Wonder what's ahead for social media in 2018? Or what factors matter most to your business? The answers might surprise you.

There's a shift in how you use social media, but that wind of change is going to reenergize your company marketing plan.

Below are the top three ways you need to adjust how you're using social media in 2018. 

1. Know the role of social media in your marketing stack.

Social media can take your business from zero to success, but only if you identify its role in your current marketing stack. This requires that you understand how the software and tools you use allow you to work more efficiently. Your first step is analysis. What tools are they using and are they still effective?

Now look at your remaining tools and visualize how they help you fits social media into your overall marketing strategy. In 2018, social media needs to move out of its silo and into the echo system of your company. From customer support to marketing, identify how the technology, tools, and data flow between each.

Here's an example: Facebook, for many companies, falls under the awareness category, meaning it sits at the top of the funnel. In the marketing stack, you might find it in events (marketing), outreach (business development), and listening (customer support).

Knowing that, you now need to tie this to your customers journey to ensure their experience is as personalized as possible. Customizing micro moments, those instances where they "need to know or do something right now," will increase your odds of capturing customer attention at the exact time a decision is happening.  

Restaurants are an excellent example of this in action. From the moment hunger sets in and the search for food begins, to the time a table is chosen, the waiter arrives, and the meal is served - each moment is an opportunity to woo, wow, and convert that customer into a raving fan.

2. Tackle employee advocacy.

There's no denying the huge resurgence happening around employee advocacy. From education to training, brands are working to help "brand ambassadors" move from employee to active brand champion.

No longer do we see a separation of church and state. Today, companies recognize the long term benefits to empowering employees to use social media as an additional outlet for brand awareness.

And the numbers back up why this push towards advocacy makes sense. On average, employee advocates have 420 Facebook friends, 400 LinkedIn contacts, and 360 Twitter followers. Think about that. If you have 10 employee advocates, that's 11,800 more people you're now able to reach.

Moreover, those are the connections that hold the most potential. In fact, 90 percent of buyers trust recommendations from people they know personally, while only 33 percent of them trust brands.

Sure, there's still a lot of fear around employee advocacy, but that mainly stems from a lack of understanding and education. Once given the right direction, guidance, and encouragement, your employees can be your best ambassadors.

After all, 66 percent of firms with a formal employee advocacy program credited the program as helping to attract and develop new business, while 44 percent credited the program with generating new revenue streams.

3. Focus on micro influencers.

Previously, influencer marketing was all about building relationships and working with big name influencers -- those Instafamous with a million followers.

Over the last year, we've seen a slow shift to a micro influencer situation. Brands and marketers alike are recognizing that quality beats quantity when it comes to influencer relationships.

There will be an even bigger push towards this in 2018 as brands niche down and tap into those hyper-focused micro influencers. These are individuals that might only have 25,000 followers, but a great majority of them are engaged, interactive, and ready to buy what the influencer is selling.

As social media continues to evolve,  the only way to stay on top is is to stay close to your audience. None of the ideas above can truly make an impact, if you haven't taken the time to understand the needs of your customer.

Those are their natural indicators, emotion, enthusiasm, desires, and situation. Each one will lead you to the right placement and use of social media in your 2018 digital marketing strategy.

Published on: Nov 16, 2017