Crafting a marketing plan or just wondering what the kids are up to? Either way, we’ve spotted some fascinating social media trends for 2018 and beyond.

Ten years ago, most of us had never even heard of Facebook. Now we can’t imagine life without it. These days, we use social media for just about everything, Staying in touch and sharing photo’s just part of it. We also use it to date, keep our calendars, look for jobs, get the latest news, and more.

So what social media trends should we look out for? Make way for more video, helpful in-store chatbots, and more fun face filters. We’ll also see a trend towards more storytelling, and posts that — poof! — self-destruct.

2018 Social Media Trends To Look Out For

Pew Research reports things have changed a lot since they began tracking social media trends in 2005. Back then, only 5 percent of adults in the U.S. used Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.  As of 2016, 69 percent of us logged in to at least one site in the past month. And it’s not just young folks boosting the numbers. Social media use has increased for all age groups. In fact, the industry site Statista noted in early 2017 81 percent of us now have at least one social media profile.

1. Social Media Marketing: You’ll See More Ads, and You’ll Like It

The bad news: You’ll be seeing a lot more ads from companies that want to sell you something. The good news is, they’re getting a lot more savvy about social media marketing, sales, and customer service. Instead of barging in and forcing you to watch an annoying ad, they’re going to content that interests you. In fact, you may find their videos and offers so irresistible you may look forward to them.

We’re already seeing context-sensitive ads, like the ad below. This one displayed while a Facebook user was shopping for an engagement ring … And they’re about to get even better.

The idea of us looking forward to getting ads and sales pitches isn’t as crazy as you think. Admit it. Most of us have at least one company we love … Apple, Dollar Shave Club, Southwest Airlines, Ikea, Nintendo, Wish, or Trader Joes, anyone? And now, Facebook and other social media platforms are starting to get savvier about our likes and dislikes.

For example, Facebook showed the Ikea-deprived Twitter user below an ad to let him know Ikea now delivers.

These trends in social media marketing can also introduce you to local businesses you need but didn’t know existed. For example, let’s say you’ve adopted a puppy. If you saw a funny video with cute puppies and an ad for your local doggie daycare, wouldn’t you look? And if the doggie daycare offers obedience training, wouldn’t that be helpful? Kind of creepy, maybe, but definitely helpful.

2. Tired of Lousy Customer Service? Here Come the “Chatbots”

We often complain about bad customer service and getting put on hold. What if you could call in and resolve your issue right away? Artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots can help with that. Software like eGain’s AI Chatbot can certainly reduce wait times. How? Because they assist with the most common customer service issues. Then, when they’re stumped, they’ll direct us to live agents.

The chatbot shown above is a virtual assistant that helps customers when they visit the company’s website. But we’ll see chatbots on our favorite social media sites who answer questions, make recommendations, and follow up. The boutique e-tailer Zulily has gotten off to a good start with a text bot that connects with followers through Facebook Messenger. Although it’s still in the early stages, it doesn’t just send messages. It also replies to messages and answers questions when you respond.

3. Trends in Social Media: More and More of Us are Shifting to Mobile

Desktop computers? Those are for work! Among the most striking social media trends is the shift to mobile during off hours. Last year, we spent nearly 80 percent percent of our social media time on social media was on our smartphones. So of course, the line between our virtual lives and our real lives is getting more blurred. For example, FourSquare lets you “check in” to your favorite haunts and find your friends in real time. Meanwhile, Meetup brings groups of people with shared interests together online to plan events and activities in real life. Moving forward, we’ll see more and more of these synergies.

4. We’ll Be Seeing More Video Posts. A Lot More

Social Media Today notes the increasing embrace of video is among the most noticeable social media trends. And small wonder. Phones with video cameras, cheaper data plans, and increased wifi access make it easy and cheap to create and share videos. Plus, as Buffer, a maker of social media tools, reports, people simply love watching videos. Here are some vital stats for the near future, as of February 2017:

  • 80 percent of internet traffic will come from watching videos.
  • Each day, we watch 8 billion videos on Facebook and 10 billion on Snapchat.
  • On any given day, we watch more than 110 years worth of live videos on Periscope and 500 million hours worth of videos on YouTube.
  • Video’s more engaging. We tend to skim while reading, but 55 percent of us pay close attention to the videos we watch. That’s higher than for any other kind of content.
  • Half of YouTube users ages 18-34 day they’ll “drop what they’re doing” to watch a new video from their favorite YouTuber.
  • On Facebook, a video a video gets a whopping 135 percent more “organic reach” (without paid promotion) than for an image.

The chart below from HubSpot shows how video is one of the most noticeable social media trends. It’s changing how we view and interact with information before our very eyes.

5. Live Streaming Video Broadcasts

Another one of the major social media trends is live streaming videos as they’re happening. Whether it’s a concert, meeting, speech, or something newsworthy, seeing unfiltered footage of events unfolding in real time adds a breathless authenticity you’ll never see in a sleekly produced broadcast. Facebook, Twitter (with Periscope), Instagram, YouTube, and Vimeo all support live streaming.

6. Ephemeral content: Now you see it, now you don’t.

Speaking of Snapchat, we’re also going to start seeing a lot more “ephemeral content.” In other words, images and videos that stay up for a few hours and then disappear. At first, people mainly used Snapchat for sexting, as the photo would appear for 10 seconds and then be gone. The app even tells you if someone takes a screenshot (though there are now a lot of cheats and workarounds).

