Let’s see… 2016 saw some big leaps in social media. Facebook launched 360-degree video and photography; Google introduced Allo and Duo; augmented reality became commonplace through Pokémon Go, and WhatsApp introduced video calling. And with more than 2.3 billion worldwide users of at least one social media platform, we are probably in for a bigger “ride” for social media marketing in 2017. While nothing related to technology and the Internet is “carved in stone,” experts do see a number of social media marketing trends developing for the year ahead. Here are 11 of them.
Social Media Automation
It’s difficult today to know everywhere potential customers may be. While Facebook is certainly the largest platform, a lot of professionals and businesses have presences on Twitter, Instagram, and, of course, LinkedIn. Maintaining a strong and constant presence on all of these is pretty critical, especially for startups and small businesses. Using an automated service that allows for features such as content libraries and group scheduling means you can edit, sort, and keep consistency on all of your platforms. 2017 will probably see a marked increase in social media automation. As small businesses get on board, they will be better able to compete with the “big boys” in terms of brand awareness.
Native Advertising Will Expand
Surprisingly, many marketers are really not familiar with native advertising and rarely use it. They are missing an opportunity to get their brands in front of potential customers. Basically, native advertising is defined as an ad that looks just like the platform content in which it is placed. There are several ways to do this.
- Businesses can write content for trade and/or niche journals and pay to have it placed within the content of those journals, rather than on the sides, etc. as actual advertisements. Usually, the word “sponsored” will appear somewhere at the top of the article, but it looks just like any other article in the journal.
- Social media ads on a Facebook wall, for example, can also look just like another post.
- In-Ad Feeds are yet another example. A reader finishes and news article from an online outlet and at the bottom of the article are a number of other options for reading selection. Many, however, are promotional.
More Use of Employees as Brand Ambassadors
Employees all have social media accounts. And company team members’ stories also make good ad copy for company-sponsored marketing, in terms of connecting personally with potential customers.
According to a study conducted by Pardot, employee advocacy on social media has increased almost 200%, as companies have come to realize that their own employees are great brand ambassadors on social media. Of course, they have to be able to create the copy that will engage and compel readers and that will be compositionally correct. Encouraging challenged employees with good ideas to get academic help with their grammar and composition skills might not be a bad idea. Otherwise, marketers will be spending time editing and revising, and that kind of misses the point.
Featuring employees on the job or participating in community/charitable events that the company sponsors are always great stories. Photos with short captions/explanations make great Twitter and Instagram posts.
Live-Streaming Will Take Off
Cable TV subscribers are diminishing. Why? Because they get their news, their TV shows, and movies online. And social media networks are already launching their own versions of live streaming – Factbook Live, Periscope from Twitter, Meerkat and Blab are all current examples. Where subscribers go, so go marketers. A smart one will develop live streaming marketing strategies soon.
Targeted Messaging Apps
Mobile is the current face of social media and both B2C and B2B customers are on the go and on mobile most of their days. For brands to be able to communicate with individual customers via messaging apps can be quite a boost to marketers. The key, of course, will be to custom-fit those messages to individual customers based on their specific needs/problems. But many believe that when the technology solves the custom-fitting, customer retention rates may greatly increase. Social media marketers will want to keep updated on progress here.
User-Generated Content Will Still be in Use
While this has been a strategy for B2C marketers for quite some time, B2B marketers have not “hopped on the train” much, perhaps because they are still figuring out how to do this. It takes some creativity to motivate current customers to generate content, especially if they are business customers or clients. But it can be done. Software companies, for example, will solicit content from their users – their experiences with the products, what problems have been solved, etc. Soliciting user content and using that content to begin discussions with other customers/clients helps to develop a community among your customers. Featuring customers and their use of products and services are also good marketing material. Acuity Brands, a lighting fixture company, for example, developed a case study for a project it completed for Walgreens to enhance customers’ shopping experience.
Text Content Fatigue Will Give Way to More Videos/Webinars/Podcasts
This is an excellent opportunity for B2B marketers. People are tired of reading. Now that social media channels are moving toward live-streaming and 360-epxeriences, companies have the chance to give their customers more immersion into their products and services. Producing webinars, videos, and podcasts will help potential customers to actually experience what you offer. Webinars especially allow your targets to interact with you, helping to develop those relationships that will result in more sales.
Snapchat began all of this with its 10-second videos and its “Snapchat stories” lasting 24-hours only. Since then, expiring content has become a “thing.” Instagram now has its version. How this impacts marketing may not yet be entirely clear, but certainly expiring content does bring about a certain amount of “urgency” for potential clients.
On Facebook alone, there are 30 billion pieces of content generated in a month. That’s a lot of competition, and old content just sits there forever. With expiring content becoming a trend, brands will be forced to figure out how to develop engaging campaigns, so that fresh new content can replace them on these new platforms on which content disappears.
Social Media Channels Will Continue to Change
They are in competition with one another just as brands are in competition. And in that competition, platforms will continue to find new ways to improve user experiences. SnapChat will develop a search feature so users do not have to try and figure out the “handles” of those they wish to follow; Facebook’s news curation will continue to evolve from what it currently is. As many points out, it becomes an “echo chamber” for what users already believe and support – this may change somewhat as we move through 2017, though users will always have the option to block and to determine what shows up in their feeds.
2016 has also seen what many call “Twitter fatigue.” And it appears that even the deal with the NFL to live stream Thursday night football games last fall has not done much to engage users and advertisers. Look for big changes to Twitter as it seeks to become far more competitive to keep its investors happy. And what about LinkedIn? Now that it has been purchased by Microsoft, there may some important changes coming there as well.
Real-Time Customer Interaction Via social Media
Brands have come to realize that customer issues with their products or services can easily become public on social media. To retain customers/clients and to prevent reputation injury, brands are using social monitoring tools in order to “jump” on any feedback and/or comments that may appear. This will only become a more prevalent practice in years to come. Even Facebook is now awarding “badges” to companies that give quick responses to their customers. Marketers will need to expand their “social care” solutions in 2017.
Technology Will Enhance Personalization
Big data has big rewards if used correctly. And one of the things that data science and analytics are bringing to marketing is the targeting of promotional content to people who may have an interest in the products or services that a brand offers. Data reporting developments throughout 2017 will allow marketers to do much more relative to reaching their target audiences.
These 11 trends are some of what forecasters see for 2017. There are others of course – the dominance of mobile, AI and chatbots, augmented and virtual reality to name just a few. And all of these have implications for marketing plans and strategies. Marketers, in fact, will be doing some “heavy lifting” in 2017 if the intend to keep their brands in front of their audiences.