Trends in social media

1. Rise of private groups and accounts

In 2018, Facebook invested new features into Facebook Groups, such as being able to participate as a business Page, updating with Stories, posting Live videos within the group and creating social learning units.
Groups took off in 2018 as a way for brands to directly connect with fans without the algorithm affecting their posts. They’ve been used to not only garner quick feedback about products but also as an additional engagement tool.
Some influencer accounts have turned to creating private Instagram accounts to avoid the Instagram algorithm. Brands also followed suit by creating private alternative accounts to drive up interest. In an article in the Atlantic, Sonny, who runs several meme accounts on Instagram, said he flipped four of his accounts to private. The return has been tremendous, noting that the “growth on those accounts has far outpaced anything he’s been able to get from making it on Instagram Explore.” It will be interesting to observe if this trend continues in 2019.
With the addition of the Close Friends feature in Instagram Stories, brands could choose to create a more “insider look” feature for their accounts. New Stories features will likely include more friend groups, similar to Facebook’s own Friend Lists.
All of the above features combine to create feelings of envy and fear of missing out rooted in human psychology. 2019 will be the year that brands take advantage of this through private groups and accounts.

2. Conversational commerce

2017 and 2018 were hot years for the chatbot. Companies scrambled to build messaging chatbots, Facebook Messenger became installable on websites and Sprout even created a Bot Builder that makes it easy for brands to implement chatbots.


Sprout chatbot builder



b2b chatbot
In their study of 1,000 trending B2B companies on Crunchbase, Relay found that 0.5% of the companies had a chatbot.
Because the technology is still so new and adoption by companies has been slow, personal communication is still valued by consumers. As chatbots develop to go beyond simple prompts and adopt customer interactions in a more natural way, they might have the advantage in the current market.


add notes to twitter profiles in sprout
So whether you’re getting a new chatbot set up for your brand or expanding a current one’s capabilities, jump in on personalized commerce the old-fashioned way: remembering your customers’ preferences and history. The conversational commerce trend means that consumers want that personalized interaction with brands. Take the time to interact with them without the selling propositions.
On Twitter or Facebook Messenger, this could mean something as little as remembering that they’ve purchased a shower curtain from you before and you following up on the purchase.  These notes can be easily maintained in Sprout.

3. Transparency wins

2018 was a landmark year for the major social media networks. Facebook battled privacy and data sharing concerns and Twitter struck down troll accounts while making it easier to report harassment. GDPR going into effect in 2018 also meant that many companies took note of what their customer data was being used in.


In Sprout’s study on brands and transparency, we found that 55% of customers found brands to be only somewhat transparent on social media. In a more stunning statistic, millennials are expecting more transparency out of brands than politicians or friends and family. There’s plenty of room to grow for brands in transparency. Brands who don’t have any need to take note and internally examine where they can do better. Transparency trends are here to stay.
BGR transparency on social media stats
If brands want to get ahead on this, they can start with what consumers want on social media. The top three desires are product/service changes, company values and business practices. For your company, this could mean publicizing product iterations or app updates, demonstrating your company values and giving more behind-the-scenes looks at your business.
Going deep on transparency will take some time to plan but in the long run, it’s been proven to be worth the effort. Remember that saying you’re transparent is not the same as actually being transparent. Your words must be backed up by actions.

4. New social media networks

Facebook has had a long reign at the top of the social media charts. But 2018 was not kind to it and its practices have led many, including the NAACP, to call for boycotts. In mid-2018, it “posted the largest one-day loss in market value by any company in US stock market history” at $119 billion, according to CNBC.
Some users have quit Facebook altogether, which leaves marketers wondering what’s next for social media. It’s a ripe time for a new network to be built with transparent data practice usage and their customers in mind. It’s best to keep an eye out for new channels in case one of them could be useful for your brand. Sprout’s recommendation is to reserve your brand handles on emerging social networks just in case a network becomes big in the future.

5. Stories everywhere

Snapchat’s features of a disappearing post infiltrated almost every major network, sometimes more than once. Instagram Stories received major updates in 2018 with AR filters and interactive stickers. Facebook added Stories to personal accounts, Pages, Messenger and Groups. Both WhatsApp and YouTube also invested in Story-like features.story stats

As of May 2018, Stories across four platforms was approaching one billion uses every day. These snapshots have evolved from basic, behind-the-scene features to branded storytelling snippets. Integration with shopping features will only increase in 2019 to appeal to brands.

6.Analytics dashboards become more important

The value of a great analytics dashboard should not go overlooked. While every network has its own native analytics, no social media manager wants to spend time every week, month or year gathering data and hand-inputting it into a spreadsheet. 2019 is the year to invest in a tool that syncs all of your data for you and spits out a chart that you can take to the C-suite.


By tracking your social analytics, you can better determine which content performs the best
Look, it’s hard enough to keep track of all of the new features and what their impacts are but to also track every metric that comes in is a whole other job. Use a dashboard that gives you varied reports and views from both a wide lens and a granular one. This way, you’ll know exactly what works in your strategy and you can simultaneously give the big picture to your CMO.
Sprout’s analytics reports are customizable across multiple platforms and accounts, plus they’re presentation ready. Take the hour you use for assembling reports and spend it on something more pertinent, like connecting with your followers.

Conclusion

It’s fun to take a guess at what the next year will bring for social media. While we certainly couldn’t have predicted the data breaches of 2018, it was still a landmark year of change and public trust for brands. 2019 will only bring more new, interesting features that we hope will drive the social conversation forward for brands. The trust relationship between brands and consumers will be rebuilt through private groups, transparency reports and employees as influencers.




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