Social media is evolving fast, and if your business wants to grow and prosper in the digital age it’s important to understand, and adapt to, these changes.
Passive behaviours on social media are continuing to climb, with people expanding what they use social networks for. Whilst social networks might originally have been used to post updates and hear from friends, they might also now be used for entertainment, product research and filling in spare moments in the day. Social dominates time spent on mobile with 1 in every 3 minutes spent on a social app and mobile usage is spiking a massive rise in mobile video consumption. In response to this changing behaviour how should businesses respond?
1) Consider Live Video to Build Interest: Social networks are responding to the rise in mobile video by shifting more towards broadcast style content and encouraging brands to become broadcasters. If you don’t currently use live broadcasts, it might be worth building it into your digital strategy. This kind of content gets more interest from audiences and a higher priority in the Facebook newsfeed. Live videos have 25% higher engagement reach than regular videos and launching products via live broadcasts is on the rise
2) Watch out for Social Commerce: 28% of internet users use social media in their online product research. This is higher amongst younger demographics but even in the 55-64 bracket 20% use social media for product research. Search engines still beat social media generally but in Latin America more people use social networks to research products than search engines! This really sets the stage for social commerce, with buying in these platforms becoming inevitable. If you’re an online retailer, these trends will significantly effect your advertising strategies. Will we see a social media takeover when it comes to online search?
3) Increase Efforts to Gain Customer Advocacy: Businesses need to understand that the value of social media is not just in the number of shares/likes you see. Social media is an important part of the customer journey and peer to peer reviews are becoming the main source of brand advocacy. Consumer trust in traditional sources of authority is at historical lows and there’s more scepticism around more traditional forms of marketing too (influencer programmes, celebrity endorsements etc). Getting reviews from customers is becoming more and more vital to the health of a business and the importance of reviews in ecommerce is unprecedented. Real community building and customer advocacy is more important than ever before and needs to be part of your marketing strategy.
4) Use Social for Customer Insights: Social really is becoming a driver of customer insight. Successful organisations are embracing the idea that social really can be a good indicator of what people are thinking and feeling and social can help make better business decisions.
5) Prepare for Artificial Intelligence: AI is dominating the headlines more and more, and whilst sill a future facing trend the speed of adoption is picking up dramatically. AI has the potential to take away huge amounts of the manual and repetitive work, giving humans time to focus on relationships. Uptake of AI is increasing and more practical applications are being developed. There were 30,000 messenger bots at the beginning of 2017, but 200,000 by the end of the year. Messenger bots are becoming much more personalised too. It’s likely that if your company isn’t already using AI technology you will be soon, so keep on top of developments.
So how are social networks responding to (and driving) these changes in consumer behaviour? Here’s a summary of where the big five social media platforms are heading:
Facebook is embracing mobile video and brands which use live broadcasts or are independent content creators are getting better organic reach. Facebook are also pushing messenger ads, and there’s a big push for further uptake of Facebook groups. Currently 100m people use Facebook groups and Facebook want brands to engage with them. Businesses need to accept the reality of declining organic reach and build this into their strategies. The Facebook ‘Explore’ tab now houses more branded content, with less showing up organically in the news feed.
YouTube will become the go to mobile streaming platform. In the past it was known for viral amateur content but there’s now more emphasis on live streaming and high quality content.
Instagram sped up its growth in 2017 by adding 200m new users. It’s focussing on peer to peer engagements and there are lots of new ad features, including ads in stories with links to ecommerce or websites.
Twitter continues its push on video discoveries and personal video recommendations. There are also new ad formats, with instream video ads a big change.
LinkedIn is now reaching half a billion professionals and data is it’s most valuable currency. There will be more CRM development. LinkedIn aims to be the No 1 place professionals share and discover content. The platform has added Google hangout and Facebook messenger style features and a snapchat style feature for events and conferences.
So, in summary, if you’re an online retailer watch out for social selling and make sure your business is actively encouraging peer to peer reviews. For all businesses social video is of heightened importance and having a strategy in place for building real and lasting relationships is important. Don’t be frightened of AI – it’s coming and will undoubtedly have many useful applications for saving your business time and resources.