Digital communications in 2017 was dominated by the increased use of video, audience demands for personalised content and the rise of automation and machine learning. Not only are these trends here to stay, but also it is inevitable that technological innovation will continue to create more disruption in social throughout the coming year. In order to play in the increasingly competitive digital space, brands and organisations need to evaluate (and re-evaluate) their social media approach to identify the value their content and channels bring to audiences and business goals.
We’ve identified eight social media trends and considerations businesses should focus on in 2018:
- Always think audience-first
Audiences are continuing to demand content relevant to their interests and needs, and connecting with users on a personal level is necessary to achieving message cut-through. Undertaking audience mapping to understand who these people are, their online and offline behaviours and what they want from brands will enable companies to more clearly identify what role their business can play in audiences’ lives.
- Ephemeral content is here to stay
Snapchat introduced audiences to ephemeral content, shared for 24 hours before disappearing forever, and Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp popularised it further this year. As a result, many social media users are now gravitating towards content that is more authentic and unfiltered. Ephemeral content receives high levels of engagement as it is highly visual and mobile-first, and businesses must consider this format as part of their content distribution strategy.
- Automation becomes reality
AI has always been present in social media (think: algorithms), but there is now an increased use of chat bots, more sophisticated image recognition software and the development of bots to automate and coordinate posts across social pages. The reliance on automation gives social media teams more time to create and optimise content, as less time is needed to monitor and publish. All businesses will need to determine how to leverage automation to simplify processes, while also providing the human touch audiences crave.
- Interactive video content
Through 360 videos, augmented and virtual reality have been around for some time now, smart phone capabilities are finally sophisticated enough to support interactive video experiences. Social media platforms will undoubtedly find ways to incorporate this technology into their product offerings, and given the high levels of audience engagement with interactive content, brands will soon be expected to respond accordingly.
- Rise of dark social
Online users are now engaging more on dark social, a term used to describe activity conducted on private networks (i.e. messaging apps and email). As the top four messaging apps now have more active monthly users than the top four social networks, there is a huge opportunity for businesses to reach their audience in this space. Brands will need to put more effort into identifying and communicating with users due to the closed nature of the channels, but the opportunities are worth the investment. As apps and messaging bots become more seamlessly integrated into a business’ digital strategy, it will become easier to track sharing and engagement.
- The power of influencers
92% of people trust recommendations from individuals, even if those they don’t know, rather than brands. However, consumers are discerning and know when celebrities are overtly product pushing. People want to see industry leaders, experts and ‘people like them’ advocating on behalf of a business. Therefore, brands and organisations need to identify and engage with influencers their audiences trust and work with them as on-going partners instead of ad-hoc content promoters.
- Combat weakening organic reach
As organic reach is continuing to decline, brands need to create more sustainable distribution strategies. One element of this is to stop viewing paid and earned as conflicting approaches. Paid should be used to amplify content that performs well organically- not a way to spam users with poor content.
- Storytelling is a necessity
Storytellers engage with people on a personal level by communicating with language their audiences understand in order to develop relationships. The same holds true for brands trying to reach consumers and stakeholders. Whereas many businesses tend to focus efforts on persuading (i.e. take this action, read this, learn more here), they instead need to concentrate on becoming narrators.