A new year is upon us, and that means campaign goals are being readjusted and new tactics set in motion. While many strategic adjustments stem from changing goals and budgets or adapting lessons learned, oftentimes a renewed approach is due to technology continually evolving; this means these are alterations that no amount of planning could predict. Social media, for example – which 94% of brands use – represents tech that has evolved tenfold.
Case in point, LinkedIn – one of the most popular social platforms for B2Bs – recently underwent a facelift and search overhaul, making the site even more useful for generating and nurturing leads. Facebook has switched up its algorithm to be more user-friendly and Twitter just turned a profit for the first time thanks to the mass purge of foreign accounts and bots.
With all these changes, what else is in store for businesses this year?
Here is a rundown of the most popular social sites, and trends and tactics for B2B marketers to be aware of, as we progress into the most digitally-centric year ever.
LinkedIn is often named the best social platform for B2B companies and the platform has been beefing up recently. Videos have been added to personal accounts, geofilter videos are currently in testing, and the messaging system has been overhauled to be more user-friendly. With over 500 million monthly users and counting, the changes seem to be working well.
Besides the changes to the site’s design and function, the ad platform is also flourishing – one aspect of the social network that brands will want to pay close attention to.
LinkedIn has plans to roll out video ads for brands. Creating a business page on LinkedIn can help with Google SEO and can help you get found by other professionals through the site’s search function. Unfortunately, right now there is no way for businesses to post videos to their pages, but with LinkedIn’s ad platform, brands will have an entirely new way to engage and sell this year.
LinkedIn Tip: If you know the title of the decision maker in a company, such as CFO, LinkedIn searches can help you collect a list of prospects to contact. However, never just send blank connection request. Instead, create a message template that you can replicate that stresses what’s in it for the consumer – such as a free white paper describing your services. Finally, don’t assume a single email will do the trick because people are busy and emails get missed. Sending two or three times per contact will ensure thorough delivery and your persistence is sure to pay off.
Facebook Watch, the brand’s dedicated “TV Channel” was rolled out to select creators in 2017. Once offered to a larger audience, brands will be able to create targeted video content much like they can with YouTube, but that automatically ranks prominently in Facebook news feeds.
Analysts also predict that we should see more features for video creators that will make it even simpler to get seen and discovered. Preferential news feed coverage is a given, but we might see revenue-sharing deals, and even a dedicated Facebook Video app.
Facebook Tip: We’ve always known that social proof works for marketing, but nothing could be truer on Facebook in 2018. This year, reviews will take center stage, just as they have on Amazon. Facebook is said to be experimenting with different ways for users to leave reviews. However, keep in mind that a Like or Check-In is very much the same thing as a Facebook review—it’s a vouch. It’s another way of saying I’m with this brand.
To get ahead on everyone’s favorite social network, encourage your followers to leave reviews, check-in, comment, or share their experiences with your company’s products and services. The more your brand gets mentioned, the more word will spread, allowing you to experience the true power of social proof in action.
Brands began flocking to Instagram in late 2017 and the trend shows no signs of slowing. In fact, 80% of Instagram accounts follow at least one business.
Once the brands start showing up to a social network, you know the ad platform is about to explode. EMarketer predicted that Instagram’s mobile ad sales would reach $2.81 billion by 2017, however, Instagram actually blew way past that prediction by coming in at $4 billion. With people acclimating to following brands of all types, now might be the time to create an Instagram presence if you don’t already have one.
Most recently, the brand introduced a change to its algorithm that allows users to follow certain hashtags. Using a hashtag in one of your posts will cause that post to show up in users’ newsfeeds alongside other followed content.
The great news for brands is that now your posts could potentially be seen by prospects even though they don’t follow you – yet. Using a hypothetical viral hash like #StPattysDayCelebration could feature a special on that day for your brand, and will show up for users who are following that hashtag.
Even better, Instagram now allows you to schedule posts in advance. That’s the good news, and it’s a change that brands have been asking about for some time. The bad news is that the change doesn’t extend to ads, nor can you schedule your posts directly from Instagram. The change is only available for the Instagram API and so far Hootsuite is among the first to implement the new API.
Still, it’s a significant move forward and we just may see scheduling offered for ads soon.
Another Instagram feature that was recently unveiled is business discovery, which allows you to view other business profile information and media. That’s great for connecting with other brands outside of LinkedIn.
Instagram Tip: The great thing about Instagram is that you can use Stories Highlights to show behind-the-scenes footage or otherwise consumer-centric stories right on your account pages. This makes your posts more “real” which is what Instagram users most want.
Also, when you use hashtags, use them sparingly. Experts believe the algorithm change will leave the platform up for abuse for a bit, but ride the storm, use hashes sparingly, and draw in your audience with strategic and relevant content.
Following a hefty purge of bunk accounts, many of them bots and foreign accounts that are suspected of influencing the U.S. 2016 Presidential election, Twitter is hoping to climb back from a few bad months of bad PR. Still, some say that Twitter is still excellent for B2B marketing. One thing that Twitter has going for it is the immediacy of communication. The ads are also more affordable on Twitter than they are on brands like Facebook or Instagram, but that could change soon.
Twitter Tip: Mention others in your tweets to get a conversation going, and share content from decision makers to get on their radar. Above all, never hesitate when someone communicates with you, as that’s kind of like ignoring someone who’s sitting right beside you. Twitter is all about joining in on the conversation, and everything you post should add to the discussion.
