Five behavioural trends shaping social media

Five behavioural trends that are shaping social media: what we learned from 2018, and the need-to-know facts for brands planning social media in 2019

Our insights team sifted through data to find the biggest trends from 2018, and how they’ll inform brands’ social media strategies for 2019.

1. The content consumers value has changed

In 2018, Facebook responded to massive consumer demand to favour personal connections over advertising-led messaging on the platform. Sweeping changes to the algorithm saw a decline in organic reach for branded content and a reduction in engagement rates by up to 58 percent (according to Kuno Creative).

Aside from the obvious implications of having to invest in paid social, brands have to work harder for views and engagement. Content has to be higher quality to cut through, and to be worth the investment if it’s paid for.

Facebook favours meaningful interactions (actual conversations, rather than likes), replies and links shared through messenger and so achieving this should inform branded content strategies in 2019. One of the ways to achieve this is to focus on our second trend, stories and ephemeral content.

2. Consumers love stories and ephemeral content formats

Ephemeral content – AKA “how to use FOMO in your brand marketing” – was the big success of 2018. Consumer love content that disappears in 24 hours. Snapchat started the trend, Instagram and Facebook followed suit, and finally, WhatsApp got in on the act (see more about how brands can use ephemeral content – including the new vertical content format – in Blaise Grimes-Viort’s post, Ephemeral messages – the opportunity for brands).

As TechCrunch reported earlier this year, Facebook has said that “the Stories format is on a path to surpass feeds as the primary way people share things with their friends” in 2019. Stories are a must-have in brands’ content repertoire in the coming year.

3. The next generations are changing the way they consume content on social

GenZ consumers are hitting the prime of their working years (how did that happen?). Their preferences for short-form content and platform hopping is informing brands’ social media strategies. They want bite-sized, visual content. They use Instagram to discover new products. They research those products on YouTube. And they share their experiences with each on SnapChat.

But just as brands get their heads around what that means for their marketing… along comes Gen Alpha and shakes it all up again. Gen Alpha consumers have slightly longer attention (though not much), and they’re looking for more than great products – they want brands with purpose. And when they hit working age, they’ll have more spending power than those before them. Time for brands to plan for the next generation.

4. Consumers value meaningful human connections…

In a world full of branded content, consumers are returning to content produced by them, and their friends, to create genuine, human connections. User-generated content is making a comeback – new, improved and unstoppable. As consumers grow more cynical about celebrity endorsement and the use of mega-influencers by brands, they turn to people they trust for insight and advice.

GoPro has long been a great example of a brand using UGC well, turning customers and fans into content creators and advocates for the brand. How to include carefully curated UGC as part of your social media strategy should be on every brand’s radar in 2019.

5. …But they value the speed and efficiency of chatbots for transactional engagement

There are more than 300,000 active chatbots on Facebook. We are the generation of ‘Ubers’ children’ who have become used to instant response to demands. You can now order food, schedule a flight, and get movie or music recommendations all without talking to a human. And that’s fine. We can hardly remember a time before Alexa and Google Home. For purely transactional engagement, consumers are happy to talk to chatbots that can answer common queries, and deliver functional solutions quickly and efficiently. (For insight into how chatbots and humans work together in your social media customer service strategy, see our guide: Create value from social media customer service.)

So welcome chatbots with open arms for some interactions. But for deeper connections and true engagement that delivers value for brands’ social media, 2019 is all about authenticity, purpose, creativity and sparking genuine human conversations online.

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