DEG’s partner Hootsuite recently hosted a webinar titled “Social Media Trends to Put into Practice in 2018.” The webinar, led by Hootsuite’s industry principal Amber Naslund and senior social strategist James Mulvey, aimed to answer a difficult question: what social media trends will be worth your time and investment this year?

Hootsuite’s experts answered this by covering five key movements, backed by global data, that will position brands for success this year and beyond.

Related: DEG Experts Predict the Top Marketing Trends of 2018

1. The evolution of social ROI

It’s easy to collect data, but it’s harder to tie it to business outcomes. For years, organizations have struggled to capture and articulate the ROI of their social media programs, and there’s still a huge disconnect between social media activity and the ability to quantitatively prove ROI, but organizations are finding success by broadening the value of social across the customer lifecycle.

56 percent of Hootsuite’s 2018 Social Trends Survey respondents say not being able to prove ROI makes it difficult for them to be successful on social.

Organizations are maturing both in the types of metrics they use, as well as the types of problems they solve, with these metrics. Social is becoming a driver of customer insight and more organizations are using the customer journey to guide measurement. Thirty-seven percent believe social can help them better understand customer preferences and 49% said social helps them make better business decisions.

Hootsuite recommends: 

  • Aim at your easiest target first. If you’re struggling to earn budgets, invest first in what you can measure.
  • Hootsuite also has solutions and frameworks that can help you evolve how your organization tracks and reports on social.

2. Mobile fuels the growth of social TV

As more consumers watch videos on mobile devices, social networks offer new opportunities to augment traditional TV content and create new forms of entertainment and news programming. Social networks are encouraging brands to become broadcasters and independent media networks of their own, which demands pretty heavy creativity and innovation.

Social networks are betting big on video and TV-style content. Snapchat launched premium partnerships with their Discover feature, brands have been rolling out innovative real-time and social-only programming on Twitter, and Facebook invested $1 billion in its Watch tab and launched new multi-broadcasting features for Live broadcasts.

Hootsuite recommends:

  • Connect social video metrics to real business outcomes to measure success
  • Target high-value keywords and topics on your Facebook Live videos to enhance your SEO strategy.

3. The rise of peer influence

Real customer communities, micro-influencers, and ‘people like me’ are taking center stage as consumer trust continues to decline. The overuse of mega-influencers and celebrity endorsements is causing fatigue for marketers and consumers.

2018 will reward businesses that put their people—employees, advocates, customer communities, and influencers—at the center of their marketing strategy.

2018 will reward businesses that put their people—employees, advocates, customer communities, and influencers—at the center of their marketing strategy.

Hootsuite recommends:

  • Set long-term goals and get leadership to commit to creating real customer and employee advocacy, rather than chasing quick fixes to boost organic traffic.
  • Consider working with micro-influencers, build advocate communities with Facebook Groups, and go unscripted on Facebook live (57% of global consumers are more likely to believe a spontaneous speaker over a speaker who sounds too rehearsed).

4. AI

The machines have risen, but brands need to make sure artificial intelligence strategies stay focused on being human, helpful, and relevant.

AI is already changing social marketing in a number of different ways. Brands are elevating customer service efforts by using chatbots to answer FAQs and billing questions, giving humans more time to do high-level tasks and build relationships with customers. Brands are also using bots in Facebook Messenger to create personalized content channels for customers. Finally, predictive analytics provide brands with more accessible targeting and analytics.

Hootsuite recommends:

  • Get your own report robot. Narrative Science’s free Quill Engage Google Analytics tool will automatically analyze your traffic in a report written by a robot. It’s free to use. 
  • Build with a bot template. Find a solution partner that can augment your existing social media strategy (such as customer support on Facebook) with AI technology.

According to @Brandwatch, 96 percent of online conversation is unbranded.

5. The promise (and reality) of social data

Social data can help marketing gain new influence and recognition in the enterprise, but to realize its promise, there’s still work ahead. 

It’s not easy to unlock social data, but there’s still a lot of potential. Brands should switch from reactively listening on social media to actively uncovering new sources of business and brand growth, and leverage customer insight from social listening and unbranded conversations to gain new influence with executives.

Hootsuite recommends:

  • Demonstrate the strategic value of social channels—not just tactical brand awareness or customer service value
  • Combine social data with traditional market research
  • Get comfortable making assumptions from incomplete or disparate sets of data to pull as many insights as possible

You can watch the whole webinar here, and download Hootsuite’s Social Media Trends Toolkit to help you get started incorporating these social media trends into your strategy.

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