Ask the Experts: 2018 Social Media Marketing Trends

Carol Feigenbaum |
 12/11/17 |
5 min read

As social media changes in 2018, what trends should social marketers keep an eye on? We’ve rounded up a few experts to weigh in on what to expect in the coming year.


Social listening will finally be taken seriously

The value of social data is well proven, but that doesn’t mean everyone has believed in its worth.

This year will mark the tipping point where casual social listening gives way to complex analytics that “decide how billions of dollars in marketing expenditures are allocated,” according to Brad Fay, Chief Commercial Officer for Engagement Labs.

Image of Brad Fay, Chief Commercial Officer for Engagement Labs

Brad Fay, Chief Commercial Officer for Engagement Labs

Their recent study of weekly sales data for 170 brands reveals:

“Social media conversations drive 9% of consumer sales, and offline (e.g. face to face) conversations drive 10%, for a total of 19%. This translates into $7 to $10 trillion in annual consumer expenditures.

Social marketing can finally prove it deserves a seat at the table in marketing war rooms. Our models show that a 10% improvement in social performance would lead to a $34 million improvement in top-line growth for the brands in the study. That’s a pay-off that’s too big to ignore!”


Indeed! Social data will also be embraced as more than an indicator of consumer interest, as brands gain a better understanding of social ROI. Why this shift?


Image of Jacqueline Balchin, Global Social Media Manager at iflix

Jacqueline Balchin, Global Social Media Manager at iflix

Jacqueline Balchin, Global Social Media Manager at iflix believes there’s a better appreciation of how social media objectives and over-arching business goals must align for a comprehensive omni-channel picture.

Moreover there’s a greater understanding of the role social plays beyond the start of the customer journey funnel – in generating consideration, purchase, retention and advocacy, for example. And there are also clear measurements to ensure social attribution can be given at each of these stages.

“The crucial thing,” she says, “is aligning social media goals with business goals and realizing that data within a business cannot live in just one department; all data points should be connected to get a clearer picture of all digital efforts, which include social.”


Behavioral science will influence content

As brands shift their thinking to embrace broader applications of social data, the way they communicate with consumers will change as well. A fiercely competitive landscape means there’s no time for do-overs, so insights must be accurate, and the actions that follow must bring consumers further into the arms of your brand.

This means embracing the content evolution that’s already in full swing heading into 2018.

A greater focus on ephemeral content is one example. Things like Snapchat and Instagram Stories are part of the here-today-gone-tomorrow content Generations Y and Z are drawn to. In addition to the security of knowing this content won’t be stored forever on the web, these coming-of-age consumers find it “more authentic” than typical marketing content.

But there’s an even better perk for brands in the FOMO (fear of missing out) created by this short-lived content. There’s a feeling of exclusivity and needing to “be there” before it disappears forever.

This gives brands an amazing opportunity to build relationships with consumers by sharing more personal content – like what goes on behind-the-scenes, or sneak peeks at upcoming product launches.

Hitting content out of the park is a huge deal, according to Nancy Harhut, Chief Creative Officer at Nancy Harhut & Associates, because social users are becoming “increasingly selective about what they’ll consume.”

How can brands break through the social noise with content that captures their audience’s attention? Well video is one tactic you must employ, given that 74 percent of internet usage is being covered by videos right now, with that number predicted to increase to 82 percent by 2021. But as with all content, choosing the right medium is only part of the battle.

Image of Nancy Harhut, Chief Creative Officer at Nancy Harhut & Associates

Nancy Harhut, Chief Creative Officer at Nancy Harhut & Associates

Harhut suggests behavioral science is the way, by leveraging proven reflexive behaviors triggered by particular words, phrases, images, and frames.

“Researchers have identified the word ‘because’ as a compliance trigger. When people see or hear it, they often start to nod yes without fully processing what comes next.

Another example involves images of faces. Humans are instinctively drawn to them – particularly a person’s eyes. So as we enter the increasingly competitive marketing landscape of 2018, we’ll see marketers start to incorporate the principles of behavioral science into their toolkits in order to increase their success rates.”


Creating an augmented experience

Content strategy is just one way brands and marketers will use social data to create what Mark W. McClennan, APR, SVP, MSL, 2016 National Chair, PRSA calls “augmented influence.”

This combination of augmented insights, augmented experiences and augmented intelligence will pave the wave for a near future where tech like AR, VR, and AI will feature prominently. The early rumblings are already happening with the release of the AR-capable iPhone 8 and iPhone X, and Snapchat’s new AR Bitmoji feature.

Image of Mark W. McClennan, APR, SVP, MSL, 2016 National Chair, PRSA

Mark W. McClennan, APR, SVP, MSL, 2016 National Chair, PRSA

“The biggest challenge in 2018,” Mark says, “will be honestly reexamining the way we gather and use data and insights. We have the ability to access so much data, but too many are still trapped in surface analysis and not getting the deeper insights, or waste time chasing the new shiny measurement object.

Even those that go deeper aren’t always sure what to look for and can fall victim to false correlations driven by conventional wisdom. To be most effective we need to go beyond surface analysis to delve deeper and identify the passion and core triggers that can create meaningful change.”


Influencer marketing is one area to apply this kind of thinking. Brands must recognize on the consumer side that authenticity is everything – so any old influencer won’t do. These brand advocates must be carefully selected based on their appeal to your audience.

By the same token, influencers – like so many people nowadays – have their own brands. So you need to offer something that gives them a reason to promote you as they promote themselves. There needs to be a real sense of synchronicity – and social insights will lead you there.

This strategy should be applied to perfecting Chatbots as well, as these automated brand helpers are gaining popularity. In 2016 Gartner predicted “20% of business content will be generated by machines” by 2018, and this may well come true. The caveat for brands is ensuring those bots are capable of getting the job done without turning off consumers and sending them looking for a more human experience.


Social Analytics for 2018 and Beyond

You’ve got to stay tuned to social analytics and be sure every facet of your brand is bringing value in consumers’ eyes. Otherwise it’s not worth the gimmick of a new gadget.

And that’s the lesson for all marketers in 2018: Brand initiatives must be backed by accurate data, and that’s what social listening tools are for. You’ve got to use them to find authentic, complex, personal, human insights to drive your brand forward – because you don’t have time to waste on guessing. And with such data available in real-time, why would you?


Ready to take your brand further in 2018? Get in touch to see what our suite of social analytics tools can do for you!



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