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Top 10 Social Media Trends For 2018: Are These In Your Social Media Marketing Plan?

Social Media Trends For 2018: Keep these top of mind when creating your Social Media Marketing Plan

The one sure thing that remains constant in the world of social media is that it is ever-changing… and at a hyper rapid pace these days. Every single day there are new features added to platforms, new techniques for expanding your reach and new ways to communicate with your audience. Staying on top of it all is challenging, if not impossible. The key is to remain focused by keeping your social media marketing efforts consistent, relevant and authentic. And while there are a lot of shiny new objects you could pursue… focusing on those that make the most sense for your business and your customers will provide the most impactful results. As we move into 2018, marketers are finalizing their plans for the new year. We’ve rounded up 10 powerful trends in social media that should be considered as you map out your 2018 social media marketing plans. Here’s our top 10 social media trends for 2018: 

Top 10 Social Media Trends For 2018

1. A New Normal in Digital Communications

One of the most transformational social media trends for 2018 is the new normal in digital communications. How brands communicate with their customers is rapidly changing. Historically, most brand communications have been rooted in a very traditional style of communication. This style of communication was predominately conventional in nature, with a more serious and formal tone, highly developed and perfected and very black and white. With the proliferation of social media, we see brands breaking down these traditional walls of communicating and are taking a new, more conversational approach to connect with their audience. Communication now is more quirky, ephemeral, informal and imperfect. It isn’t fully polished which makes it more human and authentic. And that’s the key to connecting with people… being authentic and relatable. Brands who want to speak the language of their customers have to adapt to speaking in this new dynamic digital language. Delivering messages via emojis, images, GIFs, memes, videos, filters, hashtags, chat bots and more can boost engagement with your audience significantly and allow you the opportunity to connect with them emotionally. The key is to ensure your messages are rooted in conversation, not simply content alone.  

2. Getting Beyond Content Shock 

We have reached the point, as Mark Schaefer has eloquently pointed out, of Content Shock. Content Shock is real and we are all living in it. It’s the point at which marketers are producing content so much faster than the ability of our audiences to consume it. What’s this mean? It’s no longer economical to produce content that will never get seen or read. It’s the basic law of Supply and Demand. So, what can marketers do? Do we just stop producing content and give up? Definitely not. But the way marketers must approach Content Marketing is drastically changing. It’s not about quantity. The content marketing trend for 2018 will be focused on Less is More. Marketers must find ways to make their content stand out from all the noise out there in the digital space. Great content is no longer good enough. Your content has to be remarkable in every way. It has to connect with your audience and provide them value in the form of entertainment, education, information, etc. Whether you provide breaking news, answer popular questions, tie-in trending stories, provide original research or produce highly authoritative content – the key is to give your audience content that they crave and make it better than anything else out there. Otherwise, it just won’t make the cut. Content Marketing can’t be an after-thought in your marketing plan. It should be front and center and you should assign someone in your organization to be your Content Marketing Champion who will lead your organization in these efforts. Content Marketing is still a very powerful tool in your marketing arsenal and the benefits of Content Marketing can have a significant impact on your ROI. 

3. The Importance of Social Discovery

Your social presence plays a key role in the Zero Moment of Truth. Consumers are researching brands, products and services across multiple channels before they make the decision to purchase something. Your social presence can say a lot about your brand and your business. Are you active, are you engaged, do you respond to customer complaints, are your current customers happy, do your brand ambassadors spread your message? As consumers are looking for certain products or services, being discoverable on social media is critical. If no one can find you, then you are missing out on being part of the consideration. But… as marketers have noted in 2017, organic reach on social media is declining and it is becoming increasingly difficult to be discovered without paying to play. Thus, in 2018, we will see the increase of social advertising as the new social discovery. Social platforms continue to find new ways for marketers to advertise on their networks. In 2017, we have seen Facebook running out of advertising inventory as so many marketers are utilizing paid advertisements to reach their target audience. Social media advertising has been a relatively inexpensive way to reach an expanded audience and make up for the low organic reach for many organizations. But, as we see more brands flock to social advertising, we will also see the cost of this rising. Marketers in 2018 will need to have both an organic strategy as well as a paid social advertising plan and budget to ensure discoverability across engaged social platforms.  

