5 Secrets of Social Media Marketing in 2016 (Guest Post)

The following is a guest post written by Raymond Stokes. Raymond is a head of marketing and a digital marketing specialist. Passion to start-ups has brought him immense experience in social media and content marketing, too. You can get in touch with him on Twitter.

It’s always been difficult to predict the whims of social media marketing. Ten years ago, it didn’t even exist. Now, there is a number of free platforms. And all of them have a wide variety of advertising options that can easily reach large numbers of people.

But the world of social media is constantly changing.  Each year dozens of new platforms burst onto the horizon. Existing companies must continue to innovate with new features to stay ahead. Every social media platform strives to be the best, the most popular. Caught up in the mad dash to use this easy and attractive marketing option, many businesses fall prey to the belief that simply registering an account on every social network is the most effective way to boost revenue.

So what does social media marketing look like in 2016? What are the trends? Let’s take a look.

Here are the five secrets to effective social media marketing in 2016:

1. Visualization

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and that definitely seems to be true in terms of this year’s marketing trends. To stay competitive, brands will need a solid plan for visuals. Besides the necessity of good quality images and animations for blog content, they will also need user-friendly ways to link to video for YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

It will also be important to have the ability to use anchor content to natively post to each platform. The content can be broken down to be shared in a blog post, a tweet, and a graphic on Instagram and Pinterest with a link back to the blog content.

The power of video is too great to be ignored. But how do you want to use that power? Don’t try to convince yourself that you can make your ads appear to be something other than ads. Either embrace that with authenticity, or take the opportunity to create a new reality.

Live video has an incredible power to connect, much more so than blog posts, webinars or podcasts. With live-streaming video there is freedom in knowing that the content doesn’t need to be quite as polished. You can improvise a bit, which is a little scary, but also very liberating.

In the past, Facebook Live has been available only to certain accounts. Recently, though, it is opening up to more people, making it a key player in the rising video trend.

It will also be essential for successful brands to come up with a strategy to tailor their images optimally for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Tools like Canva for Work and Relay cater to this need, allowing the possibility for quick and easy creation of images.

The key to success in all this is to pay attention to where the fans are engaging. Adding a Twitter card or a plugin such as Social Warfare or Yoast SEO allow images to be shared more easily via tweets or Facebook links. They can also check that images that can be easily pinned and shared.

2016 will see brands trying out a variety of different projects to integrate visualization in their marketing.

2. Buy buttons

This year a number of platforms, most notably Facebook and Pinterest, came to the attention of the media by introducing new and easier in-app shopping features. Mobile users can now simply click on a product they like in a sponsored post to purchase it, all within the app. Although Instagram has found this trend a bit more challenging, it too has hopped on this bandwagon with “Shop Now” call-to-action buttons embedded in its interface. It’s only a matter of time before other platforms will launch similar “buy” features.

It all seems so obvious that many of us wonder why marketers didn’t start using social platforms this way a long time ago. Now we can have the wild, fun adventure of seeing those shoes or that Smart TV, falling in love with it, and magically succumbing to the thrill of the impulse buy without even going to a store. The whole thing can happen right within our Facebook or Instagram feed right from our mobile.

So why has this never happened before? To begin with, the technology wasn’t ready. When it finally was, we were used to the process of leaving apps to buy products. It’s also possible, given the fact that most social platforms were designed and built by men and most of the social shoppers are women, that male designers just never thought of the idea of that simple “buy now” button.

3. Updates on the go

It is in the nature of social media to be “in the moment” (tweets and Facebook check-ins are evidence of that!)  But some platforms more easily lend themselves to this immediacy than others. An example of this is Periscope. Recently acquired by Twitter, this app gives users the ability to post a live video stream for their Twitter followers at any time they wish. The prospect is much more alluring than posting a pre-made video as a commentary of something that already happened. In fact, Periscope users watch the equivalent of 40 years' worth of live video every day. Along with “right now” updates that are supported by Instagram and Snapchat, this app seems to be a sign of increasing immediacy in social media, potentially eliminating the need for companies to schedule media posts in advance.

4. Workplace chats

Not so long ago, many companies had to go to the extreme of completely banning the use of social media during work hours.  After all, no one wants to pay an employee for hanging out on Facebook or Twitter when they are supposed to be working, any more than we want to pay anyone for hanging out at the water cooler all day. Deadlines require uncompromised focus, something that’s hard to achieve with the constant distraction of links and videos. Now a new app called Yammer proposes a unique solution to the problem with the introduction of “internal social” media. In this case, workplace chatter can still happen, but the topics and the participants of such conversations during work hours are controlled by the management. This way, workplace conversation can take the form of “collaboration” rather than time-wasting.

The research is pretty clear that a happier employee is a productive employee. Maintaining a platform that allows coworkers to connect (much like that old-fashioned water cooler!) while allowing them the ease of use that comes with online communication, will help boost morale and job satisfaction. No one wants to clock their time in at a boring workplace.

5. In-apps and privacy

Facebook definitely appears to be a leader in the innovation of new functions. Instant Articles (for publishing), an in-post search engine for referencing articles, and instant-play videos have all been added as Facebook features in the past year.  

Publishers can easily use the Instant Article feature to publish full-length papers to Facebook users, without having to link to an external source. In this atmosphere of fierce and aggressive competition among social platforms, it’s very likely that Facebook will come up with even more sophisticated forms of publishing for businesses and organizations. One of Twitter’s newest endeavors, Project Lightning, gives control of publication to its users, representing another dynamic new way to share information.

Following Facebook’s development of M, a hybrid digital/human assistant, other platforms are trying to establish similar services as they aggressively compete to prevent users from ever leaving the app.  This trend is very likely to continue, offering more opportunities than ever for marketers to engage with consumers on any social media platform.

Given the rising worries about security, Facebook is also introducing more privacy awareness tools for its users. This is a wise move and will most likely be followed by other social media platforms. The assurance of privacy and security for users will be necessary for the continued success of social media marketing.  While this represents a challenge for advertisers who want to track consumers’ needs and interest, they will have to keep the demand for privacy in balance. After all, too many pop-up ads are likely to lead to users disconnecting completely.

Snapchat was something of a pioneer with privacy issues with its practice of deleting photos and videos after only 10 seconds. But with increasing use of messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp Line, brands are really going to be forced to figure out new ways to deal with the privacy issue.

We will also see a lot of customer service shifting to messaging and private groups, meaning that brands will need to get creative in finding ways to utilize these to communicate with consumers.

The most intriguing aspect of all this is that the rise of social media marketing is now mainly a mobile experience. It will be a challenge for brands to acclimate to this new climate as their focus is still providing a web-based experience.

As change continues and trends come and go, it’s hard to keep track of them. But this list represents the key elements to consider in your social media marketing strategy for the remainder of 2016.