A woman small business owner checks her computer while preparing boxes for shipment.
From online marketplaces to leveraging influencers, social media has morphed from a place for people to connect into an effective business tool. — Getty Images/dragana991

Social media trends are constantly changing, which means your business must evolve to continue engaging with — and selling to — customers on Facebook, Instagram, and other popular channels. Algorithm changes, social trends, and new platform features should inform the way you update your content and posting strategies. Make sure your brand continues to stay relevant to your target audience by keeping tabs on these six social media trends.

Social selling gets more advanced

Social media sites continue to add, and perfect, tools that allow businesses to sell their products and services directly to customers. Since the introduction of Facebook Marketplace, which began as a digital garage sale, social selling has moved beyond listing jogging strollers and secondhand golf clubs to offering big-ticket items like cars and real estate.

[Read our story on Facebook Marketplace.]

Today’s social selling tools have become even more advanced. Facebook has introduced ways to sell products through Facebook Pages, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Merchants that have a Facebook page for their business can create a Facebook Shop section that displays products, prices, available sizes, and a checkout process. Pinterest enables products to be shoppable via Pins, ads, and videos. TikTok has also launched new shoppable capabilities for businesses that have Shopify accounts.

Social selling is a trend that will continue to grow as social media platforms offer more advanced ways to target and sell directly to your followers. This trend is one to keep an eye on for years to come.

Predicting customer behavior with analytics

Social media is powered by data, and many brands are starting to use this data to predict customer behavior. For instance, Pinterest has introduced Pinterest Predicts, an analytics and trend-predicting capability that claims 80% of its report predictions come true. Armed with information from this proprietary algorithm, advertisers can anticipate emerging trends and curate their marketing (and product/service mix) accordingly.

In the teen fashion world — where trends have the lifecycle of a teenage crush — inventory can go stale as fast as fresh peaches. Just ask rue21 CEO Michael Appel. The company, which has over 700 stores around the country and emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2017, is adopting new predictive analytics technology to help it avoid potentially fatal buying errors.

The technology gathers feedback on social media via brief surveys — served up as games on platforms like Instagram — that evaluate merchandise and possible price points. The gathered information is scrutinized and combined with historical sales numbers and industry data to assist rue21’s buyers in making better-informed decisions.

Many social media platforms are offering native analytics tools directly in their business account dashboards. Pinterest also runs Pinterest Academy, an e-learning platform designed to help merchants and content creators maximize their use of the social media site’s many offerings. Pinterest has turned its data on user behavior into 30 “snackable” lessons. With this information, platform advertisers can learn how to serve the right ad to the right audience at the right moment.

[Read our story on Pinterest.]

Social media is powered by data, and many brands are starting to use this data to predict customer behavior.

Micro-influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is getting bigger, even though the influencers themselves are getting “smaller.” Micro-influencers are becoming the No. 1 choice for brands hoping to build a connection with their customers.

Artisan jewelry brand Pura Vida Bracelets found success using this very strategy. The initial buzz about the brand’s signature string-and-bead bracelets was charged by a celebrity influencer and some high-profile customers. Its growth, however, has been courtesy of the grassroots efforts of micro-influencers (social media influencers with under 10,000 followers). According to company Co-Founder Griffin Thall, Pura Vida has employed over 125,000 of them as part of a structured incentive program.

Pura Vida is not alone. With authenticity as a goal, many companies are turning away from mega-influencers, whose celebrity status and accompanying huge fees can water down the effect of their endorsements. In contrast, Pura Vida’s brand ambassadors are engaged, creative, genuine, and — most important to the Pura Vida aesthetic — talented in taking amazing Instagram photos. It’s those qualities, and not celebrity, that make them influential.

[Read our story on Pura Vida Bracelets.]

User-generated content remains king

User-generated content (UGC) has become the Holy Grail of marketing. Multiple data points show that this content can boost your engagement with social media users. For example:

Fortunately, UGC is attainable and can be easily integrated into your marketing strategy. If you haven’t already started using UGC, start by asking for reviews from customers. Ask people who have purchased multiple items from you or have kept a subscription for several months. If you have a loyalty program, reach out to those members to invite them to leave a comment on your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter account. To seal the deal, offer to give them a one-time coupon code in exchange for an honest review.

Employee advocacy matters

The “great resignation,” quiet quitting, and remote work all indicate a shift in the way people think about their jobs. It’s an adage in the marketing world that the customer experience is only as good as the employee experience. Understanding how your team represents your company on social media can go a long way toward building brand trust and extending customer loyalty.

This is why many brands are starting to invest in formal employee advocacy programs. An employee advocacy program encourages employees to share content from and about your company on their personal social media channels. Some brands curate news articles, videos, and thought leadership for their team to share; others give employees free rein to talk about their day-to-day experience in the office.

“Companies that have already implemented advocacy programs are seeing an increase in brand awareness and qualified job applicants, on top of gaining more control over brand messaging and thought leadership,” wrote Sprout Social.

Employee advocacy on social media captures many of the same benefits as UGCuser-generated content, with the added plus of helping your recruitment efforts.

It’s all about community

Social media isn’t only about sharing content. It’s also about building a community of loyal followers who believe in your brand. According to a study from HubSpot, “90% of social media marketers say building an active online community is crucial to a successful social media strategy in 2023.”

For inspiration, look to brands that have already grown active, engaged social media communities on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. National Geographic is one example. The publication uses Instagram to share photos from followers, ask questions and get feedback, and channel visitors to other branded content.

An engaged brand community is more likely to promote your brand without an incentive, share your content, and celebrate brand successes together. Choose one platform, and start fostering a sense of community on that one channel before applying your strategy to other social media sites.

This article was updated by Emily Heaslip.

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