The Importance of Social Media Channels in 2018: Trends and Optimization Tips

Social media is the main marketing channel and will continue to grow in 2018. Popular social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, WhatsApp and so many others consistently compete and innovate, adding new features to remain relevant to ever-demanding and growing user bases that expect AI to make everything easier and faster. So, perhaps the main things you must consider in 2018 are the trends that will change everything.


Rise of AR
Technology is not yet ready for the most refined forms of AR, but all Internet companies are actively working to include augmented reality as the main feature to enhance user experience. Did you know that with Facebook AR studio you can augment the world around you? Even smartphones are ready to embrace the trend. In fact, the new iPhone X is equipped with a powerful chip – A11 Bionic Chip with Neural Engine – purpose-built for machine learning, augmented reality apps, and immersive 3D games. And there are already numerous augmented reality (AR) apps available for smartphones to justify investing in this futuristic trend. AR can be used for all kinds of purposes, especially for hospitality businesses like hotels and restaurants to offer users an immersive experience before the booking process. AR technology makes it possible for hoteliers to offer virtual tours, 3D views of guest rooms, detailed information and rendering of nearby points of interest, and much more.


Rise of video
Video was already big in 2017 and in 2018 it will get even bigger.  To recap some well-known stats: users watch live videos three times more than they view pre-recorded materials. Also, Facebook notes that “people comment more than 10 times more on Facebook Live videos than on regular videos.” They even have a live map to showcase active content, and it’s a great tool to monitor events around the world in real time. So, consider boosting your video marketing strategy on all social media channels that offer this feature in 2018. Facebook Live videos are favored because they humanize your brand. They don’t look staged – or at least they shouldn’t – and they allow users real-time interaction with the broadcaster. YouTube Live is another powerful way to connect with your audience and to increase brand visibility. Even Twitter empowers you to reach beyond your followers with Periscope live video content.

But don’t focus exclusively on live video. More video content, even if it doesn’t become viral, will undoubtedly maintain you in the lead. Cisco predicts that:

“Globally, IP video traffic will be 82 percent of all consumer Internet traffic by 2021, up from 73 percent in 2016 […] Live Internet video will account for 13 percent of Internet video traffic by 2021.”

Note that even LinkedIn supports video, and this is true for most social networks. It is very likely that they will all support a form of live broadcast by the end of 2018.


Rise of Influencer Marketing
If you ever needed proof that people matter, the rise of influencer marketer is it. According to the Influencer Marketing Hub 2017 Study, influencer marketing is the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition method. Here, the most interesting and effective channel seems to be Instagram, according to the study, especially for engagement rates, evidently because Instagram posts remain visible longer, while tweets, unless pinned to the top of the timeline, can quickly vanish into a user’s feed.

The rise of influencer marketingInfographic from: influencermarketinghub.com

92% of marketers who used influencer marketing in 2017 found it to be effective, as Linqia found in its latest report. Marketers cited by Linqia count engagement (90%), clicks (59%), and conversions (54%) as top performance indicators. The report offers other noteworthy statistics:

“92% of marketers cite Instagram as the most important social network for influencer marketing in 2018, followed by Facebook (77%). At 71%, blogs are a close third, up from 48% in 2016. However, the blog’s rise in importance comes at the expense of Snapchat, which was named the least important social network for influencer marketing in 2018 by 50% of the marketers surveyed.”

These numbers are relevant to help you define your social media marketing for 2018: obviously, if your goal is influencer marketing, you should be focusing on the relevant social media channels: Instagram, Facebook, blogs, and Twitter.

Linqia influencersCredit to: www.linqia.com


Rise of social media ads
Have you noticed that business updates reach less and less social media every day? That’s because social media networks need money to run their vast servers to support uninterrupted, fast, service. As a result, more and more companies with Facebook pages, for example, are investing in ads. Although the Explore Feed experiment by Facebook was dropped, it is still not enough to help businesses perform. Luckily, social media advertising is still affordable, and you can settle for ongoing ads campaigns to keep the ball rolling. Then find out the best times to post on every network to optimize your efforts.  But with an increase of the need for social media ads you can also expect rising ad costs. But because you get rich advertising reports for each campaign you create, you can quantify your efforts, see what works and what doesn’t, and improve your marketing efforts to maximize reach.


