Social media is a constantly developing world. The one you see in 2018 is markedly different to the one that you started out on, say, 10 years back. Take Facebook as an example. When it first entered the market, it sparked a wave of wonder. Everyone wanted to be on it just for the hype (Remember all those fake birth dates anyone?) Facebook was what is now referred to as a social media “trend”. In fact, every major social platform started out as a trend.
Now, social media is no longer a novelty; a cool platform to post status updates, share embarrassing photos, tag friends, and duke out on multiplayer games. Social media has gone from being a player to the one setting all the rules of the game; from a trend to being a trendsetter (Remember when the Stories feature was launched across several platforms? Now there are over 300 million people that share stories every day!)
Speaking of numbers, let’s have a look-see at a few more figures:
- Facebook has an estimated 2.07 billion monthly active users.
- Instagram follows behind with 800 million monthly active users.
- Twitter has 330 million monthly active users.
- LinkedIn has nearly 500 million members.
- Pinterest boasts of almost 200 million monthly active users.
- Snapchat has over 178 million daily active users.
Feeling faint? We don’t blame you! After all, numbers don’t lie. If those are the kind of numbers social media keeps churning out, then is it any wonder you’ve got trends developing left, right, and center?
As 2018 draws to an end, we’ve seen social media create even bigger bangs in terms of the latest technological advancements. In order to stay ahead of the curve, you need to understand the trends that have dominated its various platforms.
To help you better understand, we bring you this post on social media trends that you most certainly should have watched out for in 2018.
The top 10 social media trends that called all the shots in 2018
1.Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Chatbots make their mark
Artificial intelligence or AI is quite possibly one of the dopest divisions of new age tech. When we speak of AI here, we don’t necessarily mean droids programmed with human abilities (Although that’s cool too!)
What we’re talking of is the use of AI by social media platforms to create real-time engagements, and draw in customers. Let’s take Google for an example. Whether it’s looking up pictures of loved ones, overcoming those language barriers via Google Translate, typing emails while you’re traveling, or simply getting things done with the Google Assistant - AI has been making it easier for people to get things done, in ways that are both exciting and empathetic!
2.Augmented reality hits a home run
Augmented reality or AR is basically the use of technology to project a computer-generated image onto a real-world environment, through sensory inputs such as audio, video or graphics. Lines get blurred when the simulated world takes over the real one, and the experience is only enhanced!
Anyone remember Pokémon Go? That game where we ran around collecting virtual pets? That was one AR app that was just the dose of silly fun that everyone needed, marketers included. For AR revolutionized the way people socialized online, gaming aside.
When it comes to social media, AR has two things going for it - it’s powerful, and it’s protean; a lethal combo. Lethal as in it’s going to make a killing. How, you ask? AR can be used to:
- Promote products and services.
- Handle day-to-day customer interactions.
- Rig out brands with the means to provide an interactive user experience.
- Increase conversion rates across social media channels.
AR is essentially in service to the adage, “seeing is believing”. And what better way to go about it than 3D? Using AR, 3D ads not only let an audience “see”, but “feel” them as well, providing an almost hypnotic experience! For example, L'Oreal has AR apps that lets its users test out makeup and hairstyles before they make their purchases, while furniture giant IKEA has an app that allows customers to preview how pieces of furniture fit into their homes.
There’s more content on the Internet than there are stars in the galaxy. Or so we like to believe. There’s no way even the most dedicated of social media users could ever consume that much content. Plus, an excess of content just kicks up brand rivalry a notch. With attention the name of the game, how do brands, creators, authors, and social media networks compete for audience attention and long-term engagement?
This is where participation marketing comes in. Brand participation is all about building a connection with customers and establishing a meaningful relationship that lasts a long time. A relationship extremely vital to every brand’s future success. Remember the Coca-Cola "Share A Coke" campaign that reached out to its customers personally by replacing its logo with popular names and terms of endearment like “BFF” and “Buddy”? Or the “ice bucket challenge” initiated by the ALS Association to raise both awareness and donations to their cause?
Both campaigns are an excellent example of how brand participation across social channels is the way to go. And 2018 has just made it even bigger. Get ready to find brands invest a whole lot more time and money in connecting with customers across social media platforms.
4.Ephemeral content rules the roost
Ephemeral content refers to visual content that only lasts for a very short time. Yes, exactly like the videos and posts found on Instagram or Snapchat, and more recently even Facebook and WhatsApp.
