Round up of useful, but often overlooked social media marketing hacks.
This guide is designed to walk you through the most notable social media developments of 2017 impacting 2018. The marketing trends and news items from the previous year discussed in this article are all the intel you’ll ever need in order to create your new social media strategy.
If you are interested in a particular social media development you can use the table of contents on the left to jump to any section. But be sure to catch up on news and developments you might have missed in the busy 2017!
What this guide will teach you:
- It will equip you with information about the most important changes to social media algorithms in 2017;
- It can show you what to pay attention to when devising your social media strategy;
- It will discuss the most important marketing trends of 2017;
- It will provide insight into what types of content worked best for marketers in 2017 And speculate predictions about social media in 2018.
The social media landscape
Has social media—once a competitive, dynamic space— gotten predictable?
Facebook added a hundred million users in a quarter? Twitter is in trouble for verifying white supremacists? What tech company has Facebook managed to gobble up now?
It’s all been going on since before “millenial” was even a thing.
As we are slowly crawling towards the end of the second decade of the third millennium, the utopian vision of the 90s slowly sinks into oblivion. The internet is nearing the end of its twenties, Google is celebrating its 20th birthday, and Facebook is well in its teens.
Would anyone have guessed how immersed we’d become in the virtual reality all of these digital giants made possible, and how big a role they would play?
It’s 2018, and the world is fervently mining for bitcoin, “Influencer” is a profession (like straight out of a Philip K. Dick novel), and the line between the physical and the digital realm is more blurred than ever.
The social landscape is a world in which businesses are raised to stardom in a much shorter time period than we’re used to with old – school, traditional media like radio, magazines or TV. Social media can make a business “insta-famous” or leave it in the dust.
It influences purchasing decisions, drives trends and fuels a large chunk of the economy, and taking advantage of its power, now more than ever, involves the serious endeavour of growth hacking.
But behind it all lay plain old business decisions across the boardrooms of our digital front runners.
In this recapitulation of the past year, we’ll explore the most important of them in the hopes that we can shed some light on what the future of social media will bring.
Social media user trends
As of the third quarter of 2017, Facebook reached 2.07 billion monthly users, or almost (if you count your almosts in millions, as social network usage numbers make us do) a third of the world’s entire population. It’s the biggest social media network to date, and it’s constantly breaking usage records.
In fact, most social media networks are.
2017 might certainly be the year everybody was on social media. The digital consumers are all there – 98% of them are social media users. What does it mean?
Digital has become the main way people consume content.
88% of businesses are already taking advantage of it and using social media, and there’s a boom of marketing companies offering to help them.
If you aren’t there already, you are essentially leaving one of the biggest markets in the world to your competitors.
Businesses are flocking to Facebook for advertising purposes as we speak. It’s a marketing jungle out there: social networks are closing to topping out their user base (and their user growth with it), like Facebook is for example, are bent on finding ways to create even more revenue.
Most important 2017 social media news and algorithm changes
Social networks are rapidly growing into media giants, and they are honing their revenue tactics along the way. All social media networks in general are working hard in crafting new ways to monetize their user base, and to improve to get their algorithms smarter, which has effectively made them the very front-runners of technology.
Long gone are the days where our social media feeds were swarmed with content in reverse chronological order – nowadays, algorithms rule the scene.
Algorithms sort posts in a user’s feed by relevance, or in other words they gauge the likelihood that a user will want to see a particular piece of content. They are what essentially makes your social feed what it is, and is an important revenue making machine for social networks.
If you are interested in any particular network, you can jump to the appropriate section.
We’ll be looking at what kinds of algorithm changes and updates social media networks introduced in 2017.
Let’s first take a look at the most important developments related to the biggest social media player of all – and it’s been busy this year.
Dealing with clickbait and engagement bait
Facebook has come a long way from the clean looking platform whose creator refused to display ads on when he first launched it.
It now hosts the biggest market for attention, apart from google, and businesses trying to up engagement have been using a plethora of tactics, not the least of which has been baiting users to interact with content by clicking or engaging.
In August 2017, Facebook announced its efforts to deal with a phenomena that has pestered social media users for ages: clickbait. The company introduced an update that started demoting two particular types of content in the hopes of improving the “integrity of information”:
- Videos with fake play buttons that lead users to click expecting to start a video, while the button actually takes them to a low quality site;
- Static images disguised as videos with much the same purpose.
The update made these two shady practices frequently used by spammers obsolete, and social media accounts that used them noticed a fatal drop in reach. Although most accounts weren’t affected, however, Facebook urged marketers to follow their publishing best practices when creating content.
After the crackdown on clickbait, in December 2017, the company announced that it will also be demoting engagement bait.
What does engagement bait stand for?
Engagement bait refers to the type of content where content publishers explicitly ask for shares and likes and all other nuanced forms of engagement so that they could bump up their content to the top of Facebook’s feed.
The term includes several types of “baiting”:
- Vote baiting – “Vote for your 2018 goals”;
- React baiting — “Like this if you’re a Gemini, love this if your significant other is!”;
- Tag Baiting — “Tag a friend who loves coffee”;
- Share baiting — “Share this for a chance to win a free bracelet”.
While this has been a legitimate tactic for driving more engagement, it seems that Facebook is finally taking action against social media profiles begging for likes in an attempt to create a better user experience, as allegedly, users have been complaining that they “dislike spammy posts on Facebook” that provoke them to engage by liking, commenting or sharing.
The feature was rolled out gradually, to allow content creators time to adjust, but the platform is currently implementing stricter demotions for profiles that turn to engagement bait “systematically and repeatedly”.
