Opinion

The 5 social trends that will be big business for marketers in 2018

From following Instagram hashtags to messenger marketing, We Are Social’s Suzie Shaw predicts 2018’s social media big hitters.

In recent years, innovation in social has largely been fuelled by the tinkering of platform technicians rather than a drive to meet consumer needs. This has given rise to more innovation than the average marketer can comprehend, let alone meaningfully deploy.

So the challenge is identifying the opportunities among the distractions. With this in mind, here are We Are Social’s top picks for innovation in social that brands should actually find useful in 2018.

Social search

Search is historically the domain of Google, which continues to hone the search experience, making it ever more local, personalised and contextually relevant.

However, social platforms are continuing to amass a wealth of data from geo-tags, behavioural insight and interest insights. So with the continued evolution of image search, social platforms are becoming more and more popular places to search.

Facebook is investing heavily in its visual search capability. It is leveraging AI functionality initially developed to improve the experience of visually-impaired users. That will now be extended across the platform, enabling users to search for images via keywords that actually describe the contents of a photo, rather than just tags and captions.

Pinterest’s new ‘Lens’ is also a great example of how a platform is leveraging visual search to serve up inspiration.

An exciting evolution of search on Instagram is the new feature ‘hashtag follows’, which will enable users to follow a particular hashtag, not just a person.

Social commerce

True social commerce is finally here. And for brands with a visual product, this is gold. All the major platforms have introduced shoppable features – from Facebook’s Shop Now stores to Instagram’s shoppable tags, Twitter’s buy buttons and Pinterest’s buyable pins. Even Spotify has developed a commercial proof-of-concept, selling beauty products with Pat McGrath and Maggie Lindemann. Meanwhile, KLM has integrated e-comm natively into its messenger app experience.

Currently, Facebook is driving by far the largest volume of social sales. Early learnings indicate that brands are seeing the most success when the merchandising of products remains ‘native’ to the platforms and range is limited. Consequently, consumers don’t feel like they’ve wandered off the social reservation and into a Costco.

See it, love it, click it, buy it. Sold!

Messenger marketing

Today, four out of the top five platforms globally are messaging apps, surpassing traditional social platforms in terms of DAU (Daily Average Users). With increased usage comes increased opportunities to engage audiences.

The native functionality within messaging apps enables brands to deliver a user experience akin to what can be delivered through a dedicated app, but without consumers committing to a branded app on their phone. For example the recently launched Spotify app extension in Facebook Messenger enables users to search and share songs with friends – all within Messenger.

Additionally, new paid formats are being launched enabling brands to target users within their Messaging ‘feeds’.

And finally, we are also starting to see a return to ‘opt-in’ marketing, whereby consumers can subscribe to content via messaging apps. This could be a great opportunity for content-rich brands.

Influencer

Whilst influencer marketing is certainly not new, it has far from hit its ceiling, and there’s still a huge opportunity for brands to reach and engage new audiences through influencers, rather than via mainstream media.

Major brands from Samsung to Netflix are now employing influencers in both tactical and strategic brand partnerships to build awareness, affinity and even sales.

Social listening

Despite the many hundreds of sophisticated social listening tools available, few brands and organisations are using social listening as strategically as they should.

This astounds me, given how much money is spent on research to ‘understand the customer’. Also, it’s research that is very often flawed, due to the intermediated methodology around claimed attitudes and behaviours. We believe every brand could answer at least five of their big questions simply by listening to what consumers are saying in social, and we’d love to see more of them doing just that in 2018.

Suzie Shaw is managing director at We Are Social

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