Content Marketing Blog

20 social media trends marketers should expect in 2018

Few things change as quickly and dramatically as social media.9

Remember the exponential rise of Vine, for example, and its equally epic fall?

Social media is a world that’s wildly impacted by trends. As a marketer, this can be intimidating. How do you know the dos and don’ts of establishing your brand across various platforms?

Here’s our list of 20 social media trends you should expect in 2018.

1. There will be more engagement between brands and followers than ever before

One in three consumers would mention a brand when sharing a personal accomplishment on social media. What’s more, 41 per cent of millennials would include a brand in their milestone as a way to say thanks, according to Sprout Social.

What does this mean for brands? It’s time to talk back. Otherwise, you risk being perceived as #rude and missing out on potential interest from your followers’ followers.

Better yet, start the conversation with a hashtag like the budgeting app Mint did in a recent Instagram contest.

2. Naturally, the use of messaging apps and chatbots will also rise

As brands make a bigger effort to connect with followers, we’ll also see an increase in the use of chatbot and messaging apps.

Have you ever avoided calling a business because of phone-phobia or the sheer inconvenience of dialing in the number? Well, you aren’t alone. Buyers want to talk to your business more than ever, but they’d prefer to do it quickly and easily through messaging apps they already have – such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Get messaging now and you’ll also have a leg up on the competition. Currently only 20 per cent of marketers are using messaging apps despite the fact that they represent an effective, scalable and innovative approach to customer service.

3. Facebook paid promotion will spike as organic reach and referral traffic continue to dip

Been watching your organic reach decline over the last few years? Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but this will only continue in 2018.

Facebook hasn’t been shy about their continuous efforts to keep the most relevant content in users’ News Feed. Naturally, for most people this equates to family and friends – not your business.

In 2018, marketers will be forced to accept that Facebook has become a paid marketing platform, once and for all.

Gone are the days of trying to ‘beat the algorithm’ and find clever ways to boost your posts organically. Gone too are the hopeful advertisers thinking they can get away with minimal ad investment. Nope, 2018 will be the year brands shift their Facebook strategy entirely to paid.

4. Social media will become more automated, but the bots aren’t taking over just yet

Automation has been a big buzzword over the past twelve months and will continue to be in 2018. It’s not difficult to see why either – automation saves you time, money and frees you from dull tasks.

By its very nature, automation replaces human interaction, but isn’t that the exact opposite of what marketers should be doing on social media?

Fortunately, social media automation (SMA) is a bit different – it’s not about eliminating the human element but rather about best practices. Rather than using a ‘bot’ to respond to comments, for example, allow SMA to:

  • Assist with the frequency and timing of posts,
  • Ensure consistency between different platforms,
  • Do keyword research for you,
  • Create a better profile,
  • Test out content to see which is most effective.

In the future, we may see completely automated social media profiles that are just as engaging as those run by humans. Currently, however, it’s best to use SMA while accepting its limitations.

5. B2B organisations will finally board the Instagram train …

B2B organisations can make every excuse in the book for why they’re not on Instagram but the fact remains: Instagram is an incredibly effective marketing platform boasting some of the best user engagement out there.

That said, 2018 will finally be the year we see B2B companies make a splash on the network. Of course, it might require some fine tuning. After all, Instagram has long been dominated by lifestyle brands and fashion companies, but we trust they’ll get there eventually.

6. …. while also trying their hand at ephemeral content

While we’re on the subject of big moves for the B2B sector, let’s talk about ephemeral content, another area where B2B companies have lagged behind their B2C counterparts.

There’s something hugely appealing about content that is available for a limited amount of time and then gone forever. This is evident in the wild popularity of Snapchat and Instagram Stories.

So far, however, we’ve largely seen – again – travel, lifestyle, fashion, and other B2C organisations dominate the field. This year, B2B organisations will get creative, producing ephemeral content around their products and services. Our vision? Demonstrations, Q&A sessions, tutorials and some serious behind-the-scenes footage.

7. Battling algorithms will create unique challenges for brands

Keeping track of Facebook’s evolving algorithms is hard enough. Things only get trickier when you’re also juggling profiles on Instagram. Twitter and LinkedIn.

To this end, brands need to decide whether they’ll play to each of the algorithms or ignore the algorithms and post what they want.