The good news to spammers is that this update will only apply to individual articles and links, and not whole domains and pages, and the other content they post: videos, photos, check-ins or status updates. If you don’t over do it, that is.
Sign up to Amplifr and connect your Facebook profiles and Pages to see which posts attract most engagement without engagement baits!
Marketers who are starting to see the reach of their engagement bait content decline should turn to Facebook’s new policy rules – as not adhering to them can have severe consequences, like specific profiles not being able to run ads altogether.
But to all of you who have been using Facebook conscientiously – pages that do not engage in these practices should see no impact, according to Facebook.
The battle with fake news is on
The company has struggled with its efforts to ensure that its content remains authentic and ethical, but fake news is a powerful adversary. You must have caught a whiff of the scandal around the US 2016 presidential election, and fake news was at the core of it.
It seems social media platforms are just the place for fake news – content is relayed among users with no significant third party filtering, fact-checking, and often without editing of any kind.
An individual user with no track record or reputation can in some cases reach as many readers as major media companies like BBC or Fox News. There is no “fact police”, and usually no one to call them out if the content they share is untrue or purposefully sensational.
While social media has helped in democratizing media and letting new voices be heard, it has also proved itself as fertile ground for the dissemination of false information.
Fake news reached their maximum in media focus during the US presidential election in 2016, and has been sparking heated debates about the role of social media in shaping public opinion since.
News items reached news media covers, and pages were demoted or completely taken down in the aftermath. Zuckerberg disclosed his company’s attempts to tackle this modern day digital phenomena as early as November 2016, and reassured that fighting fake news will be a long term priority. The company was working with fact checking organizations, developing a strategy for disrupting spam economics and getting better at ad farm detection.
Since, it has rolled several updates and tried different tactics in the hopes of dealing with the fake news epidemic.
Currently any repeat fake news offenders can have their advertising rights removed completely, and face monetization restrictions, as Facebook News Feed analytics director Dan Zigmond explained in this Facebook video from December 2017.
But, as of December 2017, Facebook has changed their strategy. After thorough testing has been conducted since April the same year, the platform was raising the bar and ditching disputed flags for related stories.
It seems that Facebook’s disputed flag strategy wasn’t working as well as it should. The company stated that according to academic research, their red disputed flag is a strong image that when next to an article might actually reinforce people’s beliefs about it, which is the exact opposite of what they wanted to achieve.
Their new solution was showing context for the disputed article by showing a related story that undermined it right beneath the fake news content in question. On top of that, after a fake news content has been marked as such by (human) fact-checkers, they reduce the article’s reach by 80%, which effectively destroys any monetary incentives spammers had for making it in the first place.
Bottom line is: you can no longer make money by publishing fake news on Facebook.
The drop in Facebook organic reach
It seems that organic reach is ever on the decline these days, and that’s a steady downward spiral since the concept of news feed algorithm was first introduced to social media.
You are wondering why algorithms in the first place? Social media worked just fine without ranking algorithms for their news feed for years, but algorithms were introduced under the umbrella of “keeping users’ feeds more relevant”.
The idea has some merit – as social media user base numbers skyrocketed, so did content, and algorithms made it easier for people to cut through the clutter and actually reach the accounts they cared about.
However, to businesses who were used to free limitless marketing in the pre-algorithm years this was a tough blow, and they suddenly had to pay for social ads in order to get their content reach people.
Fast forward to 2017, and the social media revenue machine fueled by ads is more powerful than ever.
So great in fact, that Facebook announced it was running out of space to display ads on.
As the company is constantly looking for ways to generate more ad space, the fact that it’s reducing organic reach under the pretext that it wants to prioritize friends and family will result in ad prices rising and will force marketers to pay more if they want people to see their campaigns.
New retail and ecommerce oriented ad formats
Along with the drive to conquer new ad placement options, by introducing stories or Audience Network for example, Facebook is busy with expanding ad format options.
The past year’s most recent addition to their ad platform includes the Collection ad format, which is designed to bring the outdated catalogue format back to life in digital.
A Collection experience consists of a cover image or video followed by several product images that Facebook automatically chooses from your website catalogue, depending on what the person looking at the Collection ad would like to see, according to their previous browser and interests information.
The ad takes the consumer to the Canvas ad format when clicked. The immersive experience designed with a focus on mobile can snatch conversions effectively, especially paired with a good CTA. The company really worked at creating a fast-loading experience for mobile, which ensures that together with the Canvas ad, it will become another mobile marketing staple.
You can check out this Facebook guide to learn more about Facebook collection ads.
Poll feature gets refreshed with GIFs
GIFs are one of the internet’s simple pleasures. And if there’s a list of occasions on which you couldn’t use them before – it now grows thinner, as Facebook announced a refreshed, GIF-supported poll feature.
The feature debuted in the beginning of November and it works like a charm – when you click on the “What’s on your mind” section at the top of your News Feed (or “Event, Products, Job+”for pages) and select “Poll” from the ellipsis, you can select your two polling options as an image upload or GIF search, and hit publish.
Facebook is teaming up with music industry leaders
Facebook recently announced their partnership with Universal Music Group, and then the agreement with the largest major music publisher in the world, Sony/ATV. The social platform has entered into Global Music Rights’ first-ever user-generated content deal.
This particular development will allow Facebook users to upload music licensed by these companies directly to their social networking site as well as to Instagram and Oculus, but it seems it’s only the beginning.
What this means for content creators? They won’t have to deal with having their content removed due to copyright problems, if the music they choose is under the copyright of one of the abovementioned companies.
It’s very good news to video content creators, and another attempt for the network to encourage them to use the platform for video.
Facebook already hinted that the contacts that were signed were multi-year contacts, and that they would be working to introduce new, “music-based” products.
