If the terms, like positioning, branding, reputation, goodwill, marketing and a load of other business terminology means a lot to the business, then social media cannot be ignored. With the current social media users at 2.46 billion and expected to grow to 2.77 billion by 2019 as per the estimates of Statista, companies can’t afford to ignore it any longer. According to Statista’s estimates, 81% of the US population has a social media account with a five percent growth than the previous year.
We have reached an era approaching towards socialization of business. The little secrets of enterprises are no more a secret but are tested and verified in the light of a transparent social ecosystem to rule out the undesirable and bring about the best. Brands have gradually realized that underestimating the role of social media would alienate them from connecting with the target audience who are highly connected and influential.
On top of all these changes and technological evolutions coupled with the rising trends of social media usage by the businesses, these networks today have emerged as the most powerful channels for customer communication.
With the usage of ad-blocking software rising at an alarming rate of 48% within a single year brands are compelled to search for a medium where they can be seen and heard. Social channels seem to be a healthy alternative where the brands can also sell. In a study, it was found out that 78% of the salespeople who are using the social media for selling outsell their peers.
With so much of activity on the social networks, they are evolving in tandem with the demanding trends and preferences of the audience. Through social media, the business leaders are reinforcing newer ways and redefining the consumer experience and influencing the decision-making process at every step. Technology, marketing techniques, and consumer choices are gradually drifting the old methods and ushering in new techniques and technologies of marketing for influencing the end user.
The last couple of years witnessed the exponential growth of messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Although the use of videos is on the rise, virtual reality looms large as the future of videos. With so much of noise on social media, the marketing teams and brands are set to cut the clutter and reach their prospects with newer and novel ways and cutting-edge technology. Let’s look at the year 2018 and examine the trends that would rock social media marketing in the ensuing year.
Increased access through mobile devices
With mobile ads generating 80% of the Facebook’s ad revenue, as per the estimates of Contently.com by 2020, 59.4% of the Facebook users in the US will access it through mobile devices only. With this trend in the offing, the line between the internet user and the social network user will become even thinner. The predictions hint that more than seven out of ten internet users will use social networks by 2020.
In 2009, only 46% of the adults using internet were on social media, but in 2020 almost 7 out of 10 US internet users would be present on social media according to estimates. The brands have already recognized this trend, and the advertising business of Facebook and other social media has been changing in the last four years. The advertising business of Facebook has grown exponentially, with over 80% of it being mobile. This trend is likely to persist and would be on the rise in 2018.
Personalized and methodical Content Marketing
With most of the millennials not having adequate trust on the traditional advertisement, content posted with the perspective of selling won’t sell anymore. Brands would be keener to use and publish content based on user persona which suits the prospects’ age, gender, income, education, location, and other parameters. Influencer marketing will be on the rise that would influence your target audience at a more personal level providing more engagement and recommendations, often leading to a sale.
In such an environment the best strategy for brands would be to post personalized content, commenting on their posts, tagging them, and responding to the audience when needed. Another trend that may be noticed in 2018 is a more focused approach to market products and services to generation Z who are just about to enter the workforce. Brands would recognize this and would divert their attention to social media platforms loved and used more by the generation Z like Instagram and Snapchat.
Use of Social Chatbots for customer service
According to Gartner’s predictions, by 2018 almost 30% of the customers’ conversations will be with smart machines. Chatbots are such smart software applications which are efficient in stimulating a conversation just like a human being. These chatbots are able to assist customers round the clock fetching them with the information, customers want at any time, building a lasting relationship with them.
Responding to comments on social media could be a daunting task. Chatbots that would be employed by many companies facilitating one-to-one conversations on a personal level can efficiently and effectively manage it. A great advantage of chatbots, apart from being omniscient is, they are fast and are always polite no matter how rude a customer is. Brands using chat bots would certainly win in competition as they would harbor better relations with customers.
Augmented Reality will be on the rise
Augmented Reality (AR) will be on the rise in 2018 with its initial impact on the gaming industry and social networks being the next. Social networks like Instagram and Snapchat would support filters which would allow the users to take selfies with celebrities or friends through augmented reality. Brands are also expected to project their products and services into the homes of users or other places by using special filters.
Social channels like Snapchat is already using AR and has pushed the use of AR to be accepted as a mainstream technology. Snapchat proved that it is an emerging technology that could be used by anyone with a smartphone. Facebook also introduced AR through its Camera Effects Platform which includes its Frame Studio and AR studio. These added utilities developed by Facebook helps developers and designers to build interactive features and effects making it a great creative platform for the users. With these two social media giants making big leaps on augmented reality, it signifies an era of the beginning of social media. Implementation of AR in social media is certain along with our relationship with different devices and platforms, which is going to be redefined. We need to wait and watch to see how it would look like and function.
Increased usage of Messaging Platforms by brands
The messaging platforms have grown globally during the recent past, but the brands have been still busy connecting with prospective customers on pure social channels. As the trends suggest, the brands have already recognized this, and more companies are seen to invest in connecting with consumers on the messaging platforms like WhatsApp and WeChat. Brands can be expected to use voice assistants, chatbots, and artificial intelligence to offer a more engaging, pleasurable, and personalized shopping experience to customers.
The market’s leading two social media messaging platforms, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp has neared one billion monthly users, according to Bufferapp. No doubt, the users consider the messaging apps as more private than social media which is one of the reasons for its increased popularity. As the usage increases, the social channels are thinking of improvising even more innovative ways to the benefit of the users. The possibilities of the messaging platforms on social media are endless, and the near future will tell us the ways how the society and business will use the messaging platforms of the social channels.
The way forward
Social media is present quite some time now, and it started playing a predominant role in the digital marketing framework. As social media goes on attracting more audience with the gradual increase of the proposed market size, more brands and businesses are joining the band to connect with the right audience through the wide array of social channels. To offset the boredom of the customers and to offer new utilities the social networks are constantly coming up with the technological innovations to stay ahead in the competition. The tastes, preferences, and the usage pattern of the customers and the audience across the social channels are also simultaneously undergoing a change.
The attention span of the audience in the social channels is also declining owing to the bombardment of content by the brands and businesses. In this spree of grabbing the attention of the audience, the brands are also figuring out newer and novel ways for customer engagement, entertainment, and delight. It is evident as the social channels started sharing more photos, videos, and visuals than text content like never before. Added to that the artificial intelligence tools have enabled visual search, image recognition, product identification, and myriad other utilities. Moreover, AI has also helped in bringing image processing under the grip of the marketers and the business houses.
With all these technological innovations in the foray, a lot of changes are inevitable in 2018, and the role of social media marketers will certainly expand. You need to go with the upcoming trends and harness the power of inbound marketing to give your business the mileage that it needs in the ensuing year.
Swapnil Bhagwat is the Senior Manager – Design & Digital Media at Orchestrate Technologies, LLC. A Dallas-based Business Process Management company. He is integrating marketing strategies with compelling design to delight customers and accelerating revenue growth. Swapnil has worked for more than a decade across a range of businesses in the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe. He is developing digital marketing solutions, customer-driven strategies, and innovative designs to drive increased customer acquisition.