As 2017 draws to a close, it’s time for us to dig out our crystal balls and gaze into the future of all things social. This year we’ve seen a huge rise in influencer marketing, personalised content and branded chatbots and whilst, to many, it may seem that social media is reaching its peak, it is in fact still very much in its infancy, which means we have lots to look out for in 2018.
The realms of dark social have yet to be properly explored, partly because as the name suggests it’s the side to social that’s more hidden. There are no algorithms to contend with and no brand engagement to be had, making it harder to break into, a bit like the Upside Down world in Stranger Things. These are messaging platforms such as emails, Slack, Facebook Messenger & WhatsApp where users have private conversations with one another, steering away from the pressures of sharing things in public where they may be judged.
What is sent between these communications is something that we can’t track, or not as accurate as we’d like to be able to, but it’s one to watch in 2018 as social on mobile grows and these platforms evolve. Marketers should be starting to incorporate dark social shares into their performance reports, placing a greater focus on the real metrics rather than just the vanity metrics.
Whilst video might have been a recurring trend for the past few years, we’ve really seen it blossom in 2017 and in 2018 it’s going to bloom. Video allows users to consume content in a more digestible way, and as a mobile-first culture takes centre stage, the rise in its popularity isn’t slowing down.
Social platforms have already started to tweak their algorithms to provide users with their preferred experience, and this is only going to continue into next year as video content matures. However, a video for video's sake won’t work, there needs to be a well-executed strategy behind it. Within this, brands will need to be considering what type of video content they’re producing. Less than 30% of people turn their phone to watch a video horizontally, and over 80% of video content is viewed without sound, so these are important elements marketer’s will need to take into account when crafting their video plans.
One form of video content that started to take shape in 2017 was live videos, and we can expect more and more brands to embrace this format as we move into 2018. The commitment that live streaming brings means it attracts interested audiences, allowing brands to offer a personalised and instant experience with fans that really care.
But as live streaming is adopted by more platforms and more publishers, the quality and context of these video formats will have to be sharpened regardless of the platform; whether it’s used to unveil a new product on Facebook or provide Instagram users with a backstage pass at an exclusive event.
It can be argued that every one of us is an influencer on social nowadays in one way or another, as we share so much of our daily lives, but utilising the power that content creators have, such as bloggers and vloggers is a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon.
Relationships with influencers will become more complex as more and more brands approach these individuals, so relationships need to be meaningful and personal, benefiting all parties involved. Whilst these creators hold power over a large proportion of the spectrum, users are going to be inundated with influencers across their feeds, so brands will need to move away from just partnering with influencers, and turning to experts who carry weight in their field.
A trend within these trends is that they are nearly all connected in one shape or form, impacting how they each grow in 2018, but each one is deserving of their own section, and the rise in influencers, video, and mobile means ephemeral content is set to soar within the next year.
For those unfamiliar with the term, ephemeral content is content that has a short life-span such as Snapchat and Instagram Stories, disappearing forever after a certain amount of time. The impact this type of content can have meant it in itself will need its own strategy, especially when reaching out to generation z and millennials. The authenticity of this content and the FOMO (fear of missing out) effect is what makes it so popular, and with the introduction of new features from LinkedIn and Snapchat, we are going to be seeing more and more success stories from this style of content.
Although, millennials have just about grown out of the focus of social trends as generation z are set to become the class of 2018. Born in and after 1995 and growing up in the online space, they are a lot more social savvy than previous generations; fluent in the language of hashtags and filters, consuming content across multiple channels throughout their day.
With an average attention span of eight seconds, four seconds less than millennials, brands have a tiny amount of time to make an impression before they get bored, making them a hard demographic to engage with. This means brands need to be continuingly finding innovative ways to engross and connect with this audience. Alongside this, if you talk the talk, you’ve got to be able to walk the walk. Through the rise of ephemeral content, generation z’s connect with brands and what they stand for on a much deeper level, so brands have to prove that they are what they say they are and they do what they say they do.
Augmented Reality (AR) has been a buzzword in the marketing world for the past few years, but it was Snapchat’s selfie lenses in 2016 that really geared things up on social media. By taking a user’s current location and combining it into an exclusive encounter, it’s begun to challenge and change the way we communicate online. It’s shaping social experiences and setting expectations, and with AR being incorporated into new technologies such as the new iPhone, we’re expecting to see this trend rise dramatically.
Not only will we see other platforms such as Facebook and Instagram begin to champion AR, but we’ll see brands producing more immersive and engaging experiences, linking their business with technology whilst seamlessly blending the digital world with the real world. Some, such as Estee Lauder has already started experimenting with this through their chatbot and partnership with ModiFace that allows users to virtually try out lipsticks and then go on to purchase their match. However, it’s key to remember that AR on social is still in the early stages, meaning some brands will need to tread carefully with how they incorporate it into their strategies.
We can’t talk about trends of 2018 without mentioning mobile, and whilst it may sound like a record stuck on repeat, mobile social experiences are set to continue to change throughout next year. As mobile-focused platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat pave the way, channels such as Facebook are having to rethink mobile optimisation, which will put a higher emphasis on content, ads and features such as Facebook Messenger.
Because of these brands should be starting to think about how their mobile social experience is perceived. Brand profiles such as imagery and the copy should be optimised for mobile consumption, emphasis should be placed on mobile ad formats and the content that’s published and shared needs to be able to be digested easily on a mobile device, wherever and whenever.
With the evolution of social in 2018, companies will be able to connect with audiences on deeper levels in more meaningful ways, and so for brands to become major players in their industries, they’ll need to be adapting and adopting these trends to keep themselves ahead of the game.