There’s no getting around it. We live in a world dominated by social media. And while social networks have provided businesses with opportunities to improve customer engagement and increase revenues, they also come with an ongoing challenge to keep up with changing trends that businesses must continually adapt to in order to achieve their marketing goals.

We’ve done some research and put together a list of social media trends that businesses need to look out for in 2017:

Social Messaging

Source: WhatsApp

Social messaging or chat applications (instant messaging or mobile messaging built around social networking platforms) are becoming a popular alternative to engaging with social media. In fact, the four most popular messaging apps (Messenger, WhatsApp, QQ Chat and WeChat) actually boast a wider community than the top four social networks, Smart Insights points out. 

In November 2016, Facebook even introduced the ability for advertisers to pay to highlight their brand in users’ News Feeds. Clicking on these ads would take users directly to a chat window with the advertiser inside Messenger.

In addition to being another eCommerce option, instant messaging allows real-time communication between people in any part of the world, minus the high cost of international or domestic long distance phone charges. Instant messaging and collaboration systems like Slack feature extremely functional platforms with impressive integration tools that help businesses communicate more effectively within their workplace community.

In 2017, businesses can expect to see technology and eCommerce shift from more traditional social networks to social message applications.

Live Video

Live video really took off as a social media trend in 2016, changing the way consumers interact with brands and organizations. Tools like Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Periscope Pro, and Livestream’s Mevo camera are making it possible to reach new audiences.

Facebook plans to roll out its 360-degree video for Facebook Live users for all pages and profiles in 2017, with YouTube following close on it’s heels.

Here’s what some thought leaders on Livestream are saying about the future of video:

“In 2017 we’re going to see a major uptick in the use of live video as an added revenue stream for brands and media organizations.”

Stephanie Leke, Media Relations Manager, New Republic

“In 2017, video will take center stage as the format of choice.”

Alicianne Rand, Former VP of Marketing, NewsCred

 “Expect live video to become as common as texting in 2017.”

Amora Brown, Operations, Hack Reactor:

Why?

Video is more appealing as most people tend to prefer visual to written content, suggests Forbes. Faster Internet speeds and mobile devices have made it easier than ever to watch videos, increasing their popularity as an online medium. Additionally, consumers crave the experience of “in the moment” content. Video gives consumers real, immediate experiences that are raw and authentic, which tends to encourage live feedback and increased engagement.

Companies such as Tough Mudder, Duncan Donuts, BuzzFeed, and Tastemade are just a few examples of companies who have experienced great success with live video.

The popularity of video as a form of online content will continue to grow in popularity in 2017. Businesses who haven’t already incorporated this powerful medium into their marketing strategies will need to pay some serious attention to video development if they hope to edge out the competition and capture a larger portion of modern consumers.

Social Commerce

“The future of e-commerce is social,” says SEMrush. In fact, social networks generated sales of over 30 billion dollars in 2015, an increase of $10 billion from 2014, according to Social Media Explorer.

In today’s competitive marketing environment, few industries can boast this level of growth in just over five years. With 2015 being one of the biggest years for eCommerce around the world, social commerce will only grow in popularity and importance throughout 2017.

Prominent social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are developing eCommerce features that will allow their users to take advantage of this trend. In fact, the instant messaging platform, WeChat, reported that 31% of their users initiated purchases in 2016—twice as many as the previous year—and 75% of Pinterest users report having bought something they saw on the the social network, notes Smart Insights.

Furthermore, with over 90% of millennials (the largest living group today), spending their time on social networks, businesses can’t ignore the need to broaden their marketing strategies in order to capture the attention of this vast group of consumers.

eCommerce businesses and marketers who depend heavily on various online channels for generating sales need to start preparing for the inevitable social commerce boom that will continue to flourish throughout 2017.

Employees Become Invaluable Social Advocates for Businesses

Companies concerned with increasing the reach and impact of their social media efforts, without shelling out loads of money, need

Employees Will Become Social Media Advocates

look no further than their own workplace community.

Employee advocacy involves encouraging company associates and team members to share brand messages via their own social media accounts. Because social media is such a popular platform for most people, companies can greatly benefit from having employees taking an active part in increasing brand awareness through networks they use in their everyday lives. And did we mention it’s a convenient and cost efficient way to spread the word about the company’s products and services?

Businesses can reach hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new fans and followers through utilizing the personal social media accounts of employees. Hootsuite cited the example of Topgolf, a sports entertainment chain, who recruited several hundred of its associates to share updates via their personal social media channel and witnessed an increase of over 220 % during the launch of the employee advocacy initiative. These findings seem to confirm what we already know about social media…that customers are more likely to form relationships with other consumers, over a brand, and hence more likely to be influenced by, and share, the views of individual persons.

Since 2013, interest in employee advocacy initiatives has grown 191%, according to research by Altimeter, with 45% of study participants mentioning it as their top external objective, observed Smart Insights.

With the potential for employee social advocacy helping companies expand their brand awareness and reach, as well as attract new consumers, and build a larger community, no doubt we can expect the trend in employee social advocacy to really catch on in 2017 as more businesses seeking to improve their marketing strategies.

Conclusion

In a world where Internet technology continues to change and evolve, businesses can count on at least one thing…social media will remain as the consumers preferred form of connecting with other consumers and brands, as well as continuing to be decisive and reliable networks for businesses to reach consumers, raise brand awareness, and build communities of loyal customers.

Businesses who hope to edge out competition and make social media a real game changer for their marketing success in 2017 will need to stay on top of these emerging trends and start incorporating them as soon as possible to engage consumers and enhance the customer experience.

About Author

Sherene Funk

Sherene Funk is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime (but that doesn't stop her from collecting more). A graduate of Brigham Young University, she has published several humorous non-fiction articles and worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current position as a writer on modern retailing at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with other small business owners through informative articles that address their unique needs.

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