Heading into next year, social media is projected to solidify its dominance with overall usage climbing up three percent to hit 204 million US users. With spend projected to grow twenty percent, however, that means competition and clutter are going to increase (eMarketer, November 2018). For marketers, the key question is: What are the trends that can make my brand stand out and market more effectively on social media? Below are three major trends that will significantly gain in impact next year, ranked by urgency for implementation.
It may seem like ancient history now, but Snapchat invented Stories in 2013. The format was a unique way of stringing together its disappearing photos and videos into a longer narrative, while staying true to the spirit of sharing content that was unpolished, fun, and real. In less than a year after Stories debuted, Snapchat tripled its user base and hit 100 million monthly active users. Young people were joining in droves, and the only question seemed when, not if, Snapchat would dethrone Facebook.
Then in August 2016, Instagram launched its own Stories feature. It was all but a carbon copy of Snapchat Stories in functionality and ethos. Because Instagram was able to tap into its existing user base, it experienced even more explosive growth than Snapchat did. Instagram Stories hit 100 million monthly users in just two months, and two years later, its user base has doubled that of Snapchat’s.
With this kind of momentum, it’s not surprising that Mark Zuckerberg said, “it looks like Stories will be a bigger medium than feed has been” during Facebook’s Q3 earnings call.
Facebook and Messenger both have Stories as well, and YouTube has very recently expanded its own take on Stories. Now any creator with more than 10,000 subscribers will have access to this tool.
TAKEAWAY: These short, impressionistic, POV/behind-the-scenes-type videos, shot vertically, are fast becoming the default way to share social content. Brands who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet should hurry to get on it.
2. Episodic Video
While Stories are mostly about user or influencer generated content, social video is increasingly focused on longer-form, professionally-produced content. The impetus behind this movement is the rise of online streaming services such as Netflix and HBO Go, which have not only changed the way Americans consume video but have also opened the eyes of publishers about the potential of original programming.
As of last year, 61% of people ages 18 to 29 say the primary way they watch television now is with streaming services, compared with 31% who say they mostly watch via cable or satellite and just 5% who watch with a digital antenna, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in August.
The social networks want or need a piece of that pie, and have all launched their own versions of streaming services to try to get it. Facebook has Facebook Watch, YouTube has YouTube Originals, and Instagram has IGTV. These channels focus mostly on original programming, provided either by influencers or more bold-faced names like Jada Pinkett Smith or Kirsten Dunst.
Clearly, there is a thirst for more longer-form, episodic content that the social networks are trying to fill. Some brands, like Chipotle, have taken advantage of the opportunity by launching their own channels. For most brands, the bigger opportunity is to simply start thinking about video content on social as part of a series instead of individual, unconnected pieces.
TAKEAWAY: Demand for video content seems insatiable, and right now, ambitious brands seem to have an unprecedented opportunity to produce episodic content. There is not, however, one right way to produce this video content or distribute it.
Sight, sound, and motion. Those are the three elements that video combines so powerfully. Yet, most social platforms treat sound as optional. In fact, after an initial boom in podcasts, audio-only content seemed to be fading away.
Thanks to voice-activated home assistants, however, that may be changing. One in six Americans now own a smart speaker— figure that’s up 128 percent from January, 2017. That equals around 39 million people. According to this same survey, 30 percent of smart speaker owners said the device is replacing time spent with TV. They’re also listening to more audio (71% are), including news and talk radio or podcasts.
In fact, podcast listening has grown steadily in the past decade. An estimated 67 million people in 2017 listen to podcasts, approximately the same number of Twitter’s current active monthly users. That is roughly 25% of the US population over age 12 in 2017, and podcast penetration is strongest among the 18-34 demo. The average podcast is 45 minutes and 85% of people who listen to podcasts listen to the end.
For now, the main response to this trend from social platforms has been the launch of Facebook Portal, a voice-activated smart camera with touchscreen display. There is little doubt that the remit of what can be voice activated will be expanding in the future.
TAKEAWAY: From a social media perspective, integration with home assistants or the development of their own will make audio content increasingly important. Starting to think about how to make content strategies more versatile, to make videos that work without sound as well as audio that works without visuals, will pay off in the longer term for marketers.
These trends have been gaining steam in recent years, and are now positioned to play a major role in brands’ social media strategies in 2019. Social media is a fast-paced, constantly changing landscape, and next year is sure to be just as dynamic as the last. But as marketers look to adapt, strategically considering Stories, episodic video, and audio will allow them to keep ahead of the competition.
Don’t miss a single social media update next year. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.