4. Commit to Engagement 

One of the most important factors to ensure your social media success in 2018 will be your social engagement strategy. The point of social media is to be SOCIAL! But, time and time again we see brands utilize social media as a one-way street to push out content only. That’s not the point. To be truly effective on social media, you have to be dedicated to engaging with your audience. Ask questions, take polls, answer questions and concerns, join the conversation and keep the conversation going. Want more organic reach in 2018? Engage with your audience more on social media. Want more brand ambassadors in 2018? Engage with your audience more on social media. Want to drive more people to your website or your email list in 2018? Engage with your audience more on social media. You get the picture. People want to do business with those that they KNOW, LIKE and TRUST. And the best way to build this is by developing authentic relationships with your audience. While this isn’t necessarily a new concept, brands who jump on this will have significantly more success in 2018. We think this is one of the most important social media trends for 2018.   

5. Influencer Marketing Redefined 

Traditional influencer marketing, where a brand engages with a high-profile celebrity to promote their products is obviously still a marketing play that large brands will always embrace. But, many marketers don’t have the big budgets of top brands and can’t afford to throw millions of dollars at someone to take a picture with their product. But that doesn’t mean smaller brands and businesses can’t engage in influencer marketing. Quite the opposite. As one of the key social media trends for 2018, we will continue to see Influencer Marketing being redefined. Influencers can come in many sizes and forms. We see the rise of Opinion Leaders, Micro and Niche Influencers and Brand Ambassadors taking a greater role in helping businesses to expand their reach. They may not have the largest audience on any particular social platform, but they have the right audience. And that is the key. Why waste money reaching an audience that has nothing to do with your business? By focusing on smaller influencers who can have more impact, your ROI is greatly enhanced. There are several key aspects to consider for your 2018 Influencer Marketing strategy. Influencer Marketing should be thought of as a long term strategy, not a one-time campaign. Think about how to develop an Influencer Relationship Management (IRM) system similar to that of your CRM to keep your influencers engaged and active in your community. Word of mouth is by far one of the strongest forms of marketing. Be sure you are consistently putting out the highest quality products and services and earning the respect and love of your customers. That alone can build an army of brand advocates stronger than any paid influencer you may have.  

6. One-Click Social Commerce

For brands who engage in e-commerce, one of the biggest social media trends for 2018 is that we will continue to see social commerce becoming more mainstream. Purchasing products or services directly from social platforms has become more prevalent over the last few years. The “Buy” button is essentially becoming the new “Like” button in terms of social commerce and smart brands are jumping on this trend. The key component of social commerce is making it the most seamless, simple and secure process for your customers. As noted above, people are using social to discover brands and products and are heavily influenced by what they find on social platforms. Brands engaging in social commerce must understand their audience and their purchase behaviors and motivations to ensure this is possible. And it’s not about pushing your products and services on social media like one big giant advertisement. Smart brands incorporate their products and services into their social content and stories in a way that isn’t like a sales pitch. Whether it’s crafting content around gift ideas, top 10’s, product demos or behind the scenes, brands can draw their audience in with a story and then make it super simple to make relevant purchases with the click of a button. In 2018, we will continue to see this proliferate across the various social channels, including new avenues with Messenger Chat Bots. 

7. The New Dynamics of Social Messaging & Chat Bots   

Today, more messages are sent via messenger apps than email (Jupiter Research) . Combined, the top four messaging apps have a wider conversation pool than the top four social networks. There are a ton of conversations, transactions and business happening across messaging apps every second of every day. Smart brands are just beginning to take advantage of this to interact with their audience. In 2018, we will see this flourish with the onset of Chat Bots and more personalized interactions. Unlike email marketing, utilizing Messenger apps to engage with your customers is much more highly personalized and intimate. And the great thing about using messenger is that it’s instant. You can engage with a customer who reaches out to you immediately utilizing a Chat Bot. There is no lag time and that can make a big difference when someone is making a decision or has a question or complaint. Consumers are highly demanding and expect a response from brands within a short window. Taking advantage of the immediacy of messaging can give those brands a competitive edge in terms of engagement and overall customer satisfaction. Implementing a Chat Bot via Messenger can be more scalable and cost-effective than a traditional call center as well. The use of Chat Bots, while still automated, can seem more conversational and natural… as well as possibly transactional. This is one of the most exciting social media trends for 2018 that we can’t wait to see play out.   

