5 social media trends that will drive your business this year
In this age of on-demand everything, when we have unprecedented choice and power over what we want, how we want it and when we want it — when the likes of Amazon and Netflix, Airbnb and Uber, Dollar Shave Club and Rent the Runway have placed all the control in the hands of the user — consumers have become what I like to call “on-demanding.”
Certainly, I am on-demanding — and why not, as so many social media platforms dedicate themselves to knowing me so intimately and catering to my every mood, whim and desire?
For a brand, identifying and understanding the social media trends driven by your own customers and the technologies that enable them are vital to connecting with consumers and delivering to their expectations.
Here, a look at the most dominant trends right now that advertisers should be putting to work, and specific guidance on how brands can harness the power of the latest developments in social media.
Consumers increasingly insist on brand experiences that are immersive experiences – be it via 360-degree video and photo, live video, augmented reality or virtual reality. Consumers want to be part of the experience, and technology is enabling that.
Beauty brands have featured AR in their campaigns, letting curious customers trial a new look, for free, on their own time, leading to more satisfied customers. Other examples of customer immersion include Facebook enabling users to access behind-the-scenes, 360-video on fashion and music content.
Getting started requires testing that encompasses the following:
- Creative stylistic treatments
- Ad formats such as 3D photos, lenses, and interactive video
- Partner considerations including Snapchat, Facebook, niche influencers, and platforms such as OmniVR and KERV interactive
When producing such content, brands need to be mindful of the following factors:
- Cost of production
- Ratio of production to distribution
- Mapping KPIs and volume of success to tests
Remember, for consumers, simply seeing is no longer enough; today they want to be a part of the action, not merely spectators.
As a brand, SEO is your best friend. So are site-side analytics. Consumers have taken researching and buying what they want into their own hands — be it a new car or a coffee table.
From popular social platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat to shopping sites, it is important that marketers know which sites are enabling consumers to find their brand and which are driving traffic and sales.
To understand how nontraditional search is driving your business, a brand must do the following:
- Apply insight from organic search reports and PPC category term campaigns
- Identify at once those sites that drive traffic to your own site
- If you’re a fast-moving consumer goods brand, you will want to test social sites such as Pinterest and shopping sites such as Amazon.
Take into consideration that nontraditional search still needs to be optimized and that you’ll need a new approach to inventory management if you’re looking to unlock more e-commerce business.
The explosion of voice technology has been nothing short of life-changing for consumers and brands. Voice isn’t simply a high-tech marketing tool – it has become a communications channel all its own.
Consumers want to be listened to. But there is much a brand must know to fully harness the power of voice. A good start is by investigating search voice queries and syncing with the call center, front of house and social listening to understand the voice and the needs of the consumer. This should include word choice and common themes. (Does your customers use “auto” or “car” when doing a voice query? Don’t send them into a dead end if they use a word you hadn’t planned within your decision tree.)
Other considerations for using voice-driven campaigns include:
- Launch organically to better manage for ironing out unexpected bugs
- Plan an ongoing budget for raising awareness and encouraging continued use
- Remember that voice is a new communications channel, not a campaign
More and more consumers are adopting smart speakers (one estimate has the number of users in the U.S. alone reaching 76 million by 2020), while Marriott International and Axe are among the brands that have moved beyond mere experimentation to building standalone campaigns around the technology. Maybe it’s time you listened in.
Humans are not lazy – we just want as little fuss as possible. That’s why we use messaging technology to, for example, order a pizza from Dominos, with just one simple tweet of an emoji. Suddenly, the chores of life are made most simple, so we can get to what really matters in life.
If you want to know how powerful marketing via messaging apps has become, look no further than China. In less than a decade, WeChat, the country’s multipurpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app, has grown to become one of the most popular apps in the world, with more than 1 billion active daily users in China.
Starbucks, Amazon and Gap are among the brands to utilize the technology for marketing campaigns.
There are many ways marketers can begin to take advantage of this technology right now. A luxury or travel brand, for example, might want to test a WeChat campaign targeting in-market travelers or those who live in the UK who stay connected with friends and family in China via the platform.
- Start with an objective, then an audience and then contemplate actions, taking into account what your content is designed for, how it’s going to be distributed and how it will be measured
- Remember to keep the ethos of the brand, regardless of technology or platform
Privacy has become the 800-lb gorilla of all social media marketing in the wake of scandals surrounding Facebook and Google, subsequent international regulations and legislation, and brands having to now strike a delicate balance between all the valuable consumer data that technology affords them and the protection of customer privacy.
I would argue that these concerns have only created more opportunity for brands in the social space. As consumers demand to know how their data is being unearthed and how it’s being used, they have become more sophisticated – and so have marketers who are now in a position to engage with consumers without violating their trust.
The privacy controversy has been a painful one, but I believe we’ve come out of it with a deeper understanding of which data is most useful and of the responsibilities of using data wisely.
Whichever of these social media opportunities your brand seeks to take advantage of, keep these best practices in mind:
Approach innovative priorities by keeping what your audience will find useful and where your audience spends their time in mind, not what you want to say at them.
Assume a consumer hasn’t seen every ad and won’t see the next ad to come – make every impression count
As your touchpoints fragment, strive for a singular theme of message association to balance being on brand and relevant to the variety of contexts in which you appear
Social media has commanded a place at the very center of all our lives, and brand marketers can continue to harness all it has to offer by staying on top of the ever-changing technology and trends dominating the space.
Kieley Taylor is global head of social at GroupM