Katharine Riggs March 11, 2020 | 12:58:53

6 Social Media Trends That Businesses Should Know

For most people social media is a great way to follow trending news, post food pictures and, most importantly, share memes. For PR and marketing folks, it’s a key part of business communications. Social media helps us and our clients connect to customers, drive web traffic, and even develop or convert leads.

71% of social media marketers say social media channels offer consumer insights that benefit other departments of their business, while 93% of all marketers cite more exposure for their business as its number one benefit.

Yet the social media landscape changes constantly. Here are some of the key trends all businesses should be #following this year.

TikTok: Capturing Gen Z and beyond 

It’s not just a fad. The TikTok train has taken off and if you’re not on board, you may be missing out. The app, which delivers short, addictive video clips that are influencing both pop culture and digital content, caters to an audience looking for a new, exciting, and entertaining way to connect.

TikTok may seem almost exclusively used by Gen Z, as 69% of users are between just 16-24 years old, but it has captured the attention of the public and marketers alike. It has more than 800 million monthly active users who spend an average of 46 minutes per day on the app, according to Hootsuite.

Creating a channel and producing relevant content for a brand are just the start. B2C marketers will want to grow a list of followers that they closely and frequently engage with. The platform is now offering new advertising options, making it easier to reach specific customer segments. Additionally, partnering with TikTok influencers can open brand content to a much broader, but well-targeted, audience.

What about B2B marketers? Before you dismiss the idea, remember that many B2B decision-makers are millennials. They, too, want engaging and entertaining content. According to a study of “millennial” buyers by Merit, nearly three-quarter of 20- to 35-year-olds are involved in product or service purchase decision-making at their companies. One third say they’re the sole decider.

TikTok’s global reach and popularity make it hard to ignore, and its growth isn’t expected to slow any time soon. Businesses who haven’t already incorporated TikTok into their marketing strategies may be forfeiting the opportunity to connect with the next generation of social media users. 

Influencers get smaller….with bigger impact

Despite skepticism about the ROI of some influencers and changes in metrics, influencer marketing is still a powerful tool and an important complement to paid advertising. We’ve seen the rise of “micro influencers,” defined as those with small-to-mid-sized social media followings (10k to 99k), as well as “nano influencers,” (1k-10k followers). They can be terrific partners within a specific niche, focused passion or topic.

Micro and nano influencers consistently have high engagement rates, particularly on Instagram. CreatorIQ and Influencer Marketing Hub’s annual “State of Influencer Marketing” report finds that brand marketers are “increasingly showing a strong preference for such smaller-reach influencers vs. so-called mega influencers with a million or more followers.” For example, four in 10 millennials say their favorite YouTube content creator understands them better than their friends.

Rather than focusing on pricey celebrity-level talent and vanity metrics, marketers can use influencers who will actually reach their target audience on a closer, more organic level. What’s more, the removal of “likes” from Instagram means that more granular metrics will take priority, and it may lead to better and more diverse content.

Social Commerce: Instagram as storefront 

Instagram is no longer just a place for selfies and stories; it has become one of the best social media platforms for brands to actively engage with consumers and sell products. Instagram’s shopping feature makes the app an easy, exciting and user-friendly way for shoppers to quickly browse and make purchases from their favorite brands.

By tapping a product tag on your post or a product sticker in your story, a user is taken to a product description page where they see an image and description of the product, the price, and a link to a brand website where they can buy. Instagram says its shopping features “give your business an immersive storefront for people to explore your best products.”

Two hundred million Instagrammers visit a business profile every day and 77% of consumers say they are more likely to buy from a brand they follow on social media over one they do not. Additionally, 75% of Instagram users take action – like visiting a website or making a purchase – after seeing an ad on Instagram. Instagram’s shopping feature (including the “swipe up” story feature) is one of the easiest ways for marketers to use social media to increase sales. 

Tech takeover

Technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have made a big splash, especially over the past year. Because of this, social media users now expect better, more engaging experiences.  Facebook has already followed the trend with the introduction of Horizon, their social virtual reality world where people can connect, play games, and explore. Horizon is a prime example of next-level social connection and this type of platform could certainly be the future of social media.

AR is also common, as with Snapchat’s Lenses and Instagram’s AR filters, which enhance users’ visual content on “stories.” These filters are insanely popular and offer an opportunity for businesses to take advantage with branded filters. Top brands like Gucci, Nike, and Disney have already used Instagram’s AR filters for social media campaigns.

In 2020, visuals in content are only going to get more interesting. For B2B businesses, Instagram TV (IGTV) will be a great platform to share tutorials, in-depth videos about your product or service, interviews, tours, etc. For example, General Electric is showing users the exciting work they do around the world— even allowing users to see the inside of a volcano.

Short-lived content with lasting effects 

Ephemeral content is growing. It started on SnapChat but is now seen on TikTok and Instagram Stories. This temporarily available content – often in the form of Stories — feels more spontaneous and personal, probably because it is. A video that disappears within 24 hours would seem to break all the rules of marketing, but brands have used ephemeral content in a variety of ways – with informational stories, quizzes, interactive contests, and “behind-the-scenes” interviews and videos. Even B2B companies like Intel and Hubspot have used Instagram stories successfully.

To use ephemeral content successfully, marketers should tell a story, be consistent and show authenticity. The short-lived nature of ephemeral content brings higher engagement, wider reach and trust.

Listening in 

As easy as it may sound, one of the best social media strategies for marketers is still simply listening to consumers. Social listening is important because it tells you people are saying about your brand in real time. In fact, 63% of social media marketers believe listening will become more important than ever over the next year.

Influencer Marketing Hub declared social media “a goldmine for data and insights that businesses can use to refine their social strategies.” But to access this gold mine, marketers must have the right tools. Some of the most popular, well-designed social listening tools include Brand24, YouScan, Buzzsomo, Sprout Social and Hootsuite Insights. They give marketers a better understanding of how their brand or business is perceived, the impact of a social media campaign, and other valuable insights. These types of tools must play an essential role in marketers’ social media strategies.

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