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Social Media: What’s New, Next and Absolutely Necessary

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  • Key Takeaways from Social Media Marketing World 2016

    In addition to spending time with 3,500 talented social media marketing professionals in beautiful San Diego, I had the opportunity to listen to and learn from the industry’s top leaders at Social Media Examiner’s annual conference last week.

    Here are the most important trends marketers should focus on this year and my thoughts on how to leverage them for your businesses.

    1. Live Streaming Video is a Must for Social Media Content
    Not only is live streaming video the number one social media trend, it is at the center of the battleground for dominance by the major social platforms.  Twitter bought the live streaming mobile app, Periscope last year in an effort to stimulate user growth and improve the visual experience on the site.

    Facebook responded by rolling out Facebook Live functionality to everyone in March.  This past week, Facebook announced that it changed its algorithm to ensure that our live streamed videos will dominate the Newsfeed. These videos will automatically be shown to more people and fans.  As Gary Vaynerchuk predicts, “Facebook is the new reality television.”  Anxious to maintain its leadership position, YouTube has also launched a live streaming feature.

    What do these developments mean to businesses?

    It means that video storytelling should be a major component of an effective content strategy.  Live streaming video can be used to make product announcements, gain visibility for new service offerings, highlight the culture and employees supporting a business, provide customer service and tutorials and solicit real time feedback for products and services.  Live-streamed video helps humanize a business.  For more ideas for how businesses and professionals can leverage live streaming video check out this post, Why and How Businesses Should Use Periscope.

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    Live Streaming Video is a Key Social Media Trend

    Social media marketers now need to have videographers attached to their hips. Although live streaming video is supposed to be spontaneous, the quality improves when you use equipment that adjusts the lighting, audio, device positioning and depth of field. Right now people and businesses are experimenting with live streaming video. There are a lot of silly, funny, unprofessional and uncensored productions entering our feeds.
    I expect that the trend will follow the evolution of YouTube and that there will be a greater emphasis on professional quality in the future.   The stars of YouTube and Vine will migrate to Facebook, Periscope and Snapchat. Right now the power of live streaming video is propelling the popularity of Snapchat.

    2. Snapchat is Hot

    Snapchat is Growing in Popularity
    Snapchat is Growing in Popularity

    Everyone at the conference seemed to be excited, confused and interested in Snapchat, the hot and happening social media site. In addition to the ability to send disappearing photos and videos to individuals, Snapchat provides an opportunity for people to share 10 second video snippets throughout their day that sequence into a story available for all of their contacts to view for a 24-hour period.

    Snapchat also produces its own stories that are captured at live events and often include snaps from users’ stories.  There are several fun, funky and marketing oriented features that brands and individuals can use to promote and personalize live events on Snapchat. These include custom lenses and geofilters that can be added to users’ snaps to enhance, alter or distort their images in amusing ways.

    Why is this 5 year-old site suddenly getting so much attention?

    Snapchat is getting so much attention because that’s where the cool kids are hanging out.  While many people feel that the site is just for teens and millennials, the reality is that the older folks are giving it a try. More importantly, key creative influencers are partnering with brands to create innovative video stories that have a more powerful impact on an audience than the typical 30-second TV commercial.  I had the pleasure of meeting Shaun McBride (Shonduras on Snapchat) who highlighted for me the number of ways companies such as Marriott have partnered with him to create compelling stories that captivate attention and engagement from audiences of all ages.

    I believe that it is important for all marketers to become familiar with the content formats and concepts that are popular on Snapchat.  Advertising and promotional messaging in other channels is beginning to mimic Snapchat stories.  This trend will continue to gain momentum.  In fact, Twitter and Facebook were motivated to provide live streaming functionality because of Snapchat’s growing popularity.

    Instagram content is often polished, photo-shopped and perfect.  Snapchat content is raw, regular and real-time.  To learn more about Snapchat, be on the lookout for my next post, Getting the Ghost in a Snap, which will offer a crash course in mastering Snapchat.

    Snapchat also provides users with the ability to communicate with a smaller universe of social connections.  This is one of the many reasons messaging apps have become an important social media focus.

