What if you had a way of knowing the future of social media marketing? Your business would probably be considered one of the coolest companies in existence. With that knowledge, you’d be able to wow your current and prospective customers and—with any luck—that would help boost your bottom line.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t realize something has become an internet sensation until it’s on its way to being passe.

So I’m going to get out my crystal ball (and talk to a few experts) to make a few guesses as to what will happen in the near future of social media marketing. Maybe you’ll want to try a few of these tactics.

Granted, it’s risky to make predictions. Still, it seems like a safe bet that you’ll want to keep an eye out on these social media trends in 2018.

1. “Hire” more chatbots and leap into the future of social media marketing.
You’ve seen them.

You go to a website, and almost immediately a person sends you a message asking if they can help you. But that person isn’t really a person; it’s a chatbot, programmed to interact with you.

Chatbots are arguably a big part of the future of social media technology, according to Shana Haynie, co-founder and COO of Vulpine Interactive, a social media marketing company based out of San Diego.

“If businesses aren’t jumping on this bandwagon, they should be,” Haynie says.

She is particularly impressed with Facebook Messenger chatbots.

“People can easily opt-in to your messenger list, where you can set up simple, or extremely intricate, workflows to guide your subscribers towards your desired results,” Hayne says.

The biggest social media trend overall is interactive media. Businesses that don’t make interactive content for their social media accounts will need to catch up.
—RaShea Drake, B2B analyst, Verizon

She reels off a few more benefits: “You can send your list content, sell them products, survey them, let them know about upcoming sales, segment them into buckets based on their choices, whatever. You can even send transactional messages, like purchase confirmations if you have an e-commerce company, or set up customer service flows to take the pressure off your team and better serve the needs of your customers.”

Haynie says that from what she has seen, the best part of Facebook Messenger is that its open and click-through rates far exceed that of email.​ (In 2017, Hubspot conducted an experiment and found that their Messenger broadcasts had an open rate of 80 percent and a click-through rate of 13 percent, compared to email’s 13 and 2.1 percents.)

“For now,” she stresses. “That is why this is going to be a gamechanger. Only the fastest adopters are going to win before the tactic becomes the norm.”

2. Shoot more video​ to help you enter the future of social media marketing.
Matt Schroeder is the owner of Chattanooga, Tennessee-based online clothing company Shelly Cove, LLC. He is also one of the many industry experts who says more and more businesses are going to be churning out video in the next year. Video may be a significant part of the future of social media in business.

“We do a ton of social media marketing, and we are seeing a massive increase in video marketing,” Schroeder says. “Video has become almost a necessity in marketing, with much better stats than just photos. Something in the 20- to 30-second range seems to work well for videos.

“Watch competitors, see what they are up to and also think outside of the box,” he advises.

Paige Arnof-Fenn, who owns global marketing and branding firm Mavens & Moguls in Cambridge, Massachusetts, echoes the same thinking.

She explains its increasing appeal this way: “In a mobile-first world, you have less time to grab people. Attention spans are shorter than ever so video will be used even more.”

3. Create more original content.
Along those lines, Arnof-Fenn says that businesses should focus on quality over quantity.

For instance, if you’re going to have a blog, it may be better to have one or two impressive posts a month instead of one or two shoddy efforts a week. If you’re going to shoot video, try to make sure it doesn’t look like you handed the video camera to your 2-year-old.

When it comes to future social media trends, quality will continue to be important.

“Original content is at a premium,” she says, “and consumers continue to trust online content more than ads. Show—don’t tell—for maximum impact. Rich content drives engagement online.”

4. Get real with augmented reality to take part in the future of social media marketing.
If you’re not acquainted with augmented reality, you may want to start familiarizing yourself. Experts predict it will be huge in 2018.

So what’s augmented reality? It’s essentially a computer-generated reality. Think of those virtual reality headsets you’ve probably seen advertised on TV. Or the Pokémon Go craze, where people would point their phones and use their camera and a GPS to capture Pokemons in… Oh, if you don’t remember this, it’s hardly worth explaining.

The point is if your business is heavily invested in social media, augmented reality may be a trend you’ll want to get in on. It’s another likely landmark in the future of social media marketing.

“The biggest social media trend overall is interactive media. Businesses that don’t make interactive content for their social media accounts will need to catch up. Augmented reality is a huge part of this,” says RaShea Drake, a B2B analyst who works for Verizon. “If your customers can test the effect of your product or service freely and easily before buying, the consideration time will be lessened and conversions will happen faster.”

Drake says that only 7 percent of marketers are using augmented reality.

“That means the market isn’t saturated, but I’m betting we’ll see a big change in 2018,” she says.

5. Pick a side in the future of social media marketing.
Avoiding anything controversial, like differences in religion or politics, has been a mindset that has pretty much been the attitude of etiquette experts and business owners over the course of time. After all, why tick off any large segment of your customer base and make them less likely to use your products or services?

Yet that business mindset is changing, points out Joe Goldstein. Goldstein is the lead SEO and operations manager at Contractor Calls, a lead generation company based in Livermore, California.

“One of the most interesting social media trends of 2017, and one of the most promising ones going forward, is brands [taking] stances on controversial issues for promotional reasons,” Goldstein says. “In 2018, the genuine adoption of social causes, more so than any one technology, could be the most effective social media strategy by a landslide.”

This has been a huge change from just a few years ago, he points out.

“Just a couple of years ago, it was the norm for branded social media accounts to avoid politics—or anything that could be misconstrued as controversial—whatsoever. Over time, this bland, inoffensive approach to social media started to sound a lot like elevator music,” he says.

Will most companies pick a social cause that incites heated opinions? Probably not.

Could taking a stand be a strategy in the future of social media marketing? It seems likely.

6. Pay attention to Generation Z.
Wait, what?

You’re forgiven if you’re a bit thrown. But if you haven’t noticed, Generation Z—the group after millennials or everyone born between 1996 and 2011—are coming. And Generation Z, maybe more than anyone, embodies the future of social media marketing.

“Focusing on Generation Z is going to be key,” says Samantha Walls, a marketing manager with InTouch Marketing in Moreno Valley, California. “They are just about to start entering the workforce and will soon have the buying power. Social media strategies need to focus on getting their attention. You can do this by posting on the social media networks that are most viewed by Gen Z. These networks include Instagram and Snapchat.”

On one hand, this isn’t anything new. Businesses always need to keep an eye on the younger people who could soon become loyal customers.

Still, Generation Z isn’t simply a younger version of millennials (often considered people born in the early 1980s up to the mid-1990s). Generation Z, like the millennials, have been deeply affected by the Great Recession, which shaped a lot of people’s spending behavior. And not only have they never known a world without the internet, they really don’t know what it’s like to have a world without social media.

Still, as much as social media is evolving, it is interesting how much marketing remains the same. The salespeople may not all be human, thanks to chatbots. There may be more video in marketing than it used to be. Brands may push the envelope more than they used to.

But companies are still trying to connect with customers through meaningful, significant and sometimes subtle approaches. In many ways, the future of social media marketing will still look a lot like the media marketing of the past because of this.

Author: Geoff Williams
Journalist, freelance writer