In 2018, social media is getting smarter and platforms are wielding technology to improve user experience. Here are the top eight social media trends to prepare for as the year draws near.
1. More ephemeral content
Ephemeral content — which is short-term, lasting no more than 24 hours — is now hot thanks to Snapchat. The platform gets 10 billion views every day, and is now the third most popular social platform in America — first amongst teenagers, with Instagram at second, winning only half as many votes.
Best way to jump on: Ephemeral content fans prize authentic, funny, interesting content over focused branded content, so there's no need to look professional — just grab attention and insert a QR code to communicate information within photos and short videos.
2. Video still growing
Video content is popular and critical to any brand's marketing strategy. According to Cisco, more than 500 million people watch video on Facebook every day, and by 2021, about one million minutes of video content per second will cross the network. In fact, more than 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic will be video within four years — and as the algorithms platforms use continue to improve, video will keep getting more valuable for winning over new customers and generating engagement.
Best way to jump on: Keep it short. Focus on grabbing attention in 3 to 5 seconds and changing shots with lots of movement to keep that attention. For platforms like Facebook include subtitles since most videos are played without audio. Don't forget your best practices for SEO and humanizing your brand with every video.
3. More personalized content
Generic content turns off even loyal customers; Janrain and Harris says that almost 75 percent of consumers get annoyed when content isn't personalized to our needs and interests. Analytics are getting better, and as more brands invest in personalized content and social media platforms get “smarter," users will expect to see more personalized content.
Best way to jump on: Remember to use each post to address customer pain points and offer value. Ask questions of your customers, respond when they interact and reflect their feedback in your product and new posts.
4. The emergence of Generation Z
According to research from Goldman Sachs, Generation Z is now more valuable to most businesses than even millennials. They are social media natives, and their oldest members are just starting to enter the workforce at ages 22 to 23. Expect to see recognition of their increased buying power in the social media strategies of big brands and investment into their favorite platforms: Instagram and Snapchat.
Best way to jump on: Have a presence on Snapchat, Instagram or both, unless you don't want or need to expand your brand into the next big market.
5. Influencer marketing still rules
In 2017, brands learned that a wholly traditional marketing campaign costs more money than it's worth and loses on social. Print marketing fell behind both video and influencer marketing — and influencer marketing closed in on video fast. Seventy-four percent of social media users trust opinions they see on social media, 75 percent of brands invest in influencer marketing. In short, even if you don't, your competition probably does.
Best way to jump on: Focus on niche influencers with a hyper-focused following that's on point for your brand, interact with them personally to ensure mutual benefit and interact with them in meaningful ways that fit in with their social culture.
6. Interactive, engaging content gets eyeballs, especially live streaming
Live streaming and other interactive, engaging content has become part of the mainstream social media experience. Big and small brands now use live streaming to engage with loyal customers and capture the attention of new fans. More brands will begin to incorporate live streaming and other interactive social campaigns into their content plans this year.
Best way to jump on: This is one of the easiest ways for even one person operations to shine, because all you really need is some good ideas, a plan, a camera and a computer.
7. Social listening is critical
Don't just monitor your own brand on social: track your competitors' content and the mentions they get. Use what people say about your competitors to measure your own brand's performance and find out what your shared target demographic loves, hates and needs.
Best way to jump on: Use a social media management tool like HubSpot or HootSuite to engage in smarter social media listening for your own brand and your competitors' brands. Invest time in identifying the best keywords for your listening, and keep evaluating and adjusting your strategy with new data.
8. Facebook goes almost totally mobile
About 59 percent of American Facebook users will engage with the platform exclusively via mobile device by 2020 — no surprise since the company generated 80 percent of its ad revenue from mobile users by 2016. Snapchat and Instagram — the most popular apps for Gen Z, remember? — were created for mobile use from the start, and Facebook is catching up in 2018.
Best way to jump on: Make sure responsive design is your go-to for all of your content and marketing materials, and while you're at it, your entire online presence.
Social media gives you endless opportunities to connect with new customers who can become loyal brand enthusiasts. Don't blow those chances by failing to stay on top of social trends. It's not always easy to get ahead of the game as a solo or entrepreneur, but the savvy brand builder can put these social trends to work with a little planning.