Recent Social Media Trends for Businesses

Social Strategy, Reputation Management

Social Media Trends to Watch

The relationship between individuals and social media evolves quickly due to platform updates and a constant flood of new users. New studies are constantly uncovering emerging trends about how brands win influence on social media. Read below to find some of the freshest research compiled from key social media players. Five trends stand out as especially important and actionable.

1 – Importance of Social Advocacy

Your social media fans are some of your best advertisements.

Decreased Trust

The Edelman Trust Barometer found a decline in the percentage of the United States population that trusts the media in recent years. This loss of trust plagues social media platforms as well as traditional outlets. Users are less likely than before to have faith in brands, and are increasingly on the lookout for dishonest content and “fake news.”

Facebook’s algorithm may account for these feelings, as a recent update decreased the reach of media pages– brands are having a harder time showing up in timelines organically. Brands can overcome these hurdles by using social media transparently and honestly. Users are looking for truth, and there’s a strong desire to hold businesses accountable.

Social Media as Accountability Tool 

The quest for honesty drives users to seek out smaller circles of influence. Individuals who advocate for or detract from a brand of their own accord are more likely to be trusted. Consumers turn to social media when they are either delighted or unhappy with a product or service they’ve received. This holds brands accountable through social media, where review culture makes social proof the new authority.

Users look to the opinion of the crowd, experts, celebrities, friends, and other trusted sources to determine a company’s worth.The best way for brands to capitalize on this is to create happy users and foster a positive online community. A Sprout Social Index found that 81% of users believe social media makes companies more accountable. Brands without a good social presence are harder to trust.

Overcoming Adversity

When brands are connected to their strongest advocates it’s easier to overcome any occasionally unsatisfied customers who vent online. This makes it crucial to connect with those who love your product or service, and make yourself accountable to those who are more critical.

Every bad review or negative comment is an opportunity in disguise. A thoughtful response paired with corrective action can convert detractors and publicly demonstrate a desire to take care of customers. Brands can now provide effective customer service and improve their image at the same time.

Form Deep Connections between Brand and Individual

Honest communication helps followers feel more personally connected. Strong relationships influence how individuals talk about a brand, which is becoming more important than how a brand talks about itself. Expect to see engagement rise when you strike the right tone.

2 – Social Media and Life Milestones

Some social media users love brands enough to include them in important posts.

Social Media is the Biggest Outlet for Good News 

The Q4 2017 Sprout Social Index points out an emerging trend that’s picking up even more steam over time. Their findings show that brands can benefit when social media users publish updates about big milestones in their lives.

It won’t come as much of a surprise to an active social media user that people love to share news about their successes. Social feeds everywhere contain posts about new jobs, new babies, graduations, engagements, retirements, and vacations.

The users studied are now more likely to break good news over social media than in any other way. Sprout ranks Facebook as a clear favorite medium for sharing good news. Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter round out the top four.

Brands and Life Updates

The exciting news for online marketers is that these posts are now somewhat likely to include brand mentions. A third of Sprout’s sample is willing to reference a specific brand when sharing a life update, with millennials being more likely than average to include a brand mention.

Many of the social media users who call out a specific brand do so to say thanks or make a recommendation. A positive review nestled into a proud announcement gives brands a special boost. Anyone look into keep up with their peers now sees this brand as an elevated status symbol.

Capitalizing on Brand Mentions in Milestone Posts

Reward promoters by giving them something in return, and the behavior will become more common. Sprout identifies some tactics that lead to brand mentions in milestone posts:

  • Align brand values with those shared by the target demographic. People want to appear connected with entities that represent their interests and ideals.
  • Respond to your mentions and engage your followers. Users love to get likes, comments, or shares from their favorite brands.
  • Offer special opportunities like discounts, coupons, contest entry, and invitations to membership programs. Some users see a social post as a low price to pay in exchange for any sort of preferential treatment.

The mere mention of a brand in conjunction with a major life event provides credibility and a measurable increase of reach. An audience grows organically when individuals become advocates.

3 – Users Drive the Conversation

Social media users want to contribute to the conversation. Listen to the news and information they like to share, and you'll know how to talk to them.

Finding the Buzz

Social media outlets are starting to build better listening tools directly into their platforms, and third parties are rolling out new software constantly. This all makes it easier than ever to see what kind of traffic different topics are generating.

Identify common themes in the conversation surrounding a brand, its competitors, and an industry at large. Track relevant hashtags to find what an audience loves, what it doesn’t, and what people are excited about.

Riding the Buzz

A brand’s talking points start to write themselves if strong listening skills are in place. Once you know what the people want, just give it to them. Provide more of the content they love, and build marketing campaigns around current hot topics in the industry.

Bring your carefully targeted content to the discussion, and use it to fill holes in the conversation. Use the same hashtags and key phrases your audience does to deliver targeted information. Add value in the right places to enlarge reach and engagement. This draws previously untouched users into the marketing funnel.

User Generated Content

When you find great conversations about your business or industry on social media, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Share content from other users when it can advance your own message. Users will be more likely to mention your brand if they believe you might share it, and this helps you borrow their reach. 

Users also perceive content from a consumer as more trustworthy than marketing efforts directly from a brand. Amplify what your customers are saying to appear more credible and encourage engagement.

4 – Social Media Efforts Should be Mobile-First

Your followers want social media on the go. Make it accessible to them by considering the mobile experience.

Users Spend Most Time Using Social Media through Smartphones

Buffer compiled data that shows mobile’s complete dominance of the social media industry. 70% of time spent on social media is done through mobile apps, and another 8% is through the mobile web. That leaves only a measly 22% for desktop social media use. Snapchat is only available on mobile, and Instagram gives their app a lot of preference over the site. Expect to see all the social media giants move in this direction.

Create a Mobile-Minded Experience

Simply put, your content has to look good on mobile. Be mindful of how a user is viewing your communications. Avoid infographics with tiny text that would be too hard to read on a smartphone. As videos and images become integral to social sharing, make sure everything will display properly, and nothing gets cut off. Be mindful of recommended sizes for different apps.

5 – Social Messaging Gets Even Bigger

One on one messaging still feels more personal, and it's easier than ever with today's technology.

Messaging Apps Already Overtook Social Media

Business Insider broke the news in 2015 that messaging apps get more users than even social media apps. The two go hand in hand to a degree, especially since Messenger is integrated withFacebook and Instagram. Facebook itself found that most people would rather message a business than call for customer service matters. The majority also likes to receive personal messages and shop with businesses that have social messaging capabilities.

Include Messaging in Your Social Strategy

You don’t necessarily have to download all the biggest messaging apps to reap the benefits of this trend. Use the message function that’s already included in various social media platforms. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat all support direct messaging. 

Respond to the messages you receive, and start learning how to drive one to one communication sessions. Use both your paid and unpaid social efforts to drive direct messages in addition to public dialogue.The one to one setting creates a heightened sense of connection between brands and individuals. This has huge potential when it comes to improving customerservice with social.

Wrapping up: Biggest Social Media Trends

It takes constant study to remain up to date with social media trends.

Social media's innate volatility makes it difficult to keep up with all the latest changes, but following these five pointers will help you establish a strong presence. Focus on your users to reach them where and how they want, and provide the content they love. Putting your followers first will create a loyal support base who will contribute to and amplify your message.

Please contact us if you have any questions about social media best practices, or to tell us about your favorite social media trend that wasn't included here.

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