertically-oriented IGTV and its inevitable copycats from other platforms.
In fact, Statista tells us that more than 50% of digital videos are now viewed in a vertical format. There are still holdouts that complain when a video is shot vertically, but they’re being left behind as the world moves toward videos shot quickly and off-hand on phones.
That’s why platforms like IGTV are so interesting — even if they’re not marketable quite yet. Every platform wants to create something that users will come back to day after day, and the idea of content that sits at the top of the feed, ready to be watched every time you log in, is compelling.
Multichannel Marketing Is Evolving To Omnichannel Marketing
Multichannel marketing is probably what you’re already doing — promoting your brand and your message through email, social, blogs, your website, maybe even print or retail. Omnichannel marketing is the next step — stitching it all together.
The fact is, today’s connected customers aren’t making a decision based on one touch point with your brand, or even one channel. They’re browsing online and in stores, reading reviews on your site and on third-party sites, asking their peers on social media, and combining it all in their heads to make a big picture of your brand.
The good news is that your various marketing channels don’t have to compete against each other for attention, since they’ll all be part of the marketing story at one point or another. The bad news is that you have no idea what order those touchpoints will make contact with your customers.
What that means for you is that your channels all need to link together and rely on one another. An email might not convert a customer immediately, but it might direct a customer to your website. That traffic might re-target visitors with a special offer on social media. Those users might then read reviews on Google or Amazon before finally making a purchase. The email won’t look like the most recent point of contact, but it still helped you convert a new customer.
In the end, the thing to remember is that social media marketing is a target that will never stop moving. You’ll need to keep pace with trends to keep up, but you’ll also need to experiment, test, and adapt as you find out what works and what doesn’t.