Social media was once a place to keep in touch with peers, accept social invites and cringe at those embarrassing photos you hadn’t realised were taken. Now it’s a crucial marketing channel and an ever evolving one at that.
However, it can be difficult to keep up-to-date with the ever-changing nature of social, so here are some of the top trends we’ve identified so far this year and our tips on how you can take advantage of these for the rest of 2019.
Headlines about data protection breaches seemed never-ending in 2018. Celebrity influencers were also in the media time and time again - if it wasn’t about fake followers, it was about honesty in brand collaborations, what items the influencer had been gifted, or if they had been paid for certain posts. Ultimately, these repeated headlines have contributed to turning up the pressure on brands to be authentic and transparent with their audience. Worryingly, according to Sprout Social’s report on social media and transparency, only 55% of consumers believe brands are transparent on social media.
There’s a difference between stating your brand is transparent and being it. Each brand should have their own voice that flows throughout all their channels and is recognisable to the audience. Of course, we all want to increase our following, but instead focus less on the quantity and invest in more quality interaction.
We’re also seeing an upswing in content coming from employees rather than the company itself. This is great for putting a face to the name and coming across as human rather than a faceless organisation.
Listen to your audience
Just like building trust, your audience want to be heard. This should seem like a no brainer, but times have changed from when social media was used as purely a broadcasting tool.
Posting thought-out content once or twice a week is better than churning out content for contents sake each day. But ask yourself if what you’re about to post is interesting and engaging? If so, your audience will be more likely to engage with it rather than questioning its purpose - which unfortunately is all too common for big name brands, and can result in some PR Crisis Management!
Your audience also want to feel like they’re heard and so personal interactions will go a long way to ensure a positive customer experience and therefore encourage your audience to return again and again. Polls are another great way to engage with your audience and so when necessary, use them! They will enable you to learn more about your audience and the types of content they’d like to see from you.
Social media never sleeps, and customers can talk about products and their experiences online at any moment – this is great if it’s positive, not so much if it’s the opposite! 81% of UK customers agree their loyalty is influenced by receiving an immediate response when reaching out for help and therefore 2019 will see a demand for increasing response time. Businesses are investing more into chatbots and personalising them where possible - making for an all round consumer-centric experience. To emulate this for your brand, this should be conversational in tone rather than robotic, adding that personalised touch.
Chatbots are a great tool to ensure someone is there to respond to your audience any time of day, but remember, the age range of your audience may seriously differ! If this is the case, make sure to trial out different bots to find the best one that both the tech savvy and not so tech savvy can use.
To get started with this trend, utilise your audience data to see what kind of chatbot will be best on your site and who will be likely to use it.
Influencer marketing – even the little guys
This year is all about the micro influencers – with followings from 2,000 – 50,000. Micro influencers may have a smaller following, but have a bigger, highly engaged audience and most importantly, they’re regarded as trustworthy with real passion for their brand collaborations. While influencers with followings of a million may get you the views, realistically you want the views that matter!
The key here is to build an ongoing relationship with a smaller number of micro influencers that are relevant to your brand. Posting images with a subtle product placement is not going to be provide much success, instead work closely with your influencers, they need to tell a story about your brand and your product – an authentic relationship will reap the benefits!
Working with influencers isn’t for every brand out there, so before dipping your toes make sure you have clear objectives set and more importantly, work with someone that resonates with your brand!
Making the most of story content and live video
From Snapchat, then Instagram and now to Facebook - stories allow users to stay up to date with brands as well as individuals. Instagram notably integrated shopping features which changed stories and influencer collabs forever. This ease of shopping experience will appeal to brands as well as the audience using it, allowing them to begin and end their user journey is one place.
As of January this year, Instagram has an estimated 500 million daily active stories users. With the addition of swipe up links for business accounts with more than 10k followers, this is something you should seriously jump on board with if you’re a business that meets the criteria.
Stories are also a much more efficient way to reach your audience quickly as well as being cost effective. There are no expectations for these on the spot videos to be edited and are a high quality and easy way to interact with your audience on a mass scale, instantly. Brands should also jump at the opportunity to collect data about your audience with the ability to create polls and quiz like structures across many platforms. Think of what you could do with those results afterwards, and your audience will thank you for it!
Live video is also something to consider as a brand - with the launch of IGTV last year, users are frequently utilising this feature which we had seen on Facebook previously.
If you are launching new products or services, this ‘live story’ notification to your audience could create a sense of urgency, and you can easily rack up the views. Commenting can also help you shape these videos as they aren’t expected to be super polished. They put a face to your brand as it feels more authentic than an over-produced video.
One final top tip: make sure your videos are highly engaging both with and without sound!
Ashleigh Cain is a business development consultant at Zazzle Media