About 90% of companies use social media for outreach, customer service and sales. Considering that Facebook has 1.71 billion users, WhatsApp and YouTube each have a billion, and Instagram has 500 million active users, it’s wise to invest time and effort into analyzing how best to reach these audiences. So, what are the social media trends we expect to continue and expand into 2017?
1. Live video
Livestreaming app Periscope pioneered live video, but it really came into its own in 2016 with Facebook’s streaming platform, Facebook Live. Both individuals and brands started using it to interact with friends and followers.
Strategy: Video consistently inspires greater engagement than other formats; if you want to capitalize on livestreaming video, try using a question-and-answer format to encourage interaction and participation.
2. Mobile first
Mobile users now generate more search traffic to retail sites than desktop and laptop users. Google favors mobile-friendly websites in its search algorithm, so if your desktop site contains less information than the mobile version, you won’t rank as highly in search results.
Strategy: If the adage is, “Go where the customers are,” it’s pretty clear that you need to be designing your web content with mobile in mind from the get-go—not just creating a second-tier mobile site to complement your desktop site.
3. Pay to play
We’ve reached the end of the halcyon days when we could reach mass numbers of customers through free social media posts. These days, only a percentage of your fans will even see your posts as a result of algorithms that attempt to cut down on the clutter in people’s news feeds.
Strategy: Post meaningful, entertaining content that your followers are interested in, and you’ve got a chance at getting through. But if your posts lean toward a more conventional marketing message, be prepared to pay for views. Consider boosting posts, for example. For a relatively small investment, you can boost two posts (or more) per month and see your reach extended.
4. Executive visibility
61% of Fortune 500 CEOs still have no social media presence, but Facebook’s new “business influencer” program and LinkedIn’s “Pulse” platform are showcasing business VIPs in a big way.
Strategy: If possible, get your big dogs to engage in social media and display their expertise in your field. It’s becoming more and more of a business necessity.
5. Influencer marketing
If you read a cooking or fashion blog, follow a celebrity on Instagram, or have a child addicted to those toy-unboxing videos on YouTube, you’re already familiar with influencer marketing. Trusted personalities use their platforms to promote products—either because they legitimately love the brands, or because they’re being paid to do so. Either way, these posts and videos don’t get filtered the way, for example, promotional Facebook posts do. And because consumers trust endorsements from people they know—or feel that they know—this type of marketing can be quite effective.
Strategy: Although you can certainly investigate the idea of a paid sponsorship with “celebrity” influencers, it’s free (if you don’t include your time) to seek out relationships with the people who sing your praises online without prompting. Their reach may not be as far, but their genuine enthusiasm for your product—and their excitement when you reach out with previews or freebies—will come across loud and clear to their audiences.
6. Increased personalization
The amount of data we have access to now means that ads can be finely targeted to the right people at the right time. This is especially true on social networks. And because there is so much content available, targeted advertising is more important than ever.
Strategy: Take advantage of the multiple tools and services available to help you identify your target customers, produce niche content and innovative campaigns that will resonate with them, and deliver that content where and when it can do the most good.
7. Augmented/Virtual Reality
The Pokemon Go! mania proved that augmented and virtual reality have become viable marketing tools if wielded properly. Although marketers are just beginning to conceive of the potential behind AR and VR, the intrepid brands that step into this arena in 2017 will surely receive plenty of media coverage.
Strategy: If your brand has a physical location such as a retail store or car dealership, consider adding proximity-based offers and customer-experience enhancements to your marketing tool box.
We've been saying this for years, but it's more true now than ever: a smart social-media strategy is no longer optional—it should be part of any marketing department's plan. Whatever 2017 brings, it's sure to inspire more innovative, colorful ways to "cut through the clutter" and engage with customers. Keep watching this space for more proven marketing strategies in 2017!