    Facebook Messenger - Chat Bot
    Facebook Messenger – Chat Bot

    3. Messaging Apps Have Become a Critical Focus for Social Media Platforms.

    Although private messaging is built into many social media platforms, Mark Zuckerberg’s presentation at the recent F8 Facebook Developer Conference highlighted the important role messaging and messaging apps will play in providing businesses with opportunities to engage with customers.

    If we look at the popularity of WeChat in China, it is clear that social media applications can offer the magic trifecta of services: one-to-one rapid communication, personalized promotions from businesses and the opportunity to buy products and services from companies.

    The Chat Bots are coming.

    Facebook has been working behind the scenes to provide a chat bot interactive functionality to both WhatsApp and the Facebook Messenger App.

    A chat bot, short for chat robot, refers to software that responds to people in their native language either via text or verbally. Also called a “chatter bot,” it is used in voice response systems, ecommerce, Internet gaming, online help, customer service and call centers. The chat bot is designed to emulate normal human responses and sound natural.

    Now that many of us are used to opting in to receive mobile alerts from service providers and email confirmations from vendors, we can expect those forms of communication to be available in more accessible ways through chat bots.

    Although the technology that incorporates artificial intelligence needs to be refined, Facebook will be a leader in offering interactive customer experiences and improved customer service through its messaging apps. Stay tuned for more on this evolving story.

    4. Customer Service Adds Value to Social Media

    While we are waiting for computers to emulate humans through chat bots, it is critical that businesses remember that customers now have numerous ways to highlight their poor experiences with businesses on social media.   There is no excuse for poor customer service on the part of businesses today.  The Social Media Marketing World Conference even introduced a Social Care Track this year.

    Business strategist, Jay Baer, emphasized the importance of training support personnel in order to prevent reputation wrecking content from damaging a company’s customer experience.   While we can all aspire to “hug our haters”, we need to remember that social media can also help to turn a negative experience into a positive message that spreads virally.  Customer service is still one of the primary reasons businesses need to have an actively monitored social media presence.

    5. Content Marketing is Not Dead

    Most senior marketers recognize the value of producing a steady stream of valuable content to attract and retain customers, clients and prospects. However, there is a growing feeling on the part of many them that the vast amount of content available makes it harder to get attention.

    I am happy to report that industry heavy weights, Michael Stelzner, Mitch Joel and Mark Schaefer, all feel that content marketing is alive and well.  The trouble is that it in order for content marketing to work well, businesses need to create and implement a plan to produce, measure and modify the content on a regular basis.  Many industry professionals are quick to highlight the notion that content that is not shared has a zero return on investment. I disagree with this notion.

    Many people consume content on a regular basis through social media and email automation programs. However, most people do not share or comment on what they consume. Although we are collecting and measuring an immense amount of data, as marketers, we still are not able to capture a true read on how and when content works to motivate our audiences to take action.

    This is why I believe that it is important to continue to produce valuable, informative, educational and even entertaining content in many formats in order to help prospects develop an impression that they know, like and trust you.  After all, this is how business has been done for centuries.

    I also feel that while many large companies have built successful content factories, small entrepreneurs and professionals can still attract business through content marketing by focusing their efforts on outperforming the competition in a niche or local market.

    6. Influencers are Important Players in Social Media Marketing

    Now that social media is maturing, it is clear that more and more businesses are spending marketing dollars with Internet celebrities who are able to influence a large numbers of followers.  In fact, numerous agencies and platforms have been launched over the past several years to connect influencers with brands.

    In addition to the creative celebrities on each platform, businesses should also focus attention on their loyal fans and employee advocates.  These influencers are able to spread positive messages without large marketing price tags.  I believe that over time, many of us will shift our attention away from brand-sponsored celebs back to our network of connections.

    One thing is clear, social media marketing is still a rapidly evolving discipline.

    I will be presenting these insights to a forum of Chief Marketing Officers from leading B2B companies next week. I look forward to hearing their thoughts and to reading your questions, comments and insights.

    Please follow me to read more helpful tips on social media and digital marketing.

    For more information on social media strategy, tools and techniques visit www.DigiStarMedia.com.

    Twitter: @RobinColner

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