There were no shortage of changes to the social media industry last year, which included several new features, consumer preferences and brand opportunities. Looking toward 2018, social media trends will continue to evolve and surprise us.
While it’s impossible to predict how the social media marketing landscape will change over the course of a year, we were certain about a few trends in 2017. For example, artificial intelligence lenses became a smash hit with Instagram Stories. And we saw the beginning of Instagram Shopping, which allows users to make more instant purchases.
Sprout Social even prepared itself for one of last year trends of chatbots on social by releasing both Facebook and Twitter Chatbots. But after such a jam-packed 2017, what can we look forward to in 2018?
That’s why we’re here to provide six social media trends marketers should keep an eye on in 2018:
1. Higher Engagement Rates Between Brands & Customers
The connection between brands and consumers has never been closer than what we see today. Don’t believe us? The Sprout Social Q4 2017 Index discovered 1 in 3 consumers would mention a brand while sharing personal accomplishment on social media.
Consumers not only love sharing personal accomplishments on social media, but they also enjoy getting responses for the milestone by brands. In fact, the data showed 41% of millennials would include a brand on a life milestone just to say thanks.
Wow, way to go! We’re so proud of you and we know you will continue to succeed on our program. Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us. Best wishes.
— Weight Watchers (@WeightWatchers) November 27, 2017
Brands are suddenly realizing the impact of social media engagement and creating lasting relationships instead of just treating social as a platform to advertise their products. It’s absolutely essential to keep your followers happy by providing a network where they can reach you. According to Instagram, at least 80% of its users already follow a brand on the network.
These types of opportunities can be great for your brand in 2018. Just in 2016, our Q2 Index found 89% of social media messages go ignored. While that number has likely dipped a bit over the year, brands still have the power to buck the trend and reach consumers through messages, mentions, comments and more.
Don’t leave your golden chances for communication behind. In 2018, it’s going to continue to be about making relationships and providing feedback when users need it the most from you.
2. Customizable Chatbots
As we just covered, incoming social messages to your brand need a response. But what if your organization receives hundreds or thousands of similar customer service questions? Brands have found an answer and it’s chatbots.
Much like we mentioned last year, social media trends in 2018 point toward another period of growth with chatbots. If we look at the history of chatbots, we see a major spike throughout the previous year, and that growth is likely to continue.
On Facebook Messenger alone, there are more than 100,000 chatbots in use to gather information, give product guidance and take actual orders. In fact, chatbots on Facebook Messenger have been shown to increase organizational productivity by up to 3.5 times.
While more companies implement chatbots, one thing has become clear–not all chatbots are created equally. This means brands rely more on customization of chatbots to answer specific requests.
Sprout Social heard you loud and clear, which is why we created our own Bot Builder for automation conversation workflows. The feature allows brands to easily create, preview and deploy chatbots to their Twitter or Facebook in minutes.
We teamed up with our friends over at Evernote to implement a Twitter chatbot to help with their social customer care strategy. What happened? Evernote saw the number of customers helped through direct messages increase by 80% each month.
The company also saw an 18% decline in replies sent per conversation, limiting the workload for its social media team. Success stories like this are likely to increase in 2018 as more brands turn to custom chatbots. If you want more information on our Bot Builder or want to see it in action, request a demo today!
A Better Way to Manage Social
3. Brands Relying on Social Listening Tools
If you can’t already tell, we have a major theme so far for our social media trends in 2018–taking care of customers. And our next trend follows that same idea by brands relying more on social listening tools.
What is social listening? It’s the practice of tracking your conversations that revolve around specific phrases, words or brands. Then you leverage those words or phrases to find new opportunities to create content specifically for those audiences.
It’s certainly much more than just seeing who’s commenting on your new Instagram post. Social listening tools allow brands to analyze and reflect on their audiences actions. Additionally, organizations can track overall brand health, create better marketing campaigns and ultimately improve customer experiences.
So how can social listening tools help your brand in 2018? Here’s a few reasons why we made social listening a trend for next year:
- Better Customer Care: People’s top choice for customer care is social media. That means you have to track brand health through sentiment analysis. This helps you actively pay attention to what users say.
- More Engaging Content: Truly engaging content is what makes any social strategy strive. So why not use listening tools to see what’s the best content to share in 2018? You can identify topics of importance without the guesswork by tracking hashtags, topics or keywords people use with your brand.
