Following an explosive election year, 2017 was a year of revaluation and scrutiny of the social landscape. While trends like the success of video and Stories content continued, concerns around brand safety and fake news underscored the need for quality control behind content delivery. Creative automation and authentic content like the Genius chatbot that lets you talk with Albert Einstein, and Bravo’s Andy Cohen rolling out the first-ever week of Live social programming illustrated an innate understanding for how audiences adopt and behave across platforms from brands. Throughout 2017’s disruptions and advancements, one thing has held true: social consumption behaviors are continually evolving, driven by platforms that continue to roll out new features, functions, and formats that help brands stand out within a cluttered playing field.
The driving social behaviors of 2017 have manifested into three major trends across platforms that we can expect to mature in 2018:
- Moving Beyond the Feed
- A Focus on Accountability and Transparency
- A Call for Community
To thrive in the new year, here are the resolutions marketers should make to help their brands excell in an ever-changing social marketplace.
Moving Beyond the Feed
For years, “the feed” has been the backbone of the social media experience. 2017 was the year social media really pushed beyond the feed and focused on delivering content-driven experiences. From highly curated original content like Nespresso’s Holiday Gift Guide to smarter messenger bots and more ways to enhance your stories with augmented reality, the options within social are ever expanding. Additional placements beyond the feed have allowed advertisers to gain more reach and evolve with new user behaviors.
- Continued love for telling Stories – Stories have hit their stride with user adoption, making it a great place to start serving ads. Instagram Stories turned one this year and in that time has grown to 300M daily users. While this surpassed Snapchat’s usage, Snapchat still boasts 178M daily users and 70% penetration of the 13-to-34-year-old population in the U.S, France, U.K., and Australia. Facebook and Instagram have rolled out six supported objectives for ads running within stories making it an easy extension for any media plan.
- In-Stream placement creates richer ad experiences – As people become accustomed to long form video within Facebook, in-stream placements are seeing high completion rates around 80%. This is another step forward for Facebook in its quest to compete with traditional TV for those large media budgets and another chance to prove mobile/Facebook can drive the impact and deliver the attentive audience of TV. Advertisers now have access to long awaited brand safety controls like the ability to exclude videos from certain categories.
- Push for original programming – This year, Facebook released Watch, YouTube joined forces with broadcast television for YouTubeTV, Twitter continued to build on their original portfolio, and Snapchat partnered with entertainment companies to create short-form, vertical content optimized for the Snapchat audience. Despite initial buzz, these platforms were not an overnight success and Snapchat’s viewership measurement has recently come under criticism. Facebook hopes that Watch will become another revenue stream buy monetizing with mid-roll ads however, user adoption is low with only a fraction navigating to Watch while most video views are still happening within NewsFeed.
- Messenger usages continues to rise – Bot messages via Messenger are averaging 80-90% open rates while traditional email is around 17-28% (according to ThinkTuitive.com). To keep the momentum of Messenger, Facebook rolled out a way to integrate Facebook Messenger customer chat bots directly onto advertisers’ websites. Even Pinterest is getting in on the action by launching a bot via Facebook Messenger allowing users to find content and projects that match their interests.
- Rise of AR for conversation and conversion – Snapchat’s Bitmoji lens and World lens are gaining lots of traction especially with popular applications like the Bud Light talking beer vendor and BMW partnership. Facebook and Snapchat have both released similar AR 3D capabilities for creators – Snapchat Lens Studio allows creators to create and display 2D and 3D objects with World Lenses and Facebook’s World Effects lets users drop real-time 3D objects into photos or videos within the camera frame on Messenger.
- New ways to promote discovery and drive purchase – As we saw mid-year in 2017, platforms continue to find ways to shorten the path to purchase. Pinterest’s Lens allowed users to snap a picture of items and products in the physical world and get served related pins that can be saved, purchased, or otherwise acted on. Facebook’s Collection Ads, Shopping on Instagram, and Pinterest’s Shop The Look now allow users to purchase products directly from the platform. .
2018 Resolution: Test new functions and formats thoroughly. Break out and measure performance by placement as much as possible to understand the value and scale of new placements and to optimize your holistic social media strategy.
A Focus on Accountability and Transparency
Despite a very strong financial performance, it was not all smooth sailing for Facebook in 2017. From the measurement snafus, brand safety concerns and fake news spread by Russia during the elections, public scrutiny around Facebook peaked in 2017. As a result, platforms introduced new efforts to address concerns and lift the curtain to their walled gardens.
- An effort to increase transparency – Facebook has made a few transparency updates. Users will be able to view all of the ads that a Page is running on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger – additional information about the ads will include total amounts spent, number of impressions delivered, and demographic information about the audience the ads reached. Additional ad transparency changes around political ads will require in-depth documentation before running election related media.
