Thanks to the fine folks at Hootsuite, we have a glimpse into the five social media trends brands will be grappling with in 2018. Gone are the days of hopping on every social media trend just because a new tool becomes available; brands will increasingly be looking for detailed data before investing time (and money) into social marketing initiatives that are measurable. If you want to get a head-start on developing your 2018 brand marketing strategy, the following are five trends to track and three challenges you and your team will want to plan for. Ready? Here goes.

The Trends 

#1 Social Media Return-on-Investment Monitoring

Short-sighted social media vanity metrics will no longer cut it in 2018. It is time to let go of follower counts and page likes and instead focus on factors like customer service expenditures, brand perception monitoring, talent acquisition, supply chain analysis, and reputation risk management. Developing a social outreach strategy focused on ROI monitoring will require brands improve their analytics measuring if they hope to achieve ongoing success.

#2 Mobile Media Broadcasting on Video

Brand broadcasting will be key in 2018. The combination of mobile + social + video will require brands to re-evaluate how they think of their social media marketing efforts. Brands as broadcasters will take hold, including the usage of social advertising and broadcast-worthy content. 2018 will require a fresh approach to innovative audience interaction on social and tracking broadcast ROI will be crucial for achieving specific business goals.

#3 Peer Influence Rising in Importance as Consumer Trust is Shaken

Consumer advocates and customer communities will rise in importance in 2018. Growing distrust in celebrity hawkers-for-hire (influencer & micro-influencer marketing) and a rise in awareness of so-called 'fake news' is causing a distinct shift in customer trust. Brands will need to be aware of the shifting sands of trustworthiness and develop new ways to build connections with their customers.

#4 Artificial Intelligence Marketing

The influence of artificial intelligence in marketing will explode in 2018. Everything from AI-powered chatbots to conversational commerce with Alexa, Siri, and their cohorts will provide intriguing opportunities for savvy brand marketers. Expect to see a rise in voice search, visual search, predictive analytics, and algorithms as a service, all powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. 

#5 Social Data

The ability to turn social data into actionable business insights will be more important than ever in 2018. Tracking factors like brand mentions and social media engagements is only useful if you use that information to grow your company. Brands will need to double-down on social data analysis and its application to their growth strategies if they hope to truly benefit from their ongoing social engagements.

Hootsuite CMO, Penny Wilson, shared her excitement as 2018 marks a year that brands will deliver genuine interactions with customers at scale,,

"I think that the tide has turned where customers really want an authentic relationship with a brand. Social truly offers an opportunity for brands to empower their employees and have genuine customer interactions, finally harnessing the power of social."

2018 Brand Challenges

#1 Organic Reach Declining, Sustainable Solutions Needed

With organic reach continuing to decline on numerous social networks, brands will need to develop niche consumer engagement strategies and outreach formats. Trying to be all things to everyone won't work. Better to develop a highly-engaged community with a very specific audience than to opt for broad appeal with mediocre reception.

#2 Social Video - Too Much of a Good Thing?

While social video and social video advertising is more important than ever, it needs to be focused on the goals of your brand, not simply based on the video offerings/capabilities of your chosen social outreach platform. Developing a social video strategy that meets your business' goals, not those of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat is imperative. Understanding the difference will be a consistent challenge for brands in 2018.

#3 Tool Fatigue for Brands

The startup mindset and constant launching of new social tools have led to tool fatigue for marketers. Instead of chasing every new audience engagement tool that comes along, brands are increasingly needing to focus on proving the ROI of tools they are already using. Startup companies within the social space won't only have to worry about the funding crunch; they'll also need to worry about the user acquisition crunch as more companies opt for tried-and-true social management tools like Hootsuite over newcomers.

Overall, Wilson feels that discipline and focus will be a big challenge (and opportunity) for brands in 2018,

"Brands need to focus on which networks bring them the most measurable value and not try to be everything to everyone."

Thanks to Hootsuite's Social Media Trends 2018 Report, it is clearer than ever that 2018 is going to be a challenging time for brand builders. Companies will need to realize the importance of data analysis in their continued customer acquisition efforts and will likely have to increase marketing budgets if they hope to achieve their goals.