Live audio broadcasting
To podcast lovers out there, Facebook had some good news early in 2017 – it seems that video didn’t kill the radio star after all.
The company has introduced live audio broadcasting, and stated their motivation to be user demand.
The format will undoubtedly be effective in situations where people are streaming from areas with slow connectivity, and it’s also going to produce some competition to services like Twitter-owned Periscope.
This is good news to all Facebook users who’ve been trying to find creative ways to stream audio on Facebook.
Facebook is more ready than ever to compete against YouTube with the launch of their video on demand service in August, 2017. It’s not currently rolled out worldwide, and it’s still difficult to gauge whether it will pick up pace with user count.
Some analysis show that Facebook Watch video retention time has an average of 23 seconds, which is already higher than the retention rate on the platform’s News Feed, but it still has a long way to go if it wants to beat YouTube’s video retention rate.
But one thing is clear: once more, Facebook has proved that it’s hard at work at being the platform that has it all, and leaving their users with even fewer reasons to start building an audience elsewhere.
Video algorithm changes: Facebook native video, video length
Video has risen to be one of the most important content formats in 2017. Although it goes without saying that it’s partly due to the popularity of this most engaging of visual content, Facebook’s recent algorithm updates have given it an extra nudge.
In 2017, Facebook upped the news feed ranking of native videos and gave them a boost in organic reach when compared to videos uploaded with a link from YouTube for example.
But that’s not all when it comes to video algorithms. As of January 2017, Facebook announced it’s changing the way it calculates video completion rates.
What this sudden twist meant for video creators is that it will now account for long a video is watched, and it will consider longer watch time as a signal that you actually enjoyed the content. It then weighs this in when calculating final content ranking, and gives longer videos with a higher percentage watched a boost in their News Feed.
Sign up to Amplifr and connect your Facebook profiles and Pages to see if the video posts really do perform better and upload videos via Amplifr.
To put it simply: if a particular longer video has high watch percentage, it means users like it, and they can see more of it in the Newsfeed. Facebook clarified that this only applies for organic posts, and not video ads.
So if you’re a video creator, forget video length statistics that show people like short videos the best, and so does ranking: if your video is great, Facebook will appreciate it.
Apparently, “The best length for a video is whatever length is required to tell a compelling story that engages people”.
Facebook developments key takeaways:
- Clickbait and engagement bait (sponsored) content is now getting demoted;
- The platform adopted the Related Stories feature to tackle “fake news”;
- Businesses and entrepreneurs will have to pay more for ads if they want to get their content noticed;
- The mobile-focused ecommerce Collection ad format was added to the Ads Manager;
- Facebook added GIFs to the poll feature;
- There’s now an option for live audio broadcasting directly on the platform;
- Facebook’s algorithm increasingly favors native videos;
- Longer video reach will depend on video percentage users watch.
If you’re running out of fresh ideas about how to market on Facebook, check out our comprehensive Facebook marketing guide.
Twitter suspended its profile verification process
In November 2017, Twitter announced to be putting a hold on the company’s verification process after scandal broke out related to them verifying a white supremacist.
To anyone looking to get that blue checkmark and enter the Twitter VIP club, it’s not entirely clear when they will open verification for the public again.
Here’s what the company said in a tweet: “Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance. We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it. We have paused all general verifications while we work and will report back soon.”
It seems that Twitter finally understood that with the recent impetus in verification, it’s going to have to adopt a more consistent policy than the vague “An account may be verified if it is determined to be an account of public interest”.
New rules concerning violence and hate
Twitter announced it will be enforcing new rules to battle “hateful conduct and abusive behavior” just a month ago, in late December. And it should be, after all, the very president of the US became infamous for using the platform for discussing policy decisions and outrageous political commentary.
Twitter timeline gets a “What’s happening” tab
Twitter announced a new minor update to its timeline that will help users cut through the avalanche of tweets and reach events happening at the moment. The feature started rolling out with sports events in the US, but the update is planned to include breaking news events and entertainment updates, and eventually roll out worldwide. Users will be seeing content based off of their interests and engagement history, and clicking a particular topic or event will show a stream of all the related tweets in real time.
This is one of the many minor timeline updates the company has recently started introducing to its news feed. The have already added a Moments feed, and announced they’ll be giving users a way to bookmark tweets for later.
Twitter doubled its character count
One of the biggest social media news items of 2017 was, surprisingly, Twitter’s decision to expand its now almost proverbial character limit from 140 to 280, after removing photos and links from the count in the middle of 2016.
It also built mentions directly into the reply button, so mentions no longer count towards the character count total.
The platform adopted this new feature in early November, finally giving its users (and marketers) more room for expression, but without compromising on brevity.
There is already some initial research that suggests tweets longer than 140 characters get more engagement. The social media analytics company SocialFlow revealed their latest data showed that longer tweets get double the engagement shorter ones do.
But before we ditch our old tweeting best practices, there’s still some testing to be done.
Not sure how to market on Twitter? This Twitter marketing guide will have you covered.
All things considered, Instagram will only grow to be more important for marketers in 2018. Instagram has surpassed 800 million users, with 300 million users actively using the stories feature it copied from Snapchat back in 2016, crushing Snapchat’s last dreams for growing its user base on the basis of their, at the time, exclusive feature.
There are great things in store for the platform in 2018, but let’s first look at the most important developments the platform introduced in 2017.
Disappearing photos and videos in direct messages
It seems that the copycat approach by Facebook, their parent company, is really working out for Instagram. Another feature “borrowed” from Snapchat, the disappearing photos and videos had a similar success to Instagram stories. In April 2017, Instagram announced users will be able to post disappearing photos and videos in the same messaging threads people use for text and reshares.
