The world of social media is constantly evolving, and staying ahead of the curve is crucial for marketers looking to reach their target audience. Michael Stelzner gave the opening keynote presentation at the Social Media Marketing World 2023 on “The Future of Social Media”, highlighting several emerging trends and offering valuable insights for marketers.
The Power of Meta
The suite of Meta apps, and in particular Facebook and Instagram, continue to dominate social media as useful tools for marketing your business.
Contrary to popular belief, Facebook is not dead. Social Media Examiner’s 2023 Social Media Marketing Industry Report found that marketers believe that Facebook is the leading platform for improving sales and generating leads. It didn’t rate as well for increasing exposure. But this is where Instagram shone above all others.
When asked which are the most important platform for marketers, Meta (Facebook and Instagram) stole the lion share, with a total of 67% of responses choosing either of these platforms about all others.
Facebook initially started as a way to connect exclusively with your friends and family. This is referred to as ‘connected distribution’. But over the years, the type of content Facebook shares has extended beyond your curated networks. Facebook now enables you to reach a much wider audience to help you grow beyond the sphere of those you know directly. This is called ‘unconnected distribution’ and no doubt you have started to see more ‘unconnected content’ appearing in your newsfeed of late. This reflects a big change in the way that Facebook is delivering content to its users.
Fans and followers are now less important than what they used to be. Instead, it’s now the content that matters.
According to the Q4 2022 Meta Widely Viewed Content Report, approximately a third of all content being delivered in the Facebook newsfeed these days is unconnected content. This is largely achieved through suggested content and friend re-shares.
This demonstrates that unconnected content now presents a big opportunity for businesses to gain greater exposure in the newsfeed.
The content formats that seem to be getting the most reach and engagement these days on Facebook are Reels and text-based engagement content, using Facebook’s inbuilt feature where you can turn a short text-based post into an image post. According to Mark Zuckerberg back October 2022, “There are now more than 140 billion Reels plays across Facebook and Instagram each day. That’s a 50% increase from six months ago. Reels is incremental to time spend on our apps.” It’s in Meta’s best interest for users to increase the amount of time they spend using their apps, so it make perfect sense that they would favour this content format if it achieves that objective.
Linking this back to unconnected content, on Instagram alone, Reels are shared 1 billion times a day through DM’s, demonstrating that this format lends itself well to gaining greater exposure through unconnected content.
If you are not using Reels, this should provide you with a good reason to start.
Meta Wants More Creators
The rise of TikTok was largely as a result of Creators flooding to the platform and creating highly engaging content. Meta realises this and are keen to attract more Creators to their platforms. One of the ways they are doing this is by providing the option of Professional Mode for all users. This is their way of allowing Creators to connect with their community, build their brand and earn money.
Mike Stelzner demonstrated this by sharing details of how Austin Armstrong turned on Professional Mode for his Facebook Profile in the US Summer of 2022 and started posting one Reel a day to Facebook. At the time of writing this, he is now at 798k followers, and is increasing at a rate of about 170,000 followers per month.
In Austin’s own words he stated that “I sacrificed my friends and family for reach.”
While platforms like Facebook and Twitter have dominated the social media landscape for years, there has been a recent surge in interest in smaller, more specialised networks that cater to specific interests or demographics. For example, platforms like Goodreads and Letterboxd have gained popularity among book and movie enthusiasts, respectively. 55% of social media users in the US belonging to at least one niche social network. This is a significant number, indicating that marketers should keep an eye on these emerging networks and consider targeting them to reach their niche audience.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Other emerging trends that Stelzner identified is the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in social media marketing. AR technology is being used by 65% of social media users in the US. It allows users to superimpose digital objects onto the real world, creating an interactive and immersive experience. For example, a furniture retailer could use AR to show customers what a piece of furniture would look like in their home before they make a purchase. Marketers should explore how AR could be used to create engaging and memorable experiences for their audience.
VR technology could revolutionise the way users interact with social media, allowing them to fully immerse themselves in virtual environments. VR technology is becoming more popular, with 42% of consumers saying they are interested in VR experiences. This is the audience that the Metaverse is aiming to tap in on.
In addition to these trends, Stelzner highlighted the growing importance of social media for customer service, with 67% of consumers using social media for customer support. As more and more consumers turn to social media to voice their opinions and complaints, it is crucial for brands to have a strong presence on these platforms and to respond promptly and effectively to customer feedback. Marketers should consider incorporating social media monitoring and response tools into their customer service strategies, if they haven’t already done so. Chatbots can be used to automate customer service interactions and provide personalised recommendations to users.
In addition to this, social media remains a valuable tool for gathering customer insights for market research.
Stelzner also noted that social media platforms are becoming more personalised, with algorithms and AI technology tailoring users’ feeds to their interests and preferences. This means that marketers need to create authentic engaging content that resonates with their target audience and adds value to their lives. Authenticity is key, as users are increasingly skeptical of overly promotional or sales-focused content. Marketers should focus on creating content that is informative, entertaining, and relevant to their audience’s interests.
Video content is continuing to become increasingly important, with 80% of all internet traffic expected to be video by the end of 2023. Marketers should consider incorporating more long and short from video content into their social media strategy. This also includes creating content that is optimised for voice search, as more and more users are using voice assistants.
Building relationships with influencers is another crucial element of social media marketing that helps build credibility, and he emphasised the importance of doing so in his presentation. Influencers can help brands reach new audiences and build credibility with their followers. However, it is important to choose influencers whose values and audience align with those of the brand. Marketers should also focus on building genuine relationships with influencers, rather than just using them for their reach.
But it’s not just the big influencers that can help you with this. In this day and age, everyone has the ability to be an influencer through the content they share. User-generated content can be a powerful way to generate social proof, increase brand loyalty and build trust.
Social media remains a great platform for connecting with audiences, fostering engagement and building communities on a more personal level. Social media can also be used to humanise brands. Showcasing the social responsibility efforts of your business can assist in achieving this.
Finally, Stelzner urged marketers to keep an eye on artificial intelligence (AI), which is going to have a significant impact on social media in the coming years. AI-powered tools, such as ChatGPT, can help marketers save time, gain valuable insights into consumer behaviour, optimise ad targeting, personalise messaging, and improve performance, amongst many other benefits.
The Future Of Social Media
In summary, the future of social media is constantly evolving, and marketers need to stay ahead of the curve to reach, engage with and convert their target audience effectively. By keeping an eye on emerging trends, creating engaging content, building relationships with influencers, leveraging new technologies, and being prepared to adapt to changes in the landscape, marketers can stay ahead of the game and reach their audience in new and innovative ways.
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