I live for social media. When I see a new font being tested on Facebook I get goosebumps. When Twitter changed from “Favorites” and stars to “Likes” and hearts — I was giddy.
My job as the Social Marketing Manager at Instapage is to be on the lookout for the latest trends then figure out how we can use them to promote our brand.
We identify trends here two ways. The first is by testing. Every day we’re trying new methods of reaching social users. Through time we’re able to establish some new norms, and discover what others are doing to successfully move the social media marketing needle.
Second, we listen to our users. By listening to their feedback, then taking it a step further and reading between the data points into what type of content they are engaging with over time, we come to understand what works and what doesn’t.
Here are a few of the new best practices and emerging trends that are happening right now on social media.
Social media trends happening right now
1. The sound of silent video
Video is the new image. If you’re in marketing (and we hope so if you’re here reading) you’ve no doubt noticed this trend. Facebook is featuring video more prominently, Twitter is expanding their video tools and analytics, and nearly every social site has expanded the maximum allowable length of videos.
There’s a catch, though. Most of this video is being watched in silence. In fact, upwards of 85% of video on Facebook is watched without sound, according to Digiday. This lets people consume content where sound may be inappropriate, such as public transit, at work, in a loud environment, or while listening to music that the user doesn’t want to pause. Most publishers have caught on and are using “explainer” videos that heavily feature text and straightforward illustrations or adding captions for viewers to follow along with a speaker.
This new video form delivery captures a viewer’s attention while also reducing the number uninterested viewers, leaving marketers with a more focused and attentive audience. The advantage for marketers is that they can use this more captive audience to drive home a message and guide them toward a call to action as part of the message without being intrusive or spammy.
2. The rise of the “other social networks” for business
When someone asks you about social media marketing, you probably name Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Depending on your business you might also talk about YouTube and Pinterest. However, 2016 has been the year that Snapchat, Instagram, and other secondary social networks have established themselves as forces in social marketing for business.
Many wrote Snapchat off as just another flash in the pan, yet it continues to add users and innovate its business offerings. From content partnerships to sponsored geo-filters, Snapchat has found new ways to introduce its business chops to marketers. Snapchat offers businesses the opportunity to serve ads based on age, gender, and even the type of videos a user watches. And, with the ever-popular face-swapping filter, many wonder how long it will be until Snapchat’s ads catch up to the possibilities of facial recognition and user behaviors on a new level.
Businesses that don’t have a physical presence can’t find much use for geo-filters and those that don’t have the budget for sponsored content are still finding ways to use the growing network. Most businesses are using Snapchat to build their brand awareness and provide a human touch through “Stories” and finding success. ROI is harder to pin down, but giving users a look into their favorite company will also payoff in terms of customer lifetime value.
When Instagram was purchased by Facebook for $1 Billion — most tech journalists and the general public scoffed. However, to Facebook’s credit, they mostly left the network alone and let it continue to grow as a user product while they continued to collect user data and usage patterns. All of that led to Facebook introducing a fairly robust ad platform that tied in with Facebook’s already powerful platform. The introduction of an algorithmic newsfeed was met with criticism, but so far it hasn’t slowed user enthusiasm.
Both Snapchat and Instagram prove that businesses must always be on the hunt for new ways to reach an audience, build brand awareness, and create loyalty among its existing customers.
3. Facebook Canvas Ads
Web users get smarter every day. They know what ads look like at the top of their search results. They are adept at spotting “sponsored” in their newsfeeds and on their favorite websites. That is why marketers must continually look for new ways to engage with them and grab their attention.
Enter Facebook Canvas Ads.
In Facebook’s words, Canvas is “a full-screen ad experience built for bringing brands and products to life on mobile.” What does this mean? Canvas allows advertisers to deliver fully immersive, interactive ads that are hosted completely on Facebook — thereby eliminating the need for users to click out of the app to engage with mobile content.
Use Canvas to create eye-catching ads that entertain fans in their entire screen — and with full attention — something advertisers never had access to before. Then, present one of Facebook’s customizable CTA buttons to drive them to a highly optimized post-click landing page designed to convert them into customers:
4. Social commerce
It’s no secret that social networks are competing for your dollars, but there’s a new trend emerging: becoming a peer-to-peer payment system.
Ever since Venmo took off, social networks have been working hard to develop a way to keep users on their platforms to make purchases. Snapchat teamed up with Square and introduced Snapcash to mixed reactions. At the time, many speculated that Snapchat was looking beyond p2p and had eyes for online purchases through Stories or advertisements.
Now another social network is pushing to be the king of social commerce. Facebook rolled out Marketplace, a Craigslist and Etsy blend, for users to buy and sell items. They are betting hard on the product as they kicked the Messenger button out of the center navigation spot in favor of the Marketplace button:
Plus, one year ago Twitter and Stripe announced a partnership to roll out Relay. Even though Twitter stopped promoting the feature, Stripe continues to add retail partners as the company pushes to become the in-app mobile commerce leader.
