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Social media has become an integral aspect of digital marketing campaigns, enabling brands to engage and communicate directly with their users like never before. Not only have social platforms become tools for engagement, but a driving force behind sales conversions.
According to Shopify, more than 30 percent of Instagram users have purchased a product they discovered on Instagram, and the social platform is expected to have a 34 percent penetration rate in the U.S. market in 2019. And Instagram isn’t the only social platform that is making an impact. 95 percent of Instagram users also use YouTube, and Facebook had 2.23 billion users logging in every month in 2018.
As organizations continue to navigate the somewhat uncharted waters of social media marketing, we’ve outlined four of the top social media trends to help guide your strategy in 2019.
Over the past few years, influencers have become central to the marketing strategies of many brands. In fact, a recent report from Business Insider states that influencer marketing advertising spend is projected to reach between $5 billion and $10 billion in 2022. While influencer marketing has been around for decades, the rise of social media is changing the way we look at it. Now “influencers” are everywhere, and it’s not just celebrities and professional athletes who are claiming this status, but anyone with an impressive social following.
One of the main reasons brands are willing to spend on influencer marketing is because they promise higher engagement rates on their personal content than the average company post. The average engagement rate for influencers on Instagram is six percent compared to between only two and three percent for brands.
Influencers aren’t only important for brands trying to expand their reach on social, but for the social platform’s success as well. 29 percent of the top-performing posts on Instagram feature an influencer, and 65 percent feature a product. Platforms like Instagram and YouTube rely on social influencers to drive traffic, and are key players in supporting their growth – planning influencer retreats and creating features specifically tailored to their needs.
So, why isn’t every brand using influencer marketing?
Finding an influencer who fits your brand and has a following that aligns with your target audience can be challenging. If you’re thinking of experimenting with influencers as part of your social media marketing strategy, there are a few things to consider.
First, you’ll need to find someone who represents your organization’s values, whether they are educational, environmental, or innovation based. Next, don’t jump into an influencer partnership blind; you’ll have to build a focused strategy with your team. This includes developing goals for the partnership and key performance indicators that will help you analyze the influencer’s success. Finally, allow your influencer to have freedom and a certain level of creative control with the content they post on social. Let them do what they do best, and it will result in authentic content, which means more engagement for your brand.
You’re probably familiar with the Instagram feature, shoppable tags, which enables users to shop the items in a photo directly from the social platform. Instagram was one of the first platforms to make the content that brands and influencers post clickable. Users see something they like, click on the photo of the item, and are taken directly to purchase on your e-commerce site. The e-commerce features, which were developed with cooperation from BigCommerce and Shopify, are setting a new standard for social platforms as sales channels.
This capability has increased sales coming directly from social platforms, allowing companies to better track traffic and sales. Shoppable content capabilities also streamline the purchasing process and eliminate steps for customers. At a time where an estimated $4 trillion of merchandise is abandoned in online shopping carts, a feature that lowers the many barriers to purchase for users is crucial. With 75 percent of Instagram users taking action after seeing an advertisement on the platform, shoppable tags capitalize on this user segment.
Unlike some of the other e-commerce features on social media, you don’t need a specific audience size to start using shoppable tag features. If you’re a business profile that sells tangible products that align with Instagram’s merchant agreement, you can set up a product catalog on Facebook and start using shoppable tags at any time.
In the coming year, new e-commerce features (like native payment capabilities on Instagram) will undoubtedly be introduced across all major social media platforms, so if you haven’t already, it’s time to start experimenting.
Advertising on Stories
Instagram stories have 400 million viewers, WhatsApp stories have over 450 million, and Snapchat stories have 150 million users, making this a very attractive feature for companies. According to digital consulting firm Block Party, stories are gaining popularity 15 times faster than regular feed posts, putting them in a position to become the primary way that users share in 2019.
You may think that stories are nothing new, and until recently, only stories of the accounts that a user follows would show up on their feed, making it difficult for organizations to reach an audience beyond their existing followers. But that’s all changing.
Snapchat was the first to allow ads that play automatically after a user watches a regular story on the platform, and now Facebook and Instagram have followed suit with similar story advertisements. The ads integrate seamlessly between user stories, and are easy to skip by simply tapping on the screen.
The cost of Facebook advertising has been on the rise; in January of 2018 the cost per thousand impressions (CPMs) for Facebook ads were up 120 percent year over year. As a result, story advertising will be a more cost-effective option for many brands heading into the new year.
With the increased awareness of cybersecurity issues, it’s becoming more important – and more difficult – for brands to earn the public’s trust. This is especially true on social media platforms, as according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer Global Report, people’s trust in social media is at only 41 percent.
One way for brands to build trust and increase willingness to purchase is by incorporating user-generated content on their social feeds. Photos and videos that are generated by users rather than by brands can encourage users to make a purchase. L2 Inc.’s Instagram report found that people who saw a user-generated photo while in the sales funnel had a 4.5 percent higher chance of conversion than those who didn’t. The impact of user-generated content on potential customers isn’t completely subliminal either; 77 percent of Instagram users when polled said they prefer to see user-generated content before making a purchase decision.
Word-of-mouth marketing remains one of the best ways to market because, simply put, people trust their friends more than they trust brands. User-generated content is a surefire way to increase your brand’s word-of-mouth because people are twice as likely to share content from other users with their own friends and family.
Posting user-generated content is rather straightforward, as many users are flattered to have their own photos featured by a brand they like. However, it’s important to develop a user-generated content strategy to define your brand’s goals before diving in. According to Sprout Social, 86 percent of brands have tried incorporating user-generated content, but only 27 percent actually created a strategy.
As with any new social media tactic, ensure that you create a plan and align it with your company’s larger marketing strategy. Start by defining key performance indicators, and track them to analyze the success of your social efforts. And remember, what works for one company may not work for another. Stay true to your brand and find a social strategy that engages your users.
If you’re looking to develop your digital marketing skills, BrainStation offers certificate courses in Social Media Marketing and Digital Marketing that will give you the industry relevant skills and knowledge to create integrated marketing campaigns.