Social media is a fluid tool, continually and rapidly changing as new platforms and ways of engaging with current, long-standing platforms are introduced. The way users participate on and respond to social media changes quickly too. According to one social media expert, “The social media world is constantly evolving, and the pace seems to be constantly becoming more rapid. It’s important to stay on top of current trends and changes so that you’re not left behind.” We agree. And since we know keeping up with social media trends is a sometimes overwhelming task, our New Year’s gift to you is this list of the top trends predicted for 2017. And though it’s not comprehensive, it contains the trends experts say will stick around, grow, or make big this year.
The capability to post videos on platforms has been around for a bit, and while still highly recommended, there’s a slight shift in the way videos are presented. Rather than posting a video after the fact, live videos are now the way to go. Posting live gives users the feeling of being in the moment and of having a vicarious experience. And this tool ties in neatly with another trend predicted to keep growing over the year: real-time content.
Social media is a type of virtual reality, and users are looking to experience content rather than read “old” status updates. Real-time content creates a sense of urgency with users—“live now” indicates they’ll miss something important if they don’t view your video now. You can use this to your advantage by posting a real-time interview with top company directors, a tour of your brick-and-mortar store (or a virtual tour of your site if you conduct business completely online), and you can even make an exclusive announcement regarding special deals or savings for those viewing your live video.
This type of content is even more urgent because it disappears from your profile after a certain amount of time. Instagram Stories works this way—a user posts slideshows of photos or videos (not live) available only for twenty-four hours until they disappear forever into the cyber abyss. This drives followers to your profile now and is another great way to post exclusive announcements, sales, and discounts to those viewing your expiring content.
Before we go further, let’s talk about Snapchat (now simply called “Snap”). This mobile app launched in 2011 and allows users to take “snaps”—photos and videos—which disappear (within seconds!) after the receiver has viewed them. It’s also used to send messages, but these aren't regular-old Facebook messages. You can use filters and doodling tools to make messages fun—and you can do this with snaps as well. You can also create stories, or collections of your snaps, that can be viewed for twenty-four hours. Snap has become hugely popular and is expected to become more so. Do businesses use Snap? Yes. There’s a Discover button the app users can click to view exclusive content from brands they follow. Check out this post from Brandwatch to view successful Snap marketing campaigns, and this one from Plus for a quick guide to using the platform.
So why all this information about Snap? It’s trending, and other platforms are following suit, adding their own expiring-content tools—Instagram Stories, for instance. As with the advice to concentrate on a small number of platforms, users are concentrating on platforms that interest them most, and the trend seems to be that they’re concentrating on platforms that give them more in-depth, true-to-life content. A post that is live and can’t be seen again? That’s virtual reality.
Social Media Is Social
It’s a no-brainer. Users are looking for a more personal experience with social media. Using automation tools to post content is a great time saver, but make sure you also spend time interacting with those who engage with your posts. With the advent of social media, it was feared things would become more impersonal. While that may not be necessarily false, it’s not necessarily true, either. Social media is (shall we say it again) a virtual space to interact with others, and knowing that a real, live person is on the other end of the profile is appealing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at having to post on and interact on every single platform, don’t worry. Just concentrate on the platforms your ideal customers frequent and where you get the most engagement.
Quality over Quantity
We can’t say it enough. Creating quality content over a bunch of mediocre posts will win you customers every time. Original, interesting, and engaging content on platforms where you have the most followers/engagers/influencers in your business area is the best use of your social media time and dollars, giving you a higher ROI. Experts say that good visuals are key in drawing engagement. Users are looking to be emotionally, visually, and artistically drawn in by the content, connected to it by an internal response they have when viewing and reading your posts. Remember, social media is social! You’re trying to engage real people, not bots or fake followers. Dig into niche areas of your business, create interactive content, and run innovative campaigns. If you take the time to create even one offering of this type over ten run-of-the-mill posts, you’re bound to get a better response.
Don’t forget those already-established social media ninjas who will influence their (thousands of) followers to check out your company by sharing your content and pages. You have to find these people—they aren’t looking for you. The easiest way to find influencers is to identify people who may be interested in your products and reach out to them. If you establish a good relationship, they’ll market you by sharing your posts, promoting your brand, and even creating content on your behalf. (Do we need to say that social media is social again?)
Organic visibility—people seeing your post through unpaid distribution—isn’t dead, but it’s not thriving, either. For people to see your post, you need to strategize about the best ways to increase shares and reach out to influencers who can help to increase your reach. Additionally, experts are saying that at some point, businesses should consider paying for advertisement to increase online visibility. This is another area where you’ll want to consider which platform you should concentrate on—it wouldn’t be worth your time or money to advertise on a platform where you have few followers and little to no engagement.
Optimize for Mobile
We’re constantly on the go these days. And research shows that social media users are choosing their mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) to visit retail websites over desktop computers. This is the first time the numbers have been heavier on the mobile side of the scale—and businesses should take note! Visitors to your site want a user-friendly experience on their mobile devices. Not optimizing for mobile can cost you potential customers. For more on mobile optimization, check out this article from Moz.
What other predictions have we left off our list? Share with our readers and comment below. We’d love to hear from you!