With 2019 looming, 2018’s digital marketing landscape has seen trends that picked up in 2017 gain even more momentum. Video content, influencer marketing, outreach on social channels, augmented reality, SEO, and data-driven advertising strategies continue to be leading tools of choice for savvy brand-builders.
Predictions can be dicey. If there’s one constant in our technology-saturated times, it’s that the changes keep coming—often in unforeseen ways. We’ve got enough of 2018 behind us to make a few educated guesses about the trajectory of social media marketing in 2019. So saddle up for a tour of current trends and coming attractions.
The Natives Are (Still) Social
Let’s start with the Great White Whale of recent online marketing trends—the mad dash to master social media marketing. It is important to note that, recent events and marketing tactics have created a sense of distrust among users. This includes everything from privacy data breaches, political “trolls”, and the overuse of #ads on social platforms. Despite the 11 point decline in trust from users, social media still remains a strong contender for marketing. Now, brands are beginning to take a new, more authentic, approach to how they reach consumers.
In recent years, social channels like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter have been ground zero for new and contagious innovations in advertising and brand outreach. This means that no matter the industry, your audience spends more of its time than ever on social media. All the major platforms have become public forums for just about everything under the sun. Just for context, research shows that almost 80% of U.S. internet users use Facebook and more than one-third of folks have used social media to look for jobs.
Another factor in the social marketing arms race is that end users have become their own market research teams. Social platforms serve as effective search engines for everything being bought and sold. More than ever, folks are going online to conduct their own independent research, share information and compare experiences with peers about products that interest them. Customers have therefore taken the lead in driving the conversation and shaping perception around brands.
So, What Can You Do To Boost Your Utilize Social Media
None of this means that social platforms are unreliable tools for influencing your audience. They remain key forums for engagement. But it does mean that a successful social media marketing strategy has to start by identifying the key experiences, beliefs, and desires of your audience so you can meet them halfway in the conversation about your brand.
Get on Their Level
So what does a successful strategy look like? The keyword here is engagement. The way to build visibility and credibility into your brand is to get into the thick of things with current and prospective customers on social channels. Doing so will boost confidence about your brand’s level of responsiveness to what folks think and want.
Two added benefits are that social outreach will
- Help drive traffic to your website and/or social profiles
- Provide opportunities for you to shape the energy and direction of the conversation that takes place with or without your involvement.
All of this might sound fine in theory, but getting started is a different story. Read on for some more specific tips for how to effectively go about it.
Listen to your followers.
Listening is one of the most powerful communication tools we have. It’s easy to launch a social profile for your brand and blast your followers with industry news, research, tips, and other content. It’s equally important now, when trust is in short supply, to participate in the discussion. Make use of comments threads and other social forums. You can demonstrate your commitment to transparency by answering and (even more importantly) asking questions.
Image via constantcontact.com
Poll your followers.
This is a good way to model accountability and do some information-gathering for future marketing outreach at the same time. And don’t hoard the results—share them with your audience in order to spark more discussion.
Use hashtags generously.
Seems obvious these days, but it’s worth repeating. In 2018 and into 2019, hashtags remain one of the simplest and most effective ways to attract traffic to your site or social media profile. It also helps to piggyback on existing conversations your audience already cares about.
Studies show that consumers want more personalized interaction with the brands they care about. 1 in 3 consumers would mention preferred brands while announcing a personal milestone on social media. Additionally, over 4 in 10 millennials would mention brands in social announcements simply to say thanks. Consumers also reach out for help or to voice their concerns on social media. Unfortunately, they don’t always get a timely response from companies.
Offering personalized responses to such mentions – be they positive or negative – will drive enthusiasm better than most other strategies. This is especially true for those focused on broadcasting your own agenda or announcements. Responding to consumer’s posts (rather than expecting it to work the other way around) can be a strongly competitive choice for your brand given that brands typically send 23 messages for every 1 consumer response. 89% of social media messages in 2016 were ignored. It pays to reach consumers through messages, mentions, comments, likes, and other personalized feedback.
Trust Trends and Tactics for Managing Your Social Reputation
Something for 2019 to keep in mind is that social media companies will continue moving in the direction of integrating their platforms with third-party applications. Facebook and LinkedIn already permit users to sign-up and share data with other services through their systems. However, there’s every indication that the trend will continue in order for user experiences within and across applications to be more seamless. Some predict that 90% of apps will soon be sharing user data across all connected audiences.
Another trending development already underway is CEOs and top executives wading into the social fray more often. By becoming more visible, business leaders hope to become more credible. This will, in turn, enhance the reputation of their brand, earn consumer trust, and even attract new hires. Popular tactics for getting leaders’ voices into circulation include publishing think pieces on Medium, blogging on LinkedIn or his or her company’s site, and (of course) tweeting.
