The axiom that the only constant is change certainly applies to social media. Expect even more change in 2018 due to emerging technologies, competition between platforms and shifting user habits. Social media will undergo more transformations as smartphones get smarter, networks gain or lose popularity, and bandwidth increases.
Augmented reality. The new iPhone 8 and iPhone X provide advanced augmented reality (AR) capabilities, and Facebook is hard at work at its Camera Effects Platform for smartphones. Some companies initially used augmented reality for games like Pokémon Go, but the technology offers a plethora of practical applications. As a range of social media platforms incorporate AR technology, innovative brands will project their products into the homes of social media users and offer virtual tours of their facilities. Colleges may be able to offer virtual tours of campus and museums may offer tours of their collections and what places looked like in the past.
Live streaming. Streaming of live video on the internet will go mainstream in 2018. Innovative organizations already recognize its benefits. GORUCK, a backpack manufacturer, dramatically increased its reach by live streaming its endurance events on Facebook. Thousands of followers tuned in to watch 48-hour coverage of a recent endurance race. Advances in smartphones and faster data transmission speed will open the door to an explosion in live streaming.
“Live streaming is a medium or implementation of social technology that’s uniquely positioned to take advantage of hardware improvements for the next several years,” says Christy Laurence, founder social media marketing app Plann. Showing interesting live events has always generated large audiences, but broadcasters controlled the channels. Now, companies and not-for-profits can broadcast their own live events to targeted audiences. Companies, for instance, can broadcast analyst meetings. Small college sports or special events can now be available live for viewing alumni and other interested followers worldwide. Fundraising auctions can now reach many more participants than in-person attendees.
Influencer marketing. Companies will increase investments in influencer marketing. Companies realize that influencer marketing is more effective than traditional marketing. Some observers argue that influencer marketing will fall out of favor due to measurement challenges, fake influencers, and high costs of celebrity endorsements.
However, new tools such as social media measurement services will allow brands to efficiently scale up and measure influencer marketing campaigns. Rather than paying social media stars for brand mentions just because they have enormous numbers of followers, marketers will seek influencers with deep connections with their audience and more closely track results.
Messaging apps. Companies will invest more to offer personalized shopping experiences on messaging apps like Messenger, WhatsApp and Kik. Innovative brands will use the apps to communicate with audiences throughout the marketing funnel. More than 2.5 billion people use messaging platforms worldwide.
“The last year or so has been all about the hype and innovators, but now businesses are seriously working out what value they can offer them and how they can incorporate them into their current systems and processes,” Joanna Halton, founder of Jo & Co., told Econsultancy.
Social media listening. More companies will recognize the value of social media listening for the entire sales and marketing funnel. Over a third of sales and marketing decision-makers surveyed (36 percent) believe social selling will become the “default way to engage with buyers in the future,” according to Forrester Consulting research. Recognizing the rising importance of social selling, businesses will invest more in social media listening tools and develop social selling processes, the research predicts.
Bottom Line: Social media will change tremendously in 2018. Brands that embrace new trends quickly can gain competitive advantage. Those that ignore ongoing changes may lose their audiences and waste their resources. Even if marketers don’t jump on the latest trends and technology gizmos, it’s essential for them to be aware of fast-moving social media changes.