I have a confession to make. Sometimes I get awfully tired of all the posting, tweeting, chatting and hyping. Social media happen to be very messy and overwhelming. So I totally get the recent JD Wetherspoon decision on shutting down all its social media accounts.

However, the truth is businesses can rarely do without social media. Having corporate accounts is a challenge, but also a blessing. We realize it perfectly well at Chanty, developing a simple business messenger. Being a startup, we are just beginning to surf the rough seas of social media. That’s why our marketing team got curious about up-to-date trends in networking services. We reviewed dozens of articles and dived into numerous suggestions of experts on the topic. I picked up only the most important trends to share with you. Have a read!

 

Trend 1. Shoot videos, go live!  

Let’s start with a premise: video is the best performing content in 2018. Its popularity has been growing for years. According to Hubspot study, 72% of consumers prefer videos to text marketing. However, it’s not the breaking news. The much up-to-date trend is live streaming.

People spend 3x more time watching live videos than pre-recorded ones.

There are plenty of free and paid platforms you can stream on: Periscope, Babble, Google Hangouts, Instagram and Facebook to mention a few. The two latter can be a great choice because they provide a ready audience. Besides, Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm favors live streaming.

But how exactly can live streaming help you? The obvious advantage of going live is engaging with your followers, building trust and credibility. People react to your video, post their comments; you can prompt their responses or just chat with them. Since Facebook Live came in, there have been many successful video streaming campaigns. In 2016 Buzzfeed used Facebook Live to show watermelon explosion. The video despite ridiculous premise amassed 807,000 viewers at its peak.You might think that live streaming is only for top dogs, but that’s not true. Small businesses can benefit from it as well, engaging with their communities. There are some cons, such as issues with internet connection, latency, and hardware. But the game is worth the candle. Dive deep into more tips if you feel like using live video streaming as your marketing channel.

Trend 2. Embrace AR  

Nearly all talks about augmented reality start with a clause: “it’s not fully there yet”. Indeed, AR is spreading fast in commercial apps, but its benefit for businesses in social media seems more like a promise. A very fulfilling one.

Recently, Facebook announced the move to mixing animated images over real life. The feature will work via Facebook Messenger. E.g. users will type “try on looks” to open up the camera and visualize a product. This way women will be able to see whether a new lipstick is a nice match. Last year Apple did a somewhat similar project by designing IKEA place app. Facebook in its turn partnered with ASUS, Nike, Kia and Sephora for closed AR-beta testing. However, there is much more to expect from AR technologies.

As Google announced at the I/O conference, the company strives to bring immersive experience based on visual positioning system to Google Maps. Basically, that’s how people will be guided to your office someday.

This AR initiative will be immensely helpful for businesses. So it’s very likely to appear on social media platforms. Apparently, AR effects that Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook offer today will soon seem like a baby talk.

 

Trend 3. Tell your Story (using ephemeral content)

Snapchat introduced its Stories in 2013. The whole concept of expiring content was skeptically received by many marketers. Why bother posting images (or videos) online for 24 hours if you can have them in your feed forever? But, apparently, users liked the idea of content that doesn’t clutter up feeds. As the popularity of Snapchat Stories rose, Instagram and Facebook jumped on the idea in 2016.

Here are the main advantages of ephemeral content: it increases engagement, generates buzz, drives traffic to websites (if you add a link to your story). It’s also authentic, plays on the fear of missing out and puts mobile first.

Another great thing about ephemeral content is that it doesn’t cost much and is quite easy to make. Sometimes a smartphone is all you need to convert your images to a video loop animation like this one:

 There are many brands who got the knack of ephemeral content. Not only they are keen on making it, they also keep their Stories and the main feed in a perfect harmony.

Instagram remains the most popular platform for the ephemeral content in 2018, with a whopping 250 million daily users. If you are one of them, check out Jeff Bullas’ article with some practical advice on how to use Stories.

Trend 4. Go for publicity

 Alas, we kissed goodbye the free reach in social media. Remember this Zuckerberg’s post?

It was quite a blow for businesses since more than half of them struggle with lack of a social media ads budget. But many brands have already accepted the challenge, shifting focus toward more advertising. Maybe it’s the time for you to do it?

If you are considering promotion in social media, make sure video ads make it to your strategy. 43 percent of people want to see more video content from us, marketers. If you are not sure, where to start, here are four creative facebook ad ideas to help your brand stand out.

There’s one more tendency with ads – they are becoming more transparent. Facebook is testing a new feature that allows seeing all of the ads a company is running (even if you are not its follower).

It’s not only Facebook ads that get more transparent. Brand ambassadors are becoming upfront about the products they’re paid to promote. We’ll touch on this topic in a moment.

Trend 5. Team up with influencers 

Influencer marketing is a battle-proven method. The statistic speaks for itself: influencers bring 10x rise in conversion rate, while people trust user-generated content more than traditional advertising.

The influencer marketing has a major advantage. It is basically advertising, but it isn’t as pushy as traditional ads. That’s why it improves credibility and brand awareness maintaining rather a high level of loyalty to your brand.

