Social media marketing moves fast, meaning you either adapt or get left behind. 2016 will be no exception. In an effort to help you prepare for 2016 and beyond, we compiled a list of key social media marketing trends that your business can take advantage of for major growth.
You may have seen our recent blog post that included predictions from 22 social media experts. Armed with these predictions and additional research, we have come up with 5 key trends that will dominate 2016. Without wasting anymore time, let’s dive right into the trends that your business can leverage in 2016 to reach your marketing goals.
1. Live Streaming
Arguably the biggest splash in the social media world in 2015 came in the form of live streaming apps. With Periscope, Meerkat, Blab, YouTube Live and now Facebook Live on the rise, marketers are scrambling to figure out how to leverage them. Brian Fanzo was one of the first people we saw using live streaming for business and since then he has sworn by it as a highly effective way to build trust with current and potential customers.
The reason many marketers are hesitant to embrace live streaming is that it gives the audience a lot of the power. Brian mentions that live-streaming is “molded by the community conversation and live streaming comments,” which means that businesses will have to act on the fly to keep their viewers engaged while also providing value.
We can definitely see how marketers could find the thought of this horrifying. What if you mess up? What if people become bored? Unlike a blog, where you can have several people edit it long before it is published, live streaming has no do overs. Your mistakes will play out live in front of your audience.
This vulnerability is what makes live streaming such a powerful tool for businesses. It is what allows trust to be built between businesses and their audiences. In 2016, the businesses that put their fear aside and dive head first into live streaming will have a significant advantage over their competitors who do not.
Show off the people behind your business. Invite people behind the scenes to see how your business builds the product or service that they have come to love and use. Encourage current and potential customers to engage with you by responding to their questions and feedback in real-time. People are eager to interact with businesses on a personal level. Not a one way conversation but true, real time interaction. Give your audience what they want and watch as your business soars in 2016.
Further Reading: 10 Tips For Streaming Live Shows
2. More Content Creation
Content marketing is not a new trend. In fact, B2B companies invested nearly 40% of their marketing budget towards content last year. You can expect this trend to continue to increase in 2016 and with it will come even more original content.
Sujan makes it clear that creating original content will be crucial for marketing success in 2016. He alludes to the fact that in the early days of social media, many businesses simply shared other people’s content as a way to stay “active”. This will not be an effective strategy in the coming year.
Customers, current and potential, are becoming sick of brands pushing mediocre content at them as a means to keep their accounts active. Instead, they are now expecting brands to create exceptional content that is both original and engaging. If your business does not have original content to share, why would someone need to follow you?
So, this lead us to an important question: how much content are you planning to produce in 2016?
If your answer is none, you are in trouble. The correct answer would be as much content as you can, without sacrificing quality. If you do not have the capacity to create enough content in-house, you should consider outsourcing it to a freelancer or an agency.
The bottom line is this: without original content to attract and engage current and potential customers, your business will struggle to grow with social media in 2016.
3. Greater Dependence On Analytics
Data-driven marketers are three times more likely to see revenues increase as a direct result, compared to those who have no adopted a data-driven approach. In 2016 we predict this gap will grow even larger, meaning you will need to adopt a data-driven marketing strategy or risk falling behind competitors that do.
So, what exactly does a data-driven marketing strategy look like? It is actually pretty simple. It means that fundamentally you use data to aid in your decision making process when it comes to marketing your business on social media. Say you noticed that traffic coming from your company’s LinkedIn page spends 4 times as much time on your site as your traffic from Twitter, then you will want to invest more heavily in LinkedIn as a source for traffic generation.
Once you adopt a data-driven approach you will realize that many of your assumptions (which network drives the most traffic, where your conversions are coming from, etc.) are not backed by hard data. Surely this makes sense. It is very hard to argue with analytical data.
The hard part is actually collecting the data. How do you know where your referral traffic is coming from or which network is receiving the most engagement? It has hard to measure many of these things by simply looking at your different accounts. Luckily, there are many affordable tools that provide analytics to help drive your marketing strategy:
Google Analytics: This free tool is a perfect way to track incoming website traffic. We use Google Analytics to better understand not only how much traffic is coming to our website, but also where they are coming from, how long they are staying on our site and if they are converting into paying customers.
Analytics Provided By Each Social Network: Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics and LinkedIn Analytics are just a few examples of the built-in analytics offered by the major social networks. If you do not mind jumping from network to network and learning the user interface of each platform’s analytics, you will probably find everything you need to help create a data-driven marketing plan.
eClincher: If jumping from network to network and learning several differently user interfaces doesn’t sound productive to you, you may want to check out a social media management tool like eClincher. The major benefits of this route include a uniform user interface, organization of data from all of your social media accounts and full customization.
Buzzsumo: We are firm believers that every business should have a blog. With that said, many businesses struggle to find blogging success due to lack of analytics. Successful bloggers understand that they must listen to their audience and respond accordingly. Buzzsumo makes it easy for you to see how many shares any of your blog posts has. Though social media shares shouldn’t be your only metric when measuring the popularity of your blog posts, it is often a great place to start.
