As a small business owner, it’s imperative you keep your ear to the ground for all the recent and upcoming trends in online marketing.
Social media, in particular, evolves at an astounding rate. Once you think you’ve developed an effective social marketing strategy, the whole game changes. That’s why it’s just so important to stay on top of the latest social media trends – before they happen.
Here are the top 7 social media trends to watch out for in 2018 and beyond. Get a head start on implementing solutions to increase the success of your long-term social media marketing strategy.
1. Platforms Blend Together
Most social platforms start out serving a small niche. In 2017, we’ve seen several of these once-niche platforms begin incorporating more mainstream features.
Instagram is a great case in point. The social networking service started out as a platform designed to preserve your favorite photos and videos. In summer of 2016, they launched Instagram stories.
The new feature encourages Instagram users to share in-the-moment content that disappears after 24 hours, á la Snapchat. Even more recently, they released Instagram stickers, another feature that is heavily inspired by Snapchat.
At the same time, Snapchat is incorporating new features that are very similar to Instagram’s most popular. Snapchat memories, which allows you to permanently save photos and videos, is a chief example.
This blending of features and standardization of platforms is sure to continue throughout 2018
. Facebook is already set to incorporate trending stories (á la Twitter) and YouTube’s already set to allow users to share text/image content (á la Facebook).
2. Importance of Social Messaging
It might come as a bit of a surprise, but social messaging apps have far more users than most social networking platforms. For instance, WhatsApp reached one billion users in early 2016.
The popularity of these social messaging apps means a lot more attention is being placed on marketing towards their audiences. In 2018, you’ll see more companies trying to incorporate these apps into their overall social media marketing plan.
Brands of all sizes will likely start using these messaging apps for client support and e-commerce applications.
3. Growth of Live Streaming Video
Live streaming video is set to make huge waves in 2018.
After the initial success of the now-defunct live-streaming pioneer Meerkat, both Facebook and YouTube have adopted live video streaming features.
Video has long been considered “the future of content marketing.” And the increase in live streaming features on social platforms makes incorporating video into your overall marketing strategy all the easier and more powerful.
It’s sure to be interesting to see the result of brands experimenting with live streaming video marketing in 2018.
4. Chatbots Become a Staple
Chatbots have been around for decades. Yet the technology behind them has improved by leaps and bounds in the past few years.
The automated tools are designed to mimic an intelligent conversation with a human user. No human operator has to be present for the chatbot to work effectively.
Most chatbots currently can accomplish only relatively basic tasks. They can answer common questions, retrieve certain data, and make simple bookings. Yet even these simple applications open up exciting new possibilities for companies in 2018.
In addition to providing 24/7 customer support, chatbots free up human customer support representatives to desk with in-depth questions and requests without worrying about simple queries.
5. New Uses of Virtual/Augmented Reality
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are hot topics in the tech world as of late.
Much of their popularity is thanks to the incredible success of Pokémon Go, one of the first apps to bring AR to mainstream audiences.
Tech giants including Facebook, HTC, and Google are all investing heavily in the technology, so there are sure to be major advances in VR and AR for social media in 2018.
Of course, VR and AR probably aren’t technologies small business owners can invest in, but you should still keep a close eye on how the top brands adopt them as part of their social media marketing efforts.
6. Optimize for Mobile
It should go without saying, but mobile optimization is a 100% must in 2018.
Mobile traffic has been growing extremely quickly over the past several years. In 2016, mobile traffic overtook desktop traffic for the first time ever.
What this means is that you absolutely need a mobile-friendly website. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, a huge percentage of your potential audience is going to look for similar services elsewhere.
My post on the benefits of responsive website design further drills in the reasons you need to optimize for mobile.
7. Selling on Social
Social media currently drives 31% of traffic to websites. And that figure is only set to rise throughout 2018.
This means that learning how to sell, and convert users, on social media is of utmost importance. Much of this boils down to figuring out what works for you as a brand and what doesn’t.
Spend even more time reviewing your social media analytics to see what your customers actually want. Hint, hint – more people than ever before want to buy products/services through social media platforms.
It’s a smart idea to look into this for your small business. Facebook is already offering new features that allow brands to sell directly through their social network. Other social platforms are sure to follow.
Social media is always changing. And you better change along with it if you want your small business to stay relevant in the online world.
Though the top social media trends for 2018 discussed above are only the tip of the iceberg as far as changes go, they’re among the most important for small business owners to keep an eye on.
Follow the newest changes to social platforms closely, track what the top brands in your industry are doing, experiment with new techniques yourself, and review your analytics closely to create the best possible social media marketing campaign for your small business in 2018.