The Social Media trends you need to know for 2019

It has come to that time of year when everyone is putting their finger in their air and trying to appear informed and knowledgeable as they predict where things are heading in the forthcoming year. (A few of these will also be quietly deleting their tatty top tips from last year, while hoping desperately that nobody notices.)

Forecasting trends is always a tricky business, even more so when it comes to social media. It is perhaps especially difficult next year: in 2018 we saw the likes of Facebook and Twitter facing more government and public pressure than ever before, and given that their reactions seemed only to inflame the various situations concerning them around the world, you could foresee them staggering from crisis to crisis in increasingly defensive positions.

That sense of continuing political upheaval on a global scale does inevitably leave its imprint on trends for 2019. As was noted by Founder & Executive Director Toby Daniels during his opening keynote for last month’s Social Media Week London, when you look back a decade you can see how much our relationship with social media has changed: at that point it was simpler and the outlook was more positive.

However, that is not to say that there are not lots of positive opportunities to be grasped. Social networks as a whole are still growing, with Facebook now at over two billion active users and LinkedIn in particular attracting a large number of new signups, and while social media platforms may be on the backfoot with the media, they are still optimising their offerings and providing features which are being lapped up by their audiences – you only have to look at the explosion in use of Instagram Stories to see that.

Without any further ado, here are the main trends that I think we will see picking up steam through 2019. Some will be more visible than others, but I think that in combination they show the use of social media maturing, which means that more than ever it needs to be considered and effectively utilised by corporate organisations as well as consumer-friendly companies. (And hey, if you need any assistance with that please hit me up.)

  1. Communities – Facebook is promoting Groups as an effective means of creating much higher engagement, while LinkedIn recently relaunched its Groups functionality. The belief is their platforms will benefit from an increased focus on community, which brings higher engagement and loyalty, as has been seen through the continued popularity of old-school forums and Reddit has jumped from 250 to 330 million active users within six months during 2018. However, with trust decreasing due to user data, smaller alternative social platforms serving relatively niche audiences becomes more possible – such as for female entrepreneurs. The landscape may get more complicated, while conversely opening up more opportunity to reach target groups

  2. Brand activism – The boldness of the Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad helped it become a huge success, and other organisations are quickly realising that audiences nowadays are more likely to support brands who take a stand. This can be uncomfortable new territory when the opposite used to be true, but grabbing the initiative can lead to positive headlines such as when Ben and Jerry’s recently put its weight behind the work of Refugee ction: https://twitter.com/benandjerrysUK/status/1055775839273463808

  3. Stories  In just two years Instagram Stories has built up a base of over 400 million daily active users, and it continues to add interactive and fun features while the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn play catch up. It is currently more playful, fun, and instant, which makes it no wonder than audiences are flocking to them, while Facebook is looking at shifting more heavily to Stories and deemphasising their reliance on the News Feed.

  4. Influencer legitimacy – The use of fake followers and other dodgy tactics has shaken confidence in the use of influencers, with Instagram taking actionto clean things up. However, 2019 will undoubtedly see more debate and controversy about the effective and legitimacy of having celebs and micro-influencers flogging brands.

  5. Going live – Facebook is now starting to heavily promote ‘Watch Parties’ – its feature where users can set a date to watch something at the same time. A number of social platforms have already embraced live-streaming, but now we will see other means of creating events that you will want (and potentially need) to experience live.

  6. Corporate use – LinkedIn now has 575 million users, adding 75 million within 16 months which is an amazing growth rate. More B2B organisations are realising they need to be on social media platforms as they realise that their audience is increasingly likely to be found on there, with highly specific targeting options means that the right audience can be found.

  7. Reputation management – Choose any specific week and you will find numerous brands dealing with the fallout from a crisis on social media. Nowadays how they react in those initial moments can change the narrative and how big the scandal becomes. Just look at how KFC in the UK seized the initiative and won plaudits when they properly addressed a major supply issue, rather than sticking their heads in the sand. https://twitter.com/KFC_UKI/status/964838797841190912

  8. Data worries – Concerns over privacy have had users deleting their accounts, and with governments expressing the public’s anger through increased scrutiny you can expect to see even more of a spotlight shone no how data is being used and misused.

  9. Dark social – We can also see users switching over to private messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Messenger, their encryption and lack of accessible data making it much harder for organisations to know where its audience is coming from, and why. This will encourage more innovative methods of data discovery, but might also encourage others to go with their gut a bit more – for better and for worse, no doubt.

  10. Storytelling – And finally, there will be a continued and increasing emphasis on the art of storytelling. The audience is expecting more engaging and emotive stories, and platforms are responding – Twitter through making threads of multiple Tweets easier, and most significantly through Facebook offering immersive and interactive ads through Instant Experience, which provides the chance to take audiences on unique and tailored journeys. And who doesn’t want to feel a bit more special in this cluttered climate?

How to tell a social media story people care about

Originally posted on the MerchantCantos blog

If the Average Joe was asked to point to the sort of brand that will be a smash success on social media platforms such as Twitter and the like, it’s unlikely that they would pipe up with The Museum of English Rural Life.

And yet, to use that overused term, recently they have been going ‘viral’. And not just once, but repeatedly. What’s their secret? It’s something that is widely discussed but usually not understood enough when it comes to the nitty gritty of how brands present themselves on social media:

Storytelling.

It’s something that we encounter over and over again every time we visit our favourite platforms, but given the quick nature of the medium it’s often ignored when it comes to publishing. We think of audiences as having limited time, so therefore everything needs to be expressed and understood within a single short post.

