Let’s take a moment to reflect on 2016’s social media trends.
Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $26 billion. Instagram took a swing at temporary content with Stories. Snapchat (or is it Snap Inc. now?) unveiled sunglasses that take pictures. Oh, and Facebook lets anyone stream live video with just a couple of clicks – cue the flood of emojis.
Even in an industry as dynamic as social media, 2016 was an eventful year.
But like every year, 2016 must come to an end. That leaves everyone pondering one question: Which social media trends will be most important for 2017?
The answer depends on the audience. There’s much to be written about the newest Snapchat filters, or the complex social mores of Tumblr. This post is not about either of those things.
This post examines the developments that matter most for local businesses. Instead of focusing on any one platform, we’ve highlighted trends occurring throughout the social media world so you can focus on long-term strategies rather than the flavor of the month fads.
Here’s what you need to know for 2017.
1. Live Video Will Be Everywhere
Facebook may have commanded the most attention when it released Facebook Live, but it wasn’t the first platform to release streaming video functionality, and it won’t be the last. Twitter invested in Periscope way back in 2015, and Instagram announced a live video feature at the end of 2016.
Video has been rapidly, and it’s only going to ramp up in 2017. Using video to market your company – not to mention hosting a live broadcast – may seem daunting for local businesses, but the payoff is worth it.
A couple of stats to consider:
- Cisco predicts that 80 percent of all internet traffic will go to video by 2019
- 50 percent of people watch at least one video on Facebook per day
- 59 percent of marketers say video brings in more ROI than any other type of content
It’s clear people love video. What’s more, live video adds a layer of authenticity to your marketing, because it supplies your audience with a direct connection to you and your business.
Even more good news: it’s not really that difficult to produce. Most smartphones are already equipped with powerful cameras, and you can purchase a decent microphone for cheap.
Since several of the major platforms already have some form of live video, expect 2017 to be the year everyone invests in video. If you want to use this medium successfully, you need to think about how to showcase your product or service in ways that educate and entertain your audience.
If you need inspiration, check out these great examples:
2. Employee Advocacy Becomes Powerful Social Proof
There are a number of reasons to build a company culture that employees love, like better retention rates and higher productivity. These benefits also overlap with your marketing, because happy employees are more likely to advocate for your business on social media.
Employee advocacy will reach a fever pitch in 2017 for three reasons:
- Using employees as advocates instantly expands your reach. Even if you only have a couple of people on the payroll, tapping into their networks to spread the word about your business will exponentially increase the size of your audience.
- Platforms are reducing the reach of organic posts in favor of paid placement. While paying for advertising isn’t necessarily a bad thing, utilizing employee advocacy is a cost neutral way to market on social media.
- Employee advocacy is a form of word-of-mouth marketing, and people trust employees more than advertising or company executives.
Social media marketers have become enamored with influencers, and celebrities with large followings are still courted by brands to promote their products.
In the coming years, employees will be the new influencers. They may not boast the same following, but when your employees share news about your brand, their enthusiasm translates into powerful social proof.
3. People Expect Great Social Customer Service
Pundits have been talking about social customer support for some time, so this trend may not seem particularly groundbreaking. But there’s a truism about all things social media that also applies to social customer service: just because you have an account doesn’t mean you’re doing it well.
A 2013 study by Helpdesk encapsulated this concept when it found 80 percent of businesses believed they deliver “superior” customer service while also 8 percent of customers thought the same.
Things have probably improved since then, but social customer support is still the single greatest opportunity for you to develop a rapport with your customers. If you need more evidence, consider that 71 percent of people who receive timely support on social media from a brand are likely to recommend that business to others.
Plus, when you deliver great customer support on social, your entire community sees it.
Platforms know how important support is to your business, and they’ve started to supply more tools to help. Facebook tracks your account’s response time in the admin dashboard and rewards accounts that hit a certain response threshold with a badge on their page.
Twitter has also deployed tools to help businesses more easily provide customer service. It’s now easier to find accounts dedicated to customer service, and customers can see which time which businesses are most likely to respond.
2017 will be the year when great customer service becomes standard on social media. People already expect it, and successful businesses will deliver.
4. More People Use Social to Search
Google is so synonymous with search that the company’s very name has become a verb. But Google’s stranglehold on search may be loosening.
Besides highlighting absurd revenue numbers, Facebook revealed in a 2016 earnings call that the platform now sees 2 billion searches per day – an increase of 500 million from the same time in 2015.
Google still holds a significant lead with 3.5 billion searches per day, but the gap is closing. Reliable search statistics are difficult to find for Twitter, but it’s not hard to imagine search is climbing on that platform too.
The increase in search queries on Facebook highlights the growing importance of search engine optimization for local business pages. Previously, this type of marketing was only a consideration for Google’s algorithm, but Facebook’s numbers are making its search engine impossible to overlook.
This trend is still in its early phase, but expect it to gather steam throughout the new year.
5. Compelling Stories Make for the Best Social Content
In a survey of over 1000 U.S. small businesses, eMarketer found 53 percent of small businesses use social media as the main channel to advertise their business online. Considering there are over 20 million small businesses in the U.S., that’s a lot of social content.
This leads us back to the age-old question of how to make your business stand out.
As social media and content marketing have evolved, the answer has become clear: tell compelling stories.
Humans are hardwired to respond to stories, which is why people often choose a product or service based on the brand rather than individual features or benefits.
Local businesses are well equipped to tell a compelling story because people love the idea of someone chasing their dream and starting their own business. Your business already has an emotional hook; you just have to bring it to life.
Honest Coffee Roasters, one of our favorite coffee shops in town, are pros at telling their story on social media. Every social post ties back to how these roasters make delicious coffee.
Here’s one about how their Director of Roasting Brice finished runner-up in a roasting competition in St. Louis. Notice how Honest Coffee Roasters ties in a video about Brice’s day:
How Can Local Businesses Keep Up?
It’s an understatement to say social media changes fast. The five trends we’ve outlined above will significantly influence social marketing in 2017, but the most certain trend of all is that every platform will continue to change.
This is good for people who study social media, but not great for business owners who are short on time. Companies may be ramping up their social marketing, but many employees aren’t confident they can use social media to drive business value.
Arming yourself with the right social media tools can reduce some of the manual work involved in social media management, but you’ll still need to do a lot of market research to get the right strategy.
Contact us today or more information on how to take your marketing and sales strategies to the next level, and to learn which techniques are right for your specific business.