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2017 has been a big year for social media. Twitter has seen a 280 character upgrade, visual platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat continue to expand (with rumours of an upcoming 4x4 layout surrounding Instagram), and live stream videos are now one of the most engaging forms of content. With only three months left in 2017, now is the time to start building your social media strategy for next year.
1. Video Will Continue to Grow in Importance
Everyone knows that video content has been growing in popularity in recent years. Because of this demand (and the increasing importance of video to social algorithms), it is one of the most valuable formats for brands to leverage. Videos have been shown to elicit higher engagement, including more likes, retweets, comments and shares - especially on Facebook. And with new formats like live streaming cropping up every day on various social channels, there are many options for integrating video into your existing social media marketing strategy.
Live streaming video is a highly effective way to engage your users that exploded in popularity. GORUCK, a backpack manufacturer and event organizer is one business that has significantly grown its reach by live streaming on Facebook. Thousands of followers tuned in to watch 48-hour coverage of a recent endurance race. In 2018, more brands will begin to realize the power of live streaming and will incorporate it into their social media strategies.
Instagram Stories and Snapchat stories are two other examples that give brands the chance to create timely video content and share it with their followers.
Over 200 million people use Instagram Stories each month. That’s more than 50 million more users than Snapchat - and Instagram Stories is only a year old! At this rate, nearly half of all Instagram users will be using Stories by the end of 2018. This means that brands interested in connecting with Instagram users must take the time to understand and use these Stories to showcase their business. While Snapchat is still important, we see Instagram Stories taking even more of its audience this year.
Overall, having the ability to create video content (in multiple formats) on an ongoing basis - and the strategy to tie it to your written content (blogs, eBooks, quizzes, case studies etc.) - will be critical in 2018.
2. Ephemeral Content Will Rule Social Engagement
We’ve already talked about the popularity of Facebook and Instagram stories. Both are examples of ephemeral content. Ephemeral content is short-lived content that goes away after the viewer sees it or after a maximum time period of 24 hours. This type of content is most popular with younger millennials and generation Z, which will both be a major focus in 2018. Disappearing content might sound scary to most marketers, but with its extreme popularity, it cannot be ignored.
Advantages of ephemeral content include:
- Content that is short-lived is considered by customers to be more authentic versus sponsored ads or brand-focused posts that last longer and push customers to purchase
- The content is gone within hours, so it increases FOMO (fear of missing out) with potential customers,s a result, audiences take faster action, pleasing marketers
- Users can access content easily with the help of Snap Codes or QR codes
Have a plan in place to reach audiences with the help of an ephemeral content marketing strategy with pictures and videos that allow your brand to engage audiences in the shortest amount of time.
3. Chatbots Will Make Customer Service Easier and Faster
A chatbot is a software application built to simulate a human-like conversation. It acts as a customer service representative to the customer but does so in a very personable way - despite being automated. Chatbots assist people 24/7 and help improve revenue by building lasting relationships with potential customers.
Using chatbots to provide customer service, receipts, and special offers to customers has really taken off in 2017. With customers wanting (and expecting) immediate answers to their questions, chatbots are an ideal solution - especially when they’re used through Facebook Messenger. Chatbots allow brands to interact quickly with customers in a way that feels personal.
For brands that have thousands, or even millions, of followers, adopting a personalized marketing strategy for every customer is next to impossible. Chatbots help by creating one-to-one interactions with each follower and responding immediately to questions. They are timely and always polite - no matter how rude the customer’s replies are.
Today, there are at least 100,000 monthly active bots on Facebook Messanger, and over two billion messages are exchanged between brands and users each month. If you haven’t already considered chatbots for your business, 2018 may be the year to do so.
4. A Shift to Targeting Generation Z
We’ve already hinted that Generation Z is the next big thing in marketing. Generation Z differs from previous generations in that they have grown up with the internet and smartphones, making them more focused on the speed of purchasing products and on customer service. Many Gen Z also saw their parents struggle during the Great Recession. This makes them more risk-averse. Currently, this group makes up more than a fourth of the United States’ population.
A recent study conducted by Goldman Sachs shows that Generation Z is more valuable to most organizations than millennials. Today, the oldest Gen Z are in their late teens. They are coming into the workforce and beginning to earn their own disposable incomes. Brands should begin to shift from a millennial-first social strategy to a Gen Z strategy that focuses on platforms loved by Gen Z, including Snapchat and Instagram.
Social Media Marketing Tactics to Target Gen Z:
- Integrate them into your brand; help them build their personal brand while you promote yours. Encourage them to be social influencers.
- Be as authentic as possible. Take spontaneous photos and videos. Give consumers a look behind the scenes of your company. Choose a spokesperson to whom Gen Z can relate.
- Focus on social influence. You need to have a quality product or service to convince people to love it. Once that happens, you’ll have influencers that are sure to impress Generation Z.
- Walk the talk. Don’t only say your company does great things for the community or focuses on philanthropy; you have to show and prove your acts of generosity.Work social good into your business strategy, and enlist the help of Gen Z to provide videos, images and stories that truly convey the power of your good work.
Overall, Gen Z is innovative, phone-obsessed, and they crave authentic experiences. They're conscious about the environment, choose visuals over text and prefer incognito social media platforms that their parents and grandparents aren’t on.
5. Users Will Continue to Respond to Personalized Content
Though Gen Z is the next big marketing target, millennials are still a huge market to please. This group is known for its mistrust of traditional advertising, meaning it doesn’t make sense to create content that designed with direct sales revenue in mind.
And all individuals (not just millennials) want content that is relevant to them; personalized, customized content is more likely to be consumed and shared. Know your target market, and create a few user personas based on your most common types of buyers. These personas should be based on the buyer’s age, gender, education level, income, likes, location, etc. Keep personas in mind every time you write a post or create a video. Step into the persona’s shoes and ask yourself if they will find value in the content you’re promoting. When you utilize user personas to determine the content you create across each social media platform, you’re ble to give your audience content that answers their specific problems--not guesses at them. Creating personalized content means creating more engaging content, which is a top priority according to MarketingProfs (and the graph below).
Bonus Trend: Facebook is Going Almost 100% Mobile
Contently predicts that by 2020, 59 percent of U.S. users will access Facebook through mobile exclusively. That may sound like a big number, but consider that 80 percent of the company's advertising revenue already comes from mobile ads. Facebook was early to the social media game, and it’s platform wasn’t really originally designed with the mobile experience in mind. Popular socialapps like Instagram and Snapchat have been mobile-only (or mostly mobile) for a while, but Facebook has kept its desktop experience going strong. This experience will continue to decline in usage next year, meaning companies that haven’t already invested in mobile-first social media designs and copy should take the time to do so.