Predicting the future of social media is always fun. The sector is changing almost daily, with new tools and utilities being rolled out, adding more ways to connect, track and maximize your online marketing performance.
I always like to make my own predictions for the upcoming year, then look back at them monthly throughout the year to see if I was spot on or way off.
So here are my trend predictions for social media marketing in 2020, based on my experiences in 2019 (and beyond) and where things look to be headed as we begin the next decade.
1. Influencer Marketing Will Continue to Grow
Research shows that 59% of marketers plan on increasing their influencer budget in 2020.
We know that consumers are growing increasingly wary of ads in their feeds, and more than ever before, they're now seeking reviews from people they trust when making purchasing decisions. These people can be friends and family, but the circle of trust has now grown to people they follow on social media, ranging from celebrities to niche artists and experts in specific fields.
Social media has always been great for SMBs and startups, because it allows small brands with little to no budget to compete with larger brands on the same stage. Many SMBs don’t have the budgets to go after the “named” influencers, so we see a larger opportunity for the growth of micro-influencers in the new year.
2. Shopping on Social Media
This is a trend that began this year and I predict will continue to grow. Increasingly, you no longer need to leave a certain site or platform in order to make a purchase or a product you've found.
Now, with just a few clicks, you can go from seeing something you like while scrolling Instagram to sharing your credit card information and making a purchase right then and there. Giving consumers this type of ease and speed can cut your sales funnel almost in half.
I believe we're going to see more brands shift in this direction, and while currently it’s mainly being used by larger, well-established companies, I think 2020 will give smaller brands, and hopefully even startups, access to such tools.
3. Stories Will Become Marketers Darlings
For a while, Stories were exclusive to Snapchat, but then Instagram and Facebook Stories came out, and now even YouTube has its own stories format.
Stories can provide viewers with more authentic insight, as the videos are often created on the spot. And there's a huge range of opportunities in the Stories format. Since Stories content disappears rather quickly, this is the perfect time for marketers to capitalize on fear of missing out (FOMO) and to offer flash sales and deals that only loyal users will learn to look for.
That can then bring in new users looking to take advantage of “insider” specials, which is a way to skip taking out a sales ad, saving brands cash. Stories can also give those that use them a way to instantly grow engagement – you can add polls to your Stories, or ask questions that can be answered with a simple click.
4. Augmented Reality (AR) Will Become Mainstream
AR technology is gradually evolving, with increased application for eCommerce, product discovery, special offers, and more.
For example, IKEA now gives consumers the chance to see how its items will look in buyers' own homes via its AR app.
There's a heap of potential in this type of technology – realtors, for example, can take prospective home owners on virtual tours of homes, during which paint colors can be changed, walls can be removed or moved to a different spot, etc. Makeup companies can enable potential customers to try on their products while on lunch break, or anywhere they are holding their phone.
There's a heap of ways in which AR can be utilized, and while thus far its usage has been limited, due to technological limitations and/or cost, the barriers for entry are coming down. Expect this to be a big shift in 2020.
When chatbots first came into our consciousness, customers were only answered with prewritten answers to questions brands thought were common, using keywords to trigger the bot.
As 2019 comes to a close, algorithms are improving chatbots’ effectiveness by “understanding” what users are writing to them. Brands no longer have to stock the bots with canned answers, as chatbots can, in a way, surf the web to find the answers consumers are seeking.
Chatbots are also able to talk to multiple people at the same time, offering something our current customer service teams cannot. Chatbot intelligence will only continue to grow in 2020, which will likely see more consumers taking them up, and more brands following that trend.
6. Improved Customer Service
This is really a second part for chatbots. We know that, every day, the time a consumer will allow from when they contact a brand to when they expect an answer is shortening. We know that having a live 24/7 customer service team for every single company isn’t realistic. Utilizing chatbot technology, in combination with your live staff, enables for this type of round the clock coverage.
Of course, bots can't answer every single question, nor do they allow the personalization of talking to an actual human - but a lot of time can be saved for the customer service workers by handing over the common questions, changes to addresses and passwords to the chatbots.
Chatbots haven't caught on in a major way as yet, but they look set to become more prominent in 2020, with potential cost savings and improvements potentially leading to a larger shift.
These are the key areas where I see significant progress being made in the next year - though of course, many new elements will pop-up, and many new tools and shifts will also take place. But in terms of actionable marketing potential, these are where I expect to see the most relevant shifts. Hopefully these notes will help you prepare your strategic approach.