Nothing is ever truly static in the digital world. Systems change — they evolve. What was true yesterday might not be true today. In fact, there’s every chance that Google has made several changes to its ranking algorithm while I’ve been typing this sentence.Due to this hectic pace, being a marketer in the social age is tough. A 14×48 foot bulletin billboard is the same in Texas, New Hampshire or North Carolina, but a single marketing strategy has to be specifically tailored for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You may have done great work for a previous campaign, but that doesn’t matter now — you need to start from scratch again, even while maintaining brand consistency.
To ease your way, we’ll look at the inbound trends for social marketers and give you a headstart on your next strategy reformat.
1: Virtual and augmented realities
With virtual reality hardware now ranging from Google’s Cardboard to Facebook’s Oculus Rift, VR adoption will continue through 2019. VR offers immersive experiences and provides an intimate way to familiarise potential customers with products prior to purchase.
Integrating VR and social media feeds provides a new frontier for social network advertising. Instead of simple product images, a customer can interact with a 3D model of your product, even virtually view it in their home setting before committing to their purchase.
2: Making consumers insiders
FOMO, the fear of missing out, is a powerful thing — and though it’s often derided, it provides true insight into how we make decisions. Connected customers like to be informed, the first to know, to be there as it happens. As social media platforms have rolled out various ways of going live to an audience, marketers will soon be able to capitalise.
Providing instantaneous connections through live streaming can not only translate into product sales but also ensure brand connectivity. Potential customers invited into a live stream event can interact, vote and give real-time feedback. By inviting consumers into your process and giving them insight they couldn’t get anywhere else, you can make them feel like insiders, strengthening their ties to your brand.
3: Unfake news
As millennials become the dominant consumer group, conventional advertising is becoming increasingly ineffective. 84% of millennials distrust traditional advertising, and a 2015 Nielsen survey reported that the top four trusted sources were personal acquaintances, branded sites, editorial sites, and user reviews — with advertising close to the bottom of the list.
If you make an effort to move away from old advertising techniques and instead present millennial consumers with useful information and special experiences, you’ll be able to win more customers. You’ll also have a good chance of turning those customers into loyal brand advocates who’ll recommend you to others and/or leave positive reviews (two of the four most trusted sources, remember).
4: Contextual AI assistants
AI will naturally continue its integration with search engines and social media as Siri, Alexa, Cortana and their digital assistant cohorts continue to rise in popularity — but it will also start to revolutionize the first point of contact between retailer and consumer.
Social media AI “bots” that relentlessly suggest products won’t work, of course. Nor will replacing human chat support with chatbot systems (consumers don’t much like that either). The ideal balance will be an assistant that can help someone navigate a site and provide information to enrich their experience by reducing their need to trawl through blocks of text (which they generally won’t do anyway) to find the one thing they need.
5: Keeping things simple
You’ve likely heard the term “growth hacking”, and it’s going to stick around — but it will continue to mean very little in itself, because nothing about it is novel. The idea of using data to grow marketing return goes back at least as far as 1923 and the publication of Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins. Here’s why it’s relevant right now:
In his book, Hopkins set out all he had learned about advertising, from A/B testing and coupons to the wording of advertisements and resilience in the face of failure. Anyone who has used Google Ads will immediately understand why these principles are important. Overall, he advised that marketers keep it simple — and we’re due a resurgence of that idea.
Today, brands have learned that lengthy keyword-heavy content isn’t inherently more valuable, whether for a consumer or a specific social media platform. Short and sharp is better than long and dull. Everything moves so quickly in social media feeds that the most important thing is holding attention for as long as possible — and that actually calls for brevity, because waffling will drive people away.
6: Understanding your customers
Researching their customers has always been a smart move for marketers: after all, why use a scattergun strategy and hope to catch the relevant 1% when you can target that 1% directly? The ever-increasing collection and manipulation of customer data and metrics will continue into 2019, and will bring with it a rising need for checks and balances along the lines of Europe’s GDPR.
The best way to understand what your customers want and how they behave is to reach out to them. Built-in polling mechanics on social media platforms and post-purchase surveys can be incentivized to increase response rates, and the collected data (even if anonymized to adhere to GDPR-style limitations) can help you build a customer profile to serve as the foundation for your social campaigns.
7: Knowing how to prioritize
Immediately adopting all the trends in a list article is not going to revolutionize your business and deliver immediate success. That has never been viable, and likely never will be. Instead, it’s a matter of knowing how to choose the right options at the right times. This is something that really sets the top brands and businesses apart.
If you’re a solo operator, for instance (running your own ecommerce startup and correspondingly short on funds and time), then investment in website AI shouldn’t be a major priority for you. Or maybe you’re a website flipper looking to drum up some brand recognition to increase the value of your site before the direct selling of your business, in which case you don’t really need to focus on customer loyalty (they soon won’t be your problem).
On the other end of the spectrum, you might be the head of a large company with grand ambitions and a healthy budget, but even then you need to figure out an order of work priority. You can’t (and shouldn’t) do everything at once. Follow this trend above all others to keep up with the flexibility of the modern business world — stay focused and pursue only the methods that best suit your brand.
While the social marketing environment continues to develop alongside advances in technology and the inevitable changes in demographics, three core elements of marketing continue to hold true: be informative, be responsive, and be honest.
Informed customers connecting with brands they trust form the foundation of the business world. Choose wisely from these industry trends, and ensure that you nurture your social media followers to keep them content and earn their loyalty.
Victoria Greene is a writer and brand consultant blogging for Victoriaecommerce. Here she helps brands ‘hack their growth’ with ecommerce. Big fan of social selling and content marketing through storytelling.