11 Social Media Trends to Look For in 2018

It’s a challenge to predict what a new year will bring, especially looking back on a year like 2017 and all the unexpected changes it brought. From more Twitter characters to the rise of Instagram Stories, it was a big year for social media. We expect new social media trends this year!

Based on a little research, a little experience, and a few smart deductions, this is what we predict for 2018.

Augmented Reality

It sounds like something out of a sci-fi film, but augmented reality (AR) has been a growing trend in mobile games for the past couple years. In 2018, we expect to see it start hitting social media.

Many mobile users got their first taste of AR in 2016 when Pok√©mon GO became a worldwide phenomenon that summer. The app utilized a device’s camera and GPS, giving players the chance to locate and catch the animated creatures that appeared on screen, as if they were in the same real-world location as the player. The game became one of the most-used apps of 2016, being downloaded over 500 million times worldwide.

Now, developers are exploring the possibilities that augmented reality has to offer. Think apps that automatically solve pen-and-paper sudoku puzzles and interior design apps that let users test out new furniture in their homes.

But AR isn’t all about gaming and shopping. Social media platforms are beginning to take a hard look at implementing AR functionality for their users. Snapchat already offers a feature that lets you superimpose your animated Bitmoji avatar into real-world environments. Facebook and Instagram, who have borrowed from Snapchat in the past with their Stories and masks features, are looking at doing similar things. Perhaps by this time next year, you’ll be posting selfies to Facebook with AR-imposed celebrities!

Generation Z

For the past few years, marketing in every industry–including insurance–has focused on Millennials. And while Millennials are still a large piece of the puzzle, 2018 is the year we are going to start seeing a shift toward a younger demographic: Generation Z.

Generation Z was born in the mid-90s and through the mid-2000s, and they are just starting to enter the workforce. They’ve grown up using the Internet and social media, and are more likely to feel its influence. This year, we can expect to see many companies invest more heavily in social networks preferred by Gen-Zers, such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Houseparty.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has grown over the past few years, and 2018 will be no exception.

What is an influencer? Influencers are, essentially, “Internet Celebrities.” Many of them have attained their notoriety exclusively through social media. Some pull down a six-figure salary from their social media presence alone. They do this by hosting promoted content, and presenting sponsored products to their users.

Influencers are powerful drivers of sales in today’s economy because they are–as the name implies–extremely influential. Millennials and Gen-Zers, a combined majority of the global population, fall sway to the opinions of many of these influencers. In 2018 will see many companies investing more heavily in influencer marketing and promotions. How can your agency partner with influencers in order to impact sales?

Brands on Messaging Platforms

Up to now, social media content and advertising has been the main focus for businesses trying to make the most of their social media presence. Yet most businesses have failed to target a very heavily-used aspect of social media: Messaging.

As of 2016, messaging apps were more heavily-used than social media itself. This includes Facebook’s Messenger app, WhatsApp, and foreign companies such as WeChat. Despite this, marketers are putting far more time and resources into targeting social networks. This year, messaging apps are ripe for expansion as businesses look for ways to reach users on these platforms.

Messenger itself, in recent years, has been one of the more popular ways for customers to contact businesses for information and feedback. If your agency is already on social media, we’re sure you’ve probably spoken to some clients over Messenger in the past. However, these apps don’t currently have a lot of room for businesses to reach out to potential customers. As app developers seek to increase their revenue, we expect to see new opportunities for marketers to reach users on messaging apps.

Live Video

Live video features on Youtube and Facebook have proven to be a boon for businesses on social media. We’ve talked about it before. There is something special about the draw of live video and knowing that anything could happen next.

For businesses who have utilized it, live video has yielded some impressive stats. Facebook users comment ten times more on live videos than on regular videos. Video of a live event also increases brand favorability by 63%. That’s quite a result! In addition, 82% of Livestream users surveyed said that they preferred to see live video from brands over other types of posts.

Some brands have flirted with implementing live video in their marketing strategy, but 2018 will be the year that really sees live video flourish and become widespread. If your insurance agency hasn’t hosted a live stream yet, it’s time to start brainstorming ideas.

