The Top Trends Driving 2017 Social Media Engagement

One of the most exciting (and sometimes frustrating) parts about working in social media is that it’s always changing. With every technological innovation comes a shift in how, when, where and even why people interact with content. Technology evolves. People change. And trends emerge.

So what does 2017 have in store? All trends point to using technology to create quality experiences rather than quantity content.

Video Rules

Now, I know you’ve seen video on every trend list since the dawn of social media, but don’t write it off. Video marketing works.

YouTube and Facebook have already set the foundation, but a new wave of content outlets is poised to make an impact on how audiences engage with brands over next year. Newer platforms and technologies – like Instagram stories, Snapchat, virtual reality and live streaming – open up a whole new world of engagement opportunities through immersive storytelling and quick-hitting, in-the-moment content.

This isn’t social media guy conjecture, either. Snapchat alone already gets more than 10 billion views per day [source: Bloomberg] and it’s poised to grow to 217 million users by the end of next year [source: Digital Trends].

Intelligent AI

Technology has become a huge part of our everyday lives. It’s made us more productive, entertained and connected than ever before. The average consumer has the tools to create and manage endless amounts of content – which, for marketers, translates to endless amounts of consumer data. Artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning, allows us to use these data points to create better, more meaningful interactions.

In fact, you may be surprised to how much you already interact with AI. Every time you tag a friend in a photo based on facial recognition. Or the Facebook algorithms that make sure trending topics stay relevant to your interests. Or the predictive analytics that allow Netflix to constantly update and finesse its content recommendations.

Hello, Chatbots

Speaking of benevolent AI, chatbots were one of the breakout stars of 2016, and they’re poised to become even more commonplace over the next year.

Today’s consumers expect swift (if not instant) replies to their inquiries. Chatbots can be designed to handle most customer interactions without adding additional members to your staff. When executed well, bots act as an extension of a customer service team, aiding with everything from content consumption to transactions.

Since social media is already in the mix for many consumer-brand interactions, chatbots cut out the middleman (i.e. directing visitors to a blog or website) to connect with consumers. Companies like Uber, Pizza Hut, Bank of America, Taco Bell, Disney and the NBA have implemented them to enhance their customer experience.

Social Influencer Influence

Personalities rule the Internet. Mommy bloggers. Foodies. Wanderlusts. And fashionistas. We trust them because they’ve constructed and produced authentic content. In fact, we’ve done so with such enthusiasm that their influence rivals that of friends and family.

As online content gets more and more cluttered, reaching your audience gets harder and harder. That’s where social influencers come in. Whether your goal is to boost sales, increase brand awareness, drive traffic or bolster ROI, social influencer programs can help you reach and engage with key audiences in a way traditional advertising lacks.

Before you start shifting budgets, remember that these types of programs are built on relationships that take time to develop and pay off.

Going Native Advertising

What makes native advertising effective is that it doesn’t disrupt the user experience. Where banner ads distract, native ads integrate seamlessly with the content on a site.

Already, it’s caused a huge shift in the media world. Companies like Buzzfeed have built their business on native adverting, while other more traditional media outlets like The Atlantic projected more than 75 percent of their revenue was driven by native ads (source: Digiday).

So what does this mean for your brand and why should you care? Because it offers a level of storytelling most traditional ads can’t. When done well – different publications have their own tone, voice and formats, so finding one that matches your brand is key – the content is generally of a higher quality and feels more authentic.

Here’s to 2017

Social media engagement is about driving conversations that create action. Producing stuff for stuff’s sake is a waste of time and money. At the end of the day – well, year – you can AI, chatbot, Snapchat, influence your heart out but it won’t make a bit of difference for your business if you leave the audience out of the equation. By focusing on creating quality, meaningful experiences, 2017 is sure to be a more connected, more engaged and more prosperous new year.

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