Q: What are three key trends that you would suggest social media marketers should be monitoring at present?
Social shopping, and shopping on social in general, is now a significant element in the growth strategies for a lot of the big platforms, and we’ve seen huge steps forward on, for example, Instagram and Facebook with Shops, and features to do with live shopping, tagging of products, branded content, etc. There’s also been a range of similar developments from Pinterest, Snapchat and TikTok.
These tools will offer new potential for brands, but the challenge here is a bit like the question we had a few years back in regards to news publishers, and ceding control - or at least, going ‘all-in’ - on things like Instant Articles, and then losing the ability to track and utilize data on what your users are doing when they’re not visiting your site. You’re then stuck within the world of Facebook, and reliant on the platform’s tools.
But generally, for most small businesses, I think this is a great opportunity, and it’s a significant shift in the way that people consume and buy goods, and also the way they use social media, and what they use social apps for, which will be a large-scale change.
The other big one is AR. AR is still seen by many as the precursor to VR, and we’ve only recently started to see any significant utility for AR tools, through integrations with Google Maps and more advanced AR try-on tools on platforms like Snapchat.
But we’ve largely moved past the ‘gimmick’ phase, and now it’s a question of how the brands and platforms leverage AR to actually become a more meaningful and useful thing, and move beyond simply adding dog ears to your selfies.
We’ve seen some platforms taking a lead on this, with Snapchat in particular adding new tools to better facilitate shopping and try-on processes, and I think we’ll see more platforms moving this direction over the next few years. A limitation, however, is that the technical expertise required to create these AR experiences is currently beyond the realm of many businesses, but that’s also changing with the development of new tools that make it far easier and quicker, and cheaper, to build these experiences.
The last key trend of note here is around the evolving ‘creator economy’ tools, whether in the form of subscriptions, tipping, improving collaboration tools to facilitate creator/brand partnerships, etc. The platforms have now realized how they can facilitate more opportunities on this front, which has lead to a new battle to retain the best talent, and provide the strongest incentives to keep them posting to your app, which could have a big influence on growth and development moving forward.
The question now is how much people will be willing to pay to subscribe to certain creators, and whether there’ll be a limit to the amount people will tip and donate in order to fund these processes - while for creators, they also need to choose which platforms they think will offer the most sustainable options over the long term. We’ll see, over the next 12 months I suspect, which platforms are going to win out in this race.