Scattered audiences; more diverse, yet fragmented platforms; an ever more competitive environment with marketing efforts that put the days of the TV networks to shame: social media sure is getting complicated! Brands have to be on their toes if they’re going to stay up-to-date with the newest and coolest apps and invest some serious resources to keep up with the trends – and know which ones to jump on and which ones are just a flash in the pan.
But, how are you going to cut through all that clutter? Here’s somewhere to start. We bring you our global perspective on the top five social media trends that we see dominating 2016.
- Channeling Your Messages: The question used to be “should we be on social?” Companies and brands weren’t quite sure they had a place on this new “chat platform” or that “friend space thing.” They dug their heels in crying “Danger!!!” …and ya know what? They were right. Not about avoiding having a social presence, but that it would be a Pandora’s box worth of trouble.
There is no place more dangerous to miss your message than on social. Your customers will notice, and what’s more, they’ll be delighted to spread the word about your little mishap. Every social channel has a tone, has a cadence, and is more or less of a fit for that “Free Shipping Friday” message you want to blast out. In fact, the latest social app might not be right for you – do you know if your customers are using it or is it just the latest millennial craze? Right message, wrong channel is not where you want to wind up.
TREND TAMER #1: Know your channels. Build them strategically. Social may move at lightning speed, but you don’t have to. Quality wins over quantity because in the end, you’re interrupting your customers’ conversations, so make sure you have something important to say every single time, and you’re not speaking in tongues to an empty room.
- Video Killed the Hollywood-Star: YouTube started it. They had the audacity to let anyone and everyone publicly post whatever video they wanted to. So we got Vlogs, then Vine accelerated it with micro-stories, with Instagram, Twitter and Facebook rushing to catch up. Now Meerkat and Periscope have taken us to the next level, the perfect example of the biggest trend we’re living in right now: RealityTV has finally gotten real.
That’s the root of it, the reality. Live Streaming every hiccup, sniffle, squeak and shuffle. The moment-to-moment unscripted view into life as it’s unfolding.
“Telling great customer stories is much better coming from the customer instead of the brand” – Meghan Litchfield, Head of Global Ecommerce, GoPro
Does it really have to be live? No. But it really has to be real. BatDad is a perfect example of this, every time, capturing the unfiltered genuine reaction to his antics. The critical ingredient over and over again is script-free, unexpected unpredictable reality. There’s still room for the big-budget, HD 3D Dolby Surround Sound production value. The difference is that while suspension of disbelief is an opportunity to be creative, tricking your customers into thinking you’re showing them reality when you’re not is just plain lying. So don’t do it. You’re going to get found out eventually.
TREND TAMER #2: Video is now the portal into anyone’s reality. The question is, whose reality do your customers want to visit, and are you willing to relinquish control over the script once you take them there? You’re not going to be able to disguise your ads anymore, so stop trying. Either be real and take them to a reality they couldn’t reach without you, or be fantastic.
- Search + Social = Buy Now: Why on earth haven’t we been buying stuff on our social platforms all along? It’s the best worst thing to happen to the web since responsive design turned our phones into content portals. The experience of ogling a product, lusting after it, asking your friends if you’d be crazy to spend that money on it, right through to ignoring them and buying it anyway has finally made its way from the mall to your mobile.
Why did it take so long? Well, you could say the technology just wasn’t ready, and then by the time it was, we just used to the old messy process. More likely, since most of our social sites were designed and built by men and it’s women who are the social shoppers — it never occurred to the guys to put a “buy now” button on there? Cause yeah, that’s pretty much all this is: Pinterest’s “Pin It,” Facebook’s “Like” it, Instagram’s eloquent “<3” it, and Twitter’s “Retweet” now give you the option to literally put your money where your mouth is with a “BUY NOW” button. Like it? Prove it.
TREND TAMER #3: If you ever thought that social was a waste of time or a distraction from your bottom line, you can stop that nonsense now. Give your customers a reason to brag about the products they love because now, their friends can buy directly from that brag. Just don’t forget to track those purchases so you can thank your brand evangelists.
- Chit-chat and Emoji Budgets: It wasn’t long ago that companies banned social channels at work. If your employees were spending time on Facebook or Twitter they were wasting your dollars, because chatter is chatter and the workplace is no time for idly socializing. Deadlines mean focus and slacking off with some random links and videos can’t be tolerated. Yammer introduced the idea of “internal social” but with the management dictating the topics and who got to chat with whom. After all, you didn’t’ want critical employees getting distracted by underlings.
“Emojis speak louder than words.” – ModCloth’s October social media motto
The new generation of Slack and HipChat have not just rocked that boat, they’ve capsized it. Gifs and emojis are now right up next to budgeting plans? Yes. Letting employees start the chat rooms they feel they need, rather than proscriptive “official work channels” established from the top? Yes. It’s a realization that maybe, just once in a while, you have no idea of the wealth of the knowledge base that is your team. That the guy over there in cubicle four who’s been on Facebook all day? Maybe if he had a place to get some love back from his co-workers for his incredible curated animated gif collection, he wouldn’t be posting on Facebook all day.
TREND TAMER #4: Stop trying to force people to communicate in unnatural ways. Workplace communication that mirrors the natural social habits of your employees, allowing them access to the same kind of platforms they already use in their day-to-day lives, will increase productivity, as well as keep people happier. Work doesn’t have to be boring, so stop being a fun killer.
- She Told Me To: We used to call it word-of-mouth. Now, it’s got the fancy new name of “influencer marketing.” Guess what? It’s more important than ever. According to Nielson, over 90% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family, even when it flies in the face of the advertising they see. Is that any different than before? No. But now, it’s more actionable than ever.
Not to sound like a broken record here – we’d rather be your favorite song on repeat – but that user-generated content that everyone’s been trying to tap into for years is only going to get stronger. If you’re going to succeed as a brand today, you’re going to have to learn to walk the fine line between controlling what’s said about you and letting the cards lie as they fall.
What’s the solution? Make sure your users really do love you! You’ll never catch every comment made about your brand – contrary to popular belief, not everything is posted on Facebook or Twitter – so stop trying. If the airlines have taught us anything (aside from the fact that we’re apparently all 5ft tall) it’s that bad customer service is really, really bad. Put all that time and energy you might otherwise throw at controlling the messages right back into things like customer service and making sure your product is top notch.
TREND TAMER #5: Make sure your customers actually enjoy being your customers. If they complain about something, fix it. Immediately. They’ll talk you up all the more. That kind of endorsement, not the ones from celebrities, is what’s keeping you in business. So give your fans the same attention. They cost a lot less and are way easier to work with in the end.
Did we miss something? Think we’re totally off base?
Call us on it! These are only our Top 5, not the whole kit-and-kaboodle, but if you think #3 is really “The Rise of the Possum Gif” then hey, we wanna know.
Tweet it up to @Emarsys. We’re ready to throw down.