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Being an internet user now means being a social networker, with over 98 per cent of people online actively engaging with platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Not only that, but according to a report by GWI (Global Web Index), the amount of time we’re spending online increases year upon year across all age groups.

While it’s relatively easy to spot trends as they unfold, businesses are understandably interested in staying one step ahead of the game, perched and ready for the next big social media marketing craze. After all, it has become apparent that social media now plays a pivotal role in online purchasing, customer engagement and company growth, and one wrong move on social media can create enormous problems for any business, large or small.

So, what can marketing teams prepare for over the coming years? Let’s take a closer look:

Transparency is more valued than ever

While it may not yet be central to every marketer’s online strategy, transparency is a key feature that shouldn’t be overlooked by brands, especially following some of the Facebook data breach concerns raised in 2018. Brand transparency has already taken off in some spaces, with companies like Southwest Airlines and McDonalds using transparency as a central theme to their campaigns. But there still exists a fundamental problem where marketers are all-too-keen to sugar-coat their connections or cover up their costing, and, given the growing net-savviness of their customers, it’s not long before they’re caught out. Therefore, in the coming years we can expect to see a lot more deliberate transparency online, with companies keen to show the world they have nothing to hide to build trust and boost sales.

User Generated Content will continue to skyrocket

User Generated Content (UGC) does what it says on the tin. The user becomes directly involved in promoting a brand by creating content in a fun and engaging way. For example, back in 2014 Starbucks launched the White Cup Contest where customers were given white cups to decorate and photograph for social media. In the final quarter of 2014, Starbucks’ profits rose 82 per cent – go figure!

Social media ads will be smarter and more personal than ever

Advertising is becoming increasingly targeted and personalised. So much, in fact, that it’s freaking a few people out! The New Statesman reported on an experiment it conducted whereby participants had fake conversations near their phones to see if they ‘listened’ enough to push certain ads their way. While the experiment was inconclusive, and Facebook deny listening into private conversations, one participant did become suspicious about a family planning app advert that popped up for the first time immediately following her fake chat with a friend about her imaginary child. Other anecdotes have flooded Twitter in recent months and the conspiracy theorists are certainly in full throttle. What’s more likely is that ads are simply becoming more and more in tune with what people of certain demographics are likely to be interested in. And, according to numerous interviewed marketing experts this is only going to become more targeted and user-centric in the coming years.

Video still rules, but virtual reality will rise

Video has exploded in the last few years, with 10 billion videos watched on Snapchat alone every single day. And this shows no signs of slowing. It is predicted by Social Media Today that by 2020 online video will account for more than 80 per cent of consumer internet traffic. But virtual reality isn’t science fiction any longer and is slowly integrating its way into our everyday lives. In March 2017, Facebook launched its 360 degree feature allowing users to experience photographs and videos in a more ‘real’ way. Disney also allows users to experience their parks before stepping foot inside one! And this trend is only set to expand and innovate. It is thought that by 2020, VR will constitute a $30 billion market, and will be integrated into our real-life and online shopping experiences, as well as many other areas. The problem with VR is that the everyday marketer is still a little vague on exactly how the technology could work for their brand. But that doesn’t stop them experimenting! Marriot Hotels launched a VR application that allows users to transport themselves to their hotels and holiday destinations before booking – a step in the right direction for the travel and tourism industry. How brands decide to utilise VR for social media going forward will be an intrigue to us all.

One thing is clear. Social media isn’t going anywhere. We are now more connected than ever before and this will only continue to strengthen and grow. So that brands don’t get left behind, they must stay in tune with the latest trends and continue to think ahead about the countless possibilities the latest technology can offer.

  • Guest Author – Matthew Murray