Savvy brands have been using social media to engage with their audiences for a long time, and with continuous changes, updates, and additions making these platforms better and easier to use, brands no longer have an excuse to avoid using social.
As a marketer and leader, you have your choice of free social media tools to save you time and tactics that increase content distribution -- but to use these the right way, you need to know the lay of the land.
It seems like the platforms that have been around for a while get updates every other week, and new platforms emerge faster than you can count. One trend that binds these new and updated platforms together? Users and the convenience that social offers them.
Honestly, people don't want to bounce around from site to site to get what they want, and social media platforms have been making some changes to accommodate them. Because giants like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram have made it easier than ever for businesses to leverage and users to engage with, social is a one-stop shop for audiences.
Your audience is constantly online and in social media apps. To find out what that means for your brand, here are four of the biggest changes in social media you need to keep on your radar:
1. Social media sites are content publishers, not just distributors.
Back in the day, brands would put together a piece of content and post the same update across all their social channels, calling it a day in an attempt at "content distribution." That may have worked then -- but probably didn't -- and it sure doesn't today.
Brands can now publish content customized for various platforms directly on those social media sites. For example, Facebook Pages gives brands the chance to use Facebook as a sort of microsite. Audiences can check out your "About" page, read reviews, consume published content, and even contact your company, all from Facebook.
Google AMP does something similar. It's not a microsite the way Facebook is, but it gives your audience the chance to sift through content and information without ever leaving their search or having to go to your website. Social is becoming the biggest way we consume content, which means brands need to publish directly to them to capitalize.
2. Chatbots are taking over.
It seems like everyone is talking about chatbots, and I don't mean the SmarterChild-type bot from your niece's AOL Instant Messenger days. Today's chatbots are more powerful than that and, given the track we're on, will soon have the ability to really change how we engage with audiences on social.
While the idea of interacting with a robot on a regular basis might seem strange, that's the world we're moving toward, and we need to look for ways to embrace it.
One of the best bot examples you could embrace, in my opinion, is Tacobot. It's still in private beta mode, but soon, people will have the ability to order Taco Bell directly from Slack, which I know my team and I are excited about. With Facebook working on its own chatbots, other platforms are sure to follow suit, which will make it even easier to perform multiple tasks without ever leaving your messaging app.
3. Online communities help brands cut through the crap.
It's getting harder and harder for audiences to separate high-quality, accurate, and engaging content from fake, empty content, and businesses are going to pay the price if they don't have brand advocates on their side to help them.
By consistently creating engaging content and delivering it to your audience via the right distribution tools, you can develop a content community. That community of advocates and amplifiers can then help your content spread even further so that no matter how much crappy content is creeping its way into your audiences' feeds, yours has the support to stand out.
4. Live video means real-time connection right now.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that authenticity in marketing is key. People want to do business with other people, and with tools like Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Snapchat, and more, audiences are getting a direct line to the sources of their favorite content.
With content being published and shared in real time, consumers get to know more about brands and feel more connected to them. It makes the world feel just a little smaller -- and content feel more authentic -- because we're actually getting to know the people behind the brands.
This doesn't mean I think everyone and their grandmas should jump at the chance to put spend behind video. You've got to walk before you can run. Nailing down the fundamentals will be one of the biggest content marketing trends for brands in 2017, and it'll be important as you explore social media, too.
Audiences are on content overload, with too few ways to filter the garbage from the gold. It's up to brands to commit to creating engaging content and using social media the right way to connect with their audiences. These trends are shaping how we do that today, and we're only going to see more updates to make this easier in the future.