In the Information Age change is the only constant and that’s especially true of the social media industry, where a seemingly endless line of innovators are waiting to take their shot at changing the world with their idea for the next big thing. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be a big thing. Even small, seemingly inconsequential changes can end up having a profound impact on the big picture, just like the advent of the Twitter hashtag.
So with that in mind, what changes can social media marketing professional expect to see in 2018?
A Great Year for Instagram and Snapchat
While Facebook remains the biggest fish in the pond by a considerable margin, Instagram (owned by Facebook) looks to be performing very well too. At present the number of brands using Instagram for marketing is roughly level with Twitter at around 69%, according to eMarketer, but that figure is set to rise 75% over the next two years while Twitter usage is predicted to remain level at 66%. That change is certain to bring an increase to Instagram’s already impressive ad revenues (expected to hit $6.8 billion by 2019).
Snapchat is nowhere close to matching that level of success, but eMarketer predicts that, thanks to improved advertising tools, the platform should make $1.18 billion in revenues this year – an annual increase of over 80% and by far the strongest growth in the sector.
Social Media Advertising Transparency
Facebook’s grip on the social advertising market looks set to tighten in 2018, with the social network predicted to account for 10% of all US advertising spend throughout the year, achieving ad revenues of $21.6 billion. As brands increase budgets in social advertising they’re demanding greater transparency into how that investment is performing.
The days when CMOs would simply hand over budget to the media agency and hope for the best are over, a new breed of tools (such as Sysomos Analyze) provides unprecedented real-time insight into how campaigns are performing. This means marketers can now see exactly where their budget is going and make quick, smart decisions about how to optimize their social campaigns based on live data.
There’s another kind of transparency issue at play here too. As we hear more about the use of social media advertising to influence the outcome of elections it seems highly likely that governments (and citizens) around the world will demand that these platforms be more open about who is paying for such ads, so expect to see the industry become more regulated in the coming years.
Visual Social Media Listening Adoption
Expect marketers to make visual social media listening much more of a priority, as it moves from a ‘nice to have’ to ‘need to have.’ The technology has matured and is edging closer to mainstream adoption, so more organizations are using it as part of their ongoing social media monitoring activity rather than just for experimentation.
The starting point is usually logo recognition, but image recognition technologies are now much more advanced, and marketers should think of more creative applications beyond mere brand monitoring. If you’d like to learn more about this technology, download our visual listening eBook.
Production costs continue to fall as new technologies make it easier and cheaper than ever to create high quality video content. The rewards for getting it right can be huge, because consumers have demonstrated an insatiable appetite for video and, it seems, there’s growing demand for longer videos as people have grown comfortable with watching them on handheld devices.
According to research from entertainment industry consultancy, Activate, the average amount of time consumers spend viewing video content on social channels will double from 8 minutes per day in 2017 to 16 minutes in 2021.
There’s also still plenty of opportunity in live-streaming video now that the technology is firmly integrated into Facebook, Twitter and other channels. It’s not for everybody, but there’s potential for brands to really get creative with how they use this medium and differentiate themselves from competitors.
Influencer Marketing will get Tougher but Better
Reach won’t be enough for marketers as they try to calculate the value of influencer programs. Metrics will have to improve so that marketers can get a better sense of audience relevance and content quality, and some direct response marketers will look for a clearer return on investment.
On top of this, authorities in major economies are beginning to look more closely at the way influencer marketing works and shine a light on some of the more dubious practices. Expect to see increasing regulation and more transparency, which should be a good thing in terms of cleaning up the industry. Instagram has already begun to push its most influential users to be more transparent when posting sponsored content, for fear of being hit by FTC fines.
Research has shown that word-of-mouth driven by marketing activity generates double the sales that conventional advertising does, and those customers have a 37% higher retention rate,so it’s easy to see the enduring attraction of influencer marketing. You can download our eBook to learn more about influencer marketing KPIs.
The social media industry gets bigger and more complex every year, so these are just a few of changes you’re likely to see over the next twelve months. If you’re interested in getting a broader snapshot of the social media landscape, why not download our report on everything CMOs need to know about social media in 2018