It’s been another year of exceptional growth across all things digital. Brands are spending more money and effort than ever before on Facebook, Instagram launched its own version of Snapchat called Stories, YouTube has continued to grow as the 2nd largest search engine, chatbots have invaded our day-to-day (notably with Messenger), and the importance of Amazon keeps growing (an estimated 77% of American households have a Prime subscription according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners). As we’re just beginning the new year, we wanted to share some of our thoughts for 2018 in terms of social media, content marketing, and branding in general.
Developing strong narratives to tell a brand story should be the cornerstone of any digital strategy. It’s not about focusing on specific digital platforms vs. others (newsletter, website, social, ads, etc.) – it’s about understanding how to push your storylines via these platforms so that you can reach your business objectives. For a new development, it’s about educating target audiences. It’s about understanding why your customers would want to follow your brand on social media, why they would want to read your emails or visit your site. Bringing value, entertainment and a sense of community to users is what will make your digital strategy relevant.
Here are some key trends we see developing/expanding in 2018.
1) THE RISE OF TARGETED REACH VS. FREE ORGANIC REACH ON SOCIAL
Instagram is the star of the social media show for lifestyle brands. Among US users, Instagram had a market penetration of 32% in 2016, and it will reach 47% by 2020. And with the launch of Stories – Instagram’s Snapchat copycat of perishable content, the platform made sure that brands would keep investing most of their budgets to improve their IG accounts. That said, as we are encouraged to follow more and more accounts and Instagram – backed by Facebook – is populating our feeds with more ads, they also launched a powerful algorithm that dictates what users see, mostly based on a series of criteria including engagement.
In 2018, building your Instagram account will be more challenging – yet it remains the biggest brand opportunity because that is the platform that delivers the highest ROI, and you can go as granular as you want. If you are trying to engage with a specific group of individuals, you can study their hashtags. If you know your targets and prospects go to specific lunch destinations, you can also find them and start a conversation. In 2018, brands will need to get more targeted in their approach and leverage social ads to push key storylines.
2) CREATING MORE VIDEO CONTENT
This year was another standout year for videos. We are watching more videos than ever and by 2019, 80% of the world’s internet traffic will be video. Our Facebook newsfeeds were constantly populated by eye-catching, entertaining video content capable of stopping users in their tracks. Combined with paid social ads, brands were able to ensure that these expensive pieces of content were seen by the right audiences.
2018 will be no different. Social media platforms are pushing for engagement and video content delivers a much better brand experience for users. Brands will need to have a significant budget allocation to create impactful (cinemagraphs, time-lapses, animations, etc.) and ensure that multiple formats are developed to adapt to the various platforms: square videos with subtitles on Facebook, short and visually impactful work for Instagram, long-form on YouTube.
3) USING SOCIAL ADS TO EXPAND THE BRAND’S STORYLINES
Brands are spending more than ever on digital, and Facebook and Google are capturing 63% of all US digital ad spend in 2017. Major watchmakers, for example, have entirely shifted their ad budget to digital. In real estate, we’re noticing similar trends with more digital and less print. That said, too many times digital ads are conceived with print in mind. The ads are very feature-focused rather than expanding on the overall storylines. In luxury, it’s about bringing users into the brand’s universe rather than just presenting facts. The worst cases we see are probably with social ads, where marketers are serving feature-oriented ads, when a luxury purchase should be about triggering emotion.
In 2018, luxury marketers will need to rethink their social advertising strategy to bring users into their lifestyle, while providing actionable information.
4) PARTNERING WITH INFLUENCERS TO CO-CREATE CONTENT
With Instagram and YouTube clearly winning the social media game, there is a need to create more traction and tells stories in an engaging way. This is about genuine co-creation with influencers who can bring a huge reach to your brand. According to eMarketer, 84% of marketers surveyed are planning to launch an influencer marketing campaign in the next 12 months. That said, the pool of influencers used by luxury brands seems to be getting smaller, and with influencers promoting more brands than ever, it’s becoming more difficult for users to still trust their judgment.
In 2018, working with influencers should be mainly about authenticity and content. Finding creators, artists, and illustrators to develop high-quality, impactful stories allowing brands to stand out in the feeds and trigger more engagement. In a crowded environment, luxury brands might pay attention to engagement rather than just stick to followers numbers.
5) EXPERIMENTING WITH VOICE SEARCH
As US households are getting more equipped with voice-enabled devices like Amazon’s Echo or Google Home, voice search is growing in importance. Additionally, users are starting to make better use of voice assistants on their phones. In the US, 20% of searches on Android devices are done by voice. Humans are better at speaking than typing, and as voice assistants are becoming more accurate, we are using them more than ever.
In 2018, marketers could start thinking about voice assistants as a new brand touchpoint. Combined with image search and Augmented Reality, our understanding of how we search for things will be reconfigured over the next few years – and will lead to the decrease of typing.