Snapchat and ephemeral content have swiftly become one of the hottest social media trends. After all, when people aren’t worried about photos and videos coming back to haunt them, they post more intriguing stuff. Their widespread appeal is partly based on authenticity, but also on fear of missing out (FOMO).

For example, this mom uploaded her hilarious Snapchat rant — complete with face and voice filters — about getting stuck behind a slow, fussy customer at Kohl’s to YouTube, and it went viral.

7. Augmented Reality: The Latest in Social Media Trends

The social media trends mentioned above have been swiftly gaining in popularity for the past couple of years. Augmented reality (AR), on the other hand, seemed like something farther off in the future. Then Pokémon GO exploded on the scene.

Go on an adventure, be creative, and have fun! We’re excited to see what you come up with for the #PokemonGOcontest. https://pokemongolive.com/en/post/arphotocontest

Posted by Pokémon GO on Thursday, October 12, 2017

AR gives you a real-time view of your physical, real-life environment, but uses a device — like special glasses or your smartphone to enhance your surroundings or provide layers of context and information. The technology’s been around for a while but needed a big push. Google introduced AR glasses a few years ago, only to have those who bought the crazy-expensive, goofy-looking glasses get widely scorned and called “glassholes.”

Now Google AR glasses still look silly, but they now have an essential job. Doctors, factory supervisors, and others wear them so they can access the information they need to do their jobs without having to look away from the people they’re serving or the task at hand.

As the photo below shows, AR has already advanced by leaps and bounds and still has many uses in practical settings. But most of us had no idea how far it had come along until Pokémon Go hit the scene.

Even Video Games Are Getting Social

Pokémon’s one of the oldest and most loved video games. But this time, Nintendo and Niantic labs added a new twist to address a common complaint … Gamers need to socialize and go outside more. People eagerly installed the game on their smartphones and started walking around their neighborhoods. That’s the only way to catch Pokémon. And if you happen to meet up with other gamers, that’s icing on the cake.

A writer for GQ even declared, “Pokémon Go is the dating app we deserve.” And now there’s actually a Pokémon Go dating service called PokéDates.

Pokémon Go’s also made inroads on Facebook and other social media. The surge of groups, flash mobs, cosplay meetings, and events made the pages of AdWeek. Yelp! The online directory of local businesses and reviews even added a “PokéStop nearby” search filter.

No wonder Niantic Labs bought Evertoon, a social media startup, in November. Now that Pokémon Go’s a social media phenomenon in its own right, it needs a social media platform. Or, at least, can be better integrated with existing ones. Digital Trends reports Evertoon’s recent mobile app lets people create 3D avatars based on photos of themselves that can move and perform a repertoire of actions. So far the app allows us to put our avatars in movies and music videos. But they’ll likely be integrated with Pokémon Go sometime soon.

Generation Z’s Are Now Driving the Social Media Trends … But Who Are They?

Move over, Millennials. Generation Z is coming of age and advertisers hope they’ll buy more stuff than millennials, who refuse to buy homes and cars due to a soft job market and their massive student loans. Born after 1995, they’re the first “digital natives” who’ve grown up with all the technology we’re using today. Although the exact year young people stop being Millennials is unclear, the oldest in this group are in their late teens and early 20’s. These are the later children of GenXers and the early Millennials’ offspring, and they are tech savvy in a way only “natives” can be.

Here’s an infographic with some interesting facts about Gen Z and their social media and other online habits.

Gen Z Also Has Money to Spend

Generation Z has a massive $44 billion in purchasing power through their parents and their work, Hoot Suite notes. Yet they hate ads, especially formats like auto-playing videos and popups, which they see as invasive.

8 facts about Generation Z.

  1. They’re online savvy to the point of using aliases so their online personalities don’t get them grounded or rejected by the college of their choice.
  2. …That’s if they’re going to college. A recent study by the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs states Generation Z kids are growing up in a time of economic uncertainty and are conservative when it comes to financial decisions.
  3. 46 percent of them are are reluctant to take on student debt, and they’re also more worried about the cost of higher education than Millennials were.
  4. But temperamentally conservative isn’t the same as politically conservative. As WeeklyBuzz observes, our system has not treated the Millennials or Generation Z kids (many of whose parents lost their jobs and homes after the crash of 2008) kindly, so they’re more likely to see traditional capitalism as working against them.
  5. Generation Z is more ethnically diverse than older generations.Thanks to the rise in mixed marriages, we’ve seen a 50 percent increase in multi-racial kids. By 2020, 50.2 percent of children under 18 will be non-white.
  6. Generation Z is entrepreneurial. Many teens do things like selling items on eBay or teaching piano lessons instead of “traditional” teen jobs. Many are also social media “influencers” with large followings are avidly courted by companies wanting placement for their brands.
  7. Online, Gen-Zers are social media-savvy and concerned about protecting their reputation. Over 57 percent say they’ve refrained from posting things because it might “reflect badly on them in the future.”
  8. 80 percent of what Generation Z-ers see influenced by social media, especially their favorite YouTube and Instagram stars.

Featured image: CC BY-SA 2.0 verkeorg via Flickr.

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