Right before starting the new year, it’s good to review your existing social media marketing strategy to find what works and what can be improved. A closer look at your past campaigns, social posts, best-performing channels and analytics can help you get ready for 2019.
Here are six key trends to keep an eye on for 2019.
Engagement is more important than ever
Facebook has announced early in 2018 the focus on meaningful interactions as part of their updated algorithm.
This meant that their algorithm started favoring content that sparks a genuine conversation, which inspired many Page Managers to create more engaging content.
As organic reach becomes harder, the only way to survive is to aim for content that is:
Algorithms are becoming smarter so there’s no short route to genuine engagement. It’s not enough anymore to encourage people to like, comment, share on your post. Social platforms are trying to cut down on engagement bait techniques so you may risk losing your existing reach in the longer term with such techniques.
Thus, it’s time to stop ‘cheating’ to win engagement and start thinking of an improved engagement strategy for every channel to continue reaching your followers.
Influencer marketing and the rise of micro-influencers
Influencer marketing is becoming an established element of your marketing mix. Influencers can make thousands of dollars through paid sponsorships while brands are constantly seeking for the best influencers for their campaigns.
As influencer marketing grows, big influencers are becoming more expensive for small and medium-sized brands. That’s when micro-influencers came in to make up for the gap between being interested in influencer marketing and having the right budget to try it out.
Micro-influencers may not have the outreach of celebrities, but they may have an even bigger influence in their own followers. Even 40k followers as an audience can be perfect for a brand, provided that they are working with the right influencer for their target audience.
For example, a food brand may see better results by working with a rising food blogger with 30k followers than a well-known chef who may ask for 20x of the budget.
Daniel Schotland, COO at Linqia said about the changing trend in influencer marketing:
“Our clients come to us not because they can’t afford celebrity or the latest Instagram sensation, but because our micro-influencers drive dollars, not just awareness. We have found that if a brand wants to drive an action, they should go with smaller, more authentic influencers. We’ve seen time and time again that micro-influencers with tens of thousands of followers can increase bottom funnel metrics, like sales, over their big-name counterparts. For example, earlier this year Linqia worked with a leading beer company and we drove a 3x increase in purchase intent across their target audience. In these last days before Christmas, if your goal is to get a consumer to a store and grab your product, don’t go with a celebrity, go micro.”
And just as micro-influencers keep winning ground, there is also the trend of nano-influencers, or else influencers who have up to 10k followers. They may not have a big audience to follow them, but they can still have a great influence over them, either by their job, their engaging social presence or their passion about a specific industry/topic.
Nano-influencers don’t require a big budget to work with them but you may need to spend more time on the research to find the perfect one for your brand.
Since they may still be new to the influencer marketing world, they may be seeking a partnership that matches their values and could possibly last in the longer term. They can also be easier to reach since they don’t have to deal with thousands of messages every day.
Social media is already helping customers in the phase of product discovery. Brands are able to promote their products through social channels and customers are finding out about them before making a purchase.
Social media is not anymore just about awareness and engagement, but it’s heading even more towards consideration and sales enablement in the business funnel.
According to Mary Meeker’s report of Internet Trends in 2018, 55% of respondents who discovered a product through social media proceeded to a purchase later on. Facebook seems to be the first channel that people discover new products, with Instagram and Pinterest following up.
What do these mean for 2019? Brands have a great opportunity to benefit from this trend to improve their social strategy. You don’t always need a sales pitch in all your messaging to convince people to trust you. Social media can help you tell your story and improve consideration. Right after someone discovers your product online, it’s up to you to provide a smooth experience that will make sales easier.
AI and customer service
Bots and automated messaging have already shown up in many brands’ customer service. Social media has made it easier for customers to reach a brand, which means that the expectations about the response time are increasing.
Chatbots have started becoming popular through Facebook’s Messenger when brands realized that it’s an easy way to add an additional customer support to the mix.
Not all customers were convinced that this is the best way to reach a brand, but the adoption rate is improving thanks to the enhanced intelligence and programming of the latest bot experiences. More brands are spending the time to program the bots in a way that they seem as authentic as possible. Whether it’s about giving them their own character or simply predicting as many customer questions as possible, there has certainly been great progress in how they work.
AI can also come in providing automating messaging to customers who want an answer to a common question. Brands can set up messaging that keeps their customers satisfied while they’re also saving time in repeatedly answering the same questions.
2019 will bring an improved adoption of AI as part of social customer service and it’s time for more brands to give it a try to ensure that their customers are finding the answers to their questions as fast as possible.
Stories, stories, stories
Stories are everywhere! Visual content in a vertical format that usually lasts for 24 hours became popular from Snapchat and it soon was copied by Instagram to turn into a global trend for people of all ages.
Snapchat may have struggled since then to remain relevant, at least in the way that it was known for, but we’ve already seen Stories to Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and just recently, LinkedIn.
There are currently more than 400 million people consuming Stories on Instagram on a daily basis, while Facebook is trying to integrate Stories to our daily routines.
Advertisers have already realized that Instagram Stories ads can be very effective, with Snapchat and Facebook following up with their current hype and demand.
What makes Stories successful?
- easy to create them
- fun and engaging
- spontaneous or they don’t necessarily require much editing before uploading them
- are not always lasting more than 24 hours
The end of fake followers
Instagram is currently one of the most popular apps in the social media landscape. Influencers have benefited from the app’s success by rising to fame through their growing audience.
However, it was no secret that several Instagram accounts have artificially increased their number of followers to boost their popularity. Many services provide fake followers for a fee and Instagram knew that sooner or later this had to stop.
Just last month, Instagram announced that they’ve started removing inauthentic likes, follows, and comments from accounts that used third-party apps to increase their popularity. They have actually built machine learning tools to identify such activities so that they prevent it from happening in the future.
This is a big step for Instagram towards maintaining their reputation as a popular social network where people (and brands) can grow their community through genuine interest and engagement.
Since the change has just started rolling out, 2019 will prove that the number of followers will not be as relevant anymore comparing to the actual influence and engagement that you’re having within your community.
As a brand, there’s no need anymore to chase for increasing your followers if you’re not already engaging with your existing ones. Spend more time on growing your community organically to avoid seeing a sudden drop of (fake) followers and likes.
What can we learn from all these trends?
2018 has been a big year for social networks and it will probably affect their future more than what we can predict now.
There have been small steps to improve trust, transparency, authentic engagement and genuine followers.
There is still a long way to go but it’s still important for brands to pay attention to the latest trends.
It’s better to start applying them to your social media strategy now to stay ahead of the curve instead of insisting on old tricks that might not work anymore.
Find the channels that work better for you, spend more time (and money) on them and always listen to your audience. They can offer valuable insights on what you need to improve on your social tactics.
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