All trends come and go, fading in and out of focus, and that’s just as true for marketing as it is for fashion.
And while some marketing trends are nothing more than a temporary fad (note how most tactics have the word “hack” attached to it), some are actually substantial indications of where the world is heading next and what the future will look like.
Social media marketing is particularly fast to evolve, and so many new platforms, features, and updates mean things are constantly changing. Despite all of that, there are 6 significant trends defining the future of social media for business, and in this post, we’re going to look at each one and what you can do to prepare.
1. There are major shifts towards prioritising privacy
Privacy is a massive concern with social media right now. There’s no getting around that.
Facebook took centre stage with privacy concerns, and they had to pay $550M USD to settle a private lawsuit surrounding privacy in 2020, which is just the most recent event in a long timeline of concerns.
Users have realized that Facebook can access and store an exceptional amount of their off-platform data, and they’re less than thrilled. When users who left the platform were asked why, 46% cited privacy as their top concern. As many as 80% of current social media users share this concern.
Image source: Pew Research Center
This isn’t just a concern for Facebook, however. TikTok got a lot of negative press about potentially being a national security threat, and Instagram (which is connected to Facebook) has also recently garnered the wrong kind attention in relation to privacy.
As a result, there have been some significant changes, which will only continue to shape the future of social media.
Some have been on-platforms. Users can disable the ability for Facebook to track their off-platform data, for example. Others are off-platform, like the iOS 14.5 update that makes it easier for customers to control their own information.
Simply put, privacy concerns are not going away, and countermeasures are likely to impact ad targeting effectiveness.
How to prepare
The iOS 14.5 update has already impacted advertising results tracking and retargeting, so it’s a good idea for brands to take all of this into account now, because that’s where the individual businesses will be most impacted in the immediate future.
Here’s what you can do to prepare:
- Know that we may continually see changes through the social media platforms or otherwise that potentially limit our retargeting-through-app-tracking abilities
- Install Facebook’s Conversions API right away so that you can send data that you’re tracking on your site right to Facebook’s servers; this works around some of the retargeting issues
- Consider using more list-based or on-platform retargeting moving forward to account for potential issues with site-based retargeting
2. Personalisation matters more than ever
Even at a time when privacy is front and centre, users are expecting more personalised experiences every day.
Here are a few examples of personalisation on social media:
- Algorithms taking a user’s preferences into account and showing them content similar to what they’ve engaged with most in the past
- Ads that show users items that are in line with what the user may want based on their profile, site or platform activity, or even what they’ve purchased in the past
- Personalised and customer-led chatbot experiences, which can offer users a menu of different items and then take them through a number of different options based on that (including placing orders, getting product recommendations, or getting customer assistance)
It’s all about letting customers personalise their experience or finding ways to offer more personalised experiences up front.
How to prepare
Personalisation in advertising is already easy; you can set up retargeting to automatically show relevant offers to specific users based on their past activity or items that they’ve viewed.
When it comes to all other aspects of social media marketing, here are a few things that you can do:
- Set up customer-led chatbots for private messages, which can help customers with different needs
- On YouTube, create content into different niche playlists and encourage users to subscribe to those so they’ll get content that’s directly relevant to what they’re interested in
- Consider creating segments of Stories exclusively for certain segments of your audience on Instagram, like a VIP group who gets an exclusive discount code
3. Social commerce features will continue expanding
Ten years ago, the social commerce features that we have today would be almost impossible to imagine.
Social commerce is on-platform product selling (going far beyond ads that lead users off-platform), and it’s majorly on-trend right now. Examples include:
- Facebook Shop
- Facebook’s live Shopping videos
- Instagram’s Shoppable features
- Instagram’s Shop tab in the Explore section
- Buyable Pins
This isn’t going anywhere, so eCommerce brands with physical goods should be taking full advantage of these features in order to increase product visibility, reach, and sales.
How to prepare
If you do have a business that sells any type of eCommerce goods— even if that’s not your primary business model, like having an educational organisation that sells school shirts on the side— getting started with social eCommerce features is going to be a good choice.
Setting up Facebook and Instagram shops (which are linked) is actually fairly easy to do, and once you have them up and running, they’re easy to manage, especially if you’re integrating them with an eCommerce platform like Shopify.
Keep an eye on future social eCommerce features as they roll out, because this is an area we fully expect to see developed across multiple platforms moving forward.
4. Live video aren’t going anywhere
Live video streaming is available on a ton of platforms now, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Most (if not all) of these platforms share most of these characteristics:
- The ability to promote live videos in advance before the broadcast (at least in some way)
- Your followers get notifications when you go Live, increasing your visibility
- Users can interact with you in real-time, commenting or reacting
- You can collaborate with others (including other viewers or official guests) to create more dynamic lives
This past year, Clubhouse even surged to popularity. Clubhouse is a live audio broadcasting tool, so while it didn’t use video, the direct interactions between hosts and listeners fits the bill here.
