Check out a roundup of Tala Byrne's recent talk on her predictions for Social Media in 2018 and beyond, delivered at the recent Glug event in Glasgow. Tala's slides are also embedded in the article for reference. Enjoy!
I was asked to present at the inaugural Glug event in Glasgow which was taking place in MadeBrave’s (awesome) offices. Joining a line-up that included Gary Birnie from Frame, Andrew Dobbie from MadeBrave and Stephen Dewar from Trinity Mirror, it was sure to be a great event. Fuelled by a few beers and Scotch on the Beach cocktails provided by Innis and Gunn and the Finnieston Distillery Company, I took the second speaking slot to talk about my predictions for Social Media in 2018.
Rather than take a sensationalist approach (this platform is dead, that one is ‘the next big thing’ etc), I thought I’d just come up with a few predictions that realistically, we’re likely to see over the next year or two. So here are the key points I made on the night.
I started with a quote from the visionary, Brian Solis, who said in 2007:
“Social media is more about sociology and psychology than technology”
That was back in 2007, but remains as relevant as ever in today’s climate as we all seek to rationalise and navigate the social media landscape. To set the scene, back in 2007, most of us will have been at least aware of Bebo, Myspace, Blogger, YouTube, Stumbleupon and Farmville. Twitter was just starting out, Facebook had 1million monthly users in the UK, Myspace was winner of Mashable’s top social network of the year’ and Google had offered to buy Facebook for $15billion, but buys YouTube instead.
Looking back, it’s clear that Brian Solis was right: Those networks that focused on the user’s social experience, were the ones that grew and flourished. Certainly, the technology is important - it’s the tool and enabler - but it wasn’t the technology itself, but the sociology and psychology behind social media that counted back then. And it remains the case. Successful platforms and brands gauge the evolving behaviour of users, and seek to deliver better experiences on account of this insight.
Prediction #1: The rise of social shopping
Yep, watch out. Our bank balances are going to take a hit. We already use social to discover new brands and products. We research and seek information from brands before we buy. And we tell others what we thought of the product via social channels. The missing link is to buy direct through social! And we’re already on our way: Facebook product catalogues in both ads and organic posts. Instagram shoppable tags and Pinterest buyable pins. We’re getting closer with this as it’s in-app, but it could be faster and more seamless. Chatbots and Facebook Messenger will certainly help brands to create a seamless buying journey for customers. Even more so if customers have Apple Pay. And we’ll be seeing far more CTAs on Facebook pages to drive users to Messenger windows for shopping or sales support, rather than just encouraging brand interaction. A great article by Tom Goodwin in Marketing Week provides a bit of context from a retail industry point of view, if you’re interested in exploring the idea of adding shoppable layers and reduced purchase funnels.
What’s the wider impact then? Well:
- Opportunities for small businesses to sell goods through social simply and cheaply
- Widening the scope of UX design to include social shopping
- Products bought on impulse will thrive (see Squishy Animals….https://www.facebook.com/TopSquishyCase/videos/248624138960807/)
- To do well, brands should remember the distinction between social shopping and social marketing
Prediction #2: Social media marketing will move to in-app only
Mobile is pervasive. We’re choosing to use our mobiles for everything – to communicate, to bank, to shop, to play, to watch. And social media is no different. Over 80% of social media usage comes from mobile devices, and it is the most revenue-generating device for the big social media platforms. It comes back to the experience. If it is good on mobile, people prefer to stay on their phones. And so social networks are working hard to create an experience that takes place entirely in-app, mobile first. Brands will employ a range of tools to attract, convert and retain customers, all within the social network.
Native content will be key. Publishing high quality content such as Instant Articles or Pulse pieces, Stories or Video, direct to social networks, will create a more seamless user experience.
Delivering immersive ad experiences is another tactic. We’re already seeing this with Facebook Canvas, however with the new Collections feature, Facebook is enabling brands to incorporate elements of Canvas, but more product-led. Pinterest promoted video ads, Instagram Stories ads, and Snapchat sponsored lenses, are all examples of social networks recognising the potential for brands in creating immersive ad experiences that enrich the customer experience while driving commercial engagement.
Chatbots will become more intelligent to offer a more realistic brand experience and improve their efficiency in understanding context. For example, Messenger 2.1 integrates Natural Language Processing for developers. This is an exciting development as brands strive to create brilliant customer experiences within social networks.
“We believe almost every bot should use NLP in some way to create delightful experiences.
"When Built-in, NLP is enabled it automatically detects meaning and information in the text of messages that a user sends, before it gets passed to the bot. This first version can detect the following entities: hello, bye, thanks, date & time, location, amount of money, phone number, email and a URL.”
