Guest Post: Top Social Media Trends of 2018

By Kristina Skindelyte, Co-Founder of Blue Oceans PR

Social media waits for no brand. And just like everything internet-related, it changes fast. The Cambridge Analytica scandal, Mark Zuckerberg’s Congress hearings, and the General Data Protection Regulation might have shaken the social media world recently, but the process continues. Social media has developed – and is still developing – in interesting ways. Here are the top 5 trends shaping the social media landscape in 2018.

1. Stories Replace Feeds

With the rise of smartphone adoption and mobile video came a serious change to content production: stories are now replacing feeds. These vertical video montages are easy to make and consume on mobile devices. And while the format was first popularized by Snapchat, currently Instagram and Facebook are taking the lead. Gen Z especially prefers stories since they are often sent through more private channels and don’t stay up permanently like feed posts on Facebook or Twitter.

In this new era that’s moving away from desktop-oriented feeds, brands have to use stories to their fullest. This involves increased use of emoji and stickers, which are popular with Gen Z. Instagram is capitalizing on that by adding click-to-buy links on stories.

2. Messaging Is Rising

Facebook Messenger, Viber, WhatsApp, WeChat and other messaging platforms are rising fast. With an ever-wider spread of mobile internet and wifi, they are replacing such traditional modes of communication as SMS and calls. The quick growth of mobile video can also be tied to these trends.

For brands, this means an increased focus on chatbots. The Golden State Warriors Facebook Messenger bot served info on the 2017 NBA Playoffs – which led to 4.3 million messages being exchanged in the first two months.  53% of people claim that they’re more likely to shop with a business they can message directly, so the utility of bots is obvious.

3. Brand participation revived

One of the top trends is brand participation, moving away from Facebook’s inefficient brand contests. It can be as simple as Wendy’s famously snarky Twitter account. Or as complex as SWACE, a new platform that allows brands to design simple games for their audiences – not just as a gimmick; SWACE actually uses blockchain-based tokens. The tokens are used to enter these games – and they’re also the reward. They can later be exchanged for various brand-related prizes.

The games, meanwhile, are a  mix of AR, ephemeral content, messaging, video, photography and voting for community-produced content.

4. Video is trendy and trending

In short, the future of social media seems to be exciting. From AR to gaming and video, the online communication world is ready to enchant and capture the attention of users, helping build deeper social bonds offline as well.

The closing of Vine did not impede the spread of video.  Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are all great for sharing short promotional videos. Inspirational stories  make for impactful, easy-to-consume content. That’s what the new Facebook Watch Parties – where you watch videos with friends to see their reactions – are aimed at.

The live streaming part of it is important, too. Two billion people have seen Facebook Live streams, and brands are taking notice of its efficacy. Even sports events are moving to Facebook streaming. Meanwhile, companies targeting the more tech-savvy gaming audience are hosting Twitch streams for their Q&A sessions. This sort of raw, unedited content feels a lot more real and genuine than marketing clips. In addition, the “live” aspect of video triggers that sense of urgency in the same way that ephemeral content does.

5. Augmented Reality is improving your interactivity

Interaction between the real world and things previously limited to computer screens is no longer a sci-fi fantasy. When the world saw Kim Kardashian first use a Snapchat filter, we knew this technology was here to stay. Facebook and even Apple are working on similar developments.

But AR is more than just inserting your Bitmoji into a video or hunting Pokemon in Pokemon Go. For example, the IKEA Place app allows you to preview furniture you want to buy, visualized in your own room. And using the aforementioned SWACE, a company can get consumers to take hilarious holiday photos with the brand’s avatars.

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