There is always an inevitable flurry of articles about social media trends in January but, if you only read one, make it this. I want to talk to you about opportunities – opportunities to reach more of your ideal clients, to improve your investment from social media and to grow your business in a big way.

1. You can’t afford to ignore Stories

Brought to life by Snapchat and taken to stratospheric heights by Instagram, Story features on social media are nothing new but in 2019 they are going to be unstoppable.

Standing in contrast to an ever-crowded newsfeed across platforms, Stories offer the opportunity to reach more people and connect with them in a more personable, engaging and impactful way. Stories are already huge on Instagram, but usage is now growing on Facebook and WhatsApp and YouTube has recently introduced their own Stories feature. Perhaps we’ll even see LinkedIn Stories arrive this year?

If you have yet to embrace Stories then now is the time to board the Stories train and start using this powerful social media tool to your advantage.

2. The rise & rise of Instagram

Stories are not the only place where Instagram has been leading the way. The platform continues to introduce innovative new features that are loved by their users and I expect we’ll see a whole not more from Instagram in the year ahead.

If you’re still under the impression that Instagram is a platform for trendy young things and beauty, fashion, travel, wellness brands then you would be mistaken. Instagram is now a platform of incredible diversity. If you haven’t explored the potential of Instagram for your business then now is the time to give it a second look.

3. Getting creative with vertical video

With the majority of people now accessing social media on mobile devices, the upward trajectory of Stories and the rollout of IGTV, a vertical video was one of the buzzwords of 2018.

However, creating effective vertical videos has proven challenging and we’re yet to see vertical videos being used by the masses to their full potential. 2019 could be the year that all changes.

I expect we are going to see an increasing number of apps released in 2019 which will make creating vertical video more feasible for businesses. Now is the time to start thinking creatively about how you could use vertical videos to connect with your audience in new and interesting ways.

4. The war on ‘inauthentic activity’ continues

Over recent years, many of the most popular social media platforms have become plagued with, what Facebook has termed, ‘inauthentic activity’; including everything from bots that automate engagement to fake accounts and spammy behaviour.

It is no exaggeration to say that these kinds of practices threaten the future of social media. After all, if users and brands alike feel that social media is a place filled with bots and fakery, and no longer a place to connect with real people, then usage is inevitably going to decline.

Thus, in 2018 we saw Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, amongst others, crack down on inauthentic activity more forcibly and publically than ever before. As well as targeting automated bots, fake accounts and spam, steps were also taken to restricted scheduling tools which facilitate automated re-posts.

This is great news, but it also reminds us of the importance of staying on the right side of the ‘law’ as it were. Contrary to popular belief, social media is not a free for all and we, as people and businesses, have no inherent right to use social media. It is a service provided by the companies behind the platforms that we choose to use. Upon joining a platform, you agree to abide by its terms and conditions. In the past, people have been rather blasé about terms and conditions and ignorance, for many, was bliss.

As a business, in particular, you cannot afford to be ignorant of the terms and conditions by which you are bound. If you are going to invest in social media platforms, then it is your responsibility to protect that investment. If your account is suspended because you broke a platform’s rules, unwittingly or not, then claiming ignorance won’t go any way towards restoring what you’ve lost.

It’s not worth the risk.

A quick Google search will help you find the terms and conditions for your chosen platforms, and most of them are more accessible and easily understandable than you may expect.

Always keep this in mind should you be approached by any service or tool that promises social media results. There are many unscrupulous companies out there that claim they are above board but, when you scratch beneath the surface, it becomes clear that they could put your accounts at risk. Do your research and, if you’re at all unsure then err on the side of caution.

5. Influencer marketing for smaller budgets

Influencer marketing was another big trend on social media in 2018 but inauthentic activity hit influencers hard. Many of the big brands, who were investing thousands into endorsements from online influencers, have taken a step back and are proceeding with caution. Meanwhile, for many businesses with smaller marketing budgets influencer marketing has felt like a non-starter; unaffordable and difficult to navigate.

It’s time to shift our understanding of what ‘influencer marketing’ means and what it can actually do for our businesses.

Influencer marketing is really about collaboration. And you might have been doing it without even realising. Social media has always been a powerful form of word of mouth marketing and influencer marketing simply takes this one step further. It’s about finding people who are trusted and respected by your crowd and collaborating with them to raise awareness of your products or services and, ultimately, increase sales. The trust and respect of the person you choose to collaborate with is the important factor, over and above the size of their audience.

What’s more, the exchange you make doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary. For example, you might agree to promote one another’s offerings to your respective audiences.

So, if you haven’t yet thought about collaborating with “influencers” who are known, trusted and respected by your crowd then I urge you to become more open to those kinds of opportunities this year.

There you have it, 5 social media trends that really need to be on your radar in the coming months! Above all else, the takeaway here is to be open to opportunity. Look for doors to open and be willing to step on through, your business will thank you for it.

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