Posting brief, fading content is a great way for brands to strengthen their hold over their customer base. Especially when they want to reach out to the young ‘uns. Such temporary content is also a chance for brands to experiment, engage directly, and get personal with their users.
Stories’ boast of so many features - from live video to links, that as marketers, you’re really spoilt for choice! It also helps that the number of people that thrive on stories every day is a mind-boggling million in triple digits!
Brands have the benefit of either tailoring their content to fit the medium or go the long haul by giving audience members a sneak peek into what goes behind the scenes. It’s all about recognizing what the audience wants and matching it up with what it needs.
Irony plays a funny game because you have another social media giant, Twitter (Yes, that’s right) quite unblushingly share channel highlights on their Instagram Stories. These stories happen to be full of social causes, news, sports and celebrities, and every post encourages users to swipe up to learn more. Which basically translates to “swipe up to go to Twitter”.
5.Focus on Generation Z
A recent study conducted by Goldman Sachs concluded that Generation Z was more valuable to most organizations than millennials. Today, the oldest Gen Zers are 22 years old. They are just beginning to enter the labor force and will have increased buying power for some time.
Brands need to recognize this and double-clutch their social media strategies accordingly. It’s all about investing in platforms that exercise a hold over Gen Zers, establish a connection with them, and take on board what they need.
6.Influencer marketing has no shortage of investors
Influencer marketing is essentially a way for brands to engage with a thriving online community. Influencers are individuals that do just what their name implies - exert influence over their “followers”; people who look up to them. Influencer marketing has become a game changer because of the power influencers enjoy. These people are able to affect an audience that you’ve been trying to reach for ages.
Influencer marketing leads the pack followed by organic search, email, paid search, display advertising, and affiliate marketing, in order. And why shouldn’t it when it brings in 10x the normal conversion rate!
Major brands like Nike, Calvin Klein, H & M, North Face, etc partner up with rising influencers in order to develop a star marketing strategy - one that allows them to connect with newer audiences, and improve engagement with existing audiences.
7.Live streaming goes, err, live?
What once happened to be a shtick, fresh off the boat, is now officially one of social media’s most common feature. Live streaming, like every other social innovation before it, has quickly become the go-to channel for brands (big or small) to market to their followers.
Whether it’s Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc, “going live” is quickly the new mantra of social media marketing. It’s even been predicted that by 2021, the video streaming market will reach a whopping $70.5 billion!
8.Mobile phones get a makeover
Judging by the fact that more than half the world’s population is buried nose deep in a smartphone (capping two billion this year alone!), and dedicates nearly three to four hours per day using them, it’s no surprise that brands have jumped on the mobile bandwagon.
People fritter away more time scrolling through their phones than they do surfing the TV. As the number of mobile users grows, it’s vital that marketers optimize content to better suit such users.
It’s a given that once you’ve gone full “mobile”, you tend to hang around social media more often than not. The social media platforms that dominate the leaderboard are:
- Tumblr etc
9.Video goes mainstream
The current generation happens to be a generation that lives off of YouTube/Netflix. They polish off video content like it’s nobody’s business. Videos are the go-tos when it comes to social media content. Stats have shown people surf through YouTube anywhere between 2 to 4 hours daily. Videos tend to do so well because:
- It’s easier to repurpose them.
- It’s also relatively simple to grow your presence.
- Adding videos to one’s website, emails, or overall marketing strategy is as easy as cutting a slice of pie.
10.Provision for stronger governance policies
Social media and scandals - we've all been there. The constant proximity of social media means that there is an expectation of responsible behavior. After all, who can forget the controversy that erupted when it was disclosed that Facebook might have meddled during the 2016 US presidential election?
Controversies like that have resulted in social media platforms adopting a more hands-on approach to regulating conduct. E.g. Facebook investing in state-of-the-art AI and human forms of monitoring.
Given the widespread criticism that’s regularly leveled at social media for its snooptatsic ways, it’s pretty much understood that such platforms openly welcome codes of conduct and governance policies that shield them against any attacks of disapproval.
Like we’ve stated earlier, social media undergoes evolution quicker than the average Pokémon. Trends always have a tendency to accelerate when you least suspect it, and they'll do so with an extraordinary amount of force!
For someone whose main area of activity is marketing, it’s imperative that you stay on top of all the latest trends. Use what we’ve just listed out to gain the upper hand moving forward from here.