As a business leader, you likely have a solid strategy when it comes to social media. But because social is always evolving, what works now won't work forever. It already seems like an eternity since Facebook only had one "like" option and tweets were capped at 140 characters. Growing audience engagement becomes impossible without keeping up-to-date with social-media trends and changes.
Fortunately, you've still got a few weeks to get your marketing tools in order and build a plan for audience engagement and content distribution before the new year. To stay ahead of the curve, keep your marketing fresh, and make the most of your content distribution efforts, keep these social-media trends in mind as you prepare for 2019:
1. Social CEOs will become the new norm.
One of the most prominent changes in the digital age is how we perceive a company's leaders. The stereotype of the enigmatic CEO working away in the corner office has (thankfully) lost a lot of its appeal. The public's trust in institutions has diminished enough as it is, and with all the resources you have at your disposal, a lack of online transparency with your audience is inexcusable.
In 2019, CEOs and other company leaders need to use social media to share their insights, connect with their community, and listen to their audience. They may be busy running a business, but part of doing business in 2019 is being active on social.
2. User-generated content will make brands' efforts more authentic.
Instead of spending hours crafting original social-media content in hopes that your audience will like it, you can rely on user-generated content from your actual audience members to do the heavy lifting -- and engage more authentically.
Start looking for the best content from your followers, and consider showcasing that content (and giving credit to the creator) on your own channels. It can help grow your base and give your audience a sense of connection. At a time when organic social reach is on the decline, sharing authentic content straight from your audience members themselves can help you connect with your followers and build a stronger relationship with them.
3. LinkedIn Dynamic Ads are making ads more personal.
One thing that never changes in the social-media world is the ubiquity of advertisements. In fact, recent research says 66 percent of B2B marketers used paid methods to distribute content last year, and 80 percent said they used them to reach a new audience. The last thing you want to do to new audience members, though, is turn them off with impersonal, invasive ads.
That's why news that LinkedIn is rolling out new ad features is so important. With LinkedIn Dynamic Ads, you can personalize paid ad content and foster more authentic communication. Personalizing content from the beginning breaks down trust barriers early enough to make an impact.
4. Social listening will give brands an edge.
Engaging with your audience is Marketing 101. But too many marketers forget the importance of listening to those audience members in that engagement equation. Social listening involves analyzing specific conversations, phrases, and other details on your brand's and even competitors' social-media pages, and it's a growing component of competitive social strategies.
Rather than just glancing at posts and making your best guesses, social listening tools allow you to identify patterns and collect meaningful interpretations of their data. Using these interpretations to your advantage can greatly benefit your marketing campaigns in the future and give you an edge over other brands that are using social to blast their message instead of engaging followers.
5. The Instagram Stories feature isn't slowing down.
As counterintuitive as it sounds, perhaps the most valuable content is short-lived. While only temporary, Instagram Stories have become a popular way for users to consistently update their profiles, keep followers engaged, and, in some cases, even increase followers.
What makes the Stories feature so valuable for brands of pretty much any kind -- aside from the fact that it's about twice as popular as Snapchat -- is that you don't need to invest a ton in video to make the most of it. You can share pictures or behind-the-scenes videos that give your audience a glimpse of your values and culture without spending a dime. And you can do so as frequently as you want without overwhelming your followers with half a dozen posts in a day.
6. Chatbots aren't going anywhere.
More people are using messaging apps than social-media platforms to connect with friends and brands, and limiting your social strategy to updates on Facebook and Twitter means missing out on valuable opportunities to be a helpful resource. Thankfully, chatbots offer a great way to use these platforms' messaging features to your advantage.
Chatbots make it easy to quickly interact with your audiences in a way that feels personal. You can customize your brand voice and send personalized content directly to users based on their prompts. Chatbots help you deliver more customized content at the exact right time, provide better service, and increase engagement -- and the barrier to entry is still pretty low. Consider testing out chatbots of your own in 2019.
7. Dark social will prompt marketers to look beyond social share counts.
The downside of messaging apps' popularity is the rise of dark social. With more people sharing content privately, it's become increasingly difficult to accurately track social share counts.
Does that mean no one is sharing your content or that shares are now a totally useless metric? No, not quite. But it does mean the ways people are sharing your content are changing -- and that it's probably a good idea to adapt the ways you measure success. Ask yourself what goal you're really trying to achieve and look for ways to measure that goal that paint a more complete picture of your progress.
While the goal is to adapt to these trends by next year, each of them is already in style. Pay attention to what different social-media speakers, other leaders in your industry, and other content sources are saying and doing so you can be prepared for budget planning for 2019. It's never too early to overhaul what was once a killer marketing strategy and rework it to best the competition. That way, when your competitors are ringing in the New Year reminiscing about this year's success, you'll already have an exceptional social-media strategy for 2019.