The potential social media has to reach people and influence people is staggering. While we had plenty of unfiltered, hashtag-fee, unbranded fun on MySpace and Friendster in the earliest days of social (so good while it lasted!), once Facebook and Twitter made their platforms public in 2006, brands couldn't resist jumping in to get free access to millions, (and possibly billions) of fans, followers, and future customers.
Their presence--along with that of celebs, personalities, and thought leaders--has no doubt driven the trends that we see across all of social. It's even reshaped the user experience itself, as the major social networks constantly modify their algorithms in order to serve up (supposedly) more relevant content and ads. Those changes are critical to brands, as 43 percent of internet users ages 16 to 64 say that they use social networks when researching things to buy.
Whether you're an individual, influencer, or brand, making your mark on social--and driving business--means staying way ahead of social trends and pushing the boundaries of what the medium can do for you. Here are the most relevant trends our team at Masthead Media is seeing this year so far--and how you can use them to drive the conversation.
While the overall growth of social media is leveling off, the number of people who are joining and active on stories is exploding (after launching in 2016, more than 500 million people use Instagram stories every single day). Not only is the audience growing, but those who actively watch stories don't seem to mind that brands also post their content within the space. In fact, a full 1/3 of the most-watched stories are from brands.
Users seem to value the content they're seeing from brands on IG stories, and according to parent company Facebook, 80 percent of Instagrammers say they rely on the platform to help them decide whether to buy a product or service. Here's how top brands like Everlane, Bon Appetit, and Glossier are leaning into stories.
What You Can Do: If you have a more visual brand that lends itself to imagery, don't wait another second to jump onto stories. Even if you create a single story with a few images each week, you'll be reminding your customers why you're relevant to their lives--without overly trying to sell them anything.
If you happen to follow Wendy's Twitter account (and with 3 million followers, you just might) you'll see exactly what it means to push boundaries--the right way--on social. For the past couple of years, the social media managers (SMMs) behind the burger chain's feed have roasted fans, engaged in rap battles, and trolled their competitors about frozen beef and fry-filled burgers.
What You Can Do: Really know your audience, and don't be afraid to test their appetite for humor. Find the line...and stop just sort of crossing it. Get someone with a genuinely sharp wit and a fast response time to manage your feed. Long lags are never funny.
You've no doubt heard that Facebook has been testing the idea of hiding/removing "like counts," which to me has always seemed like a precursor to something bigger. Namely, a direct way for FB to capture funds from the multi-billion dollar influencer marketing industry.
That seems to be unfolding now as Facebook is starting to push brands to use its Brand Collabs Manager platform. Creators on both FB and IG are now able to add themselves as influencers, and brands can use the tool to find those who seem to be a good fit with their audience for a paid partnership. Going forward, the platform will show them how well those "Paid Partnership" posts are really doing--something that may be impossible to do if like counts go away.
While this news means FB is keeping transactions within their walled garden, the silver lining is that the move may make it easier for micro-influencers to be discovered (they can join with a minimum of 1,000 followers, or if they hit any of these other criteria).
What You Can Do: In the past, I've reported that Facebook tends to reward brands who are early adopters of their tools and tech--so I have no doubt that any brand that taps into Brand Collabs manager, in the beginning, will be rewarded with a successful, brag-worthy campaign (after all, FB controls how many people will be seeing those posts). It's definitely worth testing out, particularly because tracking the success of influencer campaigns has always been a bit tricky. If Facebook's metrics can be believed, you'll have a more direct way to see how your campaigns are performing.