8. Impressions Only Matter If Someone Is Impressed 

It only takes people a few seconds to form a judgement about something. And in social media, a few milliseconds is about all you have to make an impression on someone. How do you make your content so amazing that it is thumb-stopping (the act of actually pausing your social swiping to view something)? There are 3 things you absolutely must knock out of the park when posting on social media. First, you have to have a strong headline. Your headline has to be powerful enough to draw your audience in to either click through or read more. It has to exude value, without tinkering on being click-bait. It has to speak to something your audience desires and needs. Second, you absolutely need eye-catching visual images. It’s the most powerful way to get someones attention. As we see social platforms like Instagram explode… the need for brands to be creative and original with their visuals is so important. And third, it’s critical to have engaging content and captions. Does your content or caption have a call to action to engage and interact. Not only do you need to get someone to take notice of your social post, but you absolutely need them to interact with it. Likes are nice. Shares, comments and link backs are powerful. Always have a strategy to engage once you’ve made the impression.     

9. Algorithms Will Challenge Marketers  

Probably the most dreaded of social media trends for 2018… The elusive social media algorithm. Constantly changing. Never really understood. A marketers nightmare. Given that organic reach on social platforms continues to diminish, how can brands engage with their audience on social and ensure their content has a chance? In 2018, we will continue to see marketers be more creative in their efforts to make big social platforms not seem so big for their target audience. The proliferation of mini-networks inside of the big platforms gives brands a better chance at reaching the right audience. Facebook groups and events and Messenger Chat Bots are a few ways to help combat the algorithms to reach your customers. The ability to have more user generated content within Facebook Groups and Events, the opportunities to boost engagement are significantly greater. The use of Chat Bots for opt-in messaging and reminders is also on the rise. Marketers must be careful not to abuse this direct line of communication though. Another trend we are seeing is the use of engagement pods to boost overall engagement on social posts. These can be a great way to kick-start engagement and gain some initial momentum for your social posts.   

10. Social Video Everywhere  

The hottest social media trends for 2018 is that social video will be everywhere! Obviously this trend has been in play for a few years, but in 2018 we can expect to see even more video throughout our social feeds. Last year, Facebook announced they had a video first strategy. Brands who took note have adjusted their strategies and have benefited greatly by seeing their organic engagement actually rise on the platform. From live-streaming video to 360 videos and Virtual Reality, the proliferation of video across all social platforms is going to explode. We are seeing more impact from Facebook and Instagram stories with the inclusion of live video. And now, with the ability to do multi-person live casts, the opportunities for brands are endless. From interviews and behind the scenes to ASAs and live Q&A sessions, the ability to connect with your audience using video is powerful for engagement. The key for marketers is to understand what your audience wants. While entertainment is critical, delivering value should be a top objective. Video is a powerful way to influence, motivate and change the behaviors of your audience. Creation of a social video content strategy is a must-do for 2018. Marketers must be prepared to test out different video strategies (long-form vs. snippet, live vs. recorded, etc.) as well as the type of content delivered and continue to optimize this throughout the year.    

Summary: Top 10 Social Media Trends For 2018

These are our top 10 social media trends for 2018. Our advice? Take action now! Smart marketers are already on top of these and will continue to make an impact by implementing value-driven customer centric content on social media throughout the year. It’s not too late to jump in. Just know your audience, know your capabilities and take advantage of the opportunities that social media marketing provides.   

What are some of the hottest social media trends for 2018 that you are seeing? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Darcy Schuller is the Chief Digital Marketing and Brand Strategist at Suvonni, an innovative boutique digital marketing agency in Chicago. As a leader in the digital marketing space, Darcy is passionate about helping clients build stronger brands through elevated customer engagement, social media marketing, content marketing and dynamic web experiences. Darcy is a respected marketing thought leader, speaker and consultant.