By Neil Patel
Social media is constantly evolving.
It’s no longer just a place for your family and friends to share old and embarrassing photos of you every Thursday.
As a marketer, you need to learn how to properly leverage these platforms to your advantage. Being active on social media is huge, and it’s absolutely necessary for your survival.
But that alone won’t automatically make you successful. You also need to stay up to date with the latest marketing trends and apply them to your business.
Today, marketing and social media go hand in hand. As we near the midway point of 2018, I’ve taken the time to identify the top social trends of the year to date.
I analyzed data from previous years and determined what trends saw a steady incline. Plus, even though the year isn’t over yet, I was able to see which new developments were the most prominent in these early months.
I predict that these trends will continue in the coming year. It’s important for you and your brand to stay on top of things right now.
1. Live video continues to thrive
Live video content made big waves in 2017. In one of my previous blog posts, I explained that you should jump on the live video bandwagon.
It should come as no surprise that this continues to be a popular trend in 2018.
In fact, live video content has become so popular that roughly 95% of brand executives say it will be a crucial part of their 2018 marketing strategy, according to a recent study.
Consumers love it. Research shows that 80% of audiences prefer watching live video from brands as opposed to reading a blog. And 82% of consumers say they would rather watch live videos than read social media posts.
As a result, the most popular social media channels have implemented live streaming options. Brand marketers are taking advantage of this.
When it comes to live streaming, Facebook leads the way, according to the 2018 state of social media report from Buffer.
In 2017, only 31% of businesses broadcasted live videos to promote their brands. I expect to see a much higher percentage by the end of this year.
Marketers aren’t the only ones taking advantage of live streams. Regular people share live videos to interact with their friends and family on social media.
The increasing popularity of live video means your company needs to get on board with this trend right now. Businesses need to recognize how this trend can help increase engagement with social media followers.
Start going live on all your distribution channels. Respond to user comments in real time.
This will help you maximize your reach and generate new leads for your company.
2. Chatbots are taking over
Internet chatbots have been around for a long time. They go all the way back to the days of AOL instant messenger.
But like everything else, they are evolving. Now chatbots are being integrated with social media platforms.
Businesses are using chatbots to communicate with their customers on social media. This trend is growing at a rapid rate.
In the first year of the new Facebook Messenger platform, we saw the number of chatbots jump from 33,000 to more than 100,000.
The possibilities here are seemingly endless. Take a look at how Pizza Hut uses chatbots to make it easy for customers to order food through social media:
These bots recognize words phrases sent by users. Their automatic responses are based on how they are programmed.
As you can see from this Pizza Hut example, these bots can be used directly to drive more sales and increase revenue streams.
I believe we are going to see more businesses take advantage of these tools by the end of 2018. In fact, a recent survey suggests that roughly 80% of marketing executives have used or plan to use chatbots by 2020.
It’s a winning solution that’s a cost-effective alternative to paying real customer support representatives.
It’s estimated that chatbots are going to save businesses in the healthcare and banking industries a whopping $8 billion per year by the year 2022. That’s compared to $20 million in 2017.
Sure, nothing can replace the personal touch of a human response. Well, at least not yet. But these chatbots out there right now are certainly on the right track.
3. Influencer marketing is evolving
Influencer marketing isn’t a new concept either. But the way that it’s being used on social media channels is definitely changing in 2018.
More specifically, companies are starting to partner with micro influencers to increase their credibility.
What exactly is a micro influencer? They are people on social media channels who have a strong following but don’t have a celebrity status.
While there is no exact threshold, micro influencers typically have anywhere between 1,000 and 90,000 followers. Once we start to reach the hundreds of thousands of followers line, we are entering macro influencer territory. And anything higher than a macro influencer is considered to be a celebrity.
These are some of the top reasons why brands are partnering with these types of influencers:
Research shows that micro influencers have 60% higher engagement rates than traditional celebrity influencers. You can also expect to see 22.2% increase in average weekly conversions from this marketing tactic.
Another reason why brands are so drawn to micro influencers is because they are cost-effective compared to other advertising expenses.
This is still a relatively new trend, so brands and influencers alike are unsure of how to come up with a standardized pay scale. As of now, it’s anything goes.
I’ve seen some businesses that don’t even pay their influencers. They just send them free stuff for social media posts.
But as we continue moving forward in 2018, I’m expecting micro influencers to be more business savvy and demand pay for their efforts.
They know their followers trust their opinions. So don’t be hesitant to spend money on influencer marketing as the year continues.
4. Brands are taking advantage of paid advertisements
It’s 2018, so businesses know they need to have an active presence on social media. They have profiles on multiple platforms and update them on a daily basis.
While this is definitely necessary for survival, it’s not quite enough.
Companies that want to take their social media strategies to the next level also pay for advertisements.
Facebook alone has more than six million advertisers on its platform. In September 2017, Instagram hit two million monthly paid advertisers.
That’s because it’s become very easy to set up ads to target a specific demographic. It’s hard for businesses to turn down this type of precision in targeting.
Just look at how simple these options are for marketers who want to advertise on Facebook:
In addition to being able to reach such a precise audience, Facebook also makes it easy for you to set your budget. You can set it up on a daily or weekly basis. It’s also possible for brands to manage their budgets based on the lifetime of each ad.
There are also many different options for the type of ad you want to run.
It’s easy to experiment to find out what works best for your company based on the demographic you’re targeting.
Research shows that by the year 2020, social media advertisements will surpass newspaper ad spending.
I anticipate that more companies will allocate a larger portion of their marketing budgets to paid social media ads in 2018.
