It’s never going out on a limb to say social media marketing is going to undergo significant changes in any given new year. But after a 2018 that saw both the founders of Twitter and Facebook testifying before Congress over data, privacy and the infiltration of spam accounts and fake news, the year ahead seems even more critical. Brands will need to adapt not only to the changes that platforms are making but consumer expectations for privacy, transparency and a sense of authentic community on social networks rather than constant headlines of data leaks and fraud.
And then, of course, there’s Artificial Intelligence. Now a must-have tool for marketers — even those in the creative space — AI will continue to expand in 2019, and those who leverage its capabilities and insights most effectively will rise above the noise on social networks and build customer loyalty in an age of distrust.
Senior Forrester Analyst Jessica Liu and Persado Global Solutions Consultant Kirill Gil talked about the changing way customers interact with brands and the role of AI in a webinar Tuesday, Dec. 4. ICYMI: These are the takeaways to bring to the next marketing meeting. For the full webinar, please click here.
Not All Consumers Interact the Same
If you’ve heard it once you’ve heard it a million times: Your brand must have a robust social media marketing program to be successful. But that’s really not always the case. Liu broke customers down into four categories: Social stars (they demand social interaction with companies), social savvies (they expect it), social snackers (they appreciate it) and social skippers (they spurn it). And they’re actually pretty evenly dispersed, with social stars representing 27% of the population, savvies 28%, snackers 23% and skippers 21%. It’s more important to know which category your audience falls into and market accordingly than to just follow someone else’s best practices.
The Return of Social Communities
From Facebook groups to branded message boards on a company’s website, advertisers will place a premium on these communities to reach consumers and foster loyalty as social ad spend decelerates (particularly on Facebook). It makes sense — Facebook again changed its algorithm in 2018, this time to focus more on posts from family and friends. Groups provide that similar sense of community. For example, travel brand UNILAD Adventure has a group where users can post photos and videos from vacations. But it’s not just within Facebook — Sephora does this on-site.
Reckoning With Attribution
Accurate attribution has long been a subject of concern for Facebook advertisers, from miscounting video metrics to giving inaccurate time on page numbers for Instant Articles. In October, the social network made attribution available to all marketers, allowing them to track how Facebook ad campaigns are impacting engagement throughout the customer journey and which channels are bolstering traffic, conversions and purchases. Creating this accurate view will allow brands to expand social and non-social ad inventory inside healthier communities.
Using Social Without AI Puts Brands at a Disadvantage
At this point, it’s generally accepted that AI is not hype. It’s here to stay. Brands resisting the change are essentially playing Scrabble without a dictionary while their competitors have a whole library at their disposals. Humans can only think of so many ways to say something, whereas AI multiplies this amount by thousands.
The Next Frontier
Though widely accepted as a way to identify patterns on a large scale and optimize based on those observations, AI could still stand to make results easier to understand, Gil said. He also noted that AI is great at exploring what we ask it to explore, but nothing beyond that. In other words, it’s only as good as the data coming in. In the year ahead, expect tools to be deployed that are focused on exploration and continuous learnings by understanding all possibilities and methodically reviewing them using AI. For insights, seek a summary that’s cleaner with tangible learnings for the whole space, what the machine explored and the lift. These tools will allow marketers to be held accountable for performance and investments made.