Ability to follow hashtags
Instagram introduced to users the ability to follow hashtags right before the end of 2017. Users long longer need to constantly search for hashtags, instead, they can now rely on “hashtags” feed the same way they do with the “people” feed.
If you haven’t thought about the implications: it’s really good news for marketers.
With a great hashtag strategy, you can increase the chances that your content will be showing up in more people’s feed, while providing content that people actually want to see. And monitor how people engage with your content with more precision, while you’re at it.
Instagram has a new paid partnership feature
Here’s what Instagram said in their announcement:
“As more and more partnerships form on Instagram, it’s important to ensure the community is able to easily recognize when someone they follow is paid to post content.”
What does that mean?
First things first, the feature will make it easier for followers to recognize whether their favorite influencer content is sponsored or not, all with the use of tags.
If a particular influencers is working with a brand, they can mention the brand in a tag, and people will see a “Paid partnership with…” header on top of their posts.
It’s a step forward marketing transparency, and all actors involved will get different benefits from the added layer of credibility. After all, modern users expect it from the brands they want to follow.
Influencers’ often fail to disclose their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing products on social media, and this update will help brands better comply with US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) disclosure policies and put an end to this recurring problem.
Another perk that brands will experience from paid partnership is that they will get access to influencer data and insights, and see how their sponsored influencer posts are performing. Not to mention that adding the tag will be extremely easy, and it will be displayed at the top of each post.
Instagram is yet to announce their official paid partnership policy in the following months.
Marketing on Instagram is becoming absolutely essential, so take a look at our Instagram SMM tips.
There’s good news for B2B marketers when it comes to their favorite platform – Linkedin is pushing to sweeten the ads pot in an effort to stay competitive. The network has been hard at work with smoothing out its user experience – introducing trending stories for mobile, adding profile picture filters and more, but that’s nothing compared to the ways in which it has expanded its ad platform.
The implementation of lead gen forms on ads
If you’re unfamiliar with the term lead generation ads – it’s a type of ad specifically designed to generate leads. Earlier this year, LinkedIn added a Lead Generation Form which allows users to opt into a sponsored offer with a single click.
According to the network, this was an attempt to merge “the marketer’s need for quality lead data and our members’ ease of access to content”.
By offering a shortcut around one of the biggest barriers between product and customer: the reluctance of customers to fill out a lengthy contact form while surfing on mobile. Lead gen ads, allow consumers to click on a particular campaign and have their fill-out form automatically populated in-app, using their LinkedIn profile info and making them leads with a single click.
Why are lead gen ads great?
- Members are more likely to submit information, as the form is automatically filled out with their LinkedIn profile data;
- Marketers can get an accurate, comprehensive lead record as opposed to the partial (or sometimes false) info they get when people submit a form manually;
- Lead record includes: person’s name, contact info, company name, age, job title, location and more;
- Marketers can take users to an in-app “thank you” page that connects them to their content or takes them to their site;
- They can effectively receive one click conversions.
LinkedIn has a guide where you can read more about how to create a lead gen ad and start lowering your cost per lead by 20%, as marketers report, something that is definitely worthy of attention as 2018 unfolds.
A new job hunt program in partnership with Google
Back in May 2017, Google launched a new job search engine project and it has partnered with Linkedin and various other job boards to help them launch it.
What the engine basically does is recognize when people are typing in job search queries on Google and then highlighting jobs that match them.
Sign up to Amplifr and connect your LinkedIn profile or Business Page to take advantage of B2B’s beloved platform.
If you are not already advertising on LinkedIn for your jobs, you might want to rethink your strategy – if you are in the US that is. This new job search engine is currently available only in the US, but is highly likely that Google is planning on rolling out worldwide in the future.
In-app video sharing and messaging
After the Community Tab for creators dating from late 2016, YouTube took one step forward in mid-2017 and rolled out a new social functionality worldwide. It was basically a way for friends to share their favorite videos, along with their reactions, without having to leave the YouTube app and use another mobile messaging service as they used to.
The idea behind the sharing feature’s development is to transition some of the social activity related to people interacting around YouTube videos – like sharing links and chats about them – back into the platform, and stop them from going to other messaging apps or social media like they are doing now.
Sign up to Amplifr and connect your YouTube channels to upload and repost videos across social media.
But whether this will be a winner move for YouTube remains uncertain. It’s no easy for a network to try to build itself from scratch, and populate lists of people’s family and friends, in a time where so many other networks on the market offer just that, but better.
“The YouTube Adpocalypse”
The YouTube update that happened back in March 2017 was a real game changer for the company’s monetization process, hence the biblical language.
When big brands started to withdraw their ads money fueled by the realization that it showed right alongside ads (or on videos) with extremist messages and hate speech, YouTube had to suddenly rethink its ad policies, and left a lot of creators accounts demonetized overnight.
The whole ordeal resulted in YouTube reportedly losing around $750 million in ad money according to some experts, and crippled thousands of creators depending on the site’s monetization as their primary income.
New to YouTube? You can find out how to get started with your YouTube channel here.
The Q3 2017 report showed what was already rumored down the social media grapevine – Snapchat’s losing streak continues. Its growth has slowed down considerably over the year (in all honesty, because of Facebook’s recent copycat practices), causing its stock to dip, and the platform has only managed to add 4.5 million new users over the period of the third quarter report.
