The power of social media has influenced modern-day business tremendously, thus becoming an integral part of digital marketing and widening opportunities for small businesses. Even B2B companies are finding their place under the social umbrella, debunking the famous myth that social doesn’t “work” for every industry and that not every business has to have a social presence.
And considering that social media usage will continue to grow in the years ahead, not investing in social media marketing is a missed opportunity for any and every business, no matter the size or industry. But just like the rest of the digital world, social media is an ever-evolving landscape, and in order to thrive in it, you need to keep your finger on its pulse. To help you stay on top in 2019 and the years ahead, we’re bringing you these key insights into the state of social media marketing.
If social media usage, in general, is expanding, Instagram alone as a platform is set to make giant strides. The expansion of social certainly owes a portion of its success to Instagram, which has been growing steadily for years, reaching over a billion monthly active users in 2018. That’s up 200 million from the previous year, but it’s not only the impressive numbers that signify Instagram’s evolving role in social media marketing.
Demographics play a large part in establishing the platform’s dominance as a future marketing force. Statistics show that there are more 45-55-year-olds than 13-17-year-olds using Instagram, which leads experts to predict an increasing dominance of the platform among older demographics.
Consequently, this paves the way to more brands adopting Instagram as their central social media marketing hub, and potentially even a larger variety of industries relying on the platform.
From chatbots to social messaging platforms, we’re heading steadily into the era of conversational marketing. This is where brands cultivate one-on-one conversations on the channels that are most convenient to the consumer, thus encouraging more natural, engaging interactions.
In this model, marketing, sales, and customer services seamlessly intercept as a company offers support and guidance for their prospects throughout the entire customer journey. Undoubtedly a model that’s redefining the customer experience, CM is directing the course of marketing in the future – and social media plays a major role in this paradigm shift.
Somewhere along the way, the essence of the social media concept has gotten distorted, with brands using social platforms as broadcasting mediums and promotion channels. Bit by bit, savvy consumers have grown weary of this trend. But the sentiment was further amplified in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, fake news, bots swarming Twitter, etc. All in all, last year represented somewhat of a crisis year for social media as people questioned the ethics and privacy of every network, gradually narrowing their circle of trust. A report from 2018 shows that only 41% of people globally trust social media.
Now, although experts suggest small businesses aren’t disrupted by privacy scandals, the fact remains that social media marketing has been affected by current trends, impacting industries and businesses of all sizes. Consumers are expecting brands to work for their trust and help put the “social” back in social media.
This attitude is shaping the social media landscape and dictating all the marketing trends and practices. It’s all about getting back to the basics, building niche communities, centering around community socialization, and fostering meaningful dialogue. That’s why Facebook is turning their focus on Groups and savvy brands are encouraging employee-created content to showcase a more human face.
Most notably, marketing to Gen Z calls for a socially mindful approach. Research shows that 85% of Gen Z is likely to trust a brand more after learning that they support a social cause, and many brands are taking this into account when establishing their social media strategy.
Businesses who cultivate niche communities around their brand and show their authenticity rather than pushing marketing messages are the ones who’ll be most successful at winning over their audience.
The advent of micro-influencer marketing has a lot to do with the previous point we’ve talked about – rebuilding trust on social media. As audiences crave transparency, authenticity, and a more intimate relationship with brands, mega-influencers and celebrities are losing power. The social media landscape is giving way to micro or even nano-influencers, which are social media citizens with a far smaller following in comparison to celebrities.
These small-scale influencers are now lauded as the marketing force of the future and their value lies not in follower numbers, but in the authentic relationship, they foster with their audiences, the community they build, and the type of engagement they generate. These personas earn their “influencer” status by establishing their authority as experts within their specific niche and followers are trusting of their recommendations.
They’ve proven to generate higher engagement rates than mega-influencers, who simply can’t dedicate the equal amount of attention and time to their hoards of followers. And since the social media game is all about engagement now (which is also emphasized by Facebook’s and Instagram’s changed algorithms) micro-influencer marketing is becoming the key to social media success for small and large business alike.
Overall, social media marketing is being most affected by an increased need for transparency and authentic relationships. There will be a lot of changes we’ll witness in the coming years, but this remains the essence. Along with following the defining currents of social media marketing, focus your efforts on understanding your audience and creating niche-oriented content to engage them. Build your presence in a more meaningful and engaging way, and you’re bound for success.