By now (hopefully) all companies have realized the business value and increased customer reach that social media offers. They have probably also realized the ever changing, trend-like nature of social media. First Facebook was king, then Instagram, then this app called Snapchat came into existence, and now Facebook Live is all the rage.
This constant social media turnover is all-too-familiar and, oftentimes, all-too-costly. Companies invest in new tools and strategies, develop marketing plans and race to bring employees up to speed only to see that a new social media platform giant has emerged overnight.
So what’s the secret to future-proofing your social strategy? There are no easy answers, but one key is to look beyond the latest bells and whistles and turn an eye to the macro-trends driving the industry.
In a recent article on LinkedIn, Hootsuite CEO, Ryan Holmes reveals five big movements that promise to change how businesses use social media in 2017:
Paid social media becomes the new normal
Until now many companies have avoided paid social media content and have successfully built a social media presence the old-fashioned way: building up an audience overtime, sharing updates, and engaging with followers’ posts. Unfortunately, this method no longer works as well (if at all) as it once did. Holmes explains, “this isn’t some grand conspiracy: It just reflects the reality that our feeds are more cluttered than ever with messages, photos and increasingly videos. Not everything makes it through.”
The solution? Holmes recommends paid content: “All the networks have evolved their own native ads—promoted posts and updates that look just like the real thing. In 2017, it’s time to start using them. The good news is that once the “sticker-shock” wears off, these ads are actually a smart investment. They can be highly targeted, are shareable and it’s easy to track the return on your purchase in terms of views and clicks.”
Employee advocacy on social media takes off
This should be the elephant in the room. You’re employees are your best advocates for your company. Who knows better about the company then the employees who work there? They are likely already connected through their own personal social media accounts to the target audience that you are trying to reach– and, they’re already on the payroll! This is surely a game changer in 2017.
“But there’s a right way to do this and a wrong way,” clarifies Holmes. “Advocacy can’t be forced. Employees need to want to share company posts, and the content has to align with their own audiences” One way to incentivize this and make it easier for busy employees to participate in the sharing of company social media is to provide a list of suggested weekly updates for them to post on their pages.
The social media skills gap at work gets worse
Oldy, as social media use within businesses has increased, social media training and resources for employees has been largely ignored. “9 out of 10 companies report that their workers don’t have the requisite skills to leverage social media as a business tool,” explains Holmes. Moving forward into 2017 companies will need to train their employees in social media operations and best practices.
Executives finally get on social media
These days nearly everyone and every company can be found on Facebook— unless that someone happens to be a Fortune 500 CEO. “A full 61% still have no social media presence, according to a report from CEO.com,” but in 2017 this is likely to change. Holmes predicts, “In 2017, expect to see more executives take the plunge into legacy channels like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as fresher platforms, from Instagram to Snapchat…To stay connected to customers, employees and partners, even top business leaders will be making time for social media in 2017.”
Social selling and customer service become expected
No longer is social media utilized for marketing purposes alone. It serves many dual purposes and is remaking the whole customer lifecycle. Consumers are learning about products on Pinterest and Instagram. They’re sold to on Facebook and Twitter, and they seek customer service on messaging channels like Facebook Messenger. Holmes says that “this trend toward ‘conversational commerce’ only stands to accelerate in 2017 with the rapid deployment of chatbots…The rise of chatbots promises a way to quickly scale social selling and customer service efforts, offering users the equivalent of 1:1 service without necessarily requiring additional employees.”
While the social media platforms and their capabilities may change, it is clear that social media’s place in business will not. “As attention spans shrink, legacy media outlets splinter and traditional ads lose their mojo,” Holmes assures that “social media is increasingly the one reliable place to reach consumers…And you don’t need a crystal ball to see that.”