Social media marketing is an ever-moving target that has grown at a rapid pace. In as little as six years, it’s found a permanent place within marketing plans. But as consumer behaviors and technology evolve, so do social platform offerings. This year will mark new opportunities across the marketing funnel, specifically, ways to drive purchase intent and conversion.
Here are the five industry trends shaping where social is going:
1. Beyond the Feed – Growth in ad placements that fall outside the feed will achieve new breakthrough connections with consumers.
- Instagram Stories are full-screen vertical and immersive experiences, quickly adopted by consumers. As of end of January, Stories hit 500 million daily active users, half of Instagram’s 1 billion daily active users. Advertising opportunities include 15 second Video Ads and Carousel Ads (three frames up to 15 seconds each) that appear between Stories of people you follow.
- Facebook In-Stream are non-skippable video ad units that appear within select creator and publisher content across Facebook Feed, Audience Network and Facebook Watch. They appear at the 60 second mark of a long-form video, which leads to high video completion rates. More than 70% of in-stream ads are watched to completion.
- Twitter’s Pre-Roll video ads run before video clips from 200+ brand-safe partners in the news, sports and entertainment categories and are now available to all advertisers. The premium nature of the placement is an effective driver for ad recall, awareness and purchase intent because they run on tweets that have an established and captive audience.
2. Shoppable Social – Growth in shoppable social ad units across some platforms will make it easier for consumers to purchase directly, immediately.
- Shoppable Instagram posts allow users to click and buy products from posts in-feed, Stories and video content. Users not ready to buy can save shoppable items to the new Shopping Collection on the app to return to later. Instagram is also working on a standalone shopping app called IG Shopping. A redesign of the shopping tab on business profiles is also being tested, which would corral all shoppable brand posts in one spot.
- Pinterest has a lean-forward visual search experience. It’s where people go for inspiration, to discover new ideas, to shop and to plan their lives. With 61% of Pinners making a purchase after seeing content on Pinterest, they’re focusing on making the platform more shoppable. New features include: Up-to-date pricing and stock information on pins; New shopping shortcut within the app that connects users to similar products (available only for fashion and home décor pins); Max-Width Video Pins and newly released Carousel Pins are high impact ways to deliver product messaging and show how products benefit consumers’ lives.
3. Social TV – Growth in mobile video consumption is starting to encourage brands to become broadcasters.
- Instagram launched IGTV in June 2018 as a way for creators to deliver long-form, vertical video on the platform. Videos are discoverable through “channels” created by influencers, celebrities and brands and can be up to one hour. Due to IGTV still being in its infancy, there are currently no advertising opportunities. Additionally, creators continue to see more success on their feed content.
- Facebook Watch is a one-stop-shop for users to discover videos from pages they like as well as peruse suggested and trending videos. Watch includes content from professionally-created shows, mainstream news networks and content creators. Total time spent watching Watch has increased 14x since the start of 2018, showing potential to break into mainstream.
- Fans of shows and sports teams interacting on Twitter during TV broadcasts have had major impacts on Twitter’s move into Social TV. So much so that Twitter has doubled the output of video programming to offer users live videos, clips and original shows like BuzzFeed’s “AM2DM,” Bloomberg’s “TicToc,” and more. Twitter is also the first and only social platform to livestream portions of NBA game action. All programming comes with its own sponsorship opportunities like pre-roll on live tweets, custom integrations in episodes, fan voting and sponsored moments.
- Snapchat Discover offers curated video content from publishers, creators, brands and TV networks. Content aims to keep users up-to-date on breaking news, current events, pop culture, sports, entertainment and more. Discover is a good consideration for brands trying to reach a younger audience. Specifically, some 78% of 18-24-year-olds use Snapchat.
4. Conversational Marketing – Growth in direct messaging tools now allow brands to meet consumers where they are with immediate information-sharing.
- GIPHY is the world’s first and largest GIF platform. It has over 350 million daily active users, powers over 1,000 apps and supports all the major social networks. GIFs present a new frontier of conversational marketing. They build brand equity by facilitating visual conversation between friends. It’s a shift from sharing brand content within social conversations to having your brand be the conversation by creating branded GIFs.
- Facebook Messenger recently introduced ads to its 1.3 million monthly active users. The ads create efficiencies for brands to reach more people across Facebook’s Audience Network. Ads may appear between conversations and Stories. Or, driving in-feed ads to open conversations with consumers serve as a less invasive approach. Open rates in Messenger are 80-90%, compared to a typical email open rate of 20%. Click through rates are approximately 10-30%.
- Chatbots carry out one-on-one conversations with customers by automating interactions. They work 24/7 and are a great way to reduce response times and personalize users’ experiences with brands. There are endless ways bots can assist customers. For example, bots help users navigate issues, offer up related products, provide resources and complete tasks. All through utilizing interactive links, images and call-to-action buttons.
- Facebook recently announced they’re working on cross-messaging between its suite of messaging apps: Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. The switch, happening in 2020 or later, would help users chat with anyone without sacrificing their favored service. It could also open doors for global commerce, making communication between buyers and sellers easier.
5. Virtual Experiences – Growth in augmented and virtual reality technologies across some platforms will offer ways for brands to create more personalized virtual experiences for their consumers.
- Snapchat put augmented reality on the map with virtual face lenses, which Facebook & Instagram Stories quickly adopted. These effects have made mundane visuals more fun and shareable for users, perfect for social media. Now, brands can build full-screen virtual worlds to immerse customers in via Snapchat. Like wearing a VR headset, users walk around and angle their phone to see the VR experience on mobile device screens.
- With approximately 200 million AR users on Facebook, it’s no surprise they’re heavily investing in hardware to support AR technologies. Investments include ways to assimilate AR in-platform. For instance, Facebook is beta testing AR shopping ads. The ads let consumers “try on” items from posts in-feed, snap a picture to share on Stories and buy the items. AR Camera Effects for Messenger is also in a closed beta test to add interactive experiences to chatbots.
No longer is it enough for brands to show up in feed-like environments. Social platforms are evolving to offer new content and entertainment opportunities for consumers. That means brands also have more opportunities to show up where their customers are. To stay relevant and top-of-mind, think about how to evolve your brand’s social strategy.
- What platforms and placements do your consumers spend most of their time?
- Which social media trends are your competitors executing? Are they seeing success?
- Which social media trends are worth being the first in your category to test and potentially adopt?
 Pinterest internal data 2017-2018, comScore Audience
 GIPHY data, May 2018
 Facebook data, January 2018
Read more insights from Digitas here.
Author: Kate Newman, Manager & Social Strategy, Digitas