ilk PR Account Managers, Andrew Rowley and Shauna Madden, talk all things social media for the year ahead…
Last year we saw some of the biggest changes to how the big three platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) showed content to its users. Algorithm changes meant it became extremely difficult for brands to have their content seen organically. To even be seen in a crowded space, brands had to adapt their strategies and really begin giving the platforms what they wanted, either in terms of money or creative content.
These changes were felt massively by brands – especially on Facebook, where 52% of brands saw their organic reach decline as a result of changes to the platform’s algorithm. As a result, we saw a huge rise in ad spend across brands and platforms who were keen to ensure their content wasn’t going unseen.
So as we move further into 2019, how is the social landscape for brands shaping up?
It’s about to get personal: brands will bring personalisation and targeting to the fore
Personalised and bespoke content, particularly in the form of paid advertising, will become more valuable than ever.
From a paid perspective, social ad budgets will continue to climb as brands pay more for their results and the competition on each channel increases. CPM on Facebook alone has risen by 112% in the past year. Refining targeting to make it more bespoke than ever will be key for brands looking to get bang for their buck. Ad formats such as in-store targeting, engagement-based ads and traditional retargeting ads will become more frequent, more targeted and more cleverly nuanced.
As a consumer, expect to see content based on your location, buying habits, almost-bought habits, travel plans and even relationships. As a brand, making the most of your customer data and profiling, as well as your customer journeys, will be key to ensuring you don’t get left behind by the personalisation trend.
As for innovative techniques, it’s likely that more brands will begin to widen their personalised marketing efforts using artificial intelligence driven personalised video content. Brands who have already begun to enter this space include Coca-Cola, the National Lottery and Walkers Crisps, the last of which was trolled online as users began to take advantage of a recent campaign’s personalisation aspect.
Whilst there are still some kinks to work out, utilising AI and bots may be a viable option for incorporating personalisation into social media strategies for bigger campaigns. It’s not all so complicated, though. For less time-consuming forms of personalisation, such as personal address, tone of voice shift and content sharing, AI isn’t necessary.
No more fake news: brands will be working on building trust with users
2018 was the year of mistrust. Data breaches saw Mark Zuckerberg in the middle of a PR nightmare (and the star of a new meme), whereas brands like Listerine came under fire for partnering with influencers who promoted unrealistic lifestyles. As a result, users are looking for authenticity now more than ever – especially from the influencers they follow.
Influencers rose in popularity for being ‘everyday’ people that resonated with their audiences, able to influence their purchasing decisions through a relationship built on trust, relatability and transparency. However, as these boys/girls-next-door rose to new heights of notability, the line between ‘just-like-me’ and celebrity has blurred, resulting in the relationship between influencer and audience becoming strained.
Influencers are still a viable and effective marketing tactic, but they need using effectively. Truth and clarity need to be at the forefront of every social campaign in order to achieve a good ROI with you influencer marketing budget. What’s more, it’s time to stop looking solely at follower numbers. Working with micro-influencers might actually be a better route for your brand. Whilst these influencers have smaller audiences, they’re usually more engaged – they retain the realism that made influencers what they are today. Sometimes it’s about quality over quantity, especially if it’s your brand’s reputation at stake.
Here one minute, gone the next: brands will experiment with ephemeral content
A key element in Snapchat’ popularity was its introduction of ephemeral content. It urged users to be invested in the app (leaving little-to-no focus for anything else) in order to interact with others. While this enabled the channel’s rise for a few years, capturing new audiences and popularising AR filters on selfies, the platform’s success dwindled for users aged 18+ when channels like Facebook and Instagram began to offer ephemeral functions. This caused the average daily active users on Snapchat stories to drop to 166m on average. That’s a decline of 40% year on year versus Instagram Stories, which gained 250 million users in a far shorter time frame. And the gulf continues to widen.
So how will it look in 2019? Ironically, ephemeral content isn’t going anywhere. In fact, LinkedIn is currently trialling it’s own ‘Stories’ function for the student demographic. If successful, it could be rolled out to all users giving, brands a whole new platform to employ ephemeral content.
In order to stay relevant this year, brands need to make sure they’re using stories more effectively. But this can’t just be a tool to promote more of the same sales messages and studio quality content. In fact, the Guardian recently discovered that ‘less polished’ videos work better on Instagram stories. So feel free to approach this mini-platform with a slightly different approach than your main page.
Think inside the inbox: brands will adapt to a messenger approach
Whilst it might contradict what many social media marketers consider to be the point of social, it appears that more and more social media users are choosing to remove their lives from the public eye, and instead utilise the private messaging functions built in to channels. Messaging channels provide ease of use, alongside the personalised and relationship building elements that many users – particularly younger ones – are now searching for in their social media experience.
If the current crop of apps isn’t enough of a reason to get on board with this approach, rumblings at Instagram HQ suggest that their own dedicated direct messaging app – which has been tested in Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey and Uruguay – will experience a full roll-out in 2019. It’s a move that’s been marked as a ‘new Snapchat’, with a similar photo-first user experience.
For brands, this means taking a step back and understanding how to best utilise messaging. For many, the first venture across this new frontier will be through the use of coded chatbots. Technology giant Oracle claim over 80% of businesses hoping to use automated messaging services by 2020.
2019 in summary
This year will be an interesting and challenging one for brands using social media, but the importance of the platforms won’t waiver. Each January, as we predict these trends, we know only one thing – the way that brands use social media needs to constantly change, adapt and work with the platforms to stay successful and relevant.
With division and mistrust at the top of mind, the tide is turning. For 2019, brands need to keep one thing at the front of mind: Social media is no longer all about dramatic growth and global popularity for its users. Now more than ever, they’re on their chosen channels looking for something real, personal, authentic and trustworthy.