More Videos in General

It isn’t just live video that will be even hotter in 2018. This is the year that Cisco forecasted video would make up 82% of all Internet traffic.

Until now, the main drive for businesses to create videos has been the hope of going viral. However, the main focus is shifting. Videos in 2018 will be more about who will watch, and what they will do next–call, click, buy–rather than how many views a business can accumulate. When creating video for your agency, focus on creating real value for the customer, and not just entertainment value.

Instagram Stories

Although Instagram Stories just launched in late summer of 2016, this feature of the popular photo-sharing app has already surpassed its muse, Snapchat. Over 200 million people currently use Instagram Stories each month, which is 50 million more users than Snapchat has. And that number is only growing. As the feature matures, we expect to see more users taking advantage of it. In order to keep up, with the trend, insurance agents will need to learn to use Stories to promote their businesses.

Automated Social Media Advertising

AI has already played a small role in social media advertising. It helps businesses find the optimal times to post content, and identify the best content to share. However, in 2018, “millisecond marketing” is expected to become all the rage. This type of technology tests hundreds of different add scenarios, and can automatically boost posts based on what it predicts will be most successful.

Removing the guesswork from social media marketing and optimizing your ad budget is the main goal for these AI-powered tools. Think of the time and money this type of technology could save your agency!

Digital Hangouts

You’ve heard of Facetime. This video calling app is wildly popular among iPhone users of all ages, with Facebook, Google and Skype all developing their own versions for mobile use.

Digital hangouts are a little like that. However, instead of just facetiming with one friend, you can have a “hangout” with multiple friends in multiple locations at once. Houseparty, a digital hangout app that has become wildly popular with Generation Z users, has caused enough of a ripple in the social media marketplace that it has inspired several copycats–including Facebook, who currently has a Houseparty-like feature in development.

Though this type of social media is still relatively young, marketers are already researching new and exciting ways to reach users on these platforms. While the app developers have stayed silent so far on their plans for allowing advertising on the network, companies see potential in ideas such as brand-hosted video chats. What if you could have a face-to-face Q&A with your clients? Exciting!

QR Codes

Scannable QR codes, such as those used on Snapchat, have been around for a while. However, chances are that even if you have a smart phone and have used social media, you probably haven’t scanned many QR codes.

So what makes 2018 the year that QR codes will shine? For one, iPhone has introduced native QR code support in their iOS 11 update. This will make it far easier for many users to scan any QR codes that they see, and thus give businesses more incentive to use them. Additionally, companies like Facebook and Spotify have recently invested heavily in QR technology. Therefore, it likely won’t be long before we start seeing more and more QR codes related to these popular platforms.

But what can these scannable images be used for? QR codes can be used to log onto a WiFi network (handy for visitors), send out a pre-formatted Tweet (handy for spreading the word), or pay someone on Paypal. What’s in store for the future? Facebook Messenger codes will make it possible to scan a QR code and have a customer support chat pop up automatically on your device. Scanning a QR code for a playlist may load it up automatically on your Spotify app. This offers some creative and intriguing opportunities for insurance agents on social media.

Local Experiences

Brands have flocked to social media over the past few years–and that’s a good thing for both businesses and consumers! However, it has let to what some experts are calling “brand fatigue.” Brand fatigue is what happens when users are bombarded with marketing messages–after a little while, they just tune them out. This isn’t what you want for your customer!

To combat this, 2018 may see many companies are stepping back and focusing on their communities. By reaching out to local patrons and building better relationships, insurance agents and other businesses can increase word-of-mouth and increase engagement in their communities–in essence, they can get back to their roots. This can be great for both brands and the communities they’re based in.

Of course, brands aren’t without support in this. Google has begun emphasizing local business results in their search, and Facebook may soon follow suit. By using all the amazing social media technology at their disposal, while also spending time cultivating local relationships, insurance agencies can strike the perfect balance to grow their companies.

A new year always brings new hopes and expectations–and in the fast-paced worlds of social media and insurance, it’s usually extra exciting. While we can’t look into the future (Facebook hasn’t developed that technology yet!), we look forward to seeing how these predictions pan out in 2018.

–By Mallory DuPuy

 

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