Social trends to watch out for in 2018
IN 2017, we saw the increase in consumer use of social networks across all global markets. While connecting with friends is the top motivator for individuals to use social networks, consumers are engaging in new activities such as listening for live broadcasts, product research, interacting with messenger bots and watching an increasing number of mobile videos.
As a result of this trend in consumer behavior, businesses are having to mature and adapt their marketing strategies.
Hootsuite’s 2018 Social Trends Report, now in its third year, looked at five key global social media trends set to drive marketer’s strategies this year.
Rise of AI
According to the report, marketers are starting to discover how useful machines can truly be for their brand. We are very quickly moving into a much more personalized consumer experience, in which brands can build stronger connections with individuals.
The report adds that it is crucial for marketers to understand the far-reaching disruptions AI will bring to social marketing; for instance, the maturing of predictive analytics.
Roger Graham, senior director of Growth & Marketing at Hootsuite Asia Pacific, spoke to Tech Wire Asia about the impact of AI on both consumers and brands.
“For consumers, it’s speeding up your ability to get to your outcomes,” he said.
“Years ago, you’d have to go to a telephone book and search for, let’s say, a barber or watch repair shop. Then Google brought that front and center, and now AI is taking this to the next level where it would know things like what kind of hairstyle you prefer or what watches you wear. It would give you that subset and speed up your search”.
From a business perspective, AI is allowing brands to become more customer-focused by looking at data on past trends; meaning brands can tailor what their teams can deliver for product research.
“Brands are learning how to leverage this data and gain insights from it. AI will evolve and has a very long future, but for now its just speeding things up,” Graham said.
According to a Narrative Science survey, 38 percent of companies surveyed used AI in 2016, but this is set to reach 62 percent in 2018. Chatbots have seen a significant adoption increase by brands. According to Gartner, 85 percent of all customer service interactions will be powered by AI bots by 2020.
Mainstream institution trust declines, peer influence rises
The year 2017 saw an explosion of fake news, causing a significant erosion of public trust in mainstream institutions. It appears consumers are moving more and more away from putting their trust in institutions and toward smaller, more authentic communities.
The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer found that two-thirds of the countries surveyed are now “distrusts”, meaning they have under 50 percent trust in mainstream institutions – including business, government, media and NGOs – to do what is right.
As these larger corporations are failing consumers, people are increasingly turning to more familiar sources of information: each other.
“Any brand or company should realize their buyers are looking to their peer networks through social to get indications of what they should buy and trust,” Graham said.
Yet brands should not fear this shift in trust. According to Graham, brands just need to understand who their customers are, where they are actually engaging, and thus where to put their content.
“Have review sites for example, as well as blog sites. That’s what I see as the direction or what brands should look at,” says Graham.
Rise of social influencers
In today’s marketing strategies, we are increasingly seeing the rise of social media influencers: from celebrities or macro-influencers with followers in the millions, to micro-influencers defined as those with between 10,000 and 100,000 followers and the small-knit community of nano-influencers, who have fewer than 10,000 followers.
But with such a variety of influencers to choose from, which is best for your brand’s marketing strategy? According to Graham: “All of these kinds of influencers have a place, it just depends what your business goal is and what you’re trying to do.
“For example, for celebrities or macro-influencers, they’re good at reaching very large audiences, sending a simple brand message or increasing the awareness of a product or service.
“Micro-influencers are about just making sure that there is clarity for how brands are perceived in certain buying circles, whether it’s a forum or Facebook group.
“Nano-influencers is really getting down to the personalized one to one, your very tight peer network, and finding out what they’re interested in and getting alignment there.”
According to Graham, each influencer type has its place, and companies need to understand where customer decisions are happening on social networks. “From a marketing standpoint, this will tell you where to leverage the types of influencers,” he said.
Yet brands must understand the use of social influencers is only effective if partnered with brand authenticity.
“You need to make sure your brand is true to what your message is, and your product or service delivers what it says it’s going to do. Otherwise, no matter what your influencer strategy is, it’ll fall flat if your product doesn’t deliver,” said Graham.
Evolution of social ROI
Although businesses seem to be getting better at using social media, their biggest challenge remains in measuring the success and value of their efforts. The Hootsuite survey reported 56 percent of respondents said the inability for them to prove the ROI of social media made it difficult for their organization to be successful in that regard.
“It’s getting more complex because there’s a lot more data you have to work with, but it is also getting easier because the days of digital instantly evolve the possibilities of measurement,” Graham said.
“Companies need to make sure they’re really clear about their social activity and how it can drive click-through and conversions on page.”
“As a marketer, you need to understand your full funnel, where the buyer journey starts and how that converts through the funnel. Once you can do that, and understand how this is connected, then your ROI story will become a lot clearer and that’s where marketers are having a lot more success at identifying ROI,” he said.
Mobile fuels the growth of social TV
Increasing mobile adoption and shortening attention spans have led to the growth in the consumption of video content. According to Hootsuite, in 2018, social networks will encourage brands to become broadcasters as mobile video and social-TV becomes increasingly popular for consumers.
“What is happening is people are turning to social for research and entertainment.”
“So it’s going to benefit brands, because there’s a much more dynamic type of content they can get out to the market, and they can learn a lot more through data about what their users are really talking about.”
For many companies, social TV offers the opportunity to increase organic reach. One study by L2 found that the live video engagement in June 2017 was 25 percent higher than the overall Facebook video engagement rate.
Snapchat is just one example of a big business that has leveraged the power of social TV in enticing mobile-obsessed millennials. The social media platform introduced a “made-for-social”-style series named Phone Swap. The series gained 10 million viewers per episode and become so successful that it was picked up by TV networks and will be turned into a full-length TV show.
“Over the next few years, the much bigger driver of business and determinant of how we do is going to be video, not Messenger,” said Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s Q2 2017 Earnings Conference Call.
So, how can your brand become a successful social TV broadcaster? According to Graham, the key is to test, test, test.
“Taking a look at what we do at Hootsuite, we like to test things out. Once you understand your audience and what kind of medium they are engaging with, you want to identify what your goals are and then test that out before you make massive commitments from a resourcing and budget standpoint.”
Promise (and reality) of social data
Social listening, the understanding of what’s happening in the market, has long been acknowledged as a valuable tool to uncover customer insights.
According to Graham, social listening is an important tool for two significant reasons. First, social listening, driven by strategic thinking, allows a brand to understand buyer behaviour and the buyer journey. The second use surrounds curiosity about competitors.
“[Number] two is understanding what your competitors are doing so you don’t get blind-sided by a phenomenal strategy they achieved [which] you hadn’t seen coming because you weren’t listening to what is happening in the market,” Graham said.
However, collecting social data is the easy part. To realize the true promise of social data, marketers will need to expect hard work ahead. But, according to Graham, marketers are becoming increasingly better at utilizing social data.
“Marketers themselves are getting better at understanding how to derive insights from that data, and where to connect that to their business needs very quickly. That’s the job of the marketers, to take the summarization of that data and turn it into actionable strategy they can deliver to their marketing programs,” he said.
So, as we begin a new year, it is certain the dominance of social networking will continue to increase. According to Graham, in order to best leverage the power of it, there is a requirement to drive education across an organization about social. This includes how best to use it, as well as how to unlock the power of social in order to drive business results.
“We see social spanning across departments now; it’s not just isolated to marketing – it’s in your sales organization, HR… executives are looking to understand how to leverage social and how to drive a strong brand,” Graham said.
“Education across an organization is becoming more and more important, because social is across most departments now. So we need to be connected and aligned into what social can bring and unlock for a company from a business standpoint.”