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The world of social media is constantly changing and evolving. Social platforms are always introducing new features and tools for users to enjoy, which then brings new trends that brands need to consistently stay on top of. These trends certainly have an impact on how brands should be connecting with and marketing to consumers, making it crucial to continually keep up to date with them.

Click here to read our top 5 tips for improving your inbound marketing  campaigns in 2019

So, here are the 5 major social media trends that are predicted to reign this year and how brands could potentially utilise them to their advantage within their social media marketing strategy:

1. Transparency, authenticity and humanisation

With the overload of fake news and things such as Facebook’s data breaches and the Cambridge Analytica scandal occurring in recent years, people have grown increasingly distrustful of using social media platforms. With this is mind, re-building trust with consumers on social will be crucial this year for brands to succeed. Brands should be taking a completely customer focused approach to their social media strategy, providing as much transparency and authenticity as possible in order to gain back their trust.

A great example of a customer centric approach would be to look at the footwear brand Dr. Martens and how they have completely changed the way they connect with consumers. In an interview with Marketing Week, Dr. Martens’ chief product and marketing officer, Darren Campbell says:

“The days of brands telling consumers what the brand wants to tell has changed”.

“For us, marketing is more about the common ground between the brand and consumer and making sure you are able to meet in the middle. Everyone has a story about Docs and their first pair. I’m really conscious of the fact we need to celebrate those who have made us the brand we are today and that goes back to consumer obsession.”

Much like Dr. Martens, it is essential for brands to make the consumer feel like a part of the brand and develop a genuine, authentic connection with them – people are sick of typical sales pitches bombarding them online. Brands with an effective customer-focused, transparent and authentic social media approach, are the brands that will have the edge over their competitors this year.

 2. Micro-influencers

When it comes to social distrust, marketers could be partly to blame, as well as the social platforms themselves. In recent years, there has been a huge rise in brands using social media influencers to promote their products or services. While influencer marketing can often be a very powerful way to reach consumers, it can also create scepticism, with disbelief in the credibility of the testimonial, product review or recommendation. Another downfall of using major influencers is the rise in how much their services now cost due to their growing popularity, being much less cost-effective for brands.

With these negatives in mind, brands are now beginning to use ‘mirco-influencers’ to promote their products instead.

A micro-influencer is generally someone that has a following of fewer than 10,000 genuine people, as opposed to a major influencer with hundreds of thousands of followers. A big advantage to using micro-influencers within your social media strategy, is that consumers place much more trust in them and see their recommendations or opinions on things as being credible and genuine. Micro-influencers tend to have a much higher engagement rate on their content and they are seen as the most-informed within their niche. They are also very cost-effective, they charge less for their services and brands usually see a better ROI when using them over bigger influencers. In the last year or so, micro-influences have dominated the influencer marketing scene. According to Klear, data shows us that “84% of sponsored feed posts (ads) on Instagram were posted by micro-influencers and received up to 1,000 likes per post, demonstrating the level of influence.” Which echoes the point that using micro-influencers must be working for brands.  

Taking all of this into account, it’s obvious to see why brands should think about implementing micro-influencers into their social media marketing strategy this year. Doing so may also support that much-needed transparency and authenticity for brands to re-build trust with consumers.

3. Stories

Instagram Stories user growth graphStories are definitely ‘where it’s at’ in 2019. Since the initial invention of the format by Snapchat when it was released in 2011, Stories are now growing 15 times faster than feed-based sharing. The use of Instagram Stories in particular, has grown massively in recent years and has become one of the most widely used features in any social media app.

Stories are a way for users to share genuine, real-time content, which has a much more authentic, transparent and less polished feel than content on the main feed. For brands this year, implementing stories into their social media marketing strategy can have significant benefits and is certainly a major trend to embrace. One key benefit of this for brands goes back to the crucial goal of re-building trust with consumers, creating that important transparency, intimacy and brand humanisation. The great thing about Stories is that they are ephemeral, meaning brands can experiment and get creative with the content they share on the format, testing content out without much risk.

The Guardian Stories ImageA brilliant examThe Guardian Stories Imageple of a brand embracing the Stories feature within their social strategy is The Guardian. Stories, and particularly Instagram in general is especially effective for brands trying to reach the younger demographic, with the platform mostly being used on mobile. The Guardian is using Instagram to gain an engaged younger audience, that they don’t reach with their other digital products. They have recently started posting a weekly “Fake or For Real” story, which highlights some of the biggest fake news that has circulated that week. Using the poll sticker, they ask followers if they think the news story is “Fake” or “For Real”. This has proven effective in cultivating a loyal community on Instagram, with their stories getting around 50,000 views each week, according to the Guardian’s social producer Eleni Stefanou.

Considering all of this, you should probably start implementing stories into your social media marketing strategy, if you are not already. Experiment and have fun with it a bit, while offering valuable content that your followers are likely to engage with, ultimately aiming to create a community of loyal fans of your brand.  

4. Commerce on social

To increase brand loyalty, engagement and ultimately fuel sales, brands must recognise new and creative opportunities to target their market, and embracing trends within social commerce is one way to achieve this. Brands and retailers in China have certainly incorporated these trends and embraced the use of social media for shopping, particularly in a bid to target a younger demographic. Up to 70% of Chinese Generation Z consumers, say they prefer to buy products directly via social media. With statistics like this, it’s hard to see why brands would refuse to embrace these trends and not implement a strategy for social commerce.

