Hootsuite report: 5 ‘distinct’ trends driving social media activity in 2018

Artificial intelligence to drive customer service to unparalleled level, fake news to continue to influence, latest report finds

Brands will increasingly use artificial intelligence (AI) strategies to prioritise personalisation at scale, while ‘fake news’ will continue to influence social strategies as ‘trust declines, while peer influence will rise,” according to Hootsuite’s third annual Social Trends Report.

The 2018 edition examines key trends in social media for businesses and marketers to watch out for. On the AI front, marketers have discovered while the technology can be “delightfully useful,” there’s a danger in following this trend before understanding the far-reaching changes AI will bring to social marketing, it found.

Over 100 thousand Messenger bots are now active on Facebook, a 233 per cent year-on-year rise over last year’s 33,000. But it’s still unclear whether customers will value these human-less engagements, the report said. 

“While AI is still a future-facing trend, marketers can expect to start reaping the practical benefits in 2018. Facebook, for example, has released new predictive analytics to help marketers find insights faster," the report stated. "Visual search engines are using machine learning to help consumers search by images rather than keywords, a shift that will redefine the future of online product browsing.”

On the ‘fake news’ front, the continued erosion of public trust in mainstream media institutions means consumers are moving trust away from institutions and mega-influencers towards smaller and more authentic micro-influencers. Marketing leaders are also more skeptical of inflated influencer metrics and wary of paying to reach social media bots instead of humans.

"We’re moving away from trusting institutions, vanity metrics, and mega-influencer celebrities - and moving towards smaller and actual spheres of influence where customers advocates, genuine customer communities, and engaged employees matter more than ever,” the report noted.

Discussing the 'fake news' findings, Hootsuite regional marketing leader A/NZ, Ben Mulligan, told CMO the idea that trust will decline while peer influence will rise in 2018 is a trend the industry as a whole needs to take notice of.

“Simply put, people are now scouring social media to find the next place to hang out, their next outfit, or their next meal. And these decisions are being influenced by their peers," he said. "In the corporate space, this flows over to employees who are now trusted more than celebrities, politicians or official company spokespeople.”

The report also revealed an evolution of social ROI, which it claimed marks the death of short-sighted vanity metrics. While organisations have traditionally used social media to increase top-of-funnel engagement, many are exploring and discovering the value of social in other phases of the customer journey.

In addition to brand awareness, social media is also helping organisations achieve business objectives such as lowering customer service costs, tracking changes in brand perception, mitigating risk, attracting top talent, and even feeding social insights into supply chain analyses, the report stated. But this evolution requires new metrics - and alignment of social media strategies with an organisation’s most urgent business challenges.

Meanwhile, the report also delved into how mobile is fuelling the growth of social TV. In 2018, TV-style content will be king and brands will need to consider how they can become mobile optimised broadcasters as traditional TV viewership continues to fall.

Creating broadcast-style content won’t work for every brand or product category, the report advised. "And the metrics that bump the stock price of social networks—such as engagement rates or video views - might not help your organization achieve your specific business outcomes. However, for many industries, this will open up innovative social advertising formats and bold new ways to engage social audiences,” the report said.

Additionally, another top trend in 2018 is the rise of social data, which requires organisations to recalculate the effort and resources needed to turn social data into a true source of customer insights. More organisations still need to realise that integrating social data with other analytics systems - or finding usable insights from mountains of social mentions - requires a lot of work and more resources than they originally thought, the report stated.

Lastly, the report identified three main challenges marketers will continue to face in 2018: The fight for budget to ensure campaigns have reach and connect with targeted audiences; social video saturation, where social video is quickly moving from being a social advantage to a minimum requirement; and brand fatigue as a result of the endless amount of new tools and tactics.

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