However, arouse their curiosity and you can get over 43,000 likes (and 20,000 shares) while demanding people to go on a journey that begins with ‘depressing office furniture’:

From my quick calculations this earned them an amazing potential reach of over 100 million in less than two weeks:

It’s not just that they tell their story well, though they do. It is that they place confidence in their audience to have an interest in the same things they do, and to stick with something when they’re being spoken to with an authentic and knowledgeable voice.

There’s a brilliant and positive message here. What your company does might be generally considered as dull and boring, but if it is something that excites you then there will be others out there interested to find out more – not necessarily because they themselves would be enthralled doing a similar thing, but because enthusiasm is infectious, especially when it is well expressed.

So much of brand communications is a box-ticking exercise that flows past its audience like white noise, doing what it needs to in an inoffensive and distinctly forgettable manner. It has been reckoned that people usually see more than 5000 ads per day – how many can you recall out of the ones you had seen today? Presenting a rollicking good tale is not only more memorable: it is more fun, and helps you rediscover why you are doing what you are doing, before passing that curiosity on to your next biggest fan. It’s the essence of communications, and it ought to be the essence of your brand too.

How do you leverage curiosity to increase interest in your brand?

This post originally appeared on the MerchantCantos blog.

Here’s a timely question for you: which social platform is reportedly secretly experimenting with this very format?

Well, if you read the headline first you’ll already know it’s Instagram. It won’t be the first interactive feature that they’ve introduced on Stories. Polls and emoji sliders are already being used, and the new open-ended format adds to the range of options available.

By delivering a big boost to engagement, this option will allow brands another means of checking whether users are actually paying attention to their content. It also means they can get unique feedback in addition to the simplistic preferences that polls can reveal.

Alongside the increasing use of chatbots (a market ‘expected to reach $1.23 billion by 2025’), open-ended questions introduce another level of interactivity. The media and major brands have dipped its toes in interactive, and indeed I produced a number while at Red Bull and the BBC.

At the Beeb we made iWonder guides, the ‘i’ standing for – you guessed it – ‘interactive’, and part of the idea was that we could deepen the relationship between brand and audience through feeding their natural curiosity. It’s a notion that I took on to Red Bull when I was Global Digital Editorial Manager there, and which makes perfect sense from a more business-orientated prospect where you may be wanting to push consumers down the purchase funnel – or if you simply want to raise awareness of who you are and why people should care about what you do.

It’s been estimated that Americans see 4000-10,000 ads per day, and even if the figure is less than that for many of us in other parts of the globe, then anybody who has scrolled down a social media feed is aware how quickly posts can slip by with minimal attention being paid. Curiosity interrupts that and re-focusses audience attention while making them want to find out more.

Questioning the audience can be a great way of introducing a two-way relationship and building brand recognition and positive sentiment, but it will only work if the storytelling framework being utilised is strong enough that the user will feel a need to engage. Even if that’s an image or a single sentence, it requires a pull: that’s where the curiosity factor comes into play. And for that, you yourself need to answer a question: what is it about your brand’s story that will make your target audience curious?

Don’t lose your voice: finding your platform on social media

Even for those of us who work in social media, it can feel like constantly trying to catch a bucketful of sand to figure out precisely how many exist in the ‘mainstream’.

How do you even go about defining it: Should you bother considering former giants such as Myspace (the answer is almost certainly no), can email be counted as social, what is the size of user base before businesses need to take a first furtive glance and think about potential use? There are plenty of questions, and even when there are answers these are likely to transform well before any blanket statement can be issued.

It’s for that reason that being innovative in social media can ultimately end up diluting your message. Too much time can be spent considering best practice for a platform which is only being used by a small minority of your audience, with not enough energy then being put into those which are much more relevant – and which won’t be going away any time soon.

© Statista 2018 (find here)

If a business has a single message, it still needs to be adapted to best suit the platform, just as you wouldn’t put the same ad in a tabloid newspaper as you would in a prestigious broadsheet. That will take time to shape, and ideally needs to be figured out right at the creative planning stage so assets are optimised. It can also get complicated when a small team are trying to seamlessly push out countless versions of the same creative to each platform, even before you begin thinking about when is best to publish and the different targeting and paid options that exist.

It’s for this reason that it is best to be selective in your use of outlets. Whatever social platform your audience finds your content on, it needs to both provide value to their experience, as well as feel distinctive and compelling enough to make for a substantial impression which lasts more than a few seconds – and which helps you achieve your defined goals.

It should feel like a natural fit, and that depends upon knowing who your audiences are, and being aware where your presence will make sense. Focussing on a select number of platforms, and targeting specific segments within that, means that you can invest more time in providing a considered, high-quality experience. And whatever it is that your target audiences are interested in, that’s the least they deserve.

Article: How to make the most of Facebook Charitable Giving Tools

I was interviewed by Charity Digital News on how to make the most of Facebook Charitable Giving Tools. Check it out here.

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Content marketing for charities – adopting Red Bull’s approach

‘After moving from Red Bull to the Air Ambulance Service with no previous sector experience, our guest columnist doubled digital donations within six months. How did he do it?’

Well, you can find out in the article I wrote for Third Sector here ;-)

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Speaking at Overherd

I’m speaking at Farm Digital’s great Overherd event in London on Wednesday March 14. It’s looking at 2018 trends including “AI, Blockchain, Facebook fundraising and more”. I’ll be handling the Facebook fundraising part and explaining how I utilised its new Donate tools to help The Air Ambulance Service more than double its digital donations. More information here.