What’s trending in social media for 2018?

Staying ahead of innovation in digital and social media provides a competitive advantage for Ketchum and its clients. We’re constantly on the lookout for new ways to engage with publics.

I’ve tapped our digital hive mind to discover the issues that our strategists around the world are thinking about in 2018.

If you’d like to talk about working with your organization to tackle any of the issues raised, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly or comment below.

1. All of life is shifting to the internet:
4.3 billion people of the world’s 7.6 billion population are connected to the internet. Before 2030 everyone on the planet will be connected.

Facebook’s two billion monthly users generate a huge amount of data. The platform has become a powerful planning tool.

But it’s not alone. Every post, click, like and comment, that we leave on a social media platform leaves an audit trail.

Public relations and marketing practitioners use this data to discover and identify audiences and publics, and understand their motivation.

The oldest of Gen Z are now 19, so brands should start paying attention to courting these young adults now. Digital is a lifestyle for them, with an emphasis on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and apps that help them with everything. Don’t forget about online gaming.

2. Avoid talking to yourself:
With increased users and declining organic reach, brands are trying to get content into newsfeeds, through organic and paid posts.

The teams managing the content can be different and disconnected within an organization. Multiple streams of content from the same organization often compete for attention.

As a result, consumers are suffering from content fatigue. They choose to hide the ad or hide all ads from the company. Posts with negative feedback tell Facebook they’re low quality and irrelevant. Inevitably, they are penalized.

Teams need to share insights, best practices, timing and work together towards common business goals, not silo’d goals. This is how brands are going to be able to win on social.

3. Relationship building on LinkedIn:
Executives serious about leading a modern organization will invest in their social media footprint in 2018.

LinkedIn has evolved from a resume showroom to a full-blown business-building and personal-branding hub. Thanks to its algorithm driven newsfeed and a series of updates, including the introduction of native video and instant messaging, the social network has positioned itself as a network-building haven.

Combined with its powerful Sales Navigator tool and you have a cost-effective lead generation machine with abundant opportunities to form meaningful relationships with prospects.

To stay competitive in 2018, business-to-business sellers must leverage social, and LinkedIn is the best place to go.

4. Influencers: relationships vs. reach:
Each new form of media from Snapchat to YouTube, and Instagram to Twitter, has given rise to a new breed of influencers.

Media relations has shifted from pitching traditional media to working with these individuals across all forms of media.

Whether they are opinion leaders, experts, ambassadors, creators, celebrities, activists or healthcare professionals, the goal remains the same. Influencers provide a means of building trust with specific communities through third-party storytelling.

It’s put the public relations business on a collision course with marketing. The last five years have seen the emergence of paid influencers and creators.

Public relations seeks to negotiate with influencers and build long term relationships, whereas marketing wants to buy access to audiences at scale in the same way you’d buy media space.

5. Robot relations:
Facebook launched a chatbot platform for its Messenger application last year. 100,000 bots have been created on Messenger within the past 12 months.

With more than 1.3 billion people using Messenger, predictably, the market has gotten hot.

Bots have been developed to help with customer service, support and sales. Ultimately, convincing people to interact with a robot will be a significant behavior challenge but it’s no more significant than previous shifts in technology.

There’s also a significant ethical challenge. If a bot creates content that breaches copyright or defames an individual or organization, who is liable?

We’re at the early stage of the adoption curve of a technology that could prove incredibly exciting for public relations.

6. Social media hunter gather:
As much as we like to preach the importance of borderless organizations at Ketchum, many clients still work in silos or prefer to stay in their own lanes.

Social forms of media make organizations porous and we can help seek out those stories. Encouraging dialogue between the communication or public relations team and their various business leaders can result in the most authentic stories.

All it takes is a monthly email, phone call or post on your enterprise social media platform with business unit leaders to hunt for stories in areas such as R&D, CSR, customer success, and beyond to gather possible media angles.

Integration of digital and offline will grow in 2018. Especially when it comes to events. Brands are releasing content and engaging ahead of events, broadcasting live video during, and then following up after in a digital capacity, extending the engagement.

7. Proactive paid media response:
In 2017, digital media ad products faced audience behavior changes and maturity. So, what paid media tactics will now thrive in 2018? Here’s three that we are watching.

Swipe up for website traffic: This ad mechanic is exceptional for driving Snapchat and growing Instagram Story vertically snackable six-second video ads to on-site, sans the potential for negative comments by an audience. YouTube is even hopping on the vertical video train, so expect they will implement the swipe-up to click function too.

Evolve Audio: As Google Home and Amazon Echo compete for market share and seek growth, make your ad dollars count via ear. Also consider podcast amplification for branded podcasts and new-wave audio ad integration.

Amplify Influencers: As influencer owned content continues to perform better than influencer content shared from brand handles, amplify branded content direct from influencer handles vs. sharing to brand handles and boosting.

8. Social media backlash:
Engaging on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram doesn’t always leave us feeling “awesome.” We recognized that our friends and followers were really only putting their best lives forward for the world to see, like, comment on and share.

Now, one guilt-ridden social media executive after another is bum rushing the public to clear their conscious, admitting full stop how these social networks were built to exploit our greatest vulnerabilities and insecurities.

In combination with the toll of the political sphere, expect 2018 to be a moment of personal and psychological awakening – one that will profoundly impact the roles we allow these platforms to play in our lives.

9. Blockchain comes of age:
2018 will be the year that blockchain goes from cryptocurrency technology to a disruptive way that we transact and conduct business.

In industries where a company is a trusted to keep a ledger of records on behalf of individuals, take a bank for instance, blockchain is a technology where many people collectively have access to the same ledger and it’s updated immediately. No one person manages the ledger and nobody can tamper with it either.

In addition to banking, some industries ripe for future disruption include: education; food; insurance; real estate and insurance.

What about communications though? I predict influencer marketing is ripe for a disruption by enabling smart contracts between brands and influencers through blockchain technology.

10. Algorithmic learning:
We’re starting to feel the impact of machines in at least three areas: content production, content distribution and publication, and workflow.

In public relations algorithms are commonplace for searching and organizing how information is displayed.

We increasingly use tools to make sense of conversations and content shared in networks. Algorithms crunch through huge amounts of data to identify influencers, networks and trending topics.

My thanks to Jarrad Blyth, Alex Bochner, Christi Burnum, Marc Phillips, Gur Tsabar, Amit Wadehra, and Rachel Winer.

About Stephen Waddington

Stephen is a Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University. Chairman of Future Proof policy unit and Past President, CIPR. Author of Brand Anarchy and #BrandVandals; and editor and contributor to Share This and Share This Too. Connect with him on Twitter: @wadds