Did you know that 81 percent of Americans had a social media profile in 2017—a five percent growth over the previous year? According to Statista, the number of worldwide social media users is expected to grow from 1.96 billion in 2017 to some 2.5 billion this year.
These impressive numbers explain why social media has experienced a features explosion over the past year—with no signs of stopping. Facebook continues to dominate with its continually evolving platform, while Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter follow close behind. If you don’t already devote a portion of your small business’s budget to social media marketing—and even if you do—it’s time to ramp up your efforts this year.
Here are my top five social media marketing trends to incorporate for 2018:
1. Video Equals Value
In the social media space, video—whether raw and live or professionally pre-recorded—continues to be an incredibly valuable way to connect with your audience. Video via Facebook Live, in particular, is an organic way of getting to know your audience on a personal level. And because it sees the most engagement, this method is one of the best ways to get into the News Feeds of your audience.
What’s more, FB Live is ideal for re-targeting. Here’s how: You create/post a live video to your business page, boost that video in your Ads Manager, and then choose to re-target ads to everyone who viewed the video. From there, you can use this data to start building a custom audience for your Facebook ads. While Facebook is significant in the video space, don’t forget about other social media platforms such as Instagram Stories. Another unique way to showcase your products via video, especially in the real estate space, is to do 360-degree virtual tours.
2. Chat Bots Are on the Rise
Believe it or not, Augmented Reality (AR) is here. I’m talking about automated tools like messenger/chat bots, which deliver customers the immediate response they’ve come to expect from today’s businesses. You can set up a chat bot on your company website, email, or Facebook Messenger (connected to your Facebook business page).
When setting up your bot, simply input prompts based on the questions you expect from customers. A prompt can be as simple as “Hello,” with the automated response being: “Hi! Thanks for reaching out. How can we help you?” If the consumer asks a question that you have not already set up as a prompt, you can choose a form response such as: “Thanks for reaching out. We’ll get back to you soon.”
Chat bots are an ideal way to sell your products and services, as well. For instance, you can upload and then link to your product catalog, rental listings, etc. in your automated responses. This tool may seem foreign to you, but don’t be afraid to use it. It enables you to have a full-blown, automated conversation with your audience—which means less staff to manage it and better service for your customers.
3. FB Messenger Becomes a Selling Platform
Facebook Messenger used to simply be a way to send someone a private message on our favorite social media platform. Today, it’s evolved to so much more than a button on your business page—it’s a place to sell products, serve up ads, and host your chat bot. You can even set up your re-targeting ads on Facebook to go directly to your customers via Messenger.
Because Messenger is a private method of communication, customers feel more comfortable asking questions or even buying products. Think of it not as a communication platform, but a selling platform, and take advantage of everything FB Messenger has to offer your business in 2018. Just remember to monitor it on a daily basis and respond as soon as you can—or set up a chat bot to respond for you (see trend #2).
4. Partnership Marketing Is Powerful
Have you noticed sponsored ads from celebrities or public figures coming up in your Facebook News Feed? These are “influencers”—people who partner with businesses to bring awareness to their products. This is a mutually beneficial relationship. For instance, a clothing boutique would gain visibility and endorsement for its products, while the influencer (in this case, a fashion blogger) would gain valuable followers for their own audience. Everyone wins!
Typically, you would leverage an enticing giveway of your own products or services and ask people to follow the influencer on Facebook or Instagram to enter the giveaway. This is a great tool for getting the message out to an audience that is different from yours, but still relevant. In 2018, I suggest dipping your toe into the influencer pool. Look for relevant businesses, brands, or people—not competitors—that share audiences with you, and start forging those partnerships.
5. Must “Pay to Play”
This may be a hard pill to swallow, but the days of organic growth via social media are over. Today, any business must pay to play, especially when it comes to Facebook. Why? Due to changes in Facebook’s algorithms, this is the only surefire way to get into the News Feeds of your audience. Whereas 80 percent of the people who “like” a business page used to be able to see those posts, that number has fallen to just 20 percent (or less).
The good news is that Facebook Ads give you a lot of bang for your buck. You can set up one campaign for both Facebook and Instagram. And, if you use the Facebook Pixel on your company website, you can then serve up FB ads directly to the people who have visited your site or performed an action (such as clicking on shopping cart).
After that, you can use the same custom audience for specific re-targeting of your FB ads. If your website viewers have an active FB or Instagram page, you’ll be able to get your paid FB/Instagram ads directly in front of them. This ability to target people who have already showed interest in your product or services is so powerful!
In my opinion, investing in Facebook Ads isn’t a “nice-to-have”; it’s a must. Make this and my other four trends part of your social media marketing plan for 2018, and I know you’ll see returns.
What are your social media goals for 2018?