Are we going to see the last of Snapchat in 2018 or will the platform manage to pivot? Here’s what the company has been up to in 2017:
Separating social from media
Snapchat is taking a step backwards from the infamous move to merge stories with messages from friends, that cluttered the platform with ads and hindered user experience. Now, it’s splitting content into two separate feeds. As always, Snapchat opens to the camera, but after the recent update, swapping to the left will lead you to your friends, while swiping to the right – to a new Discover feed received for media, brands and businesses.
The launch of Snapchat ART
With Snapchat Art, the platform has introduced a new feature mirroring Facebook AR art, allowing users to explore digital art in the psychical world through augmented reality.
The functionality has an official channel where users can see a map of these digital monuments that are now live in different parts of the world – and the team at Snapchat invites users to join the platform and enrich the world with their own creative input. This is part of the company’s effort to pivot to AR and become an industry leader in one of the biggest predicted trends for 2018 – augmented reality.
Remember when we had a limited amount of texts to send out on our phone and how easy it was to max out? For better or worse, messaging apps have completely changed our communication in much the same way the telephone, and later the smartphone have done before them, and mobile providers are all but a thing of the past.
There’s now free, unlimited messaging, as long as there’s internet connection, and there are 5 billion daily worldwide messaging app users to go with it.
As mobile use rises new mobile messaging empires are on the horizon.
With a user base of 1.3 billion monthly active users, and Facebook’s resources and guidance to propel it forward, this app is a big player in the digital communication subcategory.
Whatsapp is the second messaging app owned by Facebook. It got acquired by the company in 2014 for “only” $19 billion, which, even for the tech world, is a pretty outrageous amount of money.
But what’s surprising is that it’s growth is outpacing that of Facebook’s initial messenger app – Whatsapp had right under one billion installs in 2017, which made it an absolute app store category leader.
The company behind the app has been trying to scale out even further by introducing some awesome features in 2017:
- It introduced Delete For Everyone, a feature that allowed users to delete messages they have already sent, in individual as well as in group chats, and made the feature live for all users;
- Added a new Snapchat-esqe status feature that enabled users to share videos and images as status updates;
- It added a two-step optional verification feature;
- Video streaming allows users to watch shared videos while they are being downloaded in the background;
- Added color filters to pictures you send in app;
- The live location sharing service allowed users to track their friends and families’ locations for the first time;
- The platform launched verified accounts for business.
Facebook is focused on constantly pushing new features on its first native messaging app service, Messenger.
Here’s what the popular messaging app is getting:
- Messenger is synced up with Spotify and promised an Apple Music integration;
- The Instant games feature will soon support video chat and already has a live streaming option;
- Messenger bots become more sophisticated than ever;
- Chat extensions through app integrations with Food Network, Facebook’s AI assistant, Mastercard, Spotify and more;
- QR codes that you can scan using the Messenger camera and get connected with branded bots.
The most important marketing trends of 2017
Directly correlated to this drive for revenue are the most important marketing trends of 2017. It goes without saying that visual content is always on trend, so we didn’t include it in the list, but be sure to check out our guide on design and aesthetics for some quick tips on how to master it.
The era of micro and macro Influencers
Influencer marketing is picking up with lightning speed, as a vivid reminder of how thoroughly social media networks have changed our reality. The group of people who have the authority, ability, or platform to influence audiences has changed madly since social networks were first introduced to the internet.
One side of the coin is “fake news”, the other – Influencers. When you combine influencers with another larger than life marketing trend – video, you get YouTubers. YouTubers have formed one of the most powerful influencer networks in social.
The fact that 2017 saw a substantial rise in influencer marketing comes hardly as a surprise. After all, influencer marketing is naturally the answer when:
- People’s resistance to social ads is constantly increasing;
- Ad prices are rising;
- There’s a new generation of consumers whose purchasing decisions are influenced mainly by social media.
But what might have started with brands paying celebrities outrageous sums of money to share a picture with their product on social media, or throw in a mention (tweet, post, tag), has slowly but surely become a nuanced marketing tactic that involves a lot of strategy.
Businesses has branched out to micro-influencers – social media personas with small to moderate followings, but who proved to be of great value when it comes to reaching specifically targeted audiences. Why? They have managed to build what businesses and brands are essentially after: a sense of trust within their communities of people with similar lifestyles.
Think of it this way: a micro influencer is a celebrity within their own circle. Businesses have found that finding a relevant influencer in their particular niche and paying them to promote a specific product leaves them with an 11% better ROI than other, more traditional methods.
It’s no wonder, since 49% of people say they turn to influencers before they make a purchasing decision. But there is one generation in particular that is even more susceptible to the opinions of social media personas they follow and trust: the emerging Generation Z.
A shift towards generation Z
That new generation that will be the first to grow up 100% online? That’s right, it’s Generation Z.
2018 will be the year where millennial marketing becomes last year, as marketers will face the need to shift their attention and adapt their marketing strategies if they want to win over the most tech-savvy demographic of all.
Generation Z consumers are slowly but surely entering the workforce, and it’ll be in no time that they become the customers of tomorrow.
They show a greater resistance to ads, while discounts and sales hardly get to them – they are the children of the Influencer era. By 2020, 40% of all US consumers will actually be from the Gen – Z demographic. And getting to them will require a much more nuanced SMM strategy.
It’s likely that the battle for their attention will play out on Gen-Z friendly platforms, and between Silicon Valley giants: Facebook-owned Instagram, Google-owned YouTube, and Snapchat, the start-up that resisted acquisition by Facebook back in the day.
Ephemeral content and the battle for attention
When Snapchat first came into the social media scene, it was a unique platform that almost immediately appealed to the younger generations. It explored content in a very novel way – by embracing it’s short lived appeal and making it disappear after 24 hours.
With its emergence came an entire new sub industry – the so-called ephemeral (temporary) social media, and has made all other social media network front-runners follow its lead.