You may not think of YouTube as a social network akin to Facebook or Twitter, but the platform represents yet another way to build a community and connect on an entirely new (and utterly engaging) level.
When using YouTube going forward, be aware that there have been a few changes across the board for brands. Due to problems with questionable content and YouTube’s apparent earning of ad revenue on that content, stricter controls have been placed on the videos that brands can upload and showcase to their audiences. Here’s what you need to know.
Manual Vetting: YouTube’s PR nightmare began when artificial intelligence (AI) caused a rise in exploitation videos that were aimed at children. YouTube no longer trusts the machines to do the job of humans – at least not yet – so as of now all videos will be analyzed with a human eye. This is actually good news for brands engaging in ethical practices and that produce quality videos, which is precisely what people, YouTube, and advertisers want, as it means that your videos are sure to pass a discerning inspector’s analysis with flying colors.
Preferred Treatment: Just like Google Adwords has a quality score that rewards you for being an exemplary advertiser, YouTube categorizes its best Creators as Preferred and assures them more clicks and greater revenue share. The program was recently implemented when a popular YouTuber caused controversy by visiting a suicide forest in Japan and filmed an actual body hanging from one of the trees. The YouTube star was consequently kicked off the platform altogether and YouTube acted quickly to tighten the reins on the freedoms Creators are allowed. This is great news for marketers producing quality content, as getting Preferred treatment will do nicely for lead and revenue generation.
Fewer Scams: Brands should rejoice that YouTube is finally cracking down on scams and Black Hat Creators that are clogging up the search results for legitimate channels. YouTube is making it more difficult to earn ad revenue from its videos. As of just recently, you must have 4,000 hours of watchtime within the past 12 months and at least a thousand subscribers. YouTube is also said to be employing other abuse flags to keep its community on par with the quality we all want to produce and showcase to our target markets.
YouTube Tip: If you are stuck on videos to showcase on your ever-growing channel, some ideas include product demonstrations and testimonials from your audience. This user-generated content is cheap to produce and can do wonders for social proof and engagement. You can also have one of your experts demonstrate a product or service, leverage local and national events, solve problems with useful tips and advice, and showcase behind-the-scenes footage for a more personal interaction. If you can manage to keep your quality high and content relevant enough, you could create a community that transcends the other social networks and bolsters your organization on a whole new level.
Some predict that higher advertising rates are here to stay and will continue to rise over the next 12 months. Many suggest now is the time to invest heavily in advertising to stay competitive for years to come. Brands that aren’t investing merely aren’t yet; they will be soon.
Another prediction is that CEOs will no longer avoid social media, but they’ll instead engage with customers directly, a move that we’ve never really seen before. CEOs will no longer be shadowy figures we see every so often giving a speech at a tradeshow, for instance. We’ll actually see how they work, the ways they spend their free time, their hobbies, interests, and the brands they advocate for most.
The lesson is to jump on this trend before anyone else and become more human on all social networks, from Facebook and Instagram to LinkedIn and Twitter. People want everything fast these days, and social networks are the way to connect with all audiences as we move toward the future.
Your social activity won’t go anywhere unless you have relevant and quality posts to share. The tired posts that everyone else is sharing just won’t cut it. To make it in 2018 and subsequent years, you must analyze your shared content against the following checklist.
Images: Photography is key. Stock images can work, but they should be dressed up somehow to make them engaging and attractive to the eye. Candid photos work best, as the uptick in social media has gotten us used to seeing snippets of people’s lives. Use this trend in your social media for a more personal effect.
Nevartis uses real people in their Instagram campaigns to show what goes on in places the customer never sees.
Use Video: If you’re not using YouTube or you’re not using videos at all in your social campaigns, you might want to start. Short videos work best and shorter looping videos especially well. Live video can work on platforms like Instagram and Facebook, as you’re essentially sitting right across the table from those who matter most.
Hubspot is becoming known for a brand that uses short, creative videos to educate and inform. They’re aimed at Millenials and fun to watch, and they’ve brought Hubspot a ton of attention in the past year.
Set a Trend: Come up with formats for your videos and standard posts and stick to it. For instance, telling a story with a series of Instagram stories and then shooting off a post that describes the inner workings of your office with just a single funny headline. This familiarity with your posting style will further help to bolster brand loyalty, Likes, and Shares.
General Electric’s tweets are branded, consistent, and infused with video to generate added interest.
Voice Marketing: With more people sporting Alexa, Echo and Google Home in their kitchens, dining rooms, and offices, voice search will become a huge topic among B2Bs in the coming years. While no tried-and-true rules have been put in place, keep this trend in mind when filling out your profiles and making posts. And be prepared to talk to people in real-time from these smart home devices. It may not be commonplace now, but it will be sometime very soon.
Marketo is a brand that educates on every Instagram post. This recent post is fitting, given that human connections is what social media marketing is all about.
Social media is all about building strong connections with your target audience and followers. You must be transparent. You mustn’t shy away from bad publicity but instead must own it. You should be personal and human with all your flaws and mistakes. Above all, you should show that you truly care by reaching out, going above and beyond, and making things right when they go south. Social media is only going to grow and now is your chance to make a splash riding these social media trends of 2018.