It’s important to understand the motivation behind this change. It lies behind many of the trends and marketing tips we’re discussing. Relatable, responsive leadership is the best antidote to increasingly prevalent distrust in the media. At least that’s the idea.
Consumers Don’t Trust Vendors
Sure enough, as we saw above, there’s good evidence that distrust in vendors and traditional advertising strategies is growing among potential buyers. After all, this is why customers rely more than ever on their own informal web research about brands and products. It is also why much of that research is focused on organic reviews by other users.
This virtual word-of-mouth has become essential among consumers in both their personal lives and when making high-stakes tech purchases at work. Even B2B buyers, who traditionally relied upon vendors to educate them about products, are now far less inclined to accept the truthfulness of vendors’ promotional efforts than vendors themselves would like to believe.
It’s easy to see that, for now, and into the foreseeable future, online user reviews can make or break a company’s reputation. It’s little wonder, then, that social proof is so highly sought-after. And research backs this up—even in B2B sales, it’s possible to double your influence over buyer behavior by integrating freely given, uncensored customer feedback into your marketing strategy.
Another upshot is that brands would do well to be wary of where and how they cultivate their social presence. Social media platforms have become proving grounds for contentious issues of identity, tribal loyalty, and politicized messaging. This is common knowledge now, but it adds urgency to the need for brands to know their audiences well before engaging them on their own turf.
Video Still Reigns
It’s no secret that the past few years saw great strides for social video. Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn are finding fresh ways to integrate video content into the user experience of their apps. The smart money is still on video given that watching videos accounts for a whopping one-third of folks’ time online.
Other research backs up investing in social video as well. Almost 7 in 10 viewers say that having seen a live stream of an event makes them more likely to buy tickets to something similar. Nearly half of live audiences say they’d pay to watch streaming video of a favorite performer. 80% of brand audiences prefer watching live video to reading a blog, and an even greater share (82%) prefer live video to social posts. And we know that in terms of engagement metrics video eclipses text and images combined, racking up 12 times as many shares on social.
Overall Value of Video
The marketing value is obvious when you consider the fact that visual information accounts for 90% of what is received by the brain, which processes visual stimuli 60,000 faster than text. Not to mention the (stunning) fact that, by next year, video is expected to account for 85% of total internet traffic. The runaway popularity of movie streaming services and the explosion of user video features on social apps are both drivers and indicators of this sea change in how people now and into next year will spend their time online.
The general takeaway for marketers is pretty clear. Video is an investment that’s getting smarter with time. There are lots of ways to do it. Running ads on video-intensive platforms like Instagram and YouTube is one. Hosting native video on your blog, site, or social profile is another. As is seeking endorsements from relevant influencers by exploring product placement or sponsorship in their own video content. You may want to check out video marketing software tools to see how they can help you create and manage personalized, interactive videos to help with your social content strategy. Or, if you’re planning to connect with influencers, take a look at influencer marketing software to help you organize your efforts there.
The chatbot surge is another trend that will continue to make big waves next year. Chatbots are computer programs that automate tasks by interacting with clients or customers through a conversation interface, usually similar to instant messaging but sometimes via email. Customer service departments primarily utilize the chatbot services. Chatbot services remove the need to download an app or speak with a live representative in order to get a job done. These tasks include, but are certainly not limited to, things like:
- Ordering takeout
- Reserving a hotel room
- Upgrading a subscription service
- And troubleshooting a technical problem
Chatbots provide benefits to businesses by helping them address the problem of personalized customer care on social media we reviewed earlier, without requiring extra headcount on your social media team.
How to Use Chatbots on Social
Reaching out to customers on social can be challenging. Especially, if your brand is so well-known that the sheer volume of incoming messages becomes unmanageable, or if you receive a high rate of the same or similar questions or comments from different users. Either way, if something like a standardized response seems like a good fit, chatbots can help meet this demand. This also satisfies the one-to-one interactions social audiences crave.
Popular brands have picked up on this, which is why there are over 100,000 chatbots that gather information and offer customer care on Facebook Messenger, to take one example. Such a vast army of robots sounds like overkill, but not so. Their contribution to productivity is reflected in Forbes’ prediction that automation will account for 85% of customer-business interactions by 2020.
But one size doesn’t fit all, even in robot-land. Chatbot customization services like Sprout Social’s Bot Builder allow companies to easily build the right chatbot for the job and rapidly deploy them on social channels.
As 2018 draws to a close, 2019’s social media marketing landscape is not too hard to outline. The best way to keep your brand competitive is to keep your finger on the pulse of your audiences. That means:
- Keeping pace with changes in the customer’s journey
- Paying attention to where your brand appears in social ads and conversations to gain and keep trust
- Harnessing user reviews
- Leaning into social video
- Personalizing your brand outreach across platforms
- Relying on automation where necessary to meet consumer demand for care
Use these tools wisely and 2019 will be another banner year.