To say that “social media sure changed a lot” this year would be an incredible understatement. While our monthly social media update posts have kept us up-to-date with nitty gritty details like new ad formats and targeting options, this post is more interested in larger trends in marketing and the evolution of user behavior.
Here are our big takeaways to inform your 2019 strategy:
1. Get serious about spending
You might remember that at the beginning of 2018, Facebook dumped our marketing plans in our laps by updating the news feed algorithm to promote “meaningful interactions.” Almost a year later, organic reach is practically a thing of the past, and engagement is slipping away as well. Despite all the Facebook drama that’s irked marketers in the past year, users won’t leave in large numbers, so you might as well keep serving them ads.
Takeaway: Be prepared to pay for results. In this day and age, paid promotion is the most effective tool to guarantee anyone can see your content, even if they’ve liked your Page. You don’t have to shell out the big bucks for Facebook or Instagram campaigns (where most marketers are spending their dollars), but it’s important to designate room for social media advertising in your budget. Social media is essentially a pay-to-play arena for marketers now, regardless of platform, so be prepared to boost and sponsor your content if you want it to gain any traction in saturated social spaces.
2. Take audience building back to the basics
Thanks to the whole Cambridge Analytica debacle, Facebook users weren’t thrilled to learn that advertisers were targeting them based on Partner Category data they hadn’t consented to share. The revelation that advertisers were using discriminatory targeting practices was also a bummer. Targeting audiences using those Partner Categories got great results, but Facebook removed them as targeting options after the backlash. There’s no need to despair, because Facebook still offers a ton of ways to target by demographics, location and most importantly, interest.
Takeaway: Reconsider who you’re trying to reach and why. With Partner Categories gone, focus on the self-reported data that Facebook collects directly from users. Interest-based and demographic/location-based targeting options are looking like the future, but really it’s because we’ve come full circle and returned to the past. This guide gives a great rundown of how each targeting option works, along with examples for how they can support campaign goals.
3. Stories are here to stay
It started with Snapchat. Then it appeared on Instagram. Facebook was next, and then YouTube fell as well. Now even LinkedIn is displaying symptoms, and it’s clear we’re stuck with Stories.
Takeaway: Make it work for you. If producing perfect Stories content stresses you out, that’s understandable — it’s hard to justify time spent on content that disappears after a day. But now that Stories are ubiquitous, we might as well learn to live with them. Of course that’s easy to do if you have a team of staff dedicated to content, otherwise stick with informal, off-the-cuff and behind-the-scenes videos and photos of your company’s activities. Stories might not make perfect sense for your content marketing strategy, but keep your mind open for fun opportunities to use them anyway.
4. Social shopping gets sophisticated
All year Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat have been churning out new ecommerce features to make shopping from social media more seamless than ever. Facebook’s multitude of product-featuring ad options are worth exploring too, as shoppable ad formats continue to evolve with more immersive experiences and better conversion tracking.
Takeaway: Use all the tools that make sense for your sales needs. Considering how many people use social media to research the products they want, why not make it extra easy for them to purchase? The future of social media is probably shopping, and being an early adapter in this arena could pay off big for brands who are willing to beta test a little on the platforms.