By Dave Avran
WITH the holidays and festivities over, it’s now time to see just how dominant a business tool was social media in 2017.
Facebook reported its highest earnings ever in Q3, up nearly 50 per cent from 2016. Its mobile ads are so popular that the platform is actually starting to run out of space for them, even though they’re charging more than ever.
Meanwhile, the network eclipsed the two-billion-user mark, now counting nearly one-third of the planet among its user base.
Undoubtedly businesses are realising that social media is the single most effective way to reach audiences, with teens (i.e. tomorrow’s consumers) now spending up to nine hours a day on social platforms.
An insatiable appetite for video among users, paired with better technology for making, posting and targeting social updates, is now seeing companies spending more money on social and digital ads than on TV advertising.
These trends show little sign of slowing up in 2018. Here’s a glimpse into five key factors that will impact how businesses use social media this year:
- Goodbye free reach on social media. It looks like facebook may finally kill organic reach on the News Feed entirely. They rolled out a new “Explore Feed,” a kind of second-class stream just for company updates. Testing has already begun in some countries to banish all company social posts from the all-important News Feed over to Explore.
These latest developments are a firm reminder that Facebook is now a paid platform for companies, little different in this respect from traditional pay-to-play advertising channels like TV, radio, print or billboards.
To reach an audience via their News Feed (any audience, at all) is going to cost you. Considering that 51 per cent of companies currently struggle with lack of a social media ads budget, this may prove a harsh wake-up call in 2018. One silver lining: Facebook has pioneered some of the most precise ad targeting tools ever.
- It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that video is the future, not just of social media but of the Internet in general. By 2018, forecasts are that 82% of all consumer Internet traffic will be video. Live and recorded video and video ads increasingly dominate our feeds across Facebook and Snapchat and are surging on Instagram, Twitter and even LinkedIn. Nearly half of businesses are already implementing social videos, with another 26% planning to implement in 2018.
- Those funny QR codes are making a comeback with a social media twist. Now, all you have to do is point your phone camera at a code, and it’s automatically activated. Codes can be used to log into wifi networks without typing out passwords, make a purchase with various mobile payment apps and even send pre-populated tweets and texts.
Major networks like Snapchat, Facebook and Spotify are increasingly pushing their own proprietary code technology onto users.
Scan a Facebook Messenger Code, and a handy bot or customer service agent automatically pops up on your phone.
Considering that QR codes are still one of the easiest ways to bridge the real world and the online one, don’t be surprised if you start seeing them everywhere in 2018—especially now that 700 million iPhone users have a scanner in their pockets.
- The era of “millisecond marketing” has arrived. Lots of basic social media tasks—from scheduling the optimal time to post something to finding catchy content to share—have already been automated. But in 2018, expect to see AI and related tools play an ever more important behind-the-scenes role in sharing messages. Rather than having to “guess” which images and text will get the most clicks, users can automate campaigns so that the best-performing posts are instantly boosted to the biggest audience.
This is part of a larger transformation that’s seeing the cycle for creating, distributing and optimizing social media radically compressed.
Inside the latest AI-powered tools, ever more complex algorithms are calling the shots and removing the guesswork about what marketing materials will lead to what results—and they’re doing so nearly in real time.
What once took creative teams days or weeks is now being accomplished in a matter of milliseconds.
In 2018, these tools should enable companies to reach bigger audiences with better targeted and more personalized messages than ever before—fulfilling the dream of truly “scalable” social media.
- Business software clouds are boosting their social media game. Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn for $26 billion set off a quiet arms race among big software sellers to integrate and upgrade social media features. Microsoft has already pushed ahead with integrating LinkedIn’s massive professional listings into Outlook and Dynamics 365, meaning businesses can instantly tap into social data about prospects and customers to personalize emails and messages.
Not to be outdone, Adobe, Salesforce, IBM and Oracle have all embarked on a flurry of purchases and integrations to improve their marketing clouds with social media features.
Underlying these improvements is a dawning understanding that social media provides businesses with a rich, real-time source of customer information—exactly the kind of data needed to power AI engines at the heart of these clouds.
In 2018, business users stand to be the big beneficiary of this software arms race, as marketing platforms find better ways to weave social media data and social media tools into their offerings.
So, the easiest prediction of all for 2018 is change.
Fuelled by intense competition between networks to capture advertising dollars, social media tools and tactics will continue to evolve at a breakneck pace in the year ahead.
Expect plenty of new features, new ad tools and brand new ways to watch video. For companies already fatigued by the onslaught of new technology and strategies, relief, unfortunately, is nowhere in sight.
But for those that can keep up, social media may promise bigger audiences and more return on investment than ever.
Credit : some content aggregated from an article by Ryan Holmes, Founder and CEO of Hootsuite, in Forbes.com