As in previous years, social media continues to play a major role in any marketing strategy, making it important for digital marketers to understand and embrace the frequent changes in these platforms and identify the most effective methodologies to connect with their audiences. Here are the major trends we’ve seen in the social media space so far in 2015.
Social Media Advertising
As click-through rates on banner ads continue to decline, social advertising has quickly filled the void to become one of the most effective ways to reach audiences online. By 2018, spending on social media advertising is expected to reach $14 billion, and 2/3 of that spend is expected to be spent on mobile ads. One reason for the rise of social media advertising is its nativity—advertisements are displayed as a seemingly natural part of a social media user’s news feed, making them less invasive and more effective than traditional banner ads.
So far in 2015, social media platforms have been increasing their display ad market share faster than their search engine counterparts. Due to a recent Facebook algorithm update, which made it more difficult for businesses’ posts to reach news feeds organically, advertisements (known as “boosted posts”) have become a far more reliable way for companies to connect with Facebook’s 1.3 billion users. According to CNET, Facebook will nearly double the advertising revenue generated by Google in the United States this year. Twitter is also expected to surpass Yahoo to become the third-largest display ad company in 2015.
Visual-based platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram have also found recent success in advertising. After a year of beta testing, Pinterest opened its “Promoted Pin” feature to all advertisers in January. Early reports indicate success, as some “Promoted Pins” have even outperformed popular organic Pins on the site. Pinterest is expected to see an 11% growth in its user base this year. Instagram also expanded its advertising perks recently by making “Sponsored Posts” clickable, a sharp turn from its previous stance against clickable links. Another new feature of Instagram ads is the carousel capability, which will let users swipe through multiple images in a single ad sequence on their home feeds.
With the exponential rise in social media advertising, social commerce is a natural next step in digital marketing. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest have made it easy for consumers to view and purchase products directly from their feeds. In 2015, social commerce is expected to become a $30 billion industry worldwide.
Facebook recently announced plans to enhance its Messenger platform via a new initiative known as Messenger for Business. New features will allow for instant customer service communication, easy access to details such as purchase records and shipping information, and more. Facebook hopes the changes will lead to an evolution in how businesses and consumers interact, moving from email and phone-based communication to real-time communication on Facebook Messenger.
Video Remains Vital
In addition to their gains in advertising, social media platforms are expected to become major contenders in the realm of online video. One platform driving this video based boom is SnapChat. With 100 million monthly active users, SnapChat has become one of the major platforms of choice for the younger demographics. Businesses that have come to this realization have moved into the SnapChat space via its highly-anticipated “Discover” feature, which has seen immense success since its launch in January 2015. According to industry sources, so far SnapChat’s Discover ad prices are sitting at around $100 for every thousand views.
Facebook is also becoming a major contender in video as users upload more video content to the platform than ever before. Facebook recently announced that over the course of 2014, video uploads to the site increased by 74% globally and 94% in the United States. Videos on Facebook news feeds now appear with view counts as well, adding to the distinct possibility of Facebook becoming a competitor to YouTube.
This year’s tech darling at the annual South by Southwest Conference (SxSW) in Austin, TX was Meerkat, a new livestreaming app that has seen monumental success since its recent inception. Meerkat makes it easy for users to schedule and share a livestream on other social media accounts. Meerkat continued to make headlines when Twitter announced plans to limit the app’s access to the Twitter Social Graph in favor of its own acquired livestreaming platform, Periscope. Despite the setback, Meerkat streams continued to grow by 30% in the days following the announcement. As livestreaming becomes an important component of content marketing, it’s likely that apps such as Meerkat and Periscope will continue to see growth in users.
Community and Cohesion
While more people are using social media than ever before, the social media landscape continues to become segmented and specialized. Many businesses would benefit from establishing a presence on multiple platforms, especially on platforms commonly used by their target demographics. However, as more and more businesses turn to social media, it’s important for marketers to actively build a community that provides value beyond sales pitches. According to a new book by Peter Friedman, 40% of social messaging should be community-focused, 40% should provide context around a business, and only 20% should be about the brand and/or products.
Marketers should strive for cohesion among various platforms by incorporating unifying elements into content, such as branded graphics or brand-specific hashtags, where it makes sense. This allows audiences to connect the dots between various pieces of a larger social media strategy and reinforces brand messaging.
What social media trends have you noticed so far this year? Let us know your favorite developments in the comments, and check back later for an update on how to use social media to boost SEO!