The end of 2017 saw quite a few significant changes in the world of social media, not least the doubling of the character count on Twitter and the clamping down on ‘fake news’ on Facebook.

The latter was just the start of the ‘fake news’ fight, which is expected to gather pace in 2018 after CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised to “fix” Facebook.

Speaking on his own Facebook page he said: “My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues. We won’t prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools.

“If we’re successful this year then we’ll end 2018 on a much better trajectory.”

So we can expect stronger governance policies across the board and less emphasis on business pages but what else can we expect to see over the next 12 months.

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Augmented reality will continue to grow

With the iPhone 8 and iPhone X allowing users to enjoy an augmented reality, this is set to move at a rapid pace in 2018, after previously failing to hit the heights promised and expected.

Gaming is already taking full advantage of the AR technology but experts are predicting that more social media platforms will be looking at ways to incorporate it as soon as possible.

Snapchat have already joined the AR revolution by rolling out a new feature, which allows users to their Bitmoji and project themselves or images into the real world through the app’s camera.

Both Snapchat and Instagram could soon be able to allow users to take ‘virtual’ selfies with a friend or even a celebrity by using augmented reality.

We are also expecting more businesses to adopt the tech to project their products into people’s homes. Ikea has already dipped their toe in the water, with the launch of their ‘Place’ App so no doubt others will follow suit.

We are expecting ‘virtual FOMO’ to become a real thing, as people not only experience the fear of missing out in the real world, but also the virtual one .

Could stories take over?

Instagram Stories were only launched a year ago but already more than 300million people are using them daily, which is already more than 150 million more users than those signed up to Snapchat.

Experts are predicting that nearly half of all Instagram users will be using the stories functionality by the end of the year, which equates to 400 million users.

Following the success on Instagram, it’s no surprise that stories have now been launched on Facebook – although it’s difficult to predict how successful they will be on that platform.

What is a ‘story’?

If you’re not already familiar with stories, they are posts which allow users to collate photos and videos into a slide show and the big selling point is that they disappear after 24 hours. The idea is that once they’re gone, they’re gone (ephemeral content) means that marketers feel more comfortable using stories to be a bit more creative and less formal.

How can you use them?

Take users behind the scenes of your business
Demonstrations and guides
Teasers of news and new products
Coverage of live events
Flash sales and limited time offers
Q&A sessions with key staff

Influencers will keep on influencing

Influencer marketing had been one of the big success stories, with 90% of marketers who use them branding them successful for their business (source: The State of Influencer Marketing 2017).

2018 is set to see even more businesses embracing influencers and take advantage of their status and social media power to get them a piece of the action.

Research by Rakuten Marketing revealed just what lengths companies will go to, to pair with the right influencers. They found that some UK marketers are willing to pay more than £75,000 for a single Facebook post mentioning their brand.

Obviously, this figure varies dramatically depending on the sector, with some premium fashion marketers paying an eye-watering £160,000 per post.

If you’re planning on taking this approach make sure you do your homework because a relationship can easily and quickly backfire if the alignment is not right. It’s also essential to play by the rules, with influencers admitting to the link up so there is transparency and no comeback from the Advertising Standards Agency.

Age is not just a number

With Generation Z’ers now said to be the most valuable socio/economic groups to most organisations it won’t be a surprise to see social media campaigns and strategies tailored towards 22-year-olds and their disposable income.

If Gen Zers are your target audience then they are more likely to be found on the newer platforms, such as Instagram and Snapchat – so both platforms are likely to benefit from an increased advertising spend.

Instant communication

More than 2billion people worldwide use messaging platforms so 2018 is set to see more businesses jump on board and take advantage of the immediate access to their audience.

But we’re not talking about expecting people to sit on social media all day every day, ready to reply. Instead Artificial intelligence, voice assistants and chatbots will be employed to give users a more personalised shopping experience.

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Going Live

We’re always talking about the importance of video, whether it’s on your website, social media accounts or for SEO purposes but this year is about taking things even further and streaming more live events through your social media accounts.

According to LinkedIn, 80% of customers would prefer watching live videos rather than other social content types.

Facebook, Instagram and YouTube can stream live from their mobile apps, while you can live stream to Twitter using the Periscope app.

Some stats to consider from Digital Doughnut

  • 80% of customers would rather watch live videos from a brand than read posts
  • Facebook Live videos are watched three times longer than regular ones
  • The live streaming industry could reach $70.05 billion by 2021.
  • There are 10m active daily users on Twitch – one of the biggest live streaming sites
  • 45% of Facebook’s market share belongs to live stream videos, while 44% of YouTube’s market share is occupied by live videos.

Facebook is already taking things to a new level, with their Spaces project, a new VR app where you can hang out with friends in a fun, interactive virtual environment as if you were in the same room.

The project is currently in beta mode but according to Facebook it allows you to:

  • Go live from VR and your friends can follow along on Facebook in real-time.
  • Make and receive Messenger video calls with friends even if they’re not in VR.
  • Hang out with your friends and show them your Facebook photos and videos.
  • Draw 3D objects and express your creativity on a whole new level.
  • Create memories of your fun moments in VR, take selfies, and share them with your Facebook friends.

Currently, it’s only available on Available on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive but it’s only a matter of time before it is rolled out across more devices.

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Changes ahead for Twitter?

The fact that 2017 saw Twitter fail to substantially grow their follower numbers means that hard work is on the horizon for the management team to try to claw back their market share from Instagram and Facebook.

Conclusion

You might already feel like it’s hard work to keep up with the changes to social media and no doubt there will plenty more surprises to come throughout 2018. But what we can say is – if you incorporate any (or as many) of these trends to your social media strategy then you won’t go too far wrong this year when it comes to converting followers to paying customers via your website.