Insights: 2018 Social Media Marketing Trends to Watch

TL;DR: After the introduction of new content formats to social media platforms in 2017, we expect to see these technologies evolve to the next level to create even more opportunities for marketers to optimize branded content.

In the world of social media, trends, platforms, technology and user behavior evolve at an incredible rate. To stay ahead of inevitable changes, brands must revisit their social media strategy a few times a year in order to stay relevant to consumers.

Having a pulse on what’s coming will help marketers successfully stay on track. To assist with that transition, here are some of the 2018 social media marketing trends among consumers and brands alike:

1. Stories Content Format

Snapchat got something right: Disappearing Stories have become everyone’s favorite way to digest content. Though Snapchat has seen a steady decline after turning down Facebook’s acquisition offer in 2013, the company has been busy finding creative ways to keep users engaged.

Stories content — whether on Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook — has been wildly popular wherever users are.

This trend will only continue to grow. Since launching the feature in August 2016, Instagram Stories has become one of the most popular and widely-used features in any social media app.

According to TechCrunch, Instagram’s booming growth will continue. The platform has doubled its user base in just two years, thanks in part to the rollout of its own Stories feature. As of November 2017, Instagram Stories had over 300 million daily active users. That’s approximately 60 percent of Instagram’s 500 million daily active users.

Earlier this year, Facebook launched Stories in an attempt to increase engagement. Facebook also recently opened up Stories to Pages and Events, allowing organizations and brands the chance to participate. At the same time, this subsequently opened up an additional revenue stream for the social media giant.

Look forward to additional Stories features coming out in 2018, including creative tools, new targeting options, increased ad capabilities and possible changes within the influencer marketing ecosystem.

If you want to learn more about how your brand can conquer the stories content format, check out our article on how to tell a story worth sharing.

2. Live-Streaming

Nearly every major social media platform introduced live-streaming features in 2017. This latest content format tends to be more authentic and less curated, making it a favorite among audiences looking for a more exclusive relationship with the brands they interact with. In fact, 80 percent of users would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog. Additionally, live-streaming on social media is cost-effective, entertaining and has high organic reach. Incorporating this storytelling feature is no-brainer for marketers.

However, many brands have been hesitant to participate in this compelling content format as they’re not quite sure how to approach it. Take a moment and check out how Travel Oregon created an award-winning, live-stream campaign around a new type of experience for potential visitors to Oregon. Brands that become more comfortable with this raw storytelling style will enjoy the benefits that come with one of the most genuine content formats for connecting with audiences.

3. Artificial Intelligence

The hype surrounding AI seemed to infiltrate our lives in 2017 more than the actual technology did. There was plenty of excitement around chatbots on social, until Facebook announced that its bots failed nearly 70 percent of the time. This new year will see more money invested into AI development and new creative ways to use AI on social media.

We predict chatbots will get better, and that data analysis, ad tools and customer service systems will explode. We’re already seeing impressive AI technology dedicated to optimizing content. All of these features will work together to automatically direct users to content and products that are relevant to what they seek, creating a more personalized user experience and efficiencies for marketers.

4. Augmented Reality

The use of mobile Augmented Reality will surge this year, especially with the release of the iPhone X and Google Pixel. AR has become a major focus for several of the world’s biggest technology companies, including Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft.

At the F8 conference (Facebook developers conference) in April, Mark Zuckerberg said that "Facebook is making the camera the first augmented reality platform.” And while Apple beat them to it, social media networks have been incorporating AR technology in their apps for years, like the face filters feature for example.

In 2017, we saw the next augmented reality evolution on the back camera with Snapchat’s animated Bitmojis (and widely used dancing hotdog) and Facebook’s Camera Effects, bringing a fantasy world to the real world. Snapchat and Facebook also opened up AR studios, allowing brands to design their own AR characters and scenes.

We expect to see huge developments in AR, making it more commonplace as brands explore new ways to tell a story and engage with users.

5. The Rise of Employee Brand Advocates and Social HR

In 2018 we’ll see the rise of organizations integrating social media into HR efforts and leveraging employees as brand advocates, possibly over influencers. Consumers demand a human connection with the brands they follow and connecting them with your employees (the people behind the brand) provides a great opportunity to establish closer relationships with customers. When it comes to influencing your audience, finding the right person to represent your brand is critical. Who knows and represents your brand better than your employees? 

An example of a brand that’s doing this is @glossier with their #GetReadyWithMe content series, where employees take social audiences through their daily beauty routine.

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If you’re interested in learning about how your organization can integrate social into HR initiatives, read more here.

Trends, platforms and content formats will always be changing, especially when it comes to social media. One of the most important ways that brands can continue to be strategic and remain relevant in this ever-changing environment is to focus on knowing their target audience/demographic.

Learn more about our audience insights by reading Social Listening for Audience-Led Account Planning.

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