Social is core of marketing … People with people. Influencers gain influence. Chatbot chat. Stories go live …

January 18, 2018

What customers want, how they think, and interact with each other are all changing, relentlessly. Each year marks a rapid change in the social media landscape, rapidly emerging trends and fundamental changes to customer aspirations and preferences, driving marketers to rethink approaches and find new ways to engage with people, and enable them to engage with each other.

Social is now the core of marketing. Not brands, not advertising, not products, not sales. And at the heart of this is how people engage with people. In particular people like them. People who they trust. People who they share passions with. People who they want to be like. Real people more than celebrities. Real people who talk in normal language. Emotional, practical, inspiring, genuine, realtime, human.

So to help you prepare for the changes to come in 2018, here are some of the top social media trends:

1. Influencers gain influence

To avoid the pressure of competing with rival brands, marketers will be looking to develop more long-term relationships with key social media influencers in 2018. But why bother looking to partner up for the long haul? Just look at Louis Vuitton’s 2016 partnership with Selena Gomez. It ended abruptly when rival fashion brand Coach managed to sign a new deal with the celebrity influencer, leaving Louis Vuitton out in the cold.

Another key advancement in influencer marketing strategy this year will be authenticity. Consumers can easily detect influencer-brand collaborations that seem forced and call them out, which is why savvy marketers will focus on building organic relationships with influencers that mesh with their brand in 2018.

2. Video in demand

Nothing on social media is more eye-catching than good video content, or video on demand (VOD). Whether you’re marketing on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat, it looks like social video engagement stats are going to be exponential in 2018.

There’s a  huge variety of formats which this video content can take, from 360-degree videos to live streams. This gives marketing teams a serious amount of flexibility when it comes to planning video campaigns. However, mobile comes first. After all, 90% of Twitter video views and 60% of YouTube views are now from users on mobile devices.

3. Chatbot conversations

“Talk to us now” says the button on the webpage, seeking to engage people faster and deeper with a more human-like conversation. Chatbots have been around for years, but they’ve seen bigtime AI improvements recently. More and more brands are working on using chatbots for customer support and perfecting their chatbot marketing strategy.

Right now, chatbots are mostly used for customer service. 61% of consumer-chatbot interactions are centered around customer service-related questions. The future of bots is looking bright, too, with an estimated 85% of customer interactions managed by chatbots by 2020. Who exactly is using chatbots? It looks like Millennials are the main culprits. 58% of Millenials have used a chatbot before and 71% say they would try interacting with a chatbot from a major brand, according to a survey by Retale.

Social media “stories” are the new form of storytelling. Aggregated, personalised and realtime. The “stories” format pioneered by Snapchat has now become a staple of the social media world. First Instagram created Instagram Stories, and now YouTube has released a stories format of their own called “Reels”. Each offers unique features and presentation, but they all follow the same concept.

Stories capture the best moments from a day and most vanish after a set period of time. Their temporary nature creates a sense of FOMO for users who don’t check them out before they disappear. They’re also just a fun, bite-sized way to present video content.

5. New rules of data

In 2018, the European Union is getting serious about companies collecting consumer data. On May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is going into effect. Will your company be prepared?

The GDPR gives EU citizens more control over their personal data. Every time a company wants to collect information from a consumer, they’ll now need explicit consent from the individual. That data could be anything from their location to their name to their email address. On top of that, the company will need to tell the person what data they plan to collect and how they’ll use it. If you don’t comply you’ll be faced with an EU fine of up to 4% of global annual turnover or $23m whichever is greater.

Here is an extract from Forbes’ with their 7 marketing trends for the year ahead:

1. Big, big data. Big data’s been a big trend for many years now, but it’s mostly been confined to big businesses and major players. With the prevalence of big data now—after all, there are over 6 million developers working on big data projects—and its growing accessibility thanks to machine learning and AI, big data will become more available to small- to mid-sized business owners. With more advertising platforms and marketing outreach methods incorporating big data into their usual infrastructure, it’s going to be hard to stay competitive if you aren’t tapping into the thousands of customer data points that are now available.

2. Non-visual experiences. Nobody expected the smart speaker industry to blow up the way it did in 2017. By 2022, smart speakers are expected to be a staple part of more than 55 percent of US households, and they’ve already sold more than 20 million units this year alone. People are starting to interact with these devices as a part of routine, daily life, using voice commands and listening back to results. Consumers are gradually getting used to interfaces that require no visual surface or physical inputs, and that’s going to have a huge impact on how marketers communicate with them.

3. App capitalization. There’s an app for everything now. And yes, there’s been a diversity of apps available for the past decade or so, but now, consumers rely on certain apps—like map, transportation, and review apps—as part of their daily life. They’ve become as ingrained as Google as a primary search engine, and therefore represent strong real estate in which a brand can grow. I think in 2018, we’re going to see more app capitalization—more brands purchasing ads and making deals to earn exposure on other, highly popular apps.

4. Native ads and smart content. Native advertising is expected to drive more than 74 percent of all ad revenue by 2021. With a more natural placement and formatting, native ads tend to get more exposure and more engagement than traditional banner ads—and are less annoying for consumers. The only problem is, native advertising requires a fundamentally different approach to copy—one that can capitalize on the unique preferences of the people seeing the ads. In 2018, we’ll definitely see increased spending on native ads, and we’ll also see the rise of “smart content” for those ads, able to adapt to audiences using cookies and an in-depth understanding of target audiences.

5. Micro-moments. Google defines micro-moments as any moment that drives a customer to use their mobile device on the fly, whether they want to learn something, go somewhere, do something, or buy something. In 2018, the brands that spend the most time trying to learn, understand, and capitalize on these micro-moments are going to have the highest possibilities of success. It requires deeper demographic research and a mobile-intensive strategy, but with the new tools I think we’ll see develop, it’s going to be easier to approach for modern brands.

6. Content and influencer networks. Content marketing has been a top strategy for a long time, but we’re running into a problem: oversaturation. Every brand with a website has some kind of content strategy, and social media networks are full to bursting with content producers fighting for visibility. That’s why in 2018, I think we’ll see a major shift in investment; rather than trying to keep fighting for new space, marketers will capitalize on space that’s already taken. In other words, I think we’ll see more brands trying to increase their visibility and grow their own influence by capitalizing on influencers who have already built an audience and a reputation. These influencer networks will be less expensive to manage, can reduce the sheer volume of content being produced, and can give brands a leg-up in online visibility.

7. Individual communications. The internet is a busy place, so it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. That’s why more consumers are favoring individual, personalized experiences, including one-on-one communications with brands. Obviously, a purely one-on-one approach isn’t sustainable, but that’s why more brands are turning to chatbots as a cost-effective alternative. Chatbots have started to grow more intelligent and more customizable, and are getting more popular with brands and consumers alike. By the end of 2018, chatbots will become even more of a norm—and a practical necessity if you want to give your customers a large-scale yet personal experience.

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