If Facebook were a country, it would be the most-populous nation in the world (1.55 billion users at Jan. 1, 2016). When it launched, most thought it just another fad. My Space was already fading; Facebook was just the next shiny object. Today, a marketer who doesn’t use Facebook is a dinosaur, because:
- Seventy-five percent of everyone who uses the Internet use social media—more than 2 billion people.
- Ninety percent of U.S. companies rely on social media in their marketing.
What was a fad became a trend, and that trend became a necessity. We already know social media will be used in unheard-of ways for brand building. New technology gives birth to infant practices, and early data shows that recently several of these local fads have grown to be trends. Here are 4 trends content marketers should incorporate now:
1. Live-streaming video
In his book, “X,” Brian Solis discusses brand marketing in the context of user experience. He sees live-streaming video as a natural, mandatory marketing strategy for companies who want stronger engagement with their markets. If you’ve not explored Periscope, do so. Recently bought by Twitter, it has already become a popular marketing tool. Facebook launched its own live-streaming tool as well.
Marketers can live-stream company events and customers using their products in real time, and other entertaining feeds. If they post these on Twitter, they remain active for 24 hours. If they post them on Facebook Live, they remain indefinitely. They can also be saved for use in blogs or uploaded to YouTube.
The possibilities of live streaming are significant. Journalists already live-stream in their reporting; company events are live-streamed; Spotify is live-streaming its guest musicians’ performances.
Live-streaming is a trend, not a fad, because of consumer demand. People love the real-time effect and video has long been the most popular visual tool: 350,000 hours of video is live-streamed on Periscope every day.
Brand promotion by live-streaming is not rocket science. Wise marketers will take advantage of Periscope for their Twitter feeds and Facebook Live for streaming:
1. Write catchy titles, announce the live-streams in advance, and archive them.
2. Reserve live streams for important events, e.g., a new product rollout for actual customers. Do product demos; take followers behind the scenes; spend real time with customers who tell great stories.
3. Be ready to respond to viewers’ comments as the video rolls.
4. There’s a learning curve for Periscope and Facebook Live, but not much of one.
2. Buy and shop now buttons
Ease and convenience are huge parts of the consumer experience. In 2014, Facebook started allowing followers to shop or buy without having to link to the business’s site to find an item and then buy. It let companies insert a “buy now” CTA button in a post. It worked well; consumers bought without ever leaving Facebook. Here’s how Chevron Watch exploited this (Note the “buy” button in the lower right-hand corner):
In 2015, Facebook launched shop pages, allowing businesses to showcase on their Facebook walls. Again, customers shopped without leaving Facebook.
Other social media platforms soon followed, including Pinterest
and Twitter with its “Buy” button:
Anyone in e-commerce should sign up and use the “shop” and “buy” buttons now.
3. Assuage customer-follower fears about data-breach hacking
A disturbing fact: More than 90 percent of Americans were affected by a data breach in 2015. Companies like Target and Ashley Madison put thousands and thousands of customers’ data at risk; the IRS and the State Department were hacked, even the Pentagon!
Consumers are more hesitant than ever to share personal information, even an email address, much less credit card information. Here is a list of “must-do’s”:
1. Keep conversations going as a major part of your social media activity on all your social media platforms. The more you do this, the more trust you establish. Post short stories and case studies of customer use and satisfaction
2. If you use paid advertising, make sure it’s not shabby. Your ads should appear on reputable and related sites.
4. If you ask for an email address, supply a disclaimer guaranteeing that addresses and other information are never shared. Always give an “opt out” link.
5. Get security certificates and display them. An SSL certificate is most important. It assures customers their financial information is encrypted. Use the Shopify security badge if you are associated. People trust it.
4. Messaging apps will allow much more communication between brands and their customers (Think WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and native apps)
There are two important trends here:
1. Messaging apps will proliferate and they will partner with brands so messages can flow between brands and customers. Facebook Messenger already does this with Uber—customers book rides on Messenger. It’s about speed and efficiency.
2. Native apps will continue to serve to connect with customers. Study how Starbucks uses its app to personalize its messages to customers. Even with privacy concerns about “tracking,” this trend will grow. Consumers will allow tracking by brands they trust.
Any trend begins as a fad. Fads fade quickly. The 4 trends described here have been through the fad stage. They’re real and long-lasting. Get on top of brand marketing by making them your marketing tactics.
Benedict Brychta is an MBA student from San Jose, California.