Exciting times. But what’s the wider impact?
- More than ever before, content is created with social in mind as the main channel
- Picking channels carefully will be all-important
- B2B brands need to change tactic, but it’s do-able!
- Purchasing journeys/buying cycles are key
Prediction #3: The meaning of ‘Influencer’ will become diluted
From blogger outreach, we shift to the rise of influencer marketing. Brands are waking up to the potential of working with influencers who already know how to engage their target audiences. In fact, 87% of brands in December 2016 said that they planned to use influencers in 2017 to achieve their marketing goals. This figure will undoubtedly rise going into 2018. However, as the opportunity grows, so too, do the challenges for marketers. Finding influencers who will play a positive role in a marketing strategy has been quite simple up to this point. We would look for someone with a good following, consistent engagement, and relevant high quality content. However, it’s becoming trickier to find great influencers to work with.
People are actively pursuing ‘Influencer’ as a career path. Yep. It’s a thing. And Social Networks are recognising this. Perhaps the most disturbing development, and one that may scream desperation from some, is the beta launch of Twitter’s auto-promote service. For a flat fee of $99, any user can have their accounts and some of their tweets, promoted. With such limited targeting options, by interest or by location, this is more likely targeted to individuals than brands. This, combined with follower / like bots, is making life a little more difficult for brands to select influencers who have a truly engaged following that will enhance their marketing strategy. Relevancy in what an influencer is posting will be key, and brands will have to look for individuals beyond those with reach. The perfect influencer is one that consistently communicates in such a way that not only engages target audiences but sits naturally with the brand. And, of course, has the reach we’re looking for. I wrote a little more about influencers, within the travel industry, here in The Drum.
The wider impact:
- Ambassador partnerships will be more lucrative for brands than individual pieces of sponsored content
- Less reluctance from influencers to work with brands on campaigns as authentic partnerships grow, and the number of “career influencers” continue to rise
Less traffic, more authentic endorsement from influencer posts.
Prediction #4: The role of search tech will increase in importance
Search and social media marketing: It’s a two-way street. Social media influences search, and vice versa. This is something that is set to increase as the two continue to become mutually important and impactful. First things first, social is influencing search. Emoji SEO is a thing! Recognising what Psychology Today highlighted, that Millenials and Gen Zers are more comfortable expressing themselves in emoji format, Google stepped up. The search engine launched its #KnowNearby campaign, demonstrating that it is busy indexing and placing value on emojis. Users can tweet an emoji at Google, and Google searches it. Take the pizza emoji, for example. Google would return the Knowledge Graph showing pizza places near the user if ‘pizza emoji +near me’ is searched, but not when the pizza is used alone. The opportunity for optimisation is clear. You never know, brands could be ranking for emoji without knowing!
Search is becoming increasingly important to the social experience. More and more people are using social channels to find information. Pinterest Lens enables users to search for things by uploading an image – removing the need to have to ask someone where they got their bag or trainers ever again. Reducing the risk of embarrassment (or human interaction…)
Facebook is up to 2 billion searches per day, compared to Google’s 3.5 billion. To put this into context, Facebook is up from 1.5 billion searches last year. It’s starting to look feasible that the social network could overtake the search engine, or at least match it search for search. The battle for dollars continues, but this time, it’s for dollars traditionally reserved for Google. Facebook’s Nearby Places could be the secret edge. It plays on people’s willingness to accept recommendations from those we know. By integrating information posted by friends – check ins, reviews, photos – into information about a place, searchers will be able to see if the place has been endorsed by friends. It’s an extremely powerful tool, and an advantage for Facebook.
Another development that is sure to impact this space is the acquisition of mobile search company, Vurb, by Snapchat in 2016. It’s unclear as yet what this acquisition will mean, but perhaps it could help to solve Snapchat’s biggest problem: Discovery. Could this be a new feature tagged onto ‘Our Story’ to help users find events and what’s happening around them in real time? Only time will tell, but it is surely a further indication of the critical link between search and social as we move toward 2018.
The wider impact:
- Social search and features like Nearby Places and Vurb could threaten TripAdvisor and other recommendations giants
- Referral schemes and incentives become more frequent
- Scope of SEO changes to include social search optimisation
So there you have it, my four predictions around what’s set to increase in importance in social media marketing over the coming months. Let’s check back next year and see if any of them have come to fruition yet!
Huge thanks also to Mariela and Glug for asking me to speak (and for the image used here) - I’ll be first to register to attend the next one! And if you have any questions, feel fee to get in touch.