One of the biggest challenges businesses are set to face in 2018 is keeping up with ever-evolving updates and changes within social media. The social media platforms are constantly updating their algorithms; the rules behind how your content is spread within the networks. This has a direct effect on your follower growth and engagement rate, and a lack of understanding can effectively silence your business online.

With over 50 million businesses using Facebook and over 25 million on Instagram, it’s a competitive landscape — but I feel that there are still some excellent strategies that can be adopted to enable your business to be found, remembered and trusted online. Here are my 2018 predictions:

1// A rise in niche communities: We’ve already seen a shift in businesses finding more niche communities to engage in, rather than trying to reach mass audiences this year. This has mainly been driven by the algorithms, but also a better understanding of hashtags and a rise in private Facebook Groups. I think we will see more of this behaviour from businesses looking to drive influence within targeted groups, rather than focusing on getting thousands of followers.

Instagram is already driving this behaviour with their new follow a hashtag functionality. This is an important change on the platform, as it allows you to increase your interest in certain communities and topics (#stationeryaddict, #farmhousestyle, #doorsofinstagram, #myeverydaymagic — just some of my favourites as the moment!) and encourages you to spend more time on Instagram. You should be thinking about which community-based hashtags your business can gain notoriety in, or even own.

2// Advanced advertising tactics: Without spending budget on advertising, social media can be hugely difficult to grow. We’ve seen the biggest fall in organic reach in 2017, meaning its harder than ever to ensure your posts are being seen in the newsfeed — particularly on Facebook. So many new features have been launched this year when it comes to advanced advertising, particularly around custom audiences. For example, you can target users with adverts who have recently engaged with your Instagram account. 2018 will see more brands advertising than ever before, and in more creative ways. If you haven’t installed your Facebook Pixel on your website yet, make this #1 on your 2018 To Do List.

3// Micro-influences continue to rise: Consumer trust in brands is set to hit an all-time low in 2018. Hootsuite predicts that “2018 will reward businesses that put their people — employees, advocates, customer communities, and influencers — at the centre of their marketing strategy.”

2017 saw the rise in the micro-influencer — an “everyday” social media user with influence over a credible following. On Instagram, these tend to be users with a following of 3K followers and above. Businesses will become far more strategic about partnerships with these micro-influencers and how they can get the most out of these relationships, rather than just simply paying them to do a promotional post.

                                                           Image courtesy of Hootsuite

If you’re interested to know more about influencer marketing, come to our free Avocado Social and General Assembly talk on 7th February. Tickets are available here.

4// Creative story-telling: This year saw huge developments with Instagram Stories, with many more creative features being added. Facebook Live is set to see some new updates, including split screens and customisation that will make it easier to brand your broadcasts. How will platforms such as Twitter and YouTube respond? 2018 will see brands getting hugely creative with their posts and videos, and countless apps will ensure our posts are “thumb-stopping” in that newsfeed. Take a look at these 13 hacks to help make your Instagram Stories stand out.

     
Facebook’s top recommended creative apps for 2018…         

5. Chatbots for customer service: Facebook’s Instant Reply functionality is a very useful tactic for businesses looking to offer a customer an instant response in Messenger. 2018 will see AI within social media go a lot further. Already this year, ASOS, Lego and M&S have launched Christmas specific chatbots to surprise and delight their Messenger customers, and we’ll see brands get even more creative as they come up with fun and useful ideas for chatbots. Will Facebook launch their own chatbot creator, in the style of popular DIY bot site Chatfuel? Probably. Learn more about chatbots at our talk in February.

Phewph! So we’re set for another great year of social media marketing and I’m sure we’ll see some new features and platforms emerge as the months go on. Personally, I’m looking forward to Instagram analytics getting a whole lot better, which Instagram co-founder Mikey K revealed would be happening at a talk I attended earlier in the year.

As always things are changing at rapid speed, and my advice is to ensure you are on top of the latest strategies. I run an active Facebook Group here, which is dedicated to sharing the best social media news and tips and is completely free to join.

I also run regular social media training workshops, both publicly and in-house at companