As a social media user, how current are you in terms of tools and methods? Are you aware of the changing trends?

Social media is the place where everything happens.

Do you want the latest news? Check social media. The latest fashion? Check social media. The latest celebrity gossip? Check social media.

This means that for anything new to be embraced, it has to go through social media.

And if social media is the place for new stuff, then you cannot be using it through old methods. At least not if you expect to gain or maintain “likes” and followers—the main metrics for social media success.

Whether you’re just a consumer or a business, you need to be aware of what is trending. As with technology, falling behind on trends has negative effects.

SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS TO WATCH

It’s said that the only thing that is constant is change. Though quite an oxymoron, the statement is true in that, change will always be present.

And since change brings benefits, it’s important to adapt in good time before the new becomes old.

What is trending on social media right now is not very new.

Much of it has existed for at least a couple of years though not widely embraced. In some instances, this is due to little awareness among users.

In others, like virtual reality, costly hardware is the reason behind the small numbers.

Yet some features of social media as well as some user behavior and preferences are growing in popularity.

Here are the trends you should be on the lookout for to stay relevant.

1. Focus on Micro Influencers

Influencers are a necessary factor to consider, especially for marketing and public relations purposes. These are the people who have a sizable following on social media.

Being in an agreement with you, they’ll use their influence to help market the products or services you offer.

They do this not as normal advertisements would but as people who have experienced your products.

As such, they are more believable because they are seen to speak out of experience.

For a long time, marketers have been focusing on celebrity influencers. Anyone with millions of followers always seemed the best person to help push a brand forward.

As good as big numbers are, slowly, the problem with celebrity influencers has come to the fore.

The millions of followers are merely fans.

They are people looking for updates about the celebrities. As such, they don’t really follow their recommendations for certain products or brands.

This is where micro-influencers come in. They are not celebrities though they are well known. Not so much as to have millions of followers on social media but just enough to have an engaged audience.

And the biggest difference between these two influencer types?

Micro-influencers are more connected to their followers than celebrities.

Micro Influencers

Source: Medium

Here are a few benefits to using micro-influencers:

1. Very relatable – when you look at the flow of communication between micro-influencers and their followers, you’ll realize there’s a relationship. It’s not just about posting updates and getting likes and comments. Real conversations happen.

As opposed to macro-influencers, micro-influencers usually tackle specific topics or industries.

Their expertise in the industry makes them the go-to people for information and advice. This is what makes them more effective.

2. Very affordable – with a smaller number of followers and no celebrity status, micro-influencers are relatively cheaper than macro-influencers. Whereas the bigger accounts might boast of millions of followers, micro-influencers might only have several thousand followers.

But going by the results they bring, the overall success of your campaign increases due to the reduced cost.

Your marketing budget gets some savings which can be utilized elsewhere depending on your marketing strategy.

3. Higher engagement and conversions – it’s only automatic that if there is higher engagement, there will be higher conversions. This is the hallmark of micro-influencers. The deeper connection they have with their followers generates more conversions.

2. Social Listening

Social listening is generally known to be the monitoring of mentions of your brand and it’s products and services.

This is mainly for PR, customer care and marketing purposes. This is something more businesses are taking up.

The benefits are many.

Who wouldn’t want to avoid a bad reputation resulting from negative comments by complaining customers?

Social listening helps brands respond to customers quickly. This is a good thing.

However, it’s worth noting that social listening can potentially be harmful for social media users. The advances in technology allow brands to “listen too much.”

All forms of marketing rely on one thing: knowledge of the target audience.

If you don’t conduct market research, then your campaigns might turn out to be a waste of resources. You must know who you are targeting.

Their age, gender, race, religion, social habits and a host of other variables which differ from person to person and even location to location.

This is the information which Facebook and Google have and it makes them very powerful.

In other words, today, information about people is what makes you powerful.

You know why?

Because it enables you to tap into their minds.

Businesses can collect user information and use them for commercial purposes in ways many users wouldn’t be comfortable with.

“This is also known as “targeted advertising”, and it definitely happens to you too! If you don’t believe us, try searching the internet for something you have never searched for before. Then, log into Facebook and look at the advertisements that pop up for you. Are they similar to what you searched for? The answer is probably yes.” Towards Data Science

If you’re just a social media user and not into business, social listening can be quite invasive of your privacy. This is why you need to understand what businesses do with your personal information.

If you’re a business using social listening, be sure to tell your customers what you’re doing with their data in your “Terms and Conditions.”

Also, in your “Cookie Policy,” you should provide any relevant information.

To start you off, here are some social listening tools you can use.

3. Social Media E-Commerce

The whole idea of doing business is selling.

And with customers flocking to social media platforms, it’s only logical that selling will follow them there.

What’s more, social listening gathers information to understand customers for marketing purposes.

So, what’s being marketed? And what’s the reason for marketing? Isn’t it to sell?

Snapchat has e-commerce options in its app. Instagram has an in-app checkout feature which enables users to make purchases without leaving the app.

Facebook is also working on e-commerce.

The intention is to make selling/purchasing possible directly on the platform.

At the core however, the real intention is to keep users on the platform for longer. This will increase their revenue.

For your brand, you will need to take this route in case you still haven’t. Social media users will not leave their platforms to visit your website so as to buy from you.

So instead of just posting company updates, move towards selling. You can start by creating a Facebook Shop Page.

Watch the below video to see how to do that.

4. Live Streaming

Video content is no longer an exclusive of the big brands who produce it in HD using professional cameras.

Videos are now the norm in the online world and producers are as varied as the viewers themselves.

In fact, with viewers also becoming producers, the number of online videos is set to increase.

But what’s taking social media by storm is not just video content. It is live-streamed video. This is fueled mainly by:

  • Widespread use of smartphones – the inclusion of professional-grade cameras into smartphones has made everyone a potential video producer. Moreover, no-one is paying attention to all the high quality, perfect editing which used to be done before.

Many smartphones can now shoot HD quality videos.

And for live streaming, you can now do it anywhere you can go with your smartphone.

As long as you and your smartphone are present, your followers can have a live streaming session.

  • The immediacy of live videos – one of the reasons people love social media is the fact that information is constantly getting updated. From the news to gossip, technological advances to new entertainment. It’s all about getting new information quickly—or first.

When you do a live stream session, the logged on viewers get the chance to be updated first. If you had informed them about it, they know you have something to share and so stick around.

There is also a connection that happens when your viewers interact with you in real time.

5. Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are the newest technologies to be embraced by marketers. And this is for a good reason. Virtual Reality changes your environment completely by “transporting” you to a new world.

Augmented Reality however works in a slightly different way. It doesn’t change your world in any significant way. But it greatly enhances it.

It mostly works by adding something or some things to your environment. It’s like adding a map on a table and showing someone where the coffee shop is.

This is far better than directing them using words alone.

As simplistic as that may sound, the possibilities are almost infinite. Here is an example to show you how practical AR can be.

A Furniture-Buying Experience

What would you do if you were to buy a new sofa?

Maybe you’re replacing your current one or you moved to a bigger house and now you have extra space. Would you rush to the furniture store and buy the best you can afford?

Budgets aside, there is one thing you’ll need to think about.

How much space are you looking to fill? An alternative question would be, “Will the sofa you have in mind fit in the intended space?”

IKEA understood the dilemma many customers found themselves in. They developed a solution for their customers so that this headache would be non-existent.

And with technology all around them, they didn’t hesitate to choose Augmented Reality as the means to the solution.

Using a smartphone, customers can take a piece of furniture and superimpose it on the space they intend to fill. The furniture shows in full size taking the space into consideration.

If it fits, then you can buy. If it doesn’t, you keep shopping. Here is a video of how it works.

Snapchat has made the use of AR very popular. Many even use AR without knowing the technology behind it.

Snapchat filters have been used by many to come up with artificial looks by adding elements on top of their faces. In some cases, their faces get a small change in order to fit the filters.

Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat see AR as a big income earner. That can only mean that they will push for it. And as businesses take it up, so will users. If you want to stay current, think about ditching plain old still photos.

The use of AR is increasing because of the engagement levels it produces. A look at a few stats shows this:

If mobile will dominate that market, and mobile devices are the most used to access social media, then you know what to familiarize yourself with.

6. Ephemeral Content

This is the kind of content that is temporary in nature. On Facebook, this is called “Stories.” Taking the cue from Snapchat, Facebook popularized it and now it’s a hit.

Ephemeral posts get deleted automatically after a short period of time. The most common time frame is 24 hours.

Instead of posting something on your wall, you can make such posts which won’t last longer than 1 day.

Ephemeral posts also work like status updates. So when you get notified of someone “adding to their story,” it’s an invitation to know what the person is up to at that moment.

You may wonder what benefit these may have on your social media experience.

Well, ever heard of the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)?

That’s what is behind the popularity of these short-lived posts.

Social media users feel pressed for time to interact with these posts before they disappear. They want to have watched that video, seen that picture, commented on it, shared etc. while it still lasts.

7. Earning and Regaining Trust

Being a place of sharing information, social media platforms are generally expected to keep user information secure.

Although people rarely read the terms and conditions given, they assume that their information is safe. Many of them don’t even know that their information is shared with third parties.

Trust is crucial for social media. Just as businesses don’t want hackers on their networks, you also don’t want your private data to be available to the same hackers.

As mentioned in the section about social listening, in today’s world, information is priceless. It is the new gold.

2018 was not a good year for Facebook as far as data breaches are concerned. Early in 2019, it emerged that users of both Facebook and Instagram had had their passwords stored in plain text.

This brought about concerns that the social media giant was not putting enough security measures in place.

Although these were not accessible to outsiders—at least as far as it was reported—still, it was unacceptable.

Do you know what your information could be used to do if in the hands of the wrong people?

A good answer can be found in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Personal information was allegedly used to manipulate American voters. Watch the below video to find out how it happened.

Obviously, Facebook has been working hard to regain trust. Every other platform is working hard to guarantee security.

The challenge here is that the bad guys always seem to discover some weaknesses in the system. And once they do, they eagerly take advantage of them.

To this end, watch for news and updates on what your favorite platform is doing to ensure user information security.

Also develop some good password habits. These are pretty much the backbone of your online security.

8. Private Groups and Accounts

Social media was never made for seclusion but inclusion.

Of course, it cannot be completely inclusive. All the same, no-one really thought private groups could take off like they recently did.

This is a feature that was created for unique situations.

For example, a school could have a public Facebook page.

On this page, the administration could share vital information about upcoming school activities. At the same time, students could engage on topics concerning those activities.

However, the teachers could have their own Facebook page.

Students could also have their own. Still, the top management could create a group for themselves despite being the managers of the public school page.

Why?

There are things they may need to discuss which aren’t for every other teacher. And even more importantly, not for the students.

This has been the norm for some time. Any time there are special groups among people, private social media groups are created.

Now, the number of groups is increasing.

These groups create a sense of elitism.

If you belong to one, you are in the inner circle of someone. If you don’t, then you are excluded.

Whether this is good for the social aspect of social media or not is debatable.

But for trends and businesses thriving on trends, this is worth checking out.

CONCLUSION

While being social on social media, you will do well to consider how to go about it.

You don’t want to express yourself in ways nobody is paying attention to.

If marketing, the last thing you want is to spend money and time creating content which doesn’t sell.

Be on the lookout for these trends and find out which one works well for you and your followers.

8 Social Media Trends to Watch

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