Social media trends and turbulence for 2018

Ben

15 January 2018

Attention and audiences

Attention and audiences

The social and digital landscape is constantly changing, with platforms rolling out new features every month and new factors coming into play. From Facebook and Instagram’s algorithm changes to the dreaded GDPR, there’s a lot to keep on top of around the social media trends for 2018 and some brands might even have a little catching up to do.

While Facebook has long ruled the social media realm, more and more young people are leaving the platform for Snapchat and Instagram. Forecasts predict that 700,000 UK teens and young adults will leave the platform in 2018. Facebook is becoming a predominantly over 55s platform, meanwhile 71% of Snapchat users are aged under 34 and 61% of UK Instagram users are between the ages of 18-34.

As a result, some brands targeting younger audiences are opting out of Facebook marketing altogether. With organic reach near impossible, businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to reach quality audiences on Facebook and many are finding that the platform does nothing for their marketing efforts. 

Whatever happens, it should be an interesting year for social. We’ve compiled a summary of the biggest changes and updates happening on social media, as well as some major changes to digital that are on the horizon.


Facebook in 2018

More people, less ‘stuff’

Last month, Mark Zuckerberg announced some major changes on Facebook, in the form of—you guessed it—a new algorithm. The update, which will be rolled out over the coming months, focuses on putting friends and family back at the core of the Facebook experience by showing users less content from businesses, brands and media in the News Feed and more from family, friends and groups. Under the changes, news is set to make up 4% of the News Feed down from the current 5%, and Facebook is also making efforts to prioritise news from trustworthy sources, as well as local and independent outlets.

These changes come as no surprise with the plethora of low-quality, clickbait content that saturates the News Feed, the fake news debate and of course recognising the part Facebook played in the 2016 US election.The aim, Zuck says, is to “encourage meaningful interactions between people”

What do the changes mean for brands?

For brands, this means an even bigger shift towards ‘pay-to-play’ on Facebook and the cost of advertising on the platform is likely to increase. It also encourages brands to post content that is of the highest quality, with the strongest likelihood to generate genuine, active engagement.

Branded content on Facebook will need to drive real conversations where possible, while still staying true to the interests of the target audience, super-fans in particular.

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Instagram in 2018

Instagram’s usage has skyrocketed over the last year and it’s one platform that is constantly evolving, perhaps the most rapidly. Despite the controversy of its new algorithm, Instagram trumps Facebook when it comes to reach and engagement. Instagram posts with at least one hashtag see 12.6% more engagement than those without, and although 30 hashtags are allowed per post, research suggests that the optimum amount of hashtags is 11.

What impact has the Instagram algorithm had?

Despite the algorithm based update being rolled out in Spring 2016, many users and brands still find it challenging to navigate the platform and grow their following and engagement, which is why it continues to be a topic of discussion. Word on the street is that the algorithm sucks: 70% of Instagram posts aren’t seen as a result of it, so users are turning to Stories to drive engagement on their posts. Many are ditching traditional posts altogether, with a number of Instagram creators posting less or even nothing on the main feed. One interesting theory from TechCrunch forecasts Instagram becoming a “Stories-first” platform based on how users currently consume content on it, meaning the need for timely, live and semi-live broadcasts will only grow.

Users can now follow hashtags

One of its newest features is the ability for users to follow hashtags and have them show up in their feeds, making it easy for users to discover new accounts to follow. According to Sprout Social, 7 out of 10 Instagram hashtags are branded hashtags, meaning this new feature is a big advantage for brands who have created their own Instagram hashtags, as users who follow their hashtag will see their content directly in their feeds, regardless of whether they follow the brand itself.

Follow my leader


Twitter

Last autumn, Twitter expanded its character limit from 140 to 280, making it easier for people to express themselves while keeping the “speed and brevity that makes Twitter, Twitter”. Despite many users arguing that the change will have a negative effect on the platforms essence, Twitter’s data shows that the number of people who hit the character limit at 140 (9%) was higher than those who hit it at the new 280 limit (1%).

Reports also show that the character expansion has created a spike in engagement without the average Tweet length being increased, with CEO Jack Dorsey citing an increase in retweets, mentions, followers and ROI.


Snapchat

Snapchat has been under fire for its new app interface, which is designed to separate the content users see from friends to the content they see from brands and publishers. In the new design, content from friends is now situated on the left, and content from brands and publishers is on the right. Over 800,000 users have signed a petition for Snap to scrap the redesign and revert back to the original interface.

The update also includes Snapchat’s new “best friends algorithm”, which shows stories from friends based on how users interact with them. The ‘dynamic Friends page’ aims to make it easier for users to find the friends they want to talk to more instantly, without the need to search for them or scroll endlessly—arguably similar similar to Instagram’s algorithm.

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Other notable changes in the digital space

Automated Chatbots

The use of chatbots on social media by means of communication to consumers is something that more and more brands are implementing into their social strategies. Businesses are using advanced messaging on social platforms such as Facebook to support intimate customer interactions via automation.

Consumers can ask questions, receive information and even make purchases via chatbots, which helps to provide seamless consumer-brand interaction that is quick, always-on and easily accessible.

Whole Foods is one brand that is using chatbots as a viable marketing tool. The brand’s Facebook Messenger bot allows users to search for recipes, products and recipe inspiration, all in one place. Users can feed the bot with details of their dietary restrictions and flavour preferences, or simply send an emoji of a food item to be served instant options to try out.

Another is Duolingo, which launched its chatbot service after many of its users voiced that they’d like to be able to practice conversation. The chatbot is available in a variety of foreign languages across the app and provides language students with a virtual pal for practising their newly learned skills with, helping them overcome the fear of speaking a new language in conversation.

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Video

Distribution and consumption of social video continues to climb at a staggering rate as audiences grow hungrier for video content. More brands are opting for online video ads over TV, which is a no-brainer considering online video ads receive 18.3 times more viewer attention that TV ads. Across YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat, there are a combined 22 billion video views per day and it’s reported that video will make up 80% of global internet traffic by 2020.

Mobile video consumption is also on the up, with 51% of all video content being consumed on mobile devices and YouTube reporting a 100% increase of mobile video views year on year. With more video being consumed on mobile phones and tablets, more brands are creating video content that is easily consumable on hand-held devices. With 92% of vertical video performing better than horizontal video on upright devices, vertical video is becoming the format of choice. Snapchat and Instagram Stories have given way to the format gaining momentum, and now vertical videos on Snapchat see up to 9x more completed views compared to horizontal.

On Instagram, videos of 15 seconds or less are reported to be the top performers, which is no doubt a result of the increasing popularity of Stories, which currently has 300 million daily active users. When it comes to videos in the Feed, the shorter, the better. Research suggests that videos under 30 seconds receive higher levels of engagement, and Hubspot discovered that 26-second videos in particular generate a higher number of comments.

On Facebook, the ideal length for videos is 90 seconds, worlds away from its 120-minute limit. With Twitter being built around bitesize content in the form of its character limit, it’s no surprise that its brevity also applies to video. Though not as short as Instagram or Snapchat, Twitter videos of around 43-45 seconds outperform their longer counterparts, despite the platform’s 2-minute allowance.

According to RendrFX, the most popular genres for online video content are Comedy (39%), Music (31%) and News (33%). Silent viewing seems to be the preferred method of watching videos, with 85% of people watching Facebook video without sound and 96% on YouTube, meaning that brands need to ensure that their video content is enabled for viewing without sound.

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GDPR

What is the GDPR?

As May 26th draws nearer, so does the looming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), set to be a massively influential change to the digital marketing space as we know it. The GDPR impacts how individuals and organisations obtain, use, store and manage the personal data of EU citizens, regardless of whether the organisation itself is based in the EU.

What does it mean for businesses?

One of the biggest ways this impacts marketers is the way they communicate with customers or leads. Gone are the days of simply needing to obtain a person’s email address to then be able to nurture them with newsletters and the like, because under the upcoming regulation, people have to exclusively consent to every single marketing communication that they receive. Companies who fail to comply or violate the GDPR could incur a whopping fine of up to €20M or 4% of their global annual revenue, whichever is greater.

Positive outlooks

Though it may seem like a massive inconvenience for businesses, one advantage of the Regulation is the opportunity it provides marketers to reduce time wasted on communicating with people who aren’t interested and put those who are at the forefront of their marketing efforts.

Unsurprisingly, data security is a massive concern for 92% of online customers and over half don’t trust brands with their personal data. The GDPR is a solution to this issue, giving more power to consumers by limiting shady, outdated marketing tactics such as automatic enrolments, cold emailing and spam and putting the needs of consumers first.

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That’s all we’ve got for now folks – should make for an interesting year…