All of this points to a larger trend of buy buttons and in-app payments that has been building for the past couple years. The important thing is that retailers using social commerce are also connecting those users back to post-click landing pages to capture the sale in the moment.
While live-streaming is certainly not new, it is finally beginning to take a starring role in social marketing. Between Twitter’s Periscope, Facebook Live, and YouTube Live, there is no shortage of options for marketers and consumers alike.
Live video is now a priority for Facebook, making algorithm changes to accommodate the new publishing option. Periscope on the other hand has its own app where users congregate to watch videos in their interests and is also spread through its parent company, Twitter. Finally, YouTube Live has the power of the largest video website behind it where it can live and continue to attract views long after you were live.
For marketers this means that showing behind-the-scenes footage, giving a demo of a product or service, or hosting a Q&A session can be leveraged to build relationships with customers and reach prospects in a new engaging way. For a network like Facebook, the live video can improve your reach for other posts by gaining likes from users who might not typically see your content in their newsfeed.
(Here at Instapage, we recorded our Digital Advertising Personalization webinar and live-streamed it to Facebook to extend the webinar’s reach.)
Just make sure you’re optimizing your posts for maximum reach, either by digging through the rich data Facebook provides or by making minor edits to the post copy after the live-stream ends. Add a call-to-action and, if you’re looking to generate leads, send them back to an optimized post-click landing page that matches the message of the broadcast.
6. Tweets are no longer fleeting
Twitter has expertly balanced keeping core users happy while also adding features for businesses that provide revenue for the social network. While LinkedIn and Facebook have seamlessly worked in algorithms long ago, Twitter’s users have balked at the idea in the past. And, with the backlash Instagram received for its introduction of an algorithm, you can understand why Twitter wants to tread lightly.
However, over the past few months, Twitter has started to introduce changes, such as an expanded “While you were away” section and a new Featured Tweets profile view, which is currently being tested on select profiles.
Here is an example from Social Media Examiner’s Twitter feed:
Social Media Examiner utilizes the new format which displays real-time tweets at the top but then goes on to feature media (images and videos) and an expanded “Featured Tweets” section before showing the rest of its tweets in chronological order. This is a big change from the single “Pinned Tweet” and signals a shift toward more media.
Marketers will no longer be tied to a single pinned tweet to feature their best work. Nor will they need to capture a fleeting moment and pinpoint the exact moment when users are online and staring at their newsfeed. Instead, Twitter marketers can focus on putting together a coherent story, driving engagement that will last, and featuring the vast array of great material they’ve compiled across video, images, content, and text tweets.
Another feature that provides tweets a longer shelf life are Moments. Moments are collections of popular tweets around a single theme or story. Think of it as a curated version of a trending hashtag. It removes much of the noise and focuses on the 10-15 tweets that truly capture the… well, moment.
Moments have been tested for a few months now but have slowly been rolling out to more users. And, earlier this month, Twitter opened the gates for users to begin creating their own Moments, like Phantogram did to generate buzz for their album release.
Now you may be saying, “We’ll check these out and start taking advantage of them. But, if our business does, will they improve our SEO rank?”
Do social shares provide a search ranking signal?
Do they or don’t they? It’s the age old question. Does Google use social media in any way to determine search rankings. In June, Gary Illyes said “No” — in a tweet, no less — seemingly putting the debate to bed. However, as is always the case with the search giant, it wasn’t over there.
In September Larry Kim penned a piece for Moz in which he finds a correlation between rankings and social media, but with a twist.
People who researched the relationship between social media and SEO previously thought shares were the signal Google was using to determine if a post was worth giving a higher ranking. Kim, however, looked at the data surrounding social engagement and click-through rate of organic rankings and found a strong correlation. While not a direct impact.
It’s an obvious point that many don’t realize: engaging content will perform better on both social and search simply because it’s engaging. Thus, increasing traffic and improving search results by performing better than other content based on clicks.
And then earlier this month, Dave Davies came across a recent Google patent regarding social and search titled Searching Content of Prominent Users In Social Networks. What he draws from this is that Google is interested in testing augmented search results based on your social networks and what your social connections are interested in.
Google is also interested in providing social “scores” to determine prominent users in order to augment the search of someone who is connected to that user. Of course — as with any patent — this all needs to be taken with a grain of salt as none, some, or a completely different version of these things may or may not ever see the light of day.
What does this mean for you? Continue writing shareable content that will engage users. While it might not directly improve your SEO rankings it will drive more traffic to your site simply by being what users want to read and engage with online. And, who knows, maybe it will impact your search rankings in the near future.
Which social media trends do you find most intriguing?
Trends in the digital marketing space move quickly; doubly so for social media. Waiting too long to implement a new strategy or test a new tactic means that competitors have already found the next best practice and you’re left to play catch-up.
Regardless of the social media trends you capitalize on, remember to send all traffic to a dedicated post-click landing page designed to convert prospects into leads, and leads into customers.