4. Increase In Paid Advertising
Do you remember the good old days when reach on social media was free? Back when if you had 3,000 likes on Facebook you could expect nearly all of them to see your posts. Many marketers are still stuck daydreaming about this era, while simultaneously complaining about what social media for business has turned into now.
If this sounds like you, it is time to stop complaining and begin adjusting. We get it, you are frustrated that you have to spend money to achieve what used to be free. The reality of the situation is actually not that bad. If you wanted to place an advertisement on television would you expect to be able to do so for free? How about on the radio? The newspaper?
Much like television, the radio and the newspaper, social media is maturing and with that comes monetization. The good news is that social media still offers by far the most cost effective way to reach highly targeted customers (see below):
As you can see, ads placed on social media cost a fraction of the price as those on other mediums. Even better, the targeting options allow for extremely high conversions rates when set up properly.
Basic Tips For Social Media Ads:
1. Less Is More: A mistake many beginners make with social media ads is targeting too broad of an audience. Do plenty of research before you start running ads so that you have a firm understanding of who your target customer is. Use this information to create highly targeted ads that boost your chances of conversions.
2. Go Where Your Customers Are: We often get asked, “which network should we run paid advertisements on?” The answer is simple, wherever your customers spend the most time. If your target customer is an upper level executive at a fortune 500 company, LinkedIn is definitely the network for you. However, if you are trying to connect with teenagers LinkedIn would be a terrible place to advertise. Understand where your customers are before you start spending money on social media ads.
3. Experiment Small Before You Go Big: At the end of the day, social media requires a lot of experimenting. When it comes to paid ads, this can be a scary thought. Before you go and waste $600,000 on Facebook ads, make sure you experiment with smaller campaigns. Once you find something that is working well you can increase the budget in a matter of seconds.
If you have not yet experimented with social media ads, you will need to in 2016 in order to achieve the results you would like and grow your business. So, where do you get started? Below are a few resources to help you leverage social media advertisements to grow your business:
5. Social Selling
Is social media an effective sales tool? Depending on who you ask you will get completely different answers. In the traditional sense, driving sales directly, social media might not be your first choice. However, with the right mindset you will quickly realize just how powerful of a sales tool social media actually is.
One of the most important aspects of sales is understanding your target customers. You want to know what their pain points are, what they are looking for in a solution and what they think of your competitors (just to name a few). Before social media existed, gathering this type of information was more difficult and expensive. You could send a survey, but how many people actually take time out to answer them? You could do market research, which you still should do, but often times it is hard to find exactly what you need unless you take the time to conduct the study yourself.
With social media you have access to all of this information for free, as long as you know how to find it. Sales professionals that effectively monitor social media to gather valuable information are far more likely to close sales in the future than those that do not. A few tips to help you find information on social media that will help you drive sales:
1. Monitor Your Business’ Name: This may sound like a no-brainer, but many businesses are so busy monitoring competitors and other keywords that they forget to monitor their own name. If someone mentions your business without tagging you, you will not receive a notification. In our experience, this can account for up to 30% of all mentions. Be sure you do not miss them!
2. Monitor Competitors’ Names: It is easier than ever to keep an eye on your competitors, thanks to social media. Make sure to monitor what their customers are asking them, what they are happy about and what they are unhappy about. This information will help you down the line when you talk to these leads and try to show them why your business has the best solution for their problem.
3. Monitor Industry Influencers: Who are the most influential people in your industry? These individuals have influence because they have proven that they have valuable expertise and foresight about emerging trends. It is very hard for any sales professional to keep up to date on everything that is going on in the industry by themselves. Take advantage of influencers’ expertise and willingness to share it on social media.
Now that you know how to leverage social media for the massive data available, it is time to actually close some sales. Yes, despite what you may have heard, you can sell directly on social media. To pull this off it is important you keep a few best practices in mind:
-Help First, Sell Second: People use social media to connect with friends and like-minded individuals, not to be sold to. Make sure that your first interaction with someone isn’t a direct sales pitch. Focus on helping solving people’s problems. Answer questions, offer links to help resources, etc. Once you build a relationship and trust, selling will become more effective.
-Use Paid Ads: Building relationships one-by-one is far from scaleable, so paid ads might be a better idea if you want to generate and convert a lot of leads. The reason paid ads work so well for selling is that they can be highly targeted and they do not bombard your followers feeds with sales pitches. A general rule of thumb is to use organic posts for driving awareness and paid ads for sales.
-Include A Call To Action: What action do you want potential leads to take when they see your post on social media? Do you want them to sign up for a free trial? Maybe you want them to take advantage of a limited time offer deal? Whatever it is, make it clear. Failing to do this could be the difference between a post that converts and one that goes without any engagement at all.
We are extremely excited for 2016 and you should be too. Social media is reaching a level of maturity that will allow marketers to use it as a vital tool to grow their business. Above we discussed five trends that will be huge in the coming year and we hope it will help you to focus your strategy and reach your goals.
If you can think of other trends you think will be important in 2016, let us know in the comment section! Also, if you would like more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to our blog below.