One can only imagine what wonders 2018 will bring: a blockbuster movie based on Chutes and Ladders? An app that makes it look like you’re starring in beloved TV sitcoms? A viral new dance that involves moving nothing but your ears?
We’ll just have to wait and see what fads 2018 has in store for us, but in the meantime, we can take a shot at predicting what social media trends marketers will use in the coming year.
5 new social media trends for 2018
As a marketer, you have to be on the cutting edge of technology. If you’re still trying to reach an audience via mass faxes and pop-up ads, you’re going to waste a lot of time and money, irritate potential clients, and maybe even run afoul of the FCC.
To be successful in social media marketing, you’ve got to stay ahead of the curve by knowing how to use marketing software, keeping up with the latest communication channels, and learning how to use new technology.
Based on industry news and my own research, here are five social media marketing trends to keep up with as the calendar turns to 2018.
1. Augmented reality
Augmented reality in action, image via Wikimedia Commons
As Pokemon Go proved, augmented reality is already feasible for a mass market. AdAge predicts that augmented reality could also be an effective marketing tool by doing things such as highlighting items on a store shelf based on user preference.
For example, you could walk through a clothing retailer and—using either AR glasses or your smartphone or tablet—see items highlighted based on your exact size, or a specific color.
Google Lens—available on Pixel phones—can already identify everyday objects and locations in the real world when users take a picture of them. This technology could send more traffic to your website without any additional action on your part.
Another example is Ikea’s new Ikea Place app for Apple devices, which allows users to virtually place Ikea furniture in their home to see how it fits with the rest of their decor. The app was made with Apple’s ARKit, which aims to usher in a wave of augmented reality apps for consumers. Google’s answer to ARKit, called ARCore, is designed to help developers build AR apps for Android devices.
According to Deloitte, 88% of mid-market companies are already testing out some form of virtual or augmented reality. So if your company is in the 12% that isn’t, you’re already behind the curve.
2. Instagram Stories
Everyone has heard of (and probably used) Instagram by now. But if you aren’t familiar with Instagram Stories, you should be.
Basically an answer to Snapchat, Instagram Stories lets users broadcast brief videos or photos that disappear after 24 hours. You can include hashtags to continue the conversations, or links to direct followers to different landing pages, and of course there are lots of fun filters and stickers.
Why is this important for marketers?
With an estimated 800 million active users, Instagram is becoming a titan of social media channels, and 300 million of those users have already embraced the new Stories feature. That’s almost twice as many as Snapchat.
Instagram Stories also allows for the casual, spontaneous interactions that marketers crave. While the flagship Instagram is the place for your polished, carefully planned campaigns, Stories is meant for brief, off-the-cuff musings from your creative staffers. Opening a new location? Story it. Celebrating National Mason Jar Day? Story it!
Instagram Stories allows you to forge a more organic, relaxed relationship with your customers so they’ll see you as a group of people rather than a corporate entity.
3. Voice assistants
An Amazon Tap, image from Amazon.com
If you’re anything like me, you essentially begin and end your day talking to an automaton named Alexa.
“Alexa, stop (the alarm).”
“Alexa, what is the weather?”
“Alexa, what is the news?”
“Alexa, play Jeopardy.”
“Alexa, set alarm for 7 a.m.”
You get the idea.
Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices may be the most popular voice assistants right now, but they aren’t the only ones. Apple’s HomePod and Google Home are also looking to become a part of your family. This year, eMarketer estimates more than 35 million Americans will use a voice assistant at least once a month.
With these connected devices seemingly everywhere and the technology becoming cheaper and more intuitive, marketers must pay attention.
To be clear, nobody would stand for voice assistants waking them up at 3 a.m. to try to sell them a time share. But there are ways that marketers can take advantage of this burgeoning technology.
People constantly listen to podcasts and streaming music on their voice assistants, so advertising on those channels is a wise approach for 2018. Voice-centric SEO—that is, making sure people can find you when using voice to search—is also an important consideration. Search Engine Land recommends optimizing for voice search by targeting more long tail, or conversational, keywords, and creating FAQ pages, since voice search is more likely to be phrased as a question.
Voice assistants reach across demographics. Younger people use them to listen to music while older people use them to do things like check the weather and listen to voicemails. Get on board now to make sure you’re part of that conversation.
4. Facebook Spaces
Facebook Spaces, image via Facebook
As Facebook approaches its 15th anniversary, one might expect the grandmother of social networking sites to start showing its age, or at least begin to fall out of favor with the taste-making youth.
But Mark Zuckerburg’s empire continues to grow and evolve thanks to new features such as Facebook Spaces, a virtual reality meeting space unveiled last spring.
While Facebook Spaces could be a fun diversion for friends with Oculus Rift headsets, it also has serious implications for marketers. How?
Say you want to give your online customers the personal experience of a brick and mortar retail store. You could use Facebook Spaces to set up a virtual store that they can explore and interact with using a VR headset.
Your customer service reps could even assist and interact with them as if they were face-to-face in the real world.
I’ve written in the past about social media livestreaming; imagine broadcasting a webinar in Facebook Spaces and being able to answer questions in a virtual meeting space.
Finally, Facebook has an ad-driven business model, so you can expect the company to use the data collected from its 2 billion users to deliver targeted ads in Facebook Spaces.
A chatbot in action
If you did some online shopping this Cyber Monday, you likely came across a chatbot or two.
Always cheerful, always willing to help, never offended if you ignore them: chatbots are the perfect customer service reps.
They’re also getting more and more complex and capable, and could become a key part of your marketing plan in 2018.
For repeat customers, chatbots can use their history to deliver a personalized shopping experience, ask about how they’re enjoying a previous purchase, or recommend a compatible product.
Because chatbots are automated, your website is always staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. If someone visits your site at 4 a.m. on Christmas Day, you can rest easy knowing that they’re getting an (almost) human greeting and interaction.
Chatbots can also farm data from customer interactions, informing your marketing plan throughout the year.
What are your predictions for 2018?
There are certainly more than five social media trends to keep an eye on in the coming year. What trends do you see taking off in 2018, and how do you plan on using them in your marketing strategy?
Without revealing all of your secrets, please share your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to follow me on Twitter at @CapterraAC to keep in touch throughout 2018 and beyond!
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