This article was originally posted on Entrepreneur.com
Whether you’re an influencer, brand, or use social media personally, there is no denying social media has greatly evolved over the past decade.
Since its humble beginnings in the form of AIM, Friendster, and MySpace, social media has evolved into an incredibly profitable platform for brands and influencers.
More recently, the personal aspect of social media has slowly become overshadowed by newsfeeds filled with branded and shoppable content. COVID-19 has accelerated this change even further as society has turned to digital communication to find entertainment as well as to shop as a result of health precautions. Although these changes emerged quickly, the impact of the pandemic on user habits will change social media for the future.
In a post-COVID world, it can seem overwhelming to try and keep track of even more shifting pieces in the large social media puzzle, but the upcoming social media trends of today are the key to your brand’s success tomorrow, and beyond. To help guide you in creating content that stands out amid the endless news feed, here are the top trends leading the future of social media.
Focus on community.
In a world where people must stay six feet away from another, a digital community is something users are desperately searching for. Communication and creating a sense of inclusion is essential to building a thriving social media community for the future. Facebook has taken the lead with these groups and even announced that they prioritize content from Groups that users frequently engage with. Groups present the advantage of word-of-mouth and it’s credibility, with users are 16 times more likely to read a post from a friend than a brand. Some of the largest brands such as ASOS and Peloton have already started successful groups where fans are encouraged to interact with other members who share their same interests and spark conversations around the brand.
When building a social media community for your brand, try tactics that spark conversation between members, and foster a feeling of community. For example, sharing sneak-peeks of your product, or regularly asking for your followers’ feedback will help to build a relationship between members and the brand.
Creating a successful community can also provide you with insights about future trends and the ability to tune into what consumers want from your brand. To prepare for the future of social media and your industry, a community is a valuable asset that will keep your brand constantly moving forward.
Customer service tool.
The days of speaking with customer service reps and being placed on hold for seemingly hours are over (who likes muzak, anyways?). As the future of the world turns toward digital, consumers are expecting brands to be attentive to their needs and questions in the comments at the drop of a hat: a recent study found that more than 60 percent of customers who complain on social media expect a response within an hour.
Providing excellent customer service across social media platforms can be tedious, but it’s proven to be a much more affordable route to resolving issues. Solving an issue on social media is 83 percent less expensive than resolving it through a call center interaction. However, the pressure to be attentive doesn’t mean you’ll need to cover every platform by yourself, 24/7. Try splitting social media coverage into shifts amongst your team, or hire a social media listening Expert to help.
When it comes to service, consumers expect a personalized, human response rather than a copy and paste answer. Before developing a strategy for future customer service on social media, define your voice and tone, so that responses across platforms are consistent with your brand, moving forward.
Increase engagement with video and live stream.
Video and live-stream content have seen a rapid rise to popularity recently, and will continue to take the social media world by storm in the future. Users enjoy the interactive aspect of video more than regular posts, and video content can provide ten times more value than a photo. By 2022, live video is expected to grow 15-fold and reach a 17 percent share of all internet traffic.
Adding video content to your marketing strategy doesn’t have to require hours of labor, and the good news is you can do most editing work right from your phone or laptop. There are a variety of apps and tools available to help you create high-quality content for social media right from your desk (or couch, like most of us remote workers).
Despite the fact that video content performs better than other social media posts, proceed with care before you create. Before you shoot your content, ask yourself, what is the purpose of this video? What story am I telling? Giving your video storytelling element is the key to setting yourself apart from the rest and take your post from one hundred likes to one thousand.
Tap into your niche.
Although mainstream platforms such as Instagram and Twitter continue to dominate the social media field, niche social media networks are increasingly gaining popularity amongst consumers. Niche platforms are networks created for a select audience, particularly ones that have a very specific interest outside of the mainstream.
Niche networks, such as Twitch (used by avid video-game players) make an excellent environment to introduce your brand to new audiences due to less brand competition. Your reach will also increase on these smaller networks, as compared to Facebook, which has more than 60 million business pages and less chance of reaching the right users.
Before diving into a niche platform, do your research to identify which platform your brand aligns well with and where you will see the most success. With the right platform, your brand will capture the attention of new audiences and help you increase followers in the future.
Create ephemeral content.
Ephemeral content is defined as rich media (mainly video and photos) that are only accessible for a short period of time, such as an Instagram story, and the nature of ephemeral content is advantageous in itself. The shortened life cycle creates a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out)
in the consumer and causes a sense of urgency that leads to more interest in the product- in a recent study,62 percent of people say they have become more interested in a brand or product after seeing it in Stories.
Integrating ephemeral content into your social media strategy will help you stand out in the future as users continue to turn to their mobile phones as the preferred way to scroll through platforms. Ephemeral content adjusts perfectly to mobile screens and allows you to post more often without clogging up your own page, but still achieving great engagement. To boost your Story engagement further, add an interactive element, such as a sticker; they’ve been proven to enhance video Story performance 83 percent of the time.
Another great advantage of ephemeral content is the ability to easily share user-generated content (USG). Recent studies have found that almost half of customers (48 percent) claim that user-generated content is a great method for them to discover new products. By sharing USG on your ephemeral content, you’ll access the ability to empower your consumers and attract new audiences to your brand.
The future can be an unknown and intimidating place, especially for brands hoping to stay relevant on social media as the world around us continues to rapidly evolve. By integrating these trends into your social media strategy, your brand will grow alongside the changes and experience success in an uncertain landscape.
Alex Sixt is a creative professional specializing in content creation with a passion for all things marketing. Her professional experience includes developing marketing strategies, focusing on social media and content, for multiple industries. Outside of work, she loves spending time outdoors; all it takes is some time in the sunshine and a good hiking trail to make her happy.