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The Single Most Important Trend to Consider in Your Social Media Strategy

Over the nearly 9 years I’ve been here at Ignite Social Media I have been fortunate enough to have hands on experience working with brands to develop an overarching social media strategy that meets their business and marketing objectives. On the heels of many of these experiences, I’ve written blog posts sharing tips or guidelines that could help other marketers approach this sometimes daunting process.

So when my colleague recently asked me to write another post on this very subject I was skeptical that I had anything more to add that we haven’t already shared before.  As a result, I kept pushing back the deadline to write. I avoided eye contact with her in the hallways and tried to distract her with conversations about her weekend at the lunch table.

As I sat down to confront this somewhat daunting task, I considered, “What is the biggest, most important trend that marketers need to consider in updating or refreshing their social strategy over the next year?”.

Is it the rise of messaging applications? Is it the chat-bot revolution? Is it updating the brand’s content mix?

While there are many trends that need to be considered – they are pointing to a much larger shift in social media marketing that marketers need to step back and consider: The way consumers discover, research, and share brands and products is changing dramatically.

Don’t yet believe me? Let’s take a look at data that supports this assumption.

Goodbye Search Engines, Hello “Social Discovery”

While search engines are still the preferred tool for many audiences to research products, they are getting increased competition from social networks themselves. Consumers, particularly younger audiences, are increasingly using a mixture of social networks, mobile applications, and messaging services to discover brands and products.

Take a look at recent GlobalWebIndex data to see that 40% of 16-24 year internet users use social media to research products, with the total aggregate audience following close behind.

Step back and consider how your consumers may be using these emerging channels to research products, and you can see how your social strategy may need to consider social discovery more than ever.

Social Media Research Products

Mobile Usage and Multi-Networking Further Complicate The Consumer Journey

We know instinctively that a consumer journey can look like a tangled web rather than a linear path or funnel. However, the latest quarterly social report from GlobalWebIndex reveals, “digital consumers are members of around 7 different social media services/apps….Meaning people are members of about twice as many networks now as they were in the earlier part of the decade.”
Multi-networking Behaviors

This, coupled with the rise in mobile usage and social networking time spent in a day and it’s safe to assume that many consumers are checking multiple social networks and messaging applications throughout different parts of their day. This presents interesting and obvious challenges to your social media marketing strategy.  How do you prioritize resources and develop channel strategies with a consumer’s attention being further divided?

My ridiculously smart colleague Ashlie Lanning explains:

 “Marketers must consider the role of these networks and messaging applications and how their brand can reach the consumer at the right moment in the right mindset of that moment.”
– Ashlie Lanning, VP of Community Management

Consumer Adoption of Direct Social Commerce is Still Growing

At the end of 2015 we started seeing new social commerce ad units emerge on Facebook, Pinterest, and even Instagram. For some social networks, this was the first time consumers engaging on these networks were presented with the option to “Buy Now” in their feeds.

Yet, as with any new innovation – consumer adoption will take time. Though many marketers are eager to start showing more direct sales from social, a GlobalWebIndex study revealed only 10% of consumers in the back half of last year would be encouraged to purchase from them.

This doesn’t mean marketers should avoid using “Buy Buttons” as part of their overall strategy. It just confirms that there is almost never a “golden bullet” in proving direct sales from social media, and strategies should consider generating meaningful sales through them will take time and a whole lot of testing and learning.

COTD-Charts-4-Jan-2016-Trends-2016--Social-Commerce

The Conclusion

Given the way consumers discover, research, and share brands and products via social media has changed so dramatically in the last few years – brands should consider developing a more holistic social media strategy that considers the value and impact the brand can provide at multiple touch points throughout the consumer journey.

To do this, start by a close evaluation of your target audience. The more you can understand how they research, discover, and share (and how social is increasingly part of this entire process) – the clearer it will become how it makes sense for your brand to reach them.

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