Rise of AI
Most social media networks today have a strong AI component that drives content delivery, sharing, and even creation. Marketers also predict that AI will revolutionize marketing in 2018. Chatbots, for example, are one of AI’s most robust components, and due to technology advances, they are expected to have higher conversational capabilities in 2018 – good news for companies already using them in customer service efforts.  The Gartner Top Strategic Predictions for 2018 and Beyond report revealed that “by 2021, more than 50% of enterprises will spend more per annum on bots and chatbot creation than traditional mobile app development.” Chatbots are already strong on Facebook, used mainly in Messenger by brands like Marriott International, Burger King, Kayak, Expedia, Skyscanner, MobyTrip, Everyday Low Prices Company, and many others.

But that’s not all. AI can power many other applications that will enhance the social media experience for all users. AI-enabled algorithms already impact old-school SEO and SEM. Image recognition powered by AI is in too, and you will enjoy a competitive advantage if you enable visual search on your apps and sites today.

AI and related tools will also help marketers better optimize content shared on social media channels. The technology is already there and already used to automate social media marketing.


Rise of Generation Z
Generation Z, or the iGeneration, is now the fastest growing target for business marketing after the Millennials, and it makes sense. The Post-Millennials are growing up. Fast. They are also über technology savvy and most likely to embrace new trends: statistically, Gen-Z stays connected more than 10 hours daily. They are also the least likely to respond to old-school marketing, so adapt your business model quickly, or you will end up behind the curve and miles behind your competition. Plus learn this: as superficial as they may seem, don’t trust your first impressions. The future is in their hands: “They want to make a difference in the world. Sixty percent want their jobs to impact the world, 26% of 16- to 19-year-olds volunteer currently, and 76% are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet.”

These trends make social channels more relevant than ever. Up to February 2018, the most popular social networks by number of users were Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter, followed by a number of other players.  Google+ doesn’t make the top 10, but you should not ignore this platform. Google creates pages for listed businesses automatically unless you beat it to the punch. You can claim them, of course, but put your best foot forward and create your branded profile through Google My Business, which offers you the opportunity to control your business details in Google Maps, share your latest news, specials, offers, add photos, add custom open hours, create a free website, and even find out how people discovered your business online. In other words, Google+ may not be the most engaging platform in the world, but it has other perks not offered by other social media channels. As much as Google doesn’t confirm this, chances are that you will even rank better in Google search with a proper band page created through Google My Business and updated with fresh, unique content. On a special note, if you have a business in hospitality or retail, you’ll soon find out that Google+ reviews count a lot.

Facebook is another channel that has a strong reviews component with a potential to build or crush your online reputation. And then, TripAdvisor, the most highly-targeted social network for hoteliers and travelers (not usually listed when marketers consider social networks as a whole because it started out as a forum labeled as a simple travel website), can teach you a lot about how to implement a successful social media marketing strategy too. Plus, their reviews count among the most powerful for any business online.

In conclusion, in 2018, social media channels remain relevant, highly lucrative business tools. To select the best, look for the industry leaders, then, define your business purposes. You want your brand to own accounts on the most important social media channels to avoid potential hassle caused by competition or/and brand cyber-squatters (yeah, a real thing!). You also want to own these accounts because social media trends fade or elevate fast and early adopters become social media influencers faster than people joining “after the fact.”

Sure thing, 2018 will see some emerging social networks too, but the main players are still too strong to care, so newcomers will have to prove themselves quickly: and there are no features Facebook and Google cannot buy or emulate. In 2018, I wouldn’t worry about new social media channels. But apps matter, so watch out. There will be many new players in town.

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