Claire Lancaster, head of social media at IF Agency, starts the year with her prediction of the key trends that will define the next 12 months in social media, content and influencer marketing.
"I expect reach, dialogue and influencers to all reduce as brands embrace niche and more focused targeting," she says. "Creativity and campaigns will increase and vertical will become the new horizontal."
Here are her five key factors that will shape social media in 2019:
1. Rebuilding social trust
2018 represented a crisis year for trust on social media. Privacy issues, fake accounts and bought followers on social platforms seemed like continuous headlines. With overall trust compromised, there has been a wave of social scepticism and a swing back to endorsements from immediate friends, family and acquaintances.
2019 is the year to embrace authenticity and place that sentiment at the core of all activities. A study from Sprout Social discovered that 86% of consumers believe transparency from businesses is more important than ever before. Naturally as a consequence, social media activity in 2019 needs to respond, address and reassure these concerns. The stakes are even higher with a need for trust and genuine engagement.
With users increasingly conscious and curious about who they’re interacting with on social media. Brands will need to adapt and understand what successful engagement truly means. It’s less about reach and more about being real and fostering communities.
A key trend expected in 2019 is a rise of private Facebook community groups - which allow for dialogue in a safe environment away from open broadcast feeds. These more niche groups can be a powerful way to bring interested users together for open and engaged discussion.
2. Embracing one to one social messaging for brands
In an age where consumer trust is compromised, and social platforms become harder and more expensive to leverage embracing social messaging is a key opportunity.
Making brands more accessible and genuinely engaging with customers creates authentic word of mouth marketing that is naturally created face-to-face within communities. Expectations for high value and private interactions will increase in 2019. According to Twilio, 90% of consumers would like to use messaging to communicate with businesses. Successfully fulfilling this presents a delivery challenge for brands and businesses, one which the right agency partners, chatbots and AI are able to overcome.
Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can offer replies that range from streamlining customer service queries/FAQs to providing real, helpful advice. Brands can highlight the availability of new services by running social media campaigns that incorporate messaging apps.
The key opportunity on social media platforms has always been branding. Overtime this has been overshadowed by a focus on promotions, beating algorithms and vanity metrics. Consumers don’t just care about products and price, they want to connect and engage with brands that reflect their values. One of the biggest opportunities in 2019 is to improve brands connecting with audiences through unique direct messaging facilitated by chatbots and AI.
3. Nano-influencers are the next big thing
Celebrities have lost their credibility, people are sceptical of posts from the big-time social media influencers. Likewise, micro-influencers, with followers ranging from the tens to hundreds of thousands, have become less trusted by audiences and for brands many have become increasingly demanding and expensive. Nano-influencers are the next big thing in influencer marketing.
Nano-influencers are typically those with less than 10K followers. Their comparably tiny follower count makes them a surprisingly valuable alternative to the internet famous however what they lack in initial reach, they make up for in more sincere-sounding opinions and higher engagement rates. Their lack of fame and ego is one of the qualities that make them approachable for brands and more authentic in the eyes of their followers.
Nano-influencers are a brilliant starting point for any brands completely new to influencer marketing. An initial campaign with 2-3 Nano-influencers is a low-investment way to test out the tactic. Their word-of-mouth holds great weight in consumer purchasing decisions, which can help to drive conversions for your brand. Significantly lower upfront investment means that even a moderately successful Nano-influencer activation can provide a solid return-on-investment (ROI).
4. Accountability in paid for social media
Social media is now a pay-to-play medium and a paid social strategy is the cornerstone of successful social media marketing. Competition is driving up prices and driving down cost efficiencies. In 2019 it will be harder and more expensive to achieve cut through with an audience whose attention spans are already fleeting. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter or any other paid for social ads do not have magical powers.
Paid social ads are simply that – ads! They only work if the content is right and quality content has never been as critical as it will be in 2019. Paying entry into the target markets social feed is no guarantee they will take notice or take action. For success in 2019, brands need to go beyond product and service and create ads that entertain and inspire. As a result I expect to see an increase in investment in planning time, creativity and smart targeting to the same level, if not greater, than the paid for media spend to achieve the best results.
5. Rise of vertical formats
Snapchat pioneered the vertical video content format back in 2014. The format has subsequently been adopted by Facebook, Instagram, Spotify and most recently YouTube in Sept 2018 with the launch of vertical video ads.
Stories will dominate social media in 2019. As viewers hold their phones upright and sift through mountains of content with the tap of a finger, brands have to produce Stories that grab attention from consumers in the moment. Relevance, authenticity and action are all important but even the most visually stunning story can fall flat if it doesn’t captivate. A successful vertical story starts with grabbing an audience’s attention while also letting the passion and character of people shine through.
The rise of vertical video presents both opportunities and challenges when it comes to brand storytelling. The vertical format requires a closer cropped, more refined take. In return the vertical orientation offers an intimate view, immediacy and interactivity with customers in a way that fits their viewing preferences with their touchscreen smartphone in the upright position.