Social media is one of the fastest changing industries we've probably ever seen. Whether it is someone introducing the next best platform with cutting-edge technology or an old idea gains viral popularly--social media is only going to get bigger.
In 2016 and 2017 we saw some extensive changes in many of the social media platforms. Twitter finally saw a 280-character upgrade and visual platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat grew exponentially.
Up over 50 percent from 2016, Facebook reported its highest earnings ever in Q3 of 2017, all while eclipsing that 2-billion-user mark - that is nearly one-third of the planet using Facebook!
Social media expert Natalie Zfat believes brands must be able to efficiently distribute content in a way that will quickly grab and interest a user as attention spans of are gradually decreasing.
Brands and businesses need to put their social media strategy of the top of their list this year, and can do so by implementing these five trends in 2018.
1. Quick, efficient customer service with messenger apps and AI bots
Already being used by many brands and businesses, AI bots will grow exponentially this year. Chatbots are automated and straightforward. They establish an immediate relationship with your consumer.
Bots eliminate the need for consumers to take the time to make a phone call, be put on hold, and transfer to two or three different people. Messaging apps will help brands and businesses to personalize their channels further, help refine targeting and analytics, and simplify segmentation of customers.
2. Short-lived content (because time is money)
So many brands are already starting to leverage types of "ephemeral" content, like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook's "Instant" stories because it is perceived as more authentic by consumers and social users.
"It is something that has an immediate emotional connection, so it's shared at that moment vs. something that a brand might leverage an influencer to create and live on a timeline, which took two months before posting," Zfat explains.
3. Going live from virtually anywhere
Live video is a huge game changer for anyone and everyone, from a news network, a large corporate brand, a small business, or even a fashion designer. We are seeing people who are investing in Facebook live, and Instagram live, and they are doing it for the sole purpose of being able to give their audience a real-time experience.
Brands can leverage live video for customer service by streaming product demonstrations or doing live Q&A sessions.
The suspense of "will my question get asked" makes the audience continue to tune in until the end which lengthens the interaction time. This increased engagement with your brand means there is a significant chance you will turn that viewer into a follower and eventually a loyal consumer.
4. Lights, camera, action
Video content is not going away anytime soon. In fact, brands and businesses should be putting a more significant focus on tying video content into their social media strategy.
While YouTube is a favorite video medium, brands, as well as creators, are certainly going to continue to integrate video into their other social media channels and strategies.
According to a survey conducted by LiveStream with New York Magazine, 80 percent of people would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog and 82 percent of people prefer a video from a brand than a regular social post.
"Video, from an interaction standpoint, always outperforms photo and text, so we know that it leads to higher interaction--likes, retweets, shares, and comments," Zfat said. "We can expect to see a substantial monetary and time investment into video from brands in 2018."
5. The brand's referral
Influencers are a massive part of the social media wave, and they are here to stay. The thing that influencers do for a brand that they cannot do for themselves is not just introducing a new audience but introducing authenticity.
Picture this: You walk into a networking event and begin introducing yourself to everyone. Then you immediately start talking to them about how great you are at your job, and how hard working and ambitious you are--it looks like you are full of yourself. This self-promotion is precisely what happens with brands when they try to tell their own stories and do it repetitively without introducing third parties to help them.
Media does a good job of telling brand stories, but influencers can be that "wing woman" at the event. An influencer will step up and say, "here is how I use this product, here is how I use this service, here is how it fits into my life" and by doing this, they bring a level of authenticity that just does not come with a brand talking about itself.
Millennials are not affected by traditional ads and are using ad-blockers more and more. Instead, they are influenced by their peers, and the same can be said for Generation Z.
When activating an influencer for your brand, focus on building a long-term relationship with them to put your ROI over the top. Utilizing them for a one-time social post isn't going to get you what you need.
The key to unlocking a more successful 2018 for your brand or business is to stay ahead of the trends. We're already a month into 2018, have you started your social media marketing strategy?