The appeal of temporary content is to a great extent due to users’ desires to revert back to a time when they never had to worry about leaving traces in the digital world. The bitter discovery that whatever you post on social media and the internet at large will follow you forever made the appearance of a platform like Snapchat a refreshing twist.
And in the post-Snowden era, when social media has become a place of parental monitoring on Facebook and where “revenge porn” abounds, Snapchat’s self-destruction feature offered a very seductive deal – it pushed the boundaries of social media to what a phone used to be – carefree communication with no traceable record.
While Snapchat faced a formidable rival in Facebook who after not being to acquire the company set its course to copy its most revolutionary features, Snapchat, if anything, had one definite advantage: guaranteed engagement.
Users must keep their fingers on a photo or video to view it–and that applies to any ads thrown their way. Snapchat can tell advertisers with absolute certainty whether their ads were viewed, in an era when a “view” on a social network could be defined in more than one way.
The push for stories
Let’s just say Facebook paid homage to Snapchat by introducing Instagram stories sometime in 2016, although some could argue that they copied them. As if that wasn’t enough of a competition, Facebook went ahead and added stories to their main platform in early 2017, making the battle for social media dominion over temporary content even more intense.
As Facebook and Instagram boast user bases that leave Snapchat in the dust, their success with stories was much more quick and linear and soon “stole” users away from Snapchat.
Instagram had an already established (and huge) ad platform, so influencers naturally flocked to the network as soon as the Instagram Stories feature was introduced. The Snapchat feature designed with a focus on intimacy was immediately snatched, and achieved great success profiting from the world’s mobile-driven habit of social sharing. By adding in external links that made it easy for marketers to sneak in sponsored content the platform pushed social media marketing to new heights.
It allowed Instagram (and later on Facebook as well) to attract marketers and use the stories feature as a brand new ad placement.
In October 2017, Facebook syndicated Instagram Stories to Facebook Stories and users (in the US) now had the option to share their Instagram stories to Facebook stories. Not long after that, the platform announced that the feature will be soon extended to Pages. That would conveniently let businesses, brands, publishers and nonprofits join in, and generate more ad revenue for Facebook in the process. Talk about cross-posting perks.
(картинка — Yup, these are all different social networks.)
Facebook hasn’t rolled out the feature for pages yet, but marketers should keep an eye on it in 2018.
Not to mention that since Instagram stories boast over 300 million users, the cross-posting feature will be a handy way for Facebook to attract them and finally up their numbers of Facebook Stories users, which have only had a moderate growth.
If the platform continues to pursue Snapchat’s most beloved features, the startup whose growth is now slowing down will stand no chance against the social media Goliath.
All in all, regardless of rivalries, one thing remains clear: the success of Snapchat changed the social media content landscape for good.
And marketers better adjust to it.
Cross platform strategy
Making a YouTube video and sharing it on social media has been a perfectly good SMM strategy for ages. But nowadays, there is merit in creating different content relevant to each platform, if you can afford to spend the time, effort, and don’t mind the production cost. One example is Facebook’s new-ish algorithm that seems to greatly favor native Facebook videos.
But there are other reasons for rethinking your cross-posting content strategy: different types of content work differently depending on the platform.
Tip: You might want to share a thorough 20 minute video on YouTube – wonderful. But if you want to share it to your other social media channels, think about it first.
You might want to break it into several interesting, shorter clips and upload it directly on Facebook. When it comes to Instagram, a 10-15 second video with the most important quotes might be the way to go.
That way, you’ll be giving the users of each individual platform what they most what to consume, and linking to your main piece of content while you’re at it.
The success of video
Video is not merely popular – it’s become a crucial part in every social media marketing strategy. The fact that social media spending on video grew 130% this year is simply mind boggling – and it’s predicted to continue to grow.
YouTube is still reigning supreme, but Facebook is closing in with 100 million hours in video watch time. Furthermore, videos on the platform have 64 billion daily views. The company is showing signs that it wants to close in on the video deal fast – it’s constantly changing algorithms, updating and introducing new features, such as Facebook Watch, or the announced in-app video chat for Instant Games.
Live content is one of the biggest trends of 2017, and if you aren’t already incorporating it in your SMM, you better start researching how to do it effectively.
Other good news?
When it comes to organic reach, fresh new features usually means that users will receive perks for using them. Social media platforms have been known to push new features to the top of their news feeds in order to encourage businesses and brands to start using them for their marketing.
Unlike us mere mortals, social media companies have the luxury to promote with algorithms. It happened with Facebook native video, with Facebook live streaming, and of course it’s happening with 360 degree videos (and photos for that matter).
Twitter made the initial step towards live streaming at the end of 2016: it shut down Vine and launched an in-app live video streaming feature.
Social media experts are still debating the merge, wondering whether it’s just another desperate attempt for the platform to find itself and keep up with the growth of other social media players. But it definitely needed something to stay competitive – Facebook has been rolling out its live features gradually since 2015, and making them gain momentum by investing resources on a large scale.
In 2017, the company signed deals with media organisations like Buzzfeed, the New York Times, and the Guardian to produce Live content. The fact that Facebook is definitely raising the bar for live streaming happened in December 2017 – they added the feature to their Instant Games product (launched in late 2016). Facebook now lets their Messenger users broadcast their gameplay on Instant Games directly to their Facebook Page or profile.
The fact that the network scored the exclusive live streaming right for this year’s Golden Globe Award Pre-Show (and that’s including 360 degree videos), and snatched it from Twitter is proof enough that the social media giant is heavily focused on boosting live streaming engagement.