For example, Instagram introduced shoppable posts, which rolled out to 45+ countries in March 2018. This fairly new feature has already blown up in popularity and is revolutionising the way people shop. Users are able to discover posts with the Shopping tab on the Explore page and purchase items tagged within the picture, without even having to leave the app. This feature not only makes the buying experience easier and more streamline for consumers, but also has an effect on brand identity and the personal connection that consumers have with the brand. Retailers and brands now have the opportunity to turn their Instagram profile into a visual store, encouraging engagement and creating loyal fans of their brand.

Another great example is Pinterest and how the platform is becoming a significant dominator within the realm of social commerce. Similarly to Instagram, Pinterest have also introduced shoppable pins for brands to tag onto their images, which consumers can click and then be directed straight to the checkout page on the retailers website. Many people have always used Pinterest for shopping inspiration because it’s so visual, which makes it easier to see what an outfit would look like pieced together or how a piece of furniture would look in your home. With Shop the Look, users can find where to buy individual items within a pin or use the Lens camera to visually search for items you see in the real world, now making the whole experience much more streamline for consumers.

A brilliant example of a brand embracing social commerce and incorporating these trends on social platforms, is Dr Brandt Skincare. In early 2017, Dr Brandt did not have a social commerce strategy at all anDr Brandt Skincare Social Media Imaged was pretty behind in the realm of social media in general. Since then, they have undergone a substantial social expansion plan ran by their VP of digital, Lisa Raggiri, and fully utilised social platforms to their advantage. With social now being a top priority for the skincare brand, their following on Instagram and Snapchat has grown by thousands. Dr. Brandt has importantly seen a 500% rise in direct sales conversion from using shoppable stickers on Instagram within 10 days of adding the tool to its Stories. 

 

5. Bots & Messaging 

Like it or not, artificial intelligence in terms of chatbots and messaging is the future of marketing and customer communication. Although it has been around for some time, the concept and technologies are now evolving and being integrated with social media platforms. Gone are the days of emailing customer support and waiting weeks for a reply, people now prefer to message the brand directly on social media to instantly answer their queries. Consumers now want immediacy and this has become the new standard for customer service. The demand for instant replies is greater than ever and the possibilities for businesses to utilise chatbots and automated messaging is endless.

Chatbots are artificial intelligence systems that are programmed to conduct a conversation with the user through speech or text (messaging). Chatbots are commonly integrated into websites, to allow brands to always be present and improve communication with their customers, making the whole process more streamline. While making the customer query process more streamline, chatbots seem to boost open rates and CTRs and also have the functionality to integrate transactions. According to Kristi Kellogg, Founder & CEO of Dazzling Digital, “businesses that market via Messenger earn 60-80 percent open rates within the first 60 minutes.” Chatbots can also save time and allow employees to focus on more important tasks, rather than having to answer masses of customer queries.

Pizza Hut Chatbots ImageOne brand that is effectively using chatbots is Pizza Hut. As you can see from this image, they are using Facebook Messenger to allow customers to order food directly through social media. This is a brilliant example of how chatbots can be used to successfully drive more sales.    

 

 

Another great example of a brand embracing AI and instant messaging is KLM airline. As one of the first brands to use chatbots on Messenger, KLM certainly has a forward-facing approach to social and digital trends. After the major disruption to air travel in 2010, when a volcano in Iceland erupted, passengers posted to KLM’s Facebook public wall at an overwhelming rate, asking questions about their flights. This was the point when KLM realised that taking these queries into private instant messaging could improve the customer experience and service tremendously. On Messenger, passengers can instantly access their flight info and updates, as well as instant customer service.

KLM Airline Messenger Image

Messenger is now the preferred way for consumers to interact with the brand and it has proven to have an incredibly positive effect. According to Marketing Week, “The results so far have been impressive. There has been a 40% increase in customer interactions since the airline began using Messenger and today 15% of all online boarding passes are now sent via Messenger.”

According to data from Nielsen, approximately 80% of adults and 91% of teens use messaging every day, due to social media messages being instant, direct, personal and often generating an immediate response. Plus, nearly two thirds (63%) of consumers have increased their use of messaging with businesses in the last two years and 53% say they are more likely to do business with companies they can message. And if that wasn’t enough, 64% would prefer to message a company than call or email them.

With these significant statistics and so many positives, it’s plain to see why brands should now be embracing AI and instant messaging to enhance their customer experience and service. Facebook’s group director Dan Robinson says “AI will be at the heart of solving key business challenges because people’s expectations have changed. Every industry is being disrupted and having to adapt to different ways of doing things, while governments and regulators are encouraging more competition so brands must be more innovative.”

Conclusion

So, what do these trends mean for you as a business? Well, we’ve established that 2019 is ultimately the year of re-building trust between brands and consumers on social media. Therefore, brands must try to embrace and incorporate the trends discussed into their social media strategy in a bid to gain back this trust and form a loyal community of fans.

The world of social media is constantly evolving and we know it can be hard to stay consistently up to date with trends and new features. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Visit our blog again soon to discover the social media trends predicted for next year.

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