Another new year is upon us, so how will social media marketing evolve in 2017? Here are my three predictions:
1. Audience demand for ‘live’ content
2016 is the year that the Facebook Live really took off. This live-streaming service allows users to broadcast live whenever they want, easily and conveniently. It’s clear that its live feature was a strong focus point for Facebook in 2016 (yesterday I even saw a huge bus stop advert encouraging people to go ‘live’), and I believe this will continue into the new year. I noticed brands increasingly experimenting with the feature in 2016; including one of my clients, Tria Beauty, who hosted a popular live chat with top beauty bloggers about upper lip hair removal (watch it here).
As a consumer, it’s easy to see the appeal. It’s exciting to enjoy behind-the-scenes access to an event as it’s happening anywhere in the world – and not only watch it, but be an active participant in it by being able to ask the host questions. For example, Stylist Magazine led a live chat earlier this year about the best beauty products of 2016. Within seconds, I had my question (about how to best cover dark circles under my eyes – I blame having my own business!) answered by its beauty editor. It made me feel special for a moment and it was then that I fully recognised the potential of this new feature for brands looking to reach their audience in a new informal, personal way.
It’s not only Facebook jumping on the live-stream bandwagon – Instagram recently launched its own live feature in the U.S., and YouTube and Twitter’s Periscope both enable live-streaming.
2. ‘Real’ real-time engagement
Linked to the demand to watch and interact with live events, is also a growing audience need for timely, almost instantaneous, responses from brands on social media. This is linked to the ‘on-demand’ economy, where we’re used to getting things quickly with the simple click of a button.
I’ve always tried to respond as fast as possible whenever a potential customer asks a question about one of my clients’ products to help maintain their interest and prevent them from purchasing from a competitor. It also shows that the brand cares about customer service. I believe a speedy response from brands is already so important and it will become even more vital in 2017.
3. Privacy is back
Another trend that we’re seeing is people increasingly engaging in conversations in more private forums. While discussing dinner plans with your friends on their Facebook timelines may still be a novelty with some users, including the older audience (Facebook’s fastest growing audience is still age 55+), it’s becoming less so with others who would rather take their conversation to the likes of the messaging platform, WhatsApp, which now has more than 1 billion users.
It’s this need for privacy that we’ve seen the surging popularity of Snapchat and Instagram Stories, where content shared disappears within 24 hours. Brands can adapt to this shift by utilising platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram Stories and WhatsApp too.
The influence of Facebook groups shouldn’t be forgotten either. I regularly monitor the travel trade group, Travel Gossip, for opportunities to recommend my tour operator clients to travel agents. Although it’s not possible to achieve an audience reach beyond the members with private groups, posts can do very well organically and it can be a great way to access your target audience.
What other social media trends do you think we’ll see next year?