There are some up-to-date tendencies prevailing in influencer marketing. First, we are moving towards more genuine promotions. People get tired of reality show stars advertising products they hardly ever tried and don’t really need.

Second, we’ve got micro-influencers stepping into the game. Though being less popular than world-known movers and shakers, they can actually attract more people to your product. It’s proven that micro-influencers with an account following of between 1,000 and 30,000, drive more engagement.

Third, 2018 is considered to be the year of influencer marketing for B2B brands. If you are not a consumer company, but sell your product or service to businesses, there is a great chance brand ambassadors can help you as well. The main difference is that decision making on B2B influencer campaign generally requires more research.

Lastly, just FYI, social media influencers still prefer Instagram.

Trend 6. Adopt a friendly chatbot 

We are doomed, guys. Have you heard bots outnumber humans online? Programs performing repetitive tasks cause lots of troubles on the web. Luckily, there are not only bad, but also good bots. Those simulating conversations with humans are lifesaving for businesses.

Chatbots are mostly used for customer service. There were 12,000 monthly active bots on Facebook, according to 2017 statistics. Running on algorithms that use deep learning, chatbots become smarter every day.

Their advantage is obvious: providing customers with on-time information without spending much time and money. But what is even more important – they provide personalized care, which is crucial for the younger generation, as we’ll see in the next section.

Usually, chatbots get to know customers’ names, collect data to suit their needs and make personalized suggestions. This makes for a real-time engagement with customers.

That’s only the beginning with chatbots. Let’s get back to the recent I/O conference, where Google wowed the world with a new Assistant capability. Soon it will allow you to make calls on your behalf. No doubt the technology will become a part of the social media experience one day.

For now, consider using chatbot tools your business can use to build bots of the highest degree. But remember about security. You should do plenty of research into which messaging platform has sufficient security protocols.

Trend 7. Start banking on Gen Zers

Here they come… Those born later than 1995 are beginning to flex their buying muscles. Since they are entering the workforce, their habits and preferences will drastically affect social media.

So, what do we know about Gen Zers? First, they are considered as true digital natives, so they are obviously into social media interactions. At the same time, Gen Zers are looking for new ways to connect. A Piper Jaffray survey shows that only 9% of teens are choosing Facebook. Most of them prefer Snapchat or Instagram, being fond of ephemeral content.

Second, Gen Zers are US loneliest generation. Studies show that they are hungry for immediate and face-to-face talk – they love to connect with others live in real-time through social apps on their phones.

Third, they are the most culturally and socially diverse generation, not easy to target. However, we still can identify their needs and meet them: giving highly personalized interactions, protecting their privacy, bringing up new concepts like virtual reality.

 

Trend 8. Just be yourself 

There is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed.

Sorry for being preachy. But the authenticity of social media seems like a huge trend nowadays.

The thing is we mingle with each other quicker than ever. Brands and communities come closer. More clients leave honest feedback about products and experiences online. This leads businesses to look into online reviews and start evaluating them immediately. However, it’s not only about advocating your brand. It’s about you truly serving people and community.

As Kat Haselkorn, Founder, KH Creative suggests, companies will work harder than ever to match their online and offline personas. There is even a term coined for that process – phigital. Customer’s experience in the digital and physical worlds should match.

And let’s don’t forget that people are emotional creatures. Likes, shares, views, clicks are great but they don’t always evoke the emotion. Emotional analytics of your campaign is a subtrend by itself.

Though we live in the post-digital age, the greatest challenge for us is to remain human. It’s all about building up trust with a target audience, putting people at the heart of your social media marketing strategy.

 

Conclusions

We’ve listed the major trends in social marketing you can’t really turn blind eye to.

  1. Videos and live streaming are performing exceptionally well in social media. Consider broadcasting your live events of any kind to engage more users and build trust.
  2. For now, you can toy around with AR camera effects in social media. But be prepared for major technology innovations coming ahead. It seems like very soon anyone will be able to visualize your product e.g. via messenger chat.
  3. It’s all about here and now, so ephemeral content is of the essence. Why not start using Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat for creating Stories and generating some buzz?
  4. Approach influencers to raise your brand awareness. Their personal brand should align with your company values – this makes for genuine marketing. While micro-influencers can actually bring you more benefit than some top bloggers.
  5. Don’t hesitate to spend a few bucks of promotion in social media since Facebook reduced organic reach for businesses. Mind that ad policies are becoming more transparent, while users prefer video to text marketing.
  6. Customized chatbots are becoming smarter every day and can definitely save your time and money. They create real-time engagement with customers much needed nowadays.
  7. Gen Zers love social media and might be eager to interact with you and become your customer. Consider their needs when building your social media strategy.
  8. Be your true self. As the real and online worlds mix in intricate ways, remember that focusing on consumers of your product is absolutely vital for social media success.

Did I miss something? Feel free to drop your comments below.

 

 

Author bio: Aleksey Chepalov is a part of the marketing team at Chanty — a simple AI-powered business messenger and a single notification center. This powerful and free Slack alternative is aimed to increase team productivity and improve communication at work.

Aleksey is keen on such topics as marketing, SaaS challenges, and personal growth.