According to Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer Report, 60% of people no longer trust social media companies – and it’s not just because they’re corporate behemoths hell-bent on world domination. Issues relating to privacy and integrity hit Facebook hard with the Cambridge Analytica crisis, causing social media users everywhere to question not only Facebook, but all other platforms that oh-so-subtly ask for your location, date of birth, and other personal information.
Hootsuite’s Social Media Trends of 2019 report suggests that a radically new social paradigm is emerging – one that leading brands are already adapting to: treating customers as individuals, not demographics. As consumers, we’re demanding more value in exchange for our time and information. So how can brands that rely so heavily on social media reach their target audiences when credibility and trust is at an all-time low? Boil this question down and you’re left with a slew of social media trends that will emerge in 2019 – all of which relate to trust, credibility, and adding value to your customers:
- Rebuilding Trust
- Social Stories
- Ground-breaking Creative
- Improved Social Shopping
- 1-on-1 Social Messaging
Facebook users everywhere were rightly pissed off when they discovered their data was being harvested without their consent for political purposes. Twitter, on the other hand, was so saturated with fake accounts and bots you’d think it was the year 3000. Seeing as how Instagram is owned by Facebook, social media users everywhere who were on the big 3 (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) suddenly realized their precious social media platforms may have had insidious intentions all along. The question is: how can brands rebuild the trust they worked so hard for?
- Branded hashtags
- Short, catchy hashtags help build a conversation around your brand and brings like-minded individuals together, further developing your brand eco-system. This helps users feel like they’re part of something bigger. They’re not just buying your brand – they’re buying into your brand.
- Depending on your industry (nobody’s longing for a live-stream at the local abattoir), live-streams can be a great way to interact with your customers on a more personal level while also humanizing your brand. Q&A’s, streaming industry-related events, or real-time product demonstrations are just a few ways you can snatch back customer trust.
- Facebook groups
- Creating a complementary niche Facebook group (private or public) in addition to your Facebook Business Page can give superfans a place they can go to interact with other members of that community. For example, a brand like Patagonia could create one group specifically for mountain climbing adventurers, and another for forest adventurers. Both landscapes can be tackled using Patagonia’s gear, but each requires a different subset of equipment that the other might not relate to.
According to Block Party, a social media consulting agency, “stories” are now growing 15 times faster than feed-based sharing. For the unaware, stories are a social media feature that Snapchat pioneered, but that Instagram and Facebook have now started to perfect. Users can post photos or videos that disappear after 24-hours, creating a video-journal that showcases what they’ve been up to over that span of time. Their popularity can be attributed to the fact that they’re real, in-the-moment snapshots that allow you to be creative with the addition of stickers, GIFs, and filters. As Hootsuite puts it, stories feel real, immediate, and intensely personal.
“[The] Stories format is on a path to surpass feeds as the primary way people share things with their friends sometime next year.” – Chris Cox, Facebook Chief Product Officer, TechCrunch
However, this kind of intimacy and spontaneity doesn’t work for all brands. Think of our previous example at the local abattoir… yeah, no thanks. On a practical level, the lack of a solid API for Instagram Stories makes scheduling and measuring engagement and ROI exceedingly difficult for the time being. So how can brands take advantage of this new medium?
- Approximately 4/5 brands today are already creating stories, so if you haven’t already, try it out. Don’t just ask your social media person to do this in a silo – creating stories should involve the entire marketing team to ensure your stories support your strategy. (as a matter of fact, this goes for everythingyou do).
- Introduce UTMs to allow for measuring and optimization
- Verified accounts can add a “swipe up” feature to their stories that allows users to follow a link to a website or landing page. By adding UTMs, you can track where users are going and get a better understanding of what content resonates with your audience.
- Use stories ‘highlights’
- If you invest time and creative energy into a story, you may want it to stick around for more than 24-hours. This rings especially true if the story is a specific product promotion or a high-production video that deserves more publicity. The ability to save stories into custom categories – promos, lifestyle, tips, etc. – makes them available for as long as you want and helps customers sort through specific content that matters most to them.
In the pay-to-play era, marketers are increasing their social ad budget – as much as 32% in 2018 alone. Facebook alone already accounts for 23% of total digital ad spending in the US. However, with increased popularity comes new challenges: the costs associated with Facebook advertising are escalating, while the payoff – getting your ad noticed – is becoming more challenging. Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2018 report states that Facebook click-through rate costs have increased by 61%, and cost per thousand impressions (CPM) have increased 112%. So how can brands ensure they’re spending their money in the right places? It starts with kick-ass creative.