- Newer Marketing Campaigns: If you’re social marketing campaigns are in a funk, it’s time to seek out new opportunities with the help of social listening. These features allow brands to find trends faster so they can get the most from topics or user-generated content.
Like most years in the social world, 2018 can be about learning and growing to be one step ahead. The use of social listening tools is one trend that could push your brand in the right direction.
4. In-Platform Messaging & Instagram Stories
It hasn’t been long since Instagram launched Stories to compete with Snapchat. But in that short period of time, Instagram Stories accrued more than 250 million daily users. That’s astonishing compared to the 173 million daily active Snapchat users, which took years to build.
Instagram Stories tops our social media trends for 2018 list because of the sheer engagement numbers it posts. For example, 1 in 5 organic Instagram Stories from brands see at least one direct message from a consumer. That’s a huge potential for engagement through a somewhat new medium.
The push for “ephemeral” video content (content that lasts a short period of time before disappearing) is continuing to grow for social platforms. And surprisingly, Instagram is leading the way for brands to get more messages through the app.
In fact, the average time spent on Instagram per day grew to 28 minutes since the launch of Stories. That’s roughly 7 to 13 minutes longer than time ranges collected just before Stories. However, users aren’t only ones participating. Instagram has more than 1 million advertisers actively using Stories each month.
For businesses, it’s essential to reach these users where they spend their time. It’s not only smart to understand the in’s and out’s of Instagram Stories, but to be proactive in including it within your social strategies.
But it’s not only the ability to send ephemeral content attracting Instagram users, it’s the in-platform messaging and communication features as well. There are more than 375 million monthly active users communicating via Instagram Direct.
Users love the ability to chat back and forth within photos and videos. This limits the need for texts or public comments. Marketers should expect this trend to continue to rise.
5. More Augmented-Reality & Face Filters
If you thought face filters (also known as AI lenses) were popular in 2017, wait until we see networks continue the push in 2018. Face filters have grown in popularity over the years, but with Instagram’s push toward Stories, you should only expect to see more.
Instagram stated its most popular face filter was the dog ears, which shouldn’t be a surprise as Snapchat’s is the dog filter as well. However, what’s interesting about the two face filter competitors is the advertising ability.
Snapchat allows advertisers to use custom build face filters for all of its users over a period of time. But the price tag for these custom face filter ads can be multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars for a short stint on Snapchat.
Instagram could be next in line to offer brands the chance to get users to interact with their custom built face filter. With the newest iPhone X using facial recognition and augmented reality technology, social media networks are likely the first to dive into the trend.
Instagram released more than 20 features in 2017 and several were part of Instagram Stories. Brands can expect to see face filters, stickers and augmented reality continue to drive social media content in 2018.
6. Social Call-Out Culture & Taking a Stance
The rise of social call-out culture is bringing more responsibility to brand’s social teams whether they like it or not. Consumers turn to social when they feel they’ve been wrong and use their networks as a chance to be heard.
According to the Sprout Social Q3 2017 Index, 81% of consumers agreed social media increased accountability for businesses. But what causes consumers to voice their opinions online? The same index found 3 in 5 consumers said dishonesty from brands causes their social call out.
In today’s social world, it’s hard for even your most loyal fans to keep quiet if something is unsuitable or wrong. Only 8% of consumers said they would be silent if a brand posted something inappropriate on social media.
This causes brands to make more of a social effort or to reinforce a stance through social. A major debate to end 2017 revolves around net neutrality. While many corporations avoid any political stance, Comcast made an effort to post organic and Paid tweets to promote its stance on an open internet.
We do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content. We will continue to make sure that our policies are clear and transparent for consumers, and we will not change our commitment to these principles. pic.twitter.com/YHDADvFqau
— Comcast (@comcast) November 22, 2017
Some brands might think it’s a marketing disaster to address major issues, but our index found only 14% of consumers call out brands for being too political. This doesn’t mean you need to hit on every issue, but in 2018, it’s likely you’ll see more brands address call-outs and social issues.
With 2018 here, it’s necessary to work with your social team and ensure all your ducks are in a row. Learn and reflect on what worked and what needed improvement in 2017 to address the social landscape more effectively. We expect a lot of great things to come in 2018 and hope you have a successful year tackling the newest social media trends.
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