With more than three billion people now using social media every single day, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to your brand or client’s social media activities.
But this can be tricky when social media keeps changing. There have been a host of updates to social media platforms throughout 2018 and into 2019. There are also a ton of new trends that affect how users engage on these platforms. Each of these changes has been a catalyst for businesses to adjust their social media marketing strategies and tactics.
1. Target true engagement
Cheating the system to encourage engagement has been a popular social tactic for some time, with brands sharing posts that suggest users simply “tag a friend in the comments below” to rack up interaction figures without actually creating a conversation. But algorithms are getting smarter, and engagement bait isn’t going to cut it this year as platforms crack down on spammy systems for garnering likes and shares.
With organic reach declining and more businesses upping their social ad spend, content needs to be truly interesting and engaging so that followers, and wider audiences, can’t help but get involved. Whether that’s irreverent conversation in the style of the MERL and Gregg’s, or creating artistic vertical video for Facebook, it’s more important than ever to find the voice and the stories that work for you.
How to jump on the trend: Stop relying on lazy social CTAs. Think about your brand voice guidelines and how you can best apply them to social media, using social as part of wider content marketing strategies instead of a standalone.
2. Work with micro-influencers
On the theme of true engagement, it’s no surprise that micro-influencers continue to win ground over their more celebrity-like counterparts. Aside from budget benefits, in that micro-influencers often work on a gifting basis or simply have much lower fees than the big names, research continues to show that their audiences are more highly engaged and can be more niche-specific than all-singing, all-dancing social media stars.
Some research has even clearly shown that once a profiles amasses more than a few thousand followers, engagement rates on sites like Instagram start to rapidly decline. Collaborating with digital socialites who have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers comes at a fraction of the usual influencer cost, but with a likelihood that genuine engagement will be much greater.
This is in part attributed to a level of believability that can be lost with bigger “influencers.” While some brands turned their nose up at the idea of micro-influencer collaborations in 2018, anyone hoping to produce credible collaborative work this year needs to embrace the up-and-comers.
How to jump on the trend? Take the time to research up-and-comers in your niche. Search relevant hashtags to find social stars who aren’t represented by agencies, where audiences are smaller and engagement rates are higher. Plan influencer campaigns based on relevancy, not audience size.
3. Get rid of fake followers
On the theme of genuine engagement and influencer marketing, it would be wrong not to address the issue of fake social followers that really gained momentum throughout 2018. Fake and spam accounts have been around since the dawn of social media, but now it’s increasingly common to find so-called “influencer” profiles with millions of followers, where the reality isn’t quite what it seems. Even politicians and celebrities have been caught cheating.
Part of the reason that it’s so important to check engagement rates before connecting with an influencer is that audience size does not necessarily equal views or activity. Fake followers and paid-for likes can make it seem that someone is popular, but on closer inspection, collaborating could be a waste of time and money.
2019 is already shaping up to be the year that fake followers are public enemy number one, with sites like Instagram and Facebook announcing their plans to stamp out fraudulent activity once and for all.
How to jump on the trend? If you’ve been buying followers from services promising to grow your audience, stop. And similarly, when you’re working with influencers, don’t be afraid to do some serious homework. Tools like Twitter Audit and HypeAuditor can help.
Shoppable social has already made waves, from Pinterest’s buyable pins to the Checkout on Instagram. But there have been some major upgrades over the past year, and the path from social app to checkout page is now clearer and shorter than ever.
Pinterest has upgraded ad pins to “Product Pins”—a tool that takes shoppers straight to the checkout page for a selected item on a retailer’s site, while Instagram now gives users a route from discovery to checkout without ever having to leave the app. Even the “Explore” page now features a shopping tab—something that paid search marketers should be aware of.
Pinterest say that their Product Pins have increased click-through rates to retailer websites by 40%. With shoppers likely to drop a purchase if the steps between viewing an item and paying for it get too numerous, retailers should leap at the chance to make the kinds of instant sales that social media encourages.
With many shoppers first browsing on social or on Google, paid search and paid social teams will need to work hand-in-hand throughout 2019 with a clear understanding of their respective tactics and outcomes.
