Despite some less-than-flattering press recently, social media remains a key component in most marketing programs. With more competition than ever to connect with audiences, brands must continually find innovative ways to capture the imagination — and keep their customers’ interest.
Only a few years ago, a social media strategy was simple: Be on social media. The more platforms, the better. Today, engagement with users is key, and staying engaged requires effective use of the latest tools and techniques.
What are some of the key trends affecting social media in 2018, and how can you put them to best use as part of your overall marketing strategy?
Augmented Reality (AR)
With Apple’s launch of the augmented reality-ready iPhone X and iPhone 8, AR has entered the mainstream. Social channels like Snapchat have begun to introduce new methods to engage with users through AR, including using customized Bitmojis to allow users to place themselves or AR objects into the surrounding landscape.
Likewise, many brands are making plans to use AR to “project” their products into users’ homes through social media filters and special apps. Users can try before they buy and experience firsthand how products like furniture will look in the context of their existing decor.
Video has been around for many years, but it’s reached peak presence in 2018. Live video content, specifically, has skyrocketed to the top of the pile of effective social media strategies. Using platforms like Instagram Stories, your brand can increasingly interact directly with your users as a video is in progress.
Mobile video also has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, and it has become the top way for companies and consumers to engage in personal conversations. For best effect, your videos should be short, and they should grab users’ attention within the first few seconds.
Chatbots and Messaging Apps
Thankfully, the chatbots of the early 2000s are long gone. Today’s chatbots engage with customers, answer questions and solve problems. These apps provide you with an opportunity to respond immediately to your customers — often much more quickly than through other modes of contact, including phone and email. And as the underlying technology becomes more sophisticated, you can begin to add your unique branding and personalized content for your users.
Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Kik and Facebook Messenger also continue to provide easy methods to connect with customers and prospective customers. Offering multiple ways to reach you is simply smart business and helps build positive impressions of your customer service.
What defines an “influencer?” Just a few years ago, you could spot a social media influencer by follower count alone. But times have changed, and it’s vital to evaluate so-called influencers by other important metrics before staking your brand reputation on them.
As you consider partnering with an established influencer to support your brand, consider success markers like growth of the influencer’s follower numbers over time, how the influencer engages with their users and with other influencer accounts, and the type of content the influencer posts. It’s important to protect your brand identity by ensuring that an influencer’s core values mesh with those you want to present to your audience.
Your reputation is one of the most important — if not the most important — assets of your business. As many business executives learn the hard way, a seemingly minor faux pas can balloon out of control into a PR nightmare in hours. Add the fact that so many consumers lack trust for corporate brands, and you have the potential for a little kindling to stoke a major fire.
Negative comments on social media can accumulate quickly, leaving you with a big problem to fix. Fortunately, social media also provides you with an unprecedented opportunity to shift resources and attention immediately toward protecting your reputation and limiting the damage. By understanding the latest social media trends, you maximize your ability to respond quickly when threats to your reputation occur.
Meaningful Goals Bring Social Media Strategy Together
Not all the tools on this list will serve the specific needs of your business, and using them inappropriately can even cause more harm than good. A solid social media strategy, built on attainable, measurable goals customized for your business, can help you make the most of the latest social media trends. As you work with an experienced agency to establish your goals, consider how you can best increase awareness of your brand, drive engagement and improve the return on your marketing investment.