- Make exciting/interesting content a priority
- How do you stand out in a morass of mediocrity? Create content that’s not mundane. That wasn’t a trick question. This all starts with understanding your audience and tapping into the content that they find interesting, helpful, and worth paying attention to. Create content that gives value even if it’s just charming and entertaining, instead of demanding attention with yet another lame-assed call to action.
- Break from cookie cutter thinking
- Embracing new ad formats (see “stories” above) is a proven way to keep customers engaged. Barraging them with the same templated Instagram posts is certain to get customers hitting the unfollow button. Pay attention to the ad landscape and embrace new ad formats you think will help your brand and its message cut through. But remember: just because it’s cool, doesn’t mean you should do it. Can we use the abattoir reference again?
- Moving pictures move people
- At Blade, we know video content draws more attention than static content. In a study of 5,500 consumers by video marketing company BrightCove, 75% of viewers drew a connection between watching a video and making a purchase. To learn more about using branded motion pictures to enhance your brand, check out this article.
Improved Social Shopping
If Asian trends are any indication as to how things will play out in North America, companies will have to adopt social shopping into their marketing efforts. In Asia, 70% of Gen Zers are now opting to buy directly from their social apps. Instagram features shoppable posts allowing users to browse right through to check out without ever leaving the app. Facebook marketplace has also improved since it’s inception and is now used in 70 countries by more than 800 million people, while Pinterest has been leading the way with “buyable pins,” driving conversions since back in 2015. How can you get on this gravy train?
- Set up shoppable Instagram posts
- Pretty self-explanatory. Again, you can’t get on board with the trend if you don’t try it out. But first, see that your brand can benefit from this tactic. For example: Buying home insurance? Maybe not through Instagram. Buying candy? Hell, ya!
- Share videos of your products in action
- Showcase your product in use – perhaps using stories – to give your audience a visceral sense of what the benefits are. Video helps them feel it.
- Giveaways, contests, hype!
- With our client Benzagel, product promotions not only spawn new followers and engagements, they also encourage customers to browse and research the product. If there’s a chance to get something for free, people tend to pay attention.
1-on-1 Social Messaging
According to Hootsuite’s 2018 Q3 Global Digital Statshot, top messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, QQ, and Skype now collectively count nearly 5 billion monthly active users. According to a survey of 6,000 people globally performed by communications company Twilio, nine out of ten consumers would like to use online messaging to communicate with businesses. Companies like Starbucks, H&M, and Domino’s Pizza use unique tactics designed to help make their customers lives easier.
Taking some time to engage with your customers in a 1-on-1 setting greatly improves customer trust. Setting up an auto-response bot is a great idea if it actually helps your customers achieve a goal – if it does nothing more than annoy your visitor, it’s a fail. It’s also important to remember that the shift from general public to personal private conversation means more privacy policies and legal considerations need to be addressed. Before you jump in, consider the following tactics for social messaging:
- Enable Facebook Messenger
- If you haven’t already, consider this your clarion call to do so. Just remember: Facebook tracks how quickly you respond to messages, so make sure you have somebody dedicated to answering messages. Otherwise, your lack of attention will be displayed for the world to see. To avoid this issue, develop an auto-response that contains links to frequently asked questions and customer support pages.
- Add messaging app plugins to your website
- These show visitors that you’re brand is available and approachable. Customers can click on the plugin and be instantly connected with a representative. Nice!
- Start using Facebook Messenger ads – carefully
- Most Facebook users don’t like to see advertising in places where they have intimate, personal conversations. If you’re going to do so, your ads better be useful, immediate and actionable – coupons and discounts are a great place to start.
Despite the controversies, the flagrant disregard for our data privacy and a host of other annoying attributes about social media, it’s here to stay. And it will continue to be a driving force for companies who are serious about building their brand communities. Used skilfully, these platforms can help brands to gain back the trust that these platforms ultimately lost for them. Marshall McCluhan said the medium is the message, and although social media platforms provide an excellent soapbox for all of us to shout from, what you’re saying needs to be is informative, actionable, and interesting. Otherwise, all you’ll be left with is a nice box, some stale soap and a ticket for public vagrancy.