Our recommendation? Strike a balance. While you can’t possibly stay on top of every little change various platforms make, you can monitor your own performance and use it to make informed decisions. See what works and what doesn’t and adjust your content accordingly.

8. Twitter will need to mix things up to stay relevant

2017 wasn’t an easy year for Twitter. Not only did they fail to substantially grow users , but they also lost access to streaming NFL games and, of course, there was the whole Russian fake news debacle.

It’s safe to say that in 2018, Twitter will do some restructuring. They already made a handful of substantial changes last year, including increasing their character count and tightening up on harassment and cyberbullying, but they’ll have to continue to mix things up if they want to stay relevant.

9. Networks will continue to tighten community guidelines

Speaking of the Russian fake news debacle, another major social media trend of 2018 will be stricter policies governing conduct.

We’ve already seen the beginning of this in 2017. Facebook released over 3,000 Russian-government linked ads to the US Congress and Twitter also banned ads from two prominent Russian media organisations.

In 2018, it won’t be all about politics either. After all, there’s just under 1,000 days until the next US election – but who’s counting? Platforms will also use their community guidelines to take a stand against violence, abuse and hateful conduct.

Last year, Twitter extended their policies to hateful imagery and abusive or threatening content in usernames and profiles. Instagram adopted new tools to reduce spam and block offensive comments. This will continue in 2018 as users become increasingly less tolerant of Internet trolls.

10. See ya millennials – demographics are changing

Pinterest is for girls. Instagram is for tweens. Facebook is for everyone, including Grandma. We have quite a few perceptions of who’s who on social media, but 2018 will see many of these shift significantly.

For one, Generation Z will decide social media marketing trends more than ever before. Generation Z careers are finally getting started, meaning their purchasing power will grow significantly in coming years.

What does that mean for marketers? It’s time to cater to this demographic. Find out what they like and do it. Take video, for example – 81 per cent of Gen Y report watching at least one hour of online video per day. Therefore, if video isn’t a part of your social media presence, you’ll likely miss out on this market.

Gen Y may become the most influential demographic on social media, but they won’t be the fastest growing. In 2018, we’ll see a rise in older groups and men across every platform. Facebook alone saw a 20 per cent increase in users aged 65 and above in 2017.

facebook users

Older demographics are also rising on Instagram – 56 per cent of 30-39 year-old Australians are on the app, as are more than one-third (35 per cent) of those aged 40-49.

11. Influencer marketing will take hold in the B2B sector

Finding influencers to show off your brand of yoga pants is relatively easy. Pinpointing the perfect user to push your accounting software? Not quite as simple.

Influencer marketing has long been a staple in various B2C sectors while remaining far less prevalent in the B2B world. We understand why – it can be a bit trickier to track down the right influencers in niche markets and – in general – B2B products and services can be slightly less suited to social media channels.

In 2018, however, this will all change. Social media use has become more widespread than ever. The Digital in 2018 annual report just revealed there are more than 4 billion internet users worldwide, many of whom are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat – you name it.

Therefore, it’s time for everyone – including B2B companies – to fine tune their social media marketing efforts, including the use of influencers. This means overcoming barriers by using influencer marketing tools to help find the right partners.

12. There will be much more transparency around influencer partnerships

There’s a widespread distrust of traditional advertising out there – that’s why more than half (53 per cent) of web users have some form of ad blocker installed.

Influencer marketing represents a solution to this problem – it’s a great way to push your products in a more subtle way that resonates better with audiences.

In the past, however, some brands have made things a bit too subtle. We’re talking heaps of promoted posts where the celebrity or social media personality never disclosed they were being paid.

Well, people have noticed, including the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA). Last March, the AANA announced that all sponsored content must be clearly labeled. These transparency laws also heightened the legal requirements for honesty and accuracy.

What does this mean for marketers in 2018? For one, you need to ensure promoted posts are clearly labelled by asking influencers to include a hashtag like #ad or #sponsoredpost, or by selecting Instagram’s branded content option.

Clever marketers will figure out a way to do this without being spammy. Encourage your influencers to add their own personality and have fun with posts – that’s why you chose to work with them. Just keep in mind that it’s your responsibility to ensure paid promotions are identified.

13. Content will become more useful

People want to gain something from following you. Unlike other forms of marketing, social media is all about interaction and connection. Give and take.

Useful content helps you tell your brand story and convey your chosen message while also giving something to your audience. Examples of this include how-to videos, tutorials and demonstrations.

What would you prefer to see in your Instagram feed: a photograph of a stunning model wearing a new makeup product – although it could be airbrushed – or a video tutorial of her actually applying the product?

Most would choose the latter, so find a way to create useful, high-value content for your target audience in 2018.

14. Let’s get personal – brands will need to respond to call-outs

Brands vary in how they respond to online call-outs and bad reviews – with the vast majority falling into the camp of ignoring disgruntled customers altogether. This year, however, businesses will need to make more of an effort to address customer concerns on social media. Why? Because the call-outs aren’t stopping.

More than half (55 per cent) of consumers call out brands in order to get a resolution or response, while four in five believe social media should increase accountability for brands.

There is, of course, an art to responding to cyber criticism:

  • Sincerely apologise for whatever upset the customer,
  • Explain how you’ve addressed the issue.
  • Keep things brief and non-confrontational,
  • Take things into private messaging when it’s resolution time,

15. Ephemeral content will become an art

In 2017, it was impressive enough to be on ephemeral platforms like Facebook Live, Instagram stories and Snapchat.

2018, however, will see brands refine their practice. The end of disjointed stories, more click-through options, perfectly timed posts, behind the scenes footage – you name it, it’s coming this year.

16. We’ll see virtual reality, but not as much as everyone expects

Everyone predicted virtual reality would take off in 2017 – even us.

While we have seen a handful of brands dabble in VR, they definitely represent the elite minority. Only 8 per cent of marketers report using VR in 2017.

Will the wave come in 2018? Yes and no. While we predict VR will continue to rise in popularity, we aren’t sure it will become the sweeping tool everyone seems to think. 360 video tours of real estate? Absolutely. Virtual test drives of your new car? Maybe if you’re buying a Lamborghini.

For VR to become a widely used, effective marketing tool, it needs to be that much more accessible and easy to use. For most marketers, good old video will be more than sufficient for 2018.

17. Instead, augmented reality will continue to evolve

What we thought virtual reality would do in 2017 augmented reality will do in 2018.

AR – where computer graphics are added to a user’s view of the physical world – has more promise than VR for a number of reasons. For one, Apple has incorporated a new AR chip in the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X.

Further, AR is a less expensive digital strategy for marketers, it doesn’t require head-mounted displays and it is well suited for mobile devices.

18. Vanity metrics will start to matter again (sorry)

Aptly named, vanity metrics are things that make you look cool on social media   – such as follows and likes from spammers – but don’t necessarily do much else

The story of vanity metrics goes something like this: they were once the be all and end all of social media marketing, then they were quickly discredited. Experts denounced shallow shares and likes in place of more meaningful engagement.

In 2018, however, marketers will admit that vanity metrics do, in fact, make a difference.

Behind this shift is the fact that vanity metrics drive reach and awareness. No one can deny, for example, that shares increase your audience. Further, they’re an indicator of high engagement on contact which is an undeniable ranking factor if you’re trying to be found in search.

Even likes – like it or not – can tell you a great deal about what’s resonating with your audience and what isn’t.

For marketers, our best advice is to consider vanity metrics, but with a grain of salt. They aren’t the most credible assessment of how you’re doing, but they can shine some light on your overall social media performance.

19. Facebook Spaces will mark the return of the chat room

While vanity metrics’ comeback might not be so sweeping, chat rooms will be back in 2018 thanks to Facebook Spaces.

Facebook Spaces is a VR app that allows users to engage with one another as if they were in the same room. Essentially, it’s 2018’s answer to the chatroom, where users are represented by personalised 3D avatars rather than cringey screen names.

Apps like Facebook Spaces are just one indicator of the larger demand for niche networks that we’ll see met in 2018. While we may not see users abandoning the big ones – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat – we will see these existing platforms offer more individualised ways for users to interact with one another.

20. Voice search will change the way we find social content

2017 was the year of voice search. Consider that nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of voice activated speaker owners already say these devices have become a part of their day-to-day routine.

As voice-controlled personal assistants become common – not only in the home but also in our vehicles – more owners will use them for social media. You can already ask Alexa to read your Twitter feed.

What should marketers do to prepare? Think about your social media content. Is it consumable through a smart speaker? If not, think about ways to tailor information to be more suitable. Otherwise, you risk missing out on what Google has dubbed ‘a new playground for brands’.


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Natalie Fortier About the author