- Addressing Brand Safety concerns – Tying into the theme of transparency, platforms have put an emphasis on new brand safety features. On Facebook, advertisers now have more placement control within Audience Network, Instant articles and In-Stream ads and can see a list of where their ads might run prior to launching a campaign, block a list of sites at the campaign level and choose the best video placement within FAN. On Twitter, advertisers have more control over which publishers their In-Stream ads will run in front of through updated category blocking, publisher blacklists and brand safety checks. Similarly, YouTube has introduced new monetization standards and machine learning protocols to increase protection against inappropriate content.
- Measurement updates to prove social ROI – To further assist adverters in proving ROI of social, Facebook has released an easy-to-access cross-channel comparability tool called Advance Measurement. New updates to Facebook Analytics give brands the ability to unify analytics across pages, websites, apps, bots, and in store. The in store portion comes to life further with offline conversion updates allowing advertisers to track offline transactions and create custom audiences from their offline conversion data sets. Finally, two new measurement solutions, Nielsen Total Brand Effect with Lift and Facebook Cross Platform Brand Lift, give advertisers a larger picture of their ads’ overall impact across TV and Facebook.
2018 Resolution: Hold social platforms accountable and take advantage of new transparency and measurement updates.
A Call for Community
Following the rise of messenger apps and ease of 1:1 communication, social media users have come to expect personalized communication. More so than ever, it is vital for marketers to understand what communities their consumers identify with, where they spend their time and, more importantly, the type of experiences they seek. Snapchat is modifying its very fabric to put more emphasis on real connections with others (and in turn reprioritizing their relationships with brands), which may point to signs of similar change for platforms in 2018. More value is being placed on influencers as content creators and platforms are making it easier for brands to partner with influencers and measure results. Finding the right influential fit to help increase your brand’s audience and credibility is more important than ever.
- New features to promote community – In June, Facebook announced its new mission “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” To encourage and better foster community-based engagement on Facebook, the platform has rolled out Page Groups and “Live With A Friend” capabilities across Facebook and Instagram. Its most recent move toward discouraging “engagement baiting” further demonstrates the platform’s commitment to authentic engagements and interactions.
- Redesigning platforms to put connections first – During Facebook’s 2017 Q3 earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg stressed the importance of interacting with friends and family on social as it is seen as meaningful “time well spent.” Snapchat, meanwhile, has already taken action against this thinking by refocusing their platform to prioritize “meaningful content”; posts from friends and family that users care about over branded content. The new redesign calls out their goal to separate the “social” from the “media,” meaning content from people and brands that Snapchatters know and care about will be served differently from media and content made by creators.
- New tools for influencer partnership and creation – Brand and influencer partnerships have become easier to measure and promote with branded content tools on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook has also rolled out the Creator App to make it easier for influencers to personalize and measure their content. Snapchat’s redesign is also favoring creators by including verified influencers in the Discover section, meaning influencers are incentivized to create content for the platform.
- Enhanced focus on finding the “right” influencer – With Pepsi’s failed Kendall Jenner ad and the Fyre Festival scandal popularized by influencers, brands are rethinking jumping on the “now” person. We expect brands will pivot away from flashier pay-to-play opportunities, and instead turn to mid-tier and micro influencers to reach their audience in authentic and engaging ways. Long-term and influential advocates have proven more effective when it comes to consistent and authentic championing of the brand.
2018 Resolutions: Demonstrate an understanding of your audience. Revisit and build on your targets (what they value, what interests them, etc.) frequently.
- When creating content, consider if the content you’re creating is talking with consumers or at them.
- When partnering with influencers, look beyond follower count and potential impressions and evaluate influencers based on the authenticity and affinity they can bring to your brand. Bring influencers into long term partnerships for continued advocacy.
What’s to Come?
In 2018, these trends will continue to mature, driving marketers to shift the focus back to the consumer experience and de-prioritize passive brand messaging. Immersive units will see a higher adoption which will challenge brands to align their message and product into ‘talk-worthy and engaging’ situations. As talk value and consumer creation continues to be a focus for all platforms, community will see a rise in prominence, putting pressure on brands to provide quick, personalized responses in today’s culture of immediacy.
360i’s Social Marketing Supervisor, Amy Donnelly, Social Marketing Director, Alec Piliafas, Paid Social Lead Director, Bridget Lackie, Influencer Marketing Manager, Jessica Philips, Paid Social Media Supervisor, Kristie Van Praag and Paid Social Media Director Phillip Huynh contributed to this post.