Where is Social Media Marketing Headed in the Next Five Years?

Think back to a time not so long ago…We’re talking when AOL sent software CDs by snail mail. You couldn’t use the phone and the internet at the same time, and social media was still a distant dream.
Social media morphed from a place where students used to make plans for the weekend and share inside jokes into something much bigger—a powerful source of data. It’s evolved into a key tool for brands, and how marketers use social continues to change even faster than the platforms themselves.
For marketers to continue delivering effective campaigns, they have to stay on top of upcoming trends. To get an edge over the competition, get familiar with some of the biggest changes in social media marketing in the next five years.


1. More Regulated Native Advertising

When advertising first stepped onto the internet, it was intrusive. It popped up, flashed, clashed with website content and annoyed site visitors. Through effective tools and social media influencers, companies pursued native advertising—advertising that was more cohesive with a platform.
And native advertising was effective, too. Consumers preferred light nudges over the pushy, flashy ads of the past. But the honeymoon came and went, and native advertising faded. Why? Consumers think native ads lack transparency, and they’re even losing trust in the influencers who push products and services.
Over the next five years, native advertising has to change. Not only are consumers catching on to this ‘sneaky’ form of marketing, but regulators are getting involved, too.
In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent warnings to nearly 100 social media influencers and companies. But that’s just the beginning. The FTC will demand more transparency over the next few years, and influencers and other forms of native advertising will need disclose that their content is being paid for.


2. Content with a Shorter Life Span

Marketers spend a lot of time developing campaigns, molding and refining them to fit the perfect target audience. So, it makes sense to make that content last for weeks or months, right? But while this may be a priority for marketers, it’s not one for consumers. Case in point: the 400 million+ individuals who view Instagram stories each day.
Consumers are tired of being served the same ads every time they scroll through social. If they’ve seen it before (unless it’s really interesting), they’ll probably keep scrolling. In turn, companies waste endless dollars on a campaign that runs for weeks.
A second reason quick content is going to work better is because of the fear of missing out, or FOMO. If your company’s content is good, offers worthwhile incentives or promotions and only lives on social media for 24 hours, consumers will make the effort to engage with it.

a man is sitting at a desk and using Facebook on his new iPhone


3. The Email Inbox Will Make a Comeback

Marketing teams are moving away from promotional texts and emails. Statistically speaking, email marketing campaigns don’t work as well as they used to. Instead, marketing experts are using them as a supplementary marketing tool.
Over the next five years, email marketing will shift. Instead of messages that hit the spam folder, or even texts that go unread, social media marketing will expand into messenger marketing. And it’s already starting. Companies that send social media marketing content through Facebook Messenger are seeing higher open, read and click-through rates than email and SMS campaigns.
There are three reasons for these improved numbers:
  1. It’s easier to opt out of messenger marketing than unsubscribing from emails or texts.
  2. It allows the consumer to reply and have a conversation with the brand.
  3. Messages are short, straight to the point and enable fast content consumption.

But we see this shift by looking at user growth, too. The four biggest social networking platforms grew from about 2 billion to 2.6 billion users from 2014 to 2016. In the same time period, the four biggest messaging apps grew from roughly 800 million to 3 billion. Consumers clearly prefer messenger apps, and both social media and brand marketers will need to serve this preference.

4. Social Media Live Video

Every social platform is adding a live video option. These communication tools are rising to become effective ways for brands to get noticed. And it’s especially true for local brands, as geo-location videos are the next big changes in social media marketing and video discovery.
In marketing, video content is more effective at making an impression. 65% of Instagram impressions result from video. And the fact that 80% of internet traffic in 2019 was due to video content, two-thirds of marketers are planning to dive even deeper into video marketing for social media moving forward.


5. User-generated Content

Consumers want authenticity. They need to trust the brands they interact with, and they’re demanding more transparency. That’s why brand content only goes so far in connecting with consumers. After awhile, it comes off as fake, pushy or just too good to be true. It’s no wonder only about a fifth of the content brands publish seems authentic to consumers.
But when brands encourage consumers to generate and create content about products, services or the brand itself, consumers rate 60% of the content is authentic and engaging. In fact, engagement climbs 28% when user-generated content is mixed into the brand’s professionally-created marketing content.
To foster this engagement, brands will pull consumers into their social media marketing campaigns. They’ll invite users to make videos about their experiences, ask them to re-post Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pictures and posts and launch contests around user-generated content.


6. Artificial Intelligence

Social media marketing has become such an enormous task that it’s difficult to manage. And instead of hiring more marketing staff, companies will embrace technology that augments their social media marketing efforts. Artificial intelligence (AI) can take care of the majority of social media marketing tasks.
AI technology identifies user-generated content on social media platforms that is relevant to and promotes brands, then reshares it on company-owned social channels. This tech is already available and it will only grow over the next few years. Experts predict that AI will be able to create content on its own, blending stock photos, videos, social media analytics and business strategy.


7. Advanced Social Listening

Marketers have been listening to their @ mentions on social media for years. In the coming years, though, monitoring mentions won’t cut the mustard. Marketers will need to use social media listening tools to gain a more accurate understanding of their audience. But what’s so great about social listening? These tools allow marketers to analyze social posts for sentiment and enhanced consumer understanding, ensuring that both marketers and audiences are on the same page.
Social listening will be the only way for companies to keep up with consumer demand. Most of the time—96% to be exactwhen individuals discuss a brand online, they don’t actually follow that brand’s accounts. Companies are missing out on these posts, filled with opinions and suggestions.
As brands monitor these external conversations, it opens the door to respond to and start conversations with consumers. This engagement has the power to turn detractors into promoters, transforming the social media marketing game.
And AI has the potential to play a significant role here, too. Instead of combing every post to find the best ones to respond to or even the most insightful ones to analyze, AI filters posts. In doing so, it pulls the most relevant information and provides actionable insights.


Are You Ready to Focus on Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing isn’t a niche aspect of marketing or a side project anymore. It’s a major part of every marketing campaign, so companies must be willing to make an investment in it—in time and in money. The most effective way to make this investment is to stay on top of the changes in social media marketing to create a road map for the future.

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