How to jump on the trend? Invest in shoppable social adverts where relevant. Test out Facebook offer ads or selling on Instagram to see which platform and CTAs work best for your audience. Also, make sure to adjust your PPC strategies and targets to account for the shift.
Dark social refers to the kind of social networking that marketers can’t track; the sharing of information over WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage and other similar apps. We are all increasingly aware that the content we engage with online forms part of our own online presence, and that posts we like or comment on will appear with this information in our friends’ newsfeeds.
This, coupled with a dislike of eerily-tailored advertising and a growing distrust of social media on the whole, has created a situation where a lot of social sharing takes place out of sight. Direct messaging of posts and products can feel like a big hit to brand awareness, but this isn’t the case—while you may not be able to track these kinds of exchanges, they nurture valuable engagement.
Facebook’s Messenger app sees 1.3 billion users send 8 billion messages every month, and the total once you include WhatsApp, WeChat, and Skype is around 5 billion active monthly users. That’s more than the traditional social networks combined, which means “dark social” can’t simply be overlooked as an area that marketers are unable to access. Overall, it’s estimated that 75% of consumer sharing happens on dark social.
How to jump on the trend? Incorporate dark social into your social marketing strategies. Does your brand have a presence on these channels? Could it? From Facebook Messenger chatbots to VIP WhatsApp groups, think beyond traditional marketing objectives to encourage sharing among a more receptive audience.
6. Capitalize on FOMO with live video
Tired of hearing about millennials? Good, because this year it’s Generation Z you should be turning your attention towards. Generally noted as being born between 1995 and 2015, parts of Generation Z are now starting their careers and looking at where they’ll be spending their own disposable incomes. Among this age group, FOMO—i.e., the fear of missing out— inspires experiential marketing experiences and user-generated content campaigns.
As far as social is concerned, this means that digital marketing needs to capture the same you-snooze-you-lose attitude that comes with pop-up shops and one-off events. Live video and super-short, time-sensitive competitions are just a few of the ways to instill FOMO on a waiting audience, possible through Instagram’s IGTV, Facebook Live, and other channels.
A particular benefit of live video is that followers on a range of platforms are notified when someone they’re following goes live—a neat way of sidestepping algorithms designed to minimize the amount of content that reaches audiences organically.
How to jump on the trend? Fine-tune and implement a live video strategy. Research your audience thoroughly to understand what they want, and use themes like behind-the-scenes videos, insider interviews, and giveaways to keep people engaged.
7. Test out augmented reality ads
AR is making waves in customer experience already, used in apps that help customers try on sunglasses and makeup, or imagine what a paint color might look like on their living room wall. Facebook has already been testing AR-ready advertising, which allows users to tap a product ad and try the item out without ever leaving their newsfeed. But Snapchat has long led the way, offering brands the chance to target consumers with branded selfie filters and stickers.
Augmented Reality has been hailed by some as the future of digital marketing, though the impact it will have will (at least for a while) depend on your industry. Beauty and fashion brands are naturally the early adopters, with NYX, Sephora, and Michael Kors already testing out the new Facebook function.
But equally, homewares brands like Wayfair are not far behind—and just as Pinterest’s shoppable pins help users go from inspiration to checkout in a matter of moments, AR advertising on social looks set to create a more impulse purchase-ready arena.
How to jump on the trend? If your budget stretches as far as AR ads and apps, it’s time to get developing. If these things still feel well out of reach, now’s the time to take notes, learn from successes and failures, and prepare ideas for a future date when AR technology has become more widely accessible.
So what does it all mean?
Social media is not just a tool for increasing brand awareness, it can drive increases in revenue and customer retention and help to build an engaging customer experience.
“Cutting through the noise” when every platform is now so noisy can feel like an impossible task, but with niche targeting and a trustworthy, relatable approach, it can be done. Instead of throwing the net as wide as possible, marketers should take the time to look through detailed insights and get a feel for the small nuances of different sections of their audience. Where are the opportunities for micro-marketing? Where can we get personal, without it feeling insincere or over-the-top?
At the core of a good social media strategy is the fact that audiences are not just statistics on a screen. They are humans with a range of emotions and interests, and if you can capture their attention with something really valuable rather than cynical, campaigns become the foundation for long-term success rather than another flash in the pan.