With the social media landscape moving at breakneck speed, the hottest trends of today often become old and outdated by tomorrow. By finding the "next big thing" early, we can gain tremendous advantages over our competitors, leading other marketers and entrepreneurs to constantly searching for the latest opportunities to hop on.

Yet, with the unpredictable nature of the landscape, accurately predicting the winners and losers proves extremely difficult to say the least. If you want to learn how to differentiate between the biggest opportunities coming up in the social media landscape and the over-hyped fads that will quickly fizzle out, here's where to start:

1. Figure out who you trust.

Establish a circle of people--whether they're influencers, mentors, journalists or others--who are knowledgeable about the marketing landscape and who you trust. Take some time to do some research on the people you bring into your circle. 

What is their track record on predicting trends? Did they think Twitter was some stupid app that only teenagers would use, or did they see the potential? Luckily, with social media, discovering the opinions of thought leaders and others is easier than ever since it's likely to be documented on their profiles.

Ask people who are part of the communities being targeted by social media trends. For instance, because I've been obsessed with writing my entire life, I've always had a close pulse on the industry at large--that's what made it easy for me to know that Medium was going to be a big deal in the writing community.

2. Ask yourself if you'd actually use the feature or platform.

This point is simple, yet too often overlooked. Ask yourself, and honestly answer, whether or not you'd actually use the new platform or feature you're curious about.

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all created live streaming components on their platforms back in 2016 and 2017 to capitalize on the supposed "revolution" that would take place. It was supposed to be the next big thing. Since then, it hasn't even come close to reaching the potential many thought it would.

Here's why: How many live streams do you stop to watch as you scroll through your Facebook feeds? How many times have you groaned when you receive yet another push notification letting you know that person you barely talked to in high school is going live on Instagram?

I'm not here to say live streaming doesn't provide any value -- it certainly does. What I'm saying is if everyone who ranted and raved about how live video was going to take over the social media landscape actually thought about whether or not they'd watch live video on a regular basis, then the hype would've been at a much more reasonable, and accurate, level. 

3. Leverage Twitter to listen closely.

The group that will ultimately decide the success or failure of a social media platform or feature isn't the founder of the app or a journalist at the hippest tech magazine. Instead, it's the general public, the marketplace, that will dictate the outcome. Because of this, one of the most effective ways to identify trends and over-hype is to just listen to what the people are saying. 

The medium I've found best for listening is Twitter, which basically gives you the power to be a fly on the wall and eavesdrop on full conversations and musings from complete strangers. Because Twitter is so conducive to short, real-time thoughts--as opposed to filtered, over-baked ideas common on other platforms--it's a great way to gauge true enthusiasm for all things.

Being an early adopter of a breakout social media platform or feature could bring in countless opportunities for your business and catapult your online presence to unimaginable heights. But don't be so quick to hop on every bandwagon that passes you by.

If you follow the tips listed in this article and and practice good judgment, you'll save yourself an incredible amount of time and energy you would've otherwise spent wasted on yet another fad. Best of luck.

Published on: Aug 31, 2018
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.