7 Predictions for Social Media in 2018
Remember when Facebook seemed like something no one above the age of 30 would care about, or when you’d never even heard the word “Snapchat” before? The social media world moves fast and often the changes that we see fly in the face of what people could have predicted.
If there’s one thing we can count on for sure this year, it’s that there will be changes in how people interact with social media, the platforms people use, and what works on each of them. It’s important for businesses to pay attention to the shifts and trends as they happen so you can adapt your social media marketing as needed.
Here are some of our best predictions for the most likely changes in 2018.
1. Social media platforms will become more like each other in functionality.
When one social media platform launches a feature that takes off, others often try to figure out how to mimic it on their own platform.
When Stories works well on Snapchat, Facebook turns around and creates essentially the same feature in both Facebook and Instagram. When Twitter sees people making longer posts in places like Tumblr and Facebook, they double their character limit in the hopes of becoming more appealing to users.
Social media platforms increasingly care less about being unique and more about offering whatever they think might make people spend more time on their platform over another. They’ve already demonstrated that every time they see a feature that seems likely to make that happen on a competitor’s site, they see an opportunity to change theirs. We have every reason to expect that trend will continue.
For businesses, this will mean continuing to adapt your social media strategies to the features your audience uses on each site, but in many cases it will be worth taking time to see what sticks. Many users will be less likely to use the “new” feature in one app that they can already get in another – so some of these attempts to copy popular features may fail.
Regardless, you should always be paying attention to how your audience interacts with each social media site they’re on, so you can figure out when a new approach is warranted to reach them there.
2. Live video will grow in importance for marketers.
It seems like every year content marketers and social media specialists proclaim the importance of video, so including it in a list like this isn’t exactly a new take. Even so, video’s likely to remain a big part of how people and brands use social media, and live video in particular now has a role to play in that.
Both Facebook and YouTube enable people and brands to launch live videos, which makes video marketing a more interactive and engaging medium. With Facebook Live you can show up right in your followers’ feeds and respond to any questions they have in real time. With YouTube Live you can respond to comments and monitor feedback as you go as well. And with both, you can hang onto the recording of your live video to promote even after it’s done.
Engagement is one of those important but elusive goals marketers talk a lot about. Any type of content that allows your audience to interact with you directly in the moment is a good option for getting some of that engagement you seek
3. Influencer marketing will play a key role in social media marketing.
Reaching your audience on social media is a big challenge for most brands. One of the most powerful resources that many companies have started to tap into is therefore influencer marketing. As the space becomes more competitive and more and more brands find success with influencer marketing on social media, the trend is likely to grow.
And brands are finding success with it. A survey last year found that 94% of the brands using influencer marketing find it to be effective.
Working with influencers makes it easy to reach a larger portion of your audience, and everyone that already trusts and likes the influencer will then associate your brand and products with the person they like – the trustworthiness and goodwill they’ve earned will rub off on your brand
4. Messaging platforms will become a bigger part of social media marketing strategies.
There are lots of people on the main social media sites we talk about, but there are also loads of people using messaging apps every day. Many of your customers are spending hours on sites like Messenger, WhatsApp, Kik and Skype. One of the biggest apps in the world is WeChat, which has nearly 1 billion users in China.
For now, these apps are an untapped opportunity for many marketers. In 2018, that’s likely to change as more companies develop chatbots that work within the messaging apps and buy ads or sponsored messages that show up to targeted users.
The old marketing adage here applies, you have to go where your users are, and a lot of your users are chatting with friends in messaging apps.
5. Other social media players will grow in influence as Facebook makes it harder for brands to stand out.
It’s been a few years since Facebook made changes to their algorithm that reduced the reach that brand pages have on the platform. And marketers are still complaining about it and trying to figure out how to gain traction on the world’s biggest social media platform in the face of those changes.
They started off the year with a new announcement that made it clear that content from brands and media companies is going to have an even harder time reaching people on the site now. The company has made tweaks to the algorithm to prioritize updates from friends and family members at the expense of “public content.” If you were already bothered by how small your reach was, it’s about to get smaller.
Facebook is still by far the most popular social media platform out there, so brands will likely still maintain a presence there. But expect other social media platforms to take over more of the time and budget share for social media marketing in 2018 in response to getting less for more on Facebook.
6. Political scandals will continue to play out on social media and behind the scenes at companies.
Social media and politics didn’t always have the close relationship they’ve had in the last couple of years, but between news stories about the President’s tweets becoming a common part of the daily discourse and scandals about the role of social media in spreading false stories that influence elections, social media companies have lately been in the spotlight for the role they play in politics.
Social media companies are trying to respond to allegations and make changes. Facebook has been working on ways to reduce the reach of fake news (with mixed results), but even so we can reasonably anticipate that they and the other social media sites will still be at the center of news stories in the year to come. Some of those stories may be positive; some are sure to be critical.
7. New players will disrupt the space.
Startups trying to break into the competitive social media space are a dime a dozen, but you never really know which one’s going to hit it big until it’s already made its mark. This year, we expect that some social media companies that aren’t on our radars yet will gain popularity and become important for social media marketers to start paying attention to.
It may be a company offering video hangout technology, which is a popular feature for Gen Zers.
Or it could be a platform that makes use of virtual or augmented reality. Maybe it will be a site that appeals to the niche communities people value on the internet. Or maybe it will be something none of us expects. We’ll have to keep our eyes and ears open to find out.
2018 will definitely bring some surprises in the world of social media. As always, businesses will need to pay attention and be prepared to shake up their social media game as needed. Above all, pay attention to where your audience is and what they do on the platforms they hang out on. Trends aside, the best social media strategy is always the one that’s particular to your own company and customers.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.