One thing is clear – it’s a prime time for live streaming, so don’t miss the boat.
Key takeaways from the most important marketing trends of 2017
- Micro and macro influencer marketing helps businesses reach specific target audiences more easily and achieve better ROI;
- Effective cross platform strategies include personalizing your content for each platform specifically, as opposed to sharing the same content on multiple platforms;
- More and more companies will use Stories in creative, fun ways as an effective marketing tactic;
- Video content has proved itself the most effective content format for marketing on social media;
- Live videos and 360 degree videos are more likely to be pushed to the top of Facebook News Feed, and generally receive better engagement than other formats;
- More and more businesses start integrating chatbots in their customer service to give their users a more personalized experience;
- Reaching out to temporary content friendly platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram is effective in reaching younger demographics (Gen-Z);
- Twitter shut down Vine and incorporated an updated live streaming version on their native platform;
- Facebook added a live video streaming feature to Instant Games;
- Live streaming is rapidly becoming a major trend on social media, and all major platforms are joining in.
Where is social media headed in 2018
All of the social media trends relevant for 2017 are predicted to reach even greater proportions in 2018. We are to be blown away by the marketing possibilities video, live streaming, augmented and virtual reality, and chatbots will bring. Influencer marketing will grow proportionally to the drop of organic reach, as more and more people turn to social before making a purchasing decision.
An increasing number of businesses will be shifting their marketing strategies to reach Generation Z – and spending more on social media in the process.
Attention is rapidly becoming the most prized resource, with the concept of attention economy gaining more ground than ever, and setting a trend that is most likely to continue to expand in 2018.
Social media acquisition and monopoly
We rarely consider it, but every social media platform is actually a business competing against our attention.
And businesses also compete against each other – in the case of social media, examples of Silicon Valley rivalry abound. The biggest players in the social media field constantly acquire smaller businesses (apps and networks) in the hopes that will make them more competitive of the market.
The Facebook – Instagram story is only one example in a steady stream of Facebook acquisitions in one of the biggest diversification strategies in digital history. Facebook has gobbled up more than 50 companies, small and big, totalling over 23 million dollars spent.
Facebook, since the Instagram acquisition, now owns two of the biggest social media networks and one of the biggest messenger apps – Whatsapp, as well as businesses like Oculus VR that work on producing virtual reality headsets. Considering the circumstances, it’s more than safe to say that whatever direction the company is headed, other social networks will soon follow.
Other major players have also went down the acquisition pathway. With Google acquiring YouTube, and Microsoft – LinkedIn, it’s becoming evident that there is an unmistakable tendency for consolidation.
According to a report by Business Insider: “Ad tech is poised for consolidation, and the number of companies in the industry will decline significantly over the next few years.” The walled gardens of Facebook and Google will pave the way to the future of social media and digital marketing.
The future is mobile
2018 will be all about mobile. Businesses will marketing digitally will have to adapt themselves to this growing trend, and learn how to cater to the unprecedented growth of consumers who now use smartphones and tablets as their primary choice for browsing and engaging on social.
- In the Facebook News Feed, people consume a given piece of content faster on mobile than on a computer (Facebook);
- Around 60% of search queries across the globe come from mobile;
- More Affluent Consumers have purchased something on their mobiles (59%) than their computer (56%) in the last month;
- More and more people are entrusting their phones with their bank account information;
- It’s predicted that mobile payments will reach $503 billion by 2020.
The world is becoming more mobile than ever, both literally and technologically, and the market for mobile is one of the fastest growing markets in the world. According to BusinessInsider, “by 2020, mobile will be the biggest online advertising market, and video the fastest growing.”
Social media networks receive considerably more engagement on mobile, so devising a social media marketing strategy with a focus on mobile is absolutely crucial for any business or brand.
But that doesn’t only mean that you have to realize mobile is important – that’s easy. The question is actually understanding how users behave on mobile.
Stricter codes of conduct
In 2018, the struggle for truth and authenticity on social media will continue. Facebook is, according to its Q1 conference call, quite simply slowing its growth and rising expenses. Early this year, Zuckerberg announced the company will be investing more money in developing stricter conduct policies powered by human reviewers. And he’s not the only one, as we mentioned, Twitter also reinforced its policies in late December of 2017.
But the battle is becoming vicious. Although Facebook’s live feature helped document police killings and later made them go viral, it has also been taken advantage of and put the darker side of the internet in focus: it’s been used to depict crimes in the process, such as the example with the ISIS-inspired double murder in France.
The possibilities that live streaming offers are endless – but so are the consequences, and social media networks will have to focus on tracking offensive and criminal behavior more seriously than ever.
Social media ad prices will go up
Facebook is starting to gradually introduce a new News Feed in order to help its users have “more meaningful social interactions” as you can see from this Facebook video, and states that “person to person will be more valuable than person to page”.
Content publishers will suffer, especially those overly reliant on Facebook, and as they will be forced to pay more to reach their audiences, a lot of small businesses are likely to flock to other platforms (and if they flock to Facebook-owned Instagram, all the better).
The future of social media marketing is more expensive – and with prices at premium, marketers will have to get really smart with their sales funnels and approach their marketing more strategically than ever before.
If you need fresh ideas on how to adapt your SM strategy to the new rules, use our quick tips for businesses and entrepreneurs.
If you need fresh ideas on how to adapt your SM strategy to the new rules, use our quick tips for businesses and entrepreneurs.
Augmented reality, VR and social media
“This is going to be a thing in the future—people standing around looking at blank walls.” – Mark Zuckerberg, 2017
To the ordinary digital consumer, Pokemon Go was a rare glimpse into what augmented reality could potentially become. And it might happen sooner rather than later, as almost all major brands have entered the augmented reality race, with Facebook seemingly in the lead.