5. Social listening
Social platforms are listening to your conversations. Whether you want to believe this or not, it’s the truth.
I know you’ve seen it before. You’re talking about something with your friends and then you see an advertisement for it on social media.
Creepy? Yes. But that’s the reality of the world we live in right now.
Marketing solutions like Sprout Social offer social listening tools to help brands analyze various audiences.
There are many ways in which businesses can take advantage of social listening.
It gives you the opportunity to see what consumers say about your company. But you can also use this tool to monitor relevant keywords or hashtags used on social media.
You can use this data to adjust your marketing strategy accordingly and make sure you’re targeting the right audience.
6. Brands are leveraging user-generated content
User-generated content is basically like free advertising. It’s one of the best ways to grow your business by doing less work.
Get customers to talk about your company.
Encourage them to use hashtags and post about your brand on social platforms. One of the simplest ways to accomplish this is by posting user content to your company’s profile.
If people see you are willing to feature user photos, more people will post about you in an effort to be selected.
Look at how Thule employs this strategy on its Instagram page:
As you can see from the comments section, the user who shared this photo even thanked Thule for posting their content.
Now more followers will be encouraged to do this as well. It will broaden the reach of their products to a wider audience.
When a customer posts about your company on their personal profile, it exposes your brand to all of their followers. Some of these people might not even know your brand exists.
Plus, people trust recommendations from their friends and family.
That’s why leveraging user-generated content is a top lead generation strategy. Social media platforms are the perfect distribution channel for this type of content.
7. Augmented reality
Augmented reality takes something that’s real and alters it using technology.
One of the best examples of augmented reality successfully applied to the consumer market was with the Pokemon Go gaming app.
The app accessed the user’s camera and added fictional elements to the screen.
But now, social media channels are implementing augmented reality on their platforms as well. I’m sure you’re familiar with Snapchat’s face filters.
Facebook jumped on this bandwagon as well with their camera effects platform.
They are taking augmented reality to a whole new level with these features. They even built an augmented reality studio for developers to design unique animations.
These filters respond to motion and interactions in real-time, even during live streams.
Here’s an example of what this looks like during a Facebook Live broadcast:
Since Facebook also runs Instagram, it’s safe to say these types of options will be available on that platform as well during 2018.
I’m expecting to see big changes in social media augmented reality in the near future that will be much more impressive than just a dogface filter.
8. Ephemeral content
If you haven’t heard of ephemeral content before, it doesn’t mean you’re not familiar with it.
The definition of ephemeral content is something that is short-lived, lasting for up to 24 hours before disappearing forever.
Of course, I’m referring to things like Snapchat and Instagram stories. After Snapchat came up with this concept, Instagram quickly recognized its popularity and implemented it on its platform as well.
The reason why short-lived content is so popular is because people feel as though it is more authentic compared to a traditional sponsored advertisement.
Users love it and add such content to their personal profiles on a daily basis. But brands need to take advantage of this as well.
It’s a great alternative to live video streaming, but it has similar effects.
It’s an opportunity for you to post several times throughout a day without spamming your followers’ timelines.
For example, you may not want to post five pictures and videos per day on Instagram. Users who follow you may perceive this to be an annoyance.
In fact, posting too frequently on social media can cause people to unfollow your profile.
But adding new content to your story isn’t as annoying because it doesn’t take up space on everyone’s timeline the same way a picture or video would.
Plus, these types of stories create the fear of missing out.
If your business starts to regularly share ephemeral content, users will make sure to check back frequently to make sure they aren’t missing out on anything.
I’d recommend using this strategy to run flash sales or other promotions to drive sales. We’re going to see more businesses as well as regular people add more short-lived content to their social media profiles.
9. Referral traffic and organic reach are declining
Social platforms are changing their algorithms. This is impacting what users see on their timelines.
As a result, homepages and timelines aren’t flooded with as many posts and ads from brands. Instead, posts from family and friends are being prioritized.
In previous years, these algorithm changes have caused organic reach on Facebook to drop more than 50%.
So you can’t rely on all your social media posts to drive traffic and clicks to your website.
That’s why brands need to come up with alternative social media marketing methods such as paid ads and micro influencers to increase referral traffic.
10. Small businesses are increasing their social presence
Nobody can afford to ignore social media anymore. It’s become a regular part of our everyday lives.
Ten years ago, small business owners may have thought it was unnecessary to build a presence on social media, but now they are all realizing how important it is for staying competitive.
In fact, 52% of small business owners post to social media on a daily basis.
While Facebook is still the most popular option, other social channels are seeing an increase in the number of small business users.
With so many platforms to manage, business owners are being forced to change the way they operate.
They are hiring social media marketing managers and using time-saving tools to help manage and schedule their posts with automation.
Businesses without active social media profiles will struggle to survive in 2018.
Developments in social media are constantly changing.
As a marketer, you’ve got to stay up to date with the latest trends to keep your finger on the pulse and effectively reach your target audience.
Based on the research I found, I was able to narrow down the top ten social media trends to keep your eye on in 2018.
Use this list as a reference and guide for positioning your marketing strategy.
I’ll even throw in a bonus one for you. Although this isn’t necessarily a trend, it’s more of a prediction.
I think Twitter is going to make some big changes in 2018. Unlike the rest of my list, it’s more of a gut feeling as opposed to a fact-driven statement, which is why I left it out.
Use this information to your advantage moving forward in the second half of this year.
What social media trends will your company focus on to generate leads and drive conversions in 2018?