Buffer has released it's 2019 'State of Social' report, which incorporates responses from over 1,800 marketers from businesses of all sizes.
There's a heap of valuable insights in the full report (available here), but here are some of the key highlights of note for your 2019 digital marketing planning.
1. There's still a lot of uncertainty about the effectiveness of social ads
While social media marketing, as an industry, is evolving, the survey results show that many brands are still not sure exactly how much social media advertising is doing for them.
While the responses for 'Very effective' and 'Somewhat effective' make up the majority, more than 25% of marketers are still uncertain about their results.
That likely indicates that education is still required on how to maximize your social media marketing performance, or how to make better use of analytics to understand what, exactly, your digital marketing efforts are providing.
ROI has always been a key pain point in social media marketing, and the responses here show that it's still a prevalent issue. The platforms themselves are working to provide more on this front, but it may also be up to the businesses themselves to ensure their staff are adequately trained, and have the knowledge to make the most of - and understand - their efforts.
2. Facebook and Twitter remain the most used channels
This will come as little surprise, but Buffer's report shows that Facebook and Twitter are still the most used social media platforms by marketers.
But Instagram's rising fast, and will no doubt get more traction in 2019. It wouldn't be surprising to see Instagram overtake Twitter in 2019.
Part of Twitter's issue is that it often takes more time to schedule content for it, because you can tweet more often due to the fast-moving Twitter stream. Yet Twitter, overall, drives only a small amount of referral traffic.
As Instagram evolves its tools in this respect, including links in Stories and shopping tags, you can bet that it will filter more traffic through to more sites. That is until Facebook cuts it off - which will probably only happen once business have built a reliance on it.
Pinterest, too, offers increased opportunities, and may see a bump in the coming year.
3. Influencer marketing is on the rise
The rise of Instagram has also lead to an increase in influencer marketing, particularly because the more creative elements of the visual-focused platform can be enhanced with some level of expertise.
You can expect to see influencer marketing - and micro-influencers - get even more focus in 2019, as businesses look for new ways to maximize reach, while also generating better creative assets for use in their campaigns.
4. Stories will be a key focus in 2019
You know what else is going to see more focus in 2019?
As Facebook has repeatedly told us, Stories are the future of social sharing, and you can bet that with Facebook's focus being on the option, they'll also be developing more ways to monetize Stories, and maximize brand opportunities to help encourage use.
If you've not considered Stories for your business yet, it's likely worth investigation - across Facebook's apps alone, more than a billion people are checking Stories daily.
5. IGTV - not so much
But then again, not all of Facebook's experiments pay off. IGTV, at this stage, is not attracting marketer interest.
That's not to say it's done for - Instagram likely has a few tricks up its sleeve to boost usage. But it may be that Instagram users have reached their limit on what they're looking for in the app, with Stories, live-streaming and messaging all getting a big boost in the last 12 months.
Maybe the addition of IGTV is just one function too far. It'll be interesting to see what Instagram does next with the video-specific platform.
6. Opportunities in messaging?
The results also suggest that there could still be a lot of opportunity in messaging, with relatively few brands trying it out.
It's still a bit of an uncertain area, with Facebook's envisioned Messenger Bot revolution never really gaining significant traction. Or at least, it hasn't yet - messaging apps are used for a huge array of different purposes in Asian markets, so it is possible that we could see a wider shift in western markets also.
But even if we don't see a big trend of messaging apps being utilized for more purposes, there may still be opportunities there. Worth considering in your approach.
As noted, there's a heap of additional, valuable insights in Buffer's full 'State of Social 2019' report, and it's definitely worth a read for any social media marketer. The insights may help guide your thinking, and get a better understanding of the lay of the land, and how your approach compares to others in the sector.
You can check out the full report and charts here.