In such a dynamic industry like social media marketing is, it is difficult to predict trends with 100% accuracy. However, we can get an idea of what they are likely to be based on recent developments. Rather than speculate on potential breakthroughs in technology that may be some way off (such as artificial intelligence in content generation replacing humans), we have tried to focus on a list of 5 trends that we think are certain to develop or continue developing to become crucial in 2017:
Employees becoming brand representatives
Gone are the days of employees being nameless and hidden behind the brand – having real human beings attached to a brand and service is a highly effective marketing tool and after being championed by a few big pioneers, expect to see more direct involvement by employees on social media across all types of organisations (e.g. social media officer “David Smith” responding directly to a post from a client on a company’s Facebook page and adding his own personal spin to a reply, rather than a standard response drafted by head office).
Taking this a step further, companies will encourage employees to become brand advocates and use their personal social media accounts to spread the word – a word that carries a lot more weight than generic advertising as people are (obviously) more likely to trust their own friends and family than a paid commercial. Additionally, it gives the company indirect access to a free network of genuine contacts on top of those who have subscribed to or “liked” their page, profile, website, etc.
The age of the customer
In days gone by it was enough for a brand to leave customers with one positive experience to win their loyalty for a lengthy period of time. In the modern world, loyalty factors have been replaced by relationship factors and it takes a concerted effort to maintain a strong relationship with consumers.
Expect the trend to continue in this direction, placing social media branding at the forefront of any marketing strategy. Customers will want rapid responses to their inquiries across a wide variety of social media platforms – from now ‘mainstream’ platforms such as Facebook to the more quirky, such as a quick snap of their product on Snapchat with the inquiry written in caption form. Social media officers will have to be increasingly savvy to be able to respond effectively in order to maintain goodwill towards a brand.
Periphery or ‘fringe’ social media hubs
Continuing from the above, the number and variety of social media hubs will continue to proliferate and it will be up to social media/PR officers to be ahead of the game, or at the very least keep up with it. The marketing teams that are able to keep abreast of all the emerging trends in social media will do far better than those who wait until an app already becomes mainstream.
For example, few would have imagined a couple of years ago that Snapchat would become a mainstream media source and more importantly a great way to quickly and cheaply deliver daily video promotion of a brand. Many startups have been using Snapchat in this manner to great effect long before some bigger brands caught onto its value.
Longer sales funnel
As the ‘age of the customer’ enters its peak, it is no longer enough for a company to only focus its sales efforts on likely customers. It will be essential to develop relationships over an extensive period, regardless of whether the prospects of a sale are high or almost non-existent. This means offering an extensive amount of ‘free’ content up front in order for the customer to even entertain the prospect of purchasing your product over somebody else’s.
Increasingly rapid (i.e. instant) turnaround times
A renowned Sydney-based digital agency predicts that by 2020, the timeframe for developing an app or service could be as low as a few days (as opposed to months). This has huge consequences for social media branding – indeed it will push social media branding to the forefront more than ever before as traditional media lags increasingly far behind product development.
Although we can speculate on what the hottest trends will be until the cows come home (and in what order they should be listed), one thing is for certain – it will be crucial for any serious organisation to have a strong and responsive social media branding strategy in place in order to be able to deal with such an unpredictable and tumultuous environment in order to stay ahead (or at least keep up with) the game.