But there’s a start up that might give them a run for their money – Spiegel’s Snapchat which resisted a Facebook acquisition back in 2013, as both companies enter the race to make their smartphone apps the first widely-accessible AR tools.
Back in April 2017, during their annual F8 developer conference held in San Jose, Facebook announced new augmented reality tools, and guess what: it’s now becoming crystal clear why Zuckerberg bought Oculus VR.
We are most likely getting AR games that use an innovative technology called “SLAM”. SLAM stands for simultaneous localization and mapping and by using a 3D grid over objects, it can allow people to actually incorporate real-world objects in game. With this innovative technology a simple table can easily become a game board.
Facebook’s had numerous attempts to make photos and videos more like what Snapchat first introduced to video messaging. And it will likely continue in the future, especially with Frame Studio and AR Studio. They are a set of tools that enable developers and artists to create AR content.
Frame Studio allows developers to make 2D overlays—similar to Snapchat geotags—that reside on the borders of the photo or video. The 3D masks the AR studio developers can create track and respond to facial movement (like Snapchat’s widely acclaimed Dog mask). These tools will make creating AR content more accessible.
Facebook’s new AR tools will allow you to place virtual objects into the real world when you view your surroundings through your smartphone, in a manner reminiscent of that of Pokemon Go.
That could mean leaving messages on the fridge for your family, or tagging people with floating notes and tips written on walls, or AR art pieces, accessible through your smartphone. The possibilities are endless
But Facebook is also developing a new Facebook Spaces virtual reality experience dependable on their Oculus VR set. Using the set, you can enter a VR environment and be pulled into 360 degree videos of your choosing, potentially populated by your Facebook friends.
So rather than VR becoming this dark digital place where you can interact with strangers and play out fantasies, Facebook’s vision is to make it a space where you can hang out with friends (although you can’t currently VR with them by using just one Oculus set). There is no chat-room anonymity here, as Facebook pulls your VR data from your public profile.
Although this is only the early stage of what virtual reality can potentially become, the fact that we have a social network introducing a VR beta in 2018 is mind boggling.
Besides, it’s possibly to receive calls while you are enjoying the privacy of your Oculus VR, as Zuckerberg hinted you could as early as 2016, during the Oculus Connect conference.
The rare few who actually own an Oculus VR set and already enjoy the beta can actually post a screenshot (a 3D one at that) of how much fun they are having in VR directly on their Facebook news feed. Other users can then wistfully interact with the 360 image and hope for a time when VR will become more accessible.
And as fast as things are going, it shouldn’t be long.
You can read a review on what the app can do in its beta phase by an F8 conference attendee that was presented with an Oculus VR set.
When it comes to VR and AR, it seems we’ll be seeing more of Black Mirror Waldo and Playtest episodes in the future, and in real life. Facebook has set out to scale Spaces, and in 2018, it just might become the first successful VR social media product.
As for Snapchat, the startup introduced their new “world lenses” in April 2017, after the success of their selfie front-camera lenses, which allow users to swap faces with other users, cover their faces with masks and a plethora of other playful options a year ago.
The new world lenses however, allows users to alter their photos or videos with the addition of 3D objects or text – a such as a smiling rainbow for example. Available world lenses are updated daily, and they are interactive in a way – users are able to walk over, under, or through any 3D objects they place in their footage or snapshot.
There’s one advantage Twitter has over other social media players, despite the company’s slower growth: customer support. However, when it comes to customer support, chatbots are the new sheriff in town.
Chatbots have already had their proper introduction to social media, and have been used as a fast and effective form of communication between brands and consumers. However, in 2017, big business has thrown their weight behind chatbots which means we’ll be seeing a lot more of them in the times to come.
Prepare yourself for customer service to become automated with chatbots.
Can’t think of any possible benefits? There are plenty:
- A consumer interested in a particular product in the middle of the night won’t have to wait until working hours to get a response;
- Businesses will be able to offer products through social media messenger services automatically;
- They will eliminate the need to have a separate site;
- The consumer can enjoy a more intimate, personalized customer service experience.
The use of chatbots is the obvious answer to an increasing number of consumers who prefer social media over phone when it comes to customer support, and expect a real-time response. And as we’ve seen businesses already incorporating them in their service in 2017 – the feedback data is only going to make them more sophisticated.
Whatsapp officially launched their new business app for select markets on January the 18th this year. It will allow access to new messaging tools for businesses to use in order to engage with their consumers. The app offers a plethora of handy messaging tools such as “quick replies” that provide instant answers for customers’ FAQ, “greeting messages” and “away” messages; similar to what Facebook Messenger already offers.
Key takeaways to keep in mind when devising your marketing strategy for 2018
- Facebook will dictate social media trends as the major leading social media player;
- As businesses increasingly shift to digital and social media update their algorithms for organic reach, ad prices will skyrocket;
- Organic reach will continue to decrease;
- Consumers increasingly turn to mobile, by 2020 mobile will be the biggest online advertising market;
- There will be a major shift towards automation in customer service via the use of chatbots;
- As major social media networks will become consolidated, the number of businesses in tech will decline;
- Major social media players, especially Facebook and Snapchat will continue to break new grounds in AR and VR;
- Marketers should always stay informed and be ready to pivot in order to keep up with the fast-paced social media environment.
Over and out!
We’d love to hear your personal experience with social media marketing in 2017. Have any of the abovementioned developments affected your social media marketing strategy?
Marketers face an ever increasing need to stay on track with social media developments, trends and statistics, and constantly research new marketing tactics in order to stay in the game.