Social media have been around for a little more than a decade, but it is already hard to imagine life without them. Everybody seems hitched to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and/or some other social networking service these days, irrespectively of social standing, language or country of origin – so it is hardly surprising that social media marketing (SMM) has been gaining so much traction recently. If people are spending more and more time connected, using it to reach out to them is a perfectly natural decision.
However, SMM still is a relative new industry, prone to rapid and sudden changes. New trends appear all the time, and each passing year brings both challenges and opportunities. Which of them is 2017 going to see? Let’s take a look at what industry experts predict.
1. Video Content Will Grow in Importance
According to Cisco VNI (Visual Networking Index) Forecast report, in 2015 about 70 percent of all consumer traffic has been video content, and this value is likely to reach 80 percent by 2020. Growing bandwidth and the advent of smartphones capable of recording high-quality video turned the content of this kind from a rare oddity into a part of everyday life, and social media marketers are going with the flow by embracing video streaming technologies. First came Meerkat, then Twitter in combination with Periscope, then Facebook with its own service. 2017 is likely to become the year of a large clash between these media giants, and only time will tell who is going to emerge on top.
2. SMM Automation Is Gaining Ground
Until fairly recently, marketing automation in general and SMM automation in particular have been the prerogative of big businesses which could afford proprietary solutions. However, affordable automation tools emerged soon after; they cover a large portion of online marketing that usually had to be dealt with manually, and many a smaller business can avail of them as well. Both easy to operate and efficient, these tools can become an incredibly effective weapon in the hands of any dedicated entrepreneur.
3. Chatbots Will Develop
Chatbots are AI capable of simulating meaningful conversation with a human customer. An ideal chatbot should be indistinguishable from a human being, at least when talking on a subject it is supposed to deal with. In reality, chatbots are still rather primitive, more amusing than useful – yet they are already capable of automating simpler tasks, such as providing round-the-clock basic customer service (as long as they don’t have to deal with complicated questions not covered in the guidebook). One sample of this technology on social media is Chotu – a chatbot on Facebook messenger that helps a customer acquire information from Facebook messages. In time, chatbots are expected to get more and more sophisticated and capable of performing a wider array of functions.
4. Inbound Marketing Raises Its Head
For a very long time, outbound marketing – that is, marketing that aims at actively dragging potential customers towards the product or service – has been the norm. However, today customers are sick and tired of constant advertising, as well as increasingly cynical when it comes to promotional promises. They no longer want to be dragged – yet they can actually come of their own accord. Inbound marketing, mostly represented by content marketing, doesn’t drag – instead it teaches, provides interesting information and valuable insights, engages the customer while unobtrusively sowing the idea that you represent an amazing company that genuinely cares about its clients and is fun to deal with in general.
5. Interactive Content Rules
Modern customer have a notoriously short attention span due to severe information overload (and having been spoiled by a hundred contenders for every second of their time). Therefore, the winner in this fight is the one who provides the most catchy, fun, game-like experience of all. Everything that increases engagement is good – the more the client interacts with content, the better. Intriguing quizzes, colorful infographics and other similar things are all capital ways of separating yourself from the crowd and attracting customers’ attention.
Whether these will be major or secondary SMM trends of the coming year, it is obvious that they are going to play a significant role all the same. Now’s high time to use these opportunities to your advantage!
Melissa Burns is an entrepreneur with six years of experience in marketing and SEO. Burns began her career as an independent journalist, right after graduating from Iowa State University in 2008. Her favorite fields of research are startups, marketing, and IT--in particular, IT implementation in the sphere of education.