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Imagine That, Inc

The Social Media Marketing Trends to Watch for in 2018

1. 2018 Is, Again, Going to Be the Year of Video

In the past couple of years, all the major social media players have shifted their focus to video content.Nowhere has this battle played out on a bigger stage than between Facebook Video and Google's YouTube. YouTube had the head start but Facebook has leveraged its enormous social media platform to incentivize brands and marketers to add native video to their platform.

And why not? According to VentureBeat, video generates 1,200 percent more shares than both text and images.

Facebook has been savvy in its rollout, too. While organic reach may be dead for much of the platform, Facebook has been generous with doling out extra unpaid reach to people uploading native video, while dinging those who use third-party services. Third party services like, you know, YouTube.

Imagine That has seen consistent evidence that short videos on social media including Facebook and Instagram out-perform single images, both in regular posts and in ads. Keep in mind that videos can easily be shot on a smartphone, just remember to assume they are viewed without sound so ensure the video can stand on its own, and video in portrait mode (rather than horizontal mode).

2. Paid Social Media Is King

Speaking of organic, most marketers are all-too-aware that Facebook slashed organic reach for brand and business pages way back in 2014, and with 2018's roll out of "Facebook Zero", organic reach is, well, practically zero.

From Facebook's business perspective, this makes sense. The company is committed to a strong user experience to keep users on the platform, and they have to monetize their platform. Pushing businesses to use paid Facebook ads was a savvy way to get companies who made an investment in the platform to begin generating revenue for the social media giant.

Ultimately, businesses and brands have paid up, and will continue to do so, since in 2018 the ads continue to provide a strong ROI, even if ad costs and competition are rising somewhat.

3. Influencers Will Continue to Gain Clout

Organic reach may provide a rough go on most platforms, so teaming up with influencers provides an affordable way to reach new audiences.

Influencers are frequently paid or compensated in some other way (such as product or service trades), so this approach is not technically organic. However, influencers have access to large, loyal audiences that offer more qualified reach than an ad does, and can be more trusted than ads.

For 2018's social media marketing trends, expect businesses and brands to focus more on small and mid-tier influencers. (Think audiences in the ten-thousands.)

These micro-influencers provide businesses and brands more flexibility and audience variety at a lower cost than one high-following influencer, and are a good option for 2018.

4. Say Hello to Chatbots

There are already more than 100,000 active chatbots helping brands connect with customers on Facebook. These bots cut down on staffing while helping companies organically generate and nurture new leads.

Facebook has further encouraged chatbots by making messaging a new option in its ads system. It also makes us wonder if this was part of the impetus for splitting Facebook Messenger into a separate app on the mobile platform, or just a happy accident.

Either way, chatbots were one of the hottest social media marketing developments in 2017 and they become an even larger opportunity for efficiency next year.

5. More Augmented Reality

We can thank Snapchat for this trend.

Augmented reality (AR) -- the mixing of the real world with superimposed images and video -- gained mass appeal through the use of Snapchat filters. These filters are regularly used by youthful Snapchatters - adding ears, snouts and other entertaining facial elements to photos and videos for their friends.

Another watershed moment for the technology was the popularity of Pok'mon Go in 2016.

AR remains one of Snapchat's major features and Instagram has leaned into the technology in its newly-launched Instagram Stories feature, since Instagram Stories is essentially a Snapchat clone.

Watch for more augmented reality features in social media and apps that support social media moving forward.

6. Goodbye Evergreen Content, Hello Disappearing Content

Of all the social media marketing trends growing as we approach the new year, this is the one most likely to send shivers up the spines of digital marketers.

Marketing teams invest time, staff, and resources largely focused on static, re-usable, or evergreen (non time-sensitive) content. But with the immediacy of Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and now Facebook “Your Story”, content which disappears in 24 hours, all that is changing. And that's to say nothing of Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and Twitter's Periscope live streaming functionality.

When our evergreen posts were published with the expectation that web surfers would happen across our content over the course of weeks or months, stories brings with it current, interesting, and time-stamped photos and videos that disappear in 24 hours of life online. This provides posters and viewers of the “stories” content real-time, of-the-moment experiences, but makes tracking results for marketers much more of a challenge. Add to that the need to post content daily, and we’ve seen that news outlets and highly committed brands have begun using the stories function more readily, whereas smaller businesses have continued to focus on standard posting approaches.

With the combination of Stories now placed at the top of news feeds, and video continuing to gain appeal (see #1 trend above), this trend is one to watch and consider for your business or brand and decide how to capitalize on the trend of temporary, disappearing content.

7. Mobile Optimization Is Crucial

If your user experience isn't optimized for mobile users in 2018, you might as well be publishing on a hand-crank printing press.

Upwards of 80 percent of time spent on social networks occurs on mobile devices, according to Pew Internet Research. It follows, then, that more than 80 percent of both Twitter and Facebook's ad revenue comes through mobile as well.

Social media networks are built with mobile users top of mind, and marketers need to ensure their content looks great, reads well, and performs for those standing in line at the supermarket entertaining themselves on Facebook. You may have noticed that when creating a Facebook or Instagram ad, they recently changed the first ad preview to the mobile news feed, which is another emphasis toward designing for mobile first.

In 2018, double check your social media posts and ads from your phone to be sure they have the look you want, communicate your key calls to action well, and perform the way you expect.

Hire an Expert to Make the Most of Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is forever evolving, but that's just the tip of the digital marketing iceberg. You still need to consider Search Engine Optimization, email marketing, content marketing, landing page optimization, and even AdWords pay per click Google and Bing advertising.

This is when having a strong digital marketing partner relationship on hand comes into play. Still not convinced? Check out these five stats that may just convince you to hire a marketing specialist to help your business succeed.

We at Imagine That wish you and your business all the best in 2018. Call on us when you need a little (or a lot of) support meeting your marketing goals - we are here to help you!