2017 is done and dusted, and with the new year comes new surprises. And in social media, change is constant. Nothing ever stays the same in an industry as immediate as social media marketing, and keeping your brand relevant means not only keeping up with the trends but leading the march to set them. Discovery is more important than ever—a recent study found that 96% of online users who talk about brands online don’t actually follow any of those brands’ social media profiles.
Getting discovered means tapping into new and innovative markets, technologies, and platforms. Stick with the same strategies for too long, and your online vibe deteriorates. It’s not enough anymore to set up your accounts and ask for a follow: 2018 is all about shaking up your social media presence in ways that feel brand new.
1) Instagram Stories
One of the latest fads in the social media world is Instagram Stories, and if you’re not familiar with it, just think of Snapchat. Instagram Stories is Instagram’s “share as much video content as you want” feature, allowing profiles to stay relevant to their followers without stuffing up their feed, since all content is deleted within 24 hours of posting.
As a top brand, this isn’t something that can be ignored: over 200 million users post on Instagram Stories every month, with more users jumping on board every day. So what kind of content do you post here? With a variety of formats—Live, Hands-Free, Content Editing, Boomerang, Rewind, Normal, Drawing, and more—there are countless ways to connect with your audience. The point is to connect: stay relevant and stay remembered.
2) Live Streaming
Live streaming is more than just a feature on Instagram Stories: it’s social media’s next best thing when it comes to grabbing your audience’s attention. Gone are the days of gimmicky live streaming sessions with funky connections. These days, online users are much more open to the idea of live streams. It creates a direct link between you and your audience that uploaded videos just can’t replicate.
Here’s one example of live streaming being used to multiply a brand’s audience. An extreme events and backpack company called GORUCK found immediate growth after thousands of people who had never heard of their brand were roped in by a 48-hour straight live stream of an endurance event.
Why is live streaming so effective? We have several reasons:
- It turns your company from a logo and a name into a memory that your audience can connect with.
- It creates a sense of transparency and trust while taking up just a fraction of the cost of producing a professional video.
- Users love live streams: Facebook users are ten times more likely to share and comment on Facebook live videos than normal videos.
Augmented reality and virtual reality are the next biggest things, and while both technologies may have stalled over the last year or two, the software and hardware are starting to catch up to the potential.
Both formats have mostly been used in gaming: augmented reality is the reason why games like the global phenomenon Pokémon Go can show you a Pikachu in the real world on your screen, while virtual reality is all the craze with horror survival games. But there are efforts to incorporate these technologies into social media. For example, Snapchat now gives users the feature to create animated characters of themselves, and project them in the world doing anything they want. Take the latest smartphones as examples, the Pixel 2 and the iPhone 8, both have augmented reality features paired with talking emojis.
There’s much more potential here than just novelty fun. Keep your eye on Facebook’s Spaces project, in which users will be able to connect with each other in a virtual environment. This will be the first-ever social media experience in virtual reality, and the marketing opportunities are endless. Think it’s too niche? Think again: 6% of people in England own a virtual reality headset, which is about double the market penetration that tablets had at their initial stage.
4) Online Hangouts
For smaller brands looking to build a more personal relationship with their audience, online hangouts are key in 2018. Online hangouts allow brands to connect with their followers in a more intimate and small-scale setting, turning a live stream experience into a video-style AMA. While this format may not work for every brand, the trust that can be potentially built between smaller brands and their loyal fans can go a long way.
There are several apps on the market available to start online hangouts, but a popular one that the kids use is Houseparty. This app saw massive growth in 2017 and is expected to continue performing as 2018 unravels.
5) Influencer Marketing
While the rest of these points focus on the innovation and the technology ushered in by the new year, there’s one growing area of social media marketing that is sticking to the basics: influencer marketing. Influencer marketing is Gen Z’s version of traditional celebrity promotions. But instead of hiring a Hollywood actor to appear in your commercial, influencer marketing is more about finding social media influencers and having them endorse your brand.
These include YouTube stars, Instagram models, and Twitter personalities. Not only are they more affordable than your traditional TV or film celebrity, but they also have incredibly loyal followings that can reach the tens of millions. AdWeek recently found that half of Twitter users rely on the influencers they follow to find new brands to purchase.
2018: Adapting To Gen Z
If there’s one lesson to carry into 2018, it’s this: evolve. Social media is the fastest-moving industry in the professional world, and staying on top of your game means leading the pack with every new tool that social media and the internet can offer.
New technologies combined with the next generation of followers demand new strategies and techniques to maximize your reach. The infamous Gen Z, a generation of followers who are 2-3 times more susceptible to social media marketing tactics than traditional discounts and sales, are waiting to consume the content you produce. Catch them now, and they will stay loyal to your brand for years.