The interaction element of live videos is part of what makes them so exceptional. It feels authentic, and users get a chance to communicate directly with your brand’s team members. They can ask questions, share opinions, and even just cheer you on.
If your team is able to use this as a core part of your social media marketing strategy for community-outreach and education purposes, you’ll be well on your way towards positive relationship building. And as we move into the future of social media marketing, relationships are everything.
How to prepare
Live video is already here, so you’re likely already using it or at least familiar with it.
That being said, keep our top live video best practices in mind:
- Always keep an eye out for new features. Facebook has been expanding into Shopping Lives, for example, where eligible brands or creators can sell product in real time. There are always new features on the horizon, so keep an eye out so that you can test them right away when they come to you.
- Promote your lives properly in advance. Schedule your Lives on Facebook, and share at least a day in advance on Instagram and in your Story that you’ll be going Live there. You can always send an email or cross-promote your lives from platform to platform, too.
- Practice ahead of time. While Lives should never be deeply scripted, you do want to make sure that you know what you’ll be talking about, that you’re comfortable with your talking points, and that you know how to use the platform in advance.
- Let users know what the live is about. If someone goes Live, users may not care unless the actual topic is of interest to them. Make sure your video descriptions explain what you’ll be discussing and why that can be so beneficial to users.
5. Community building is everything
Community building is a huge focus on social media right now, and this goes far beyond gaining new followers.
Think about how invaluable Facebook Groups have become for the businesses that use them. The content drives incredible engagement, and it puts you at the top of users’ newsfeeds.
Instagram has rolled out some features to encourage users to engage more with creators, and to allow those creators to monetize their videos while also building a community. One example is the badges for creators. These can be purchased by users, and in exchange the user gets higher visibility during lives and may be sent exclusive content or resources.
There’s a huge focus on building true relationships and loyalty, and building a community around your brand. When the community becomes valuable— and not just your product itself— people are going to stick around a lot longer.
I’m proof of this; I’m subscribed to a copywriting resource, and while I likely would have cancelled a long time ago because the resources aren’t always directly relevant to me, I stay for the Facebook Group which is included in the membership. People problem-solve client issues, share leads, and collaborate with each other. I’m definitely not giving up, so I continue to pay $85 a month.
How to prepare
The best thing you can do here is to find ways to build a community around your brand on social media.
That might mean creating a branded Facebook Group.
It could mean hosting online challenges on your Page that encourages users to participate, or to create “Events” on LinkedIn or Facebook that can bring users together.
There are plenty of options here, you just need to get creative and figure out what will work for you.
6. It’s not all about Facebook
This last social media trend is short and simple, but it’s important.
There was a time when as long as brands were on Facebook, they were probably pretty solid and could reach the majority of their audience fairly reliably.
This is slowly changing. Some users left Facebook due to privacy concerns. Younger generations are less and less interested in Facebook; even if they have accounts (which a smaller portion of Gen Z users and today’s teenagers do), they engage less often.
Image source: Statista
It’s more important than ever to keep up with new and popular social media platforms, and to understand where your audience is active. We have no idea what apps and sites will be popular in the future of social media, but we do know that it will be imperative to act quick to capture users wherever they want to be.
How to prepare
You shouldn’t abandon your Facebook. That’s actually the last thing you’d want to do, because it is still a popular platform with wide-reaching demographics, and it is still the leading social media platform as of right now.
That being said, you definitely don’t want to be putting all of your eggs in this one digital basket. Instead, branch out. Make sure that your social media team is equipped (and large enough) to be active on multiple social media platforms. Figure out where your audience is most active, and make that platform a priority, creating specialised content just for that individual site.
And remember that as more users move beyond Facebook, that means that your ads may potentially get less reach. If your audience is much more engaged on Instagram or on TikTok, consider moving more of your ad budget over to those platforms, too.
While no one can no for sure exactly what the future of social media holds long-term, we’re extremely confident that these 6 trends aren’t going anywhere. They’ve made huge impacts on how users and brands alike utilise social media, and they’ve shaped the direction that the platforms are moving to in terms of new features and updates.
Remember, too, that as social media platforms and their features change that best practices will evolve, too. An up-to-date education in social media is your best protection to ensuring that you have all the skills, tactics, and tools needed to continue excelling in social media moving forward.
Want to get all the up-to-date information about social media marketing? Check out our Diploma of Social Media Marketing here.