If keeping up with the latest social media trends feels like it’s harder than keeping up with the Kardashians, you’re not alone.

Social Media Trends

The very nature of social media is that it’s fast. Social networks are where people go for quick snippets of everything going on with the people, brands and places about which they care. They’re also where people go when they want an immediate response about something, such as a customer service issue with a business. Furthermore, the social networks themselves have fostered a fast-paced environment, changing how things look and feel, adding new features and updating algorithms at a rapid-fire pace.

Against this backdrop, what’s a social media marketer to do? What are the latest trends of which you need to be aware? And how can you keep up as social media continues to evolve in order to ensure your social marketing efforts remain engaging and effective? We’ve got you covered.

5 Trends for Social Media Marketers in 2017

To start, let’s dive into the latest trends shaping how marketers need to approach social media. Only a few months into 2017, and it’s already clear that this will be a big year in the social-sphere, as marketers need to ramp up on different approaches and technologies in order to inject new life into their social media presence to really hit the mark. Here are the top five trends we’ve seen this year to date:

  1. Live video: Live video may have taken off in 2016, but 2017 has already proven that this is the year it will explode. From Facebook to Instagram to Twitter and beyond, more and more social networks are equipping users with live video capabilities that have caught on like wildfire. According to Social Media Examiner, even though only 14% of marketers experimented with live video in 2016 (at which point it was a new category), 50% plan on using live video in the year ahead and 50% want to learn more about it. That growth isn’t necessarily surprising given Forrester Research’s finding that live video gets three times the amount of engagement as non-live video. Good ways to get started with live videos include hosting Q&As with potential or existing customers, interviewing influencers, making major announcements and taking an inside look at major industry events. Check out our tips for developing a video marketing strategy for even more advice.
  2. Paid social: As social networks continue to update their algorithms that determine what content users see, it has become increasingly harder for businesses to land in the feeds of their target audience. One way to overcome this challenge is to use paid social, be it promoted posts or in-network advertisements. The rise of paid social is already underway, with Social Media Examiner reporting heavy use of Facebook ads (87%) and significant use of LinkedIn ads among B2B marketers (28%) in 2016. Use of paid social will only increase going forward, with the same data revealing that 57% of marketers plan to increase their use of Facebook ads and 31% plan to increase their use of LinkedIn ads. Research from BIA/Kelsey provides even more evidence of this trend, finding that social advertising revenues in the US are expected to reach $11 billion in 2017, up from $4.7 billion in 2012. We recommend following these eight best practices to master paid social media advertising.
  3. Influencers: While ads are one way to overcome the challenge of changing algorithms that lower brand reach on social networks, data from eMarketer reveals that 32% of US internet users will rely on ad blocking technology in 2017. That means that in order to reach this audience, you need to get creative. One common solution is to tap influencers. Recent research finds that 86% of marketers used influencer marketing in 2016, and 94% of those marketers found it effective. Given those results, it’s no surprise that 48% of marketers plan to increase their use of influencers in 2017. The first step to achieve this type of success is to identify the best influencers for your business and develop a relationship with them. You can then work together to understand the best way to reach your target audience.
  4. User generated content: Yet another way to overcome the dual challenge of social network algorithms that lower brand reach and users that have ad blockers in place is to launch user generated content (UGC) campaigns. There are no shortage of statistics that prove the power of UGC, including the facts that user-created videos on YouTube get 10x more views than branded videos and that online campaigns and websites featuring UGC lead to 29% increases in conversion rates. UGC is so powerful because of its ability to increase trust, surface new ideas, scale content creation efforts, extend your reach and strengthen your relationship with contributors.
  5. Chatbots: Finally, social media is increasingly becoming a two-way street for communication, with more and more individuals reaching out to businesses through various social networks. Research from Sprout Social finds that the average number of social messages requiring a response has grown 18% year-over-year, with over one-third of people noting social media as their preferred channel for customer service. To help keep up with this influx of messages, more and more businesses will incorporate chatbots (technologies that use artificial intelligence to communicate with people) into their social media marketing efforts. Chatbots can not only help keep up with a growing number of messages, but also ensure that customers get responses as quickly as possible.

3 Ways to Keep Up as Trends Evolve

The five trends above are only a handful of many that will shape social media marketing in the months ahead. And what works today may not be the best approach six months from now. So how can you keep up as trends evolve? It’s not easy, but we recommend embracing these tips:

  1. Follow experts and trendsetters: One of the best things you can do is follow social media marketing experts and any businesses that have proven to be trendsetters in the past on all of their social networks. Doing so will help you keep a close eye on the types of social media marketing efforts they’re taking on, which can help clue you in on new trends as they take shape. It’s important to remember that every audience responds differently, so you’re best off following experts and trendsetters whose audiences share at least some similarities with your own.
  2. Consume as much content as possible: As a marketer, you know how valuable content can be in educating your own target customers. Now it’s time to consume the content yourself by setting Google Alerts for social media related topics, reading relevant blog posts, guides, etc. and attending as many webinars and networking events as you can. All of these efforts will help you keep a pulse on what’s happening in the larger social-sphere, what social media experts are advising and even what other social media marketers like you are doing.
  3. Note changes in social media management tools: Finally, keep a close eye on how social media management tools are evolving. In order to remain valuable, these tools need to evolve alongside social networks and trends, which means new capabilities could very well indicate new use cases for social media marketers. For example, looking at the trends above, you will likely see the top social media management tools add capabilities that support live videos and chatbots. In general, any addition of new capabilities is worth exploring (although it’s important to note that not every use case will apply to every business, so make sure any new capabilities are a good fit for your strategy before getting started).

What’s on the Social Media Horizon?

We still have time to see the trends listed here get their five minutes of social media fame, but it’s only a matter of time before the next wave of change hits. So while you begin to embrace efforts like live video, paid social and influencer marketing, don’t forget to keep up with social media experts and trendsetters to prepare yourself for whatever the next big thing on the social media horizon turns out to be.