Social Media can seem intimidating for businesses. It’s a channel dominated by influencers, celebrities and your average Joe, so it’s easy to see why some smaller businesses feel like they get lost in the crowd. Despite this, social media is becoming an essential tool for businesses in more ways than one and, in 2017, the necessity for brands to be a part of it is only going to intensify.
Luckily there are simple ways that brands can stay ahead of the curve with their social media activity. Here we discuss five social media trends set to dominate 2017 that any business can implement.
1. Live and expiring content
Snapchat, now known as Snap, came onto the social scene in 2011 and with it brought a thirst for a new type of content. The premise of Snap is for users to create snippets of content, such as images and videos that expire after a maximum of 10 seconds. Since its creation other platforms have tried to introduce a similar format, recently Instagram introduced their ‘stories’ feature which works in a similar way to Snap
Although this content was originally used to send hilarious artificial intelligence lens images to family and friends, it is rapidly being taken up and used by brands to communicate with their consumers. Businesses can use Snapchat, and even Instagram stories, to offer sneak peaks of upcoming releases, give a look behind the scenes of a photoshoot or event and engage with their younger audience.
This type of content is different to that which businesses are used to: with blog posts the idea would be self-promotion and a call to action, traditional social posts would be used in a similar way, looking for the conversion at the end of the content tunnel. Expiring content offers no real immediate return for businesses and is simply a communication/broadcast tool used to reach younger consumers and build relationships.
From a brand awareness point of view it is vital that business owners and marketers that want to target Generation Z trial these platforms in order to remain relevant in 2017.
Similarly, there has been a rise in platforms offering a live feature. Twitter gave us Periscope but social media giant Facebook has eclipsed Twitter with their Facebook Live feature, launched in 2015.
Since its introduction brands are, cautiously, starting to use the feature as part of their digital marketing strategy. The uses of live streaming are endless, for instance perhaps a business wants to do an exclusive product unveiling; or there’s live video which gives businesses the opportunity to create hype and force people to sign in at a specific time in order to not miss out on special offers or brand updates; Facebook live even notifies users when a page they like is live, encouraging them to immediately click on the notification received to ‘tune in’. It can also be used for events, Q & A sessions and more or less anything.
The fun, news site, The LAD Bible, use Facebook Live for a range of their social content, from live challenges involving their audience discovering where they are filming from to complete the challenge, to which ice lolly will melt first.
There are so many uses for live streaming that it is no wonder it is predicted to be an important part of social media strategies in 2017.
2. Social commerce
Social media used to be a platform for telling people what you had for lunch or whether it was snowing outside or not. Now social media is a powerful business tool and is being used more and more for commerce.
YouGov and Bronto found that one in three UK consumers are open to making purchases directly through social networks, with the average buyer prepared to spend an average of £55.68 on a single item.
Social networks such as Instagram and Pinterest offer call to action buttons on sponsored posts, such as ‘book now’ and ‘shop now’, which inspire users to take immediate action and convert.
The Sprout Social Index discovered that: ‘57% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand they follow… 75% have made a purchase because they saw it on social media.’
The best thing about social commerce is that products are reaching the right audience at a time they are not actively shopping. This means they are made aware that purchases are possible and they are less likely to seek out competitors to compare prices so are more likely to click on the call to action button to make an immediate purchase instead of shopping around.
3. Paid Social Advertising: A Necessity
Marketers may be caught in a loop of frustration with their social reach and engagement putting out interesting content day by day only to be rewarded with a reach of less than 5% of their following. The sad truth is that nothing is free and this includes your social media presence.
Social media algorithms are making life harder and harder for brands to ensure that their content appears on users’ feeds, even by those who like or follow an account. The only way around this is by paying up. Paid content on social will dominate in 2017, with more businesses being forced to sponsor posts to make sure they are seen.
In 2014 Facebook reduced brands’ organic reach from 15% to a very low 2%. With this historic low reach brands that want to succeed on social, which should be all brands due to its ever-increasing power as a marketing tool, will need to invest some of their budget into their social platforms.
In some cases creating perfect, relevant, content that directly appeals to your audience, may inspire engagement and increase organic reach, but unfortunately this is not a guaranteed method of making sure your content is seen, particularly as competition continues to grow.
4. The Death of Automation
Automation can be a business’ best friend, particularly if there is no budget for a dedicated social media professional: automation allows feeds to stay updated with content without continual management. Unfortunately for the fans of automation, 2017 is predicted to be the year that it dies.
As is being seen with the rise of live videos and expiring content, social users prefer fresh, human content, free from the robotic nature of automated content. This is not to say that content can’t still be scheduled, many businesses simply do not have the time to manually post on all networks at various parts of the day, but if you are a company that has an RSS feed that bursts out impersonalised, generic posts with a link, you may want to re-think your strategy for 2017.
Posts should be timely: look out for trending news stories that your brand can comment on. Don’t simply promote because pushing out sponsored posts, full of sales spiel, will only result in users reaching for that unfollow button. Most importantly, listen to your customers, if someone has made a suggestion in a comment, or left a nice review, or shared a picture of themselves wearing the brand’s product, share it and comment/respond to it, whatever you do, make sure that these actions are not ignored. This type of ‘real’ content is what helps build an organic following with stronger brand relationships and better engagement.
Getting back to manual, timelier, social updates will also help brands avoid embarrassing blunders such as Dorothy Perkins’ obviously scheduled Friday tweet which hit a nerve with those unhappy about the Brexit result.
The tweet faced major backlash with responses such as ‘Badly timed auto tweet!’, ‘As a marketing person, I would advise that you resign’ and ‘Way to misjudge a situation.’
Lesson for 2017, be smart with automation, not lazy.
5. Chatbot Customer Service
Yes, you read that right, chatbot. Welcome to the future. It is unsurprising, in a time of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, that an idea like chatbots for social media are predicted to be the next big thing in social media for business.
Sprout social reported that in the US 34.5% of people choose social media as their point of contact for customer care, beating live chats on websites and emails.
Facebook have started to integrate chatbots into their messenger, which are rapidly becoming popular for businesses to utilise as a customer service tool. These chatbots are programmed to answer simple questions that require data-driven answers.
The introduction of these chatbots sees social media pushing forward as an important customer service tool, being able to offer help 24/7 without having to employ extra people to handle these queries.
Although not mainstream yet, it is predicted that 2017 will see and upsurge in brands trialling and implementing this technology.
Pizza Hut will be using the technology to assist in increasing their takeaway orders. Businesses should prepare to include this into their social media strategies in the very near future.
If you would like help with your social media strategy contact Receptional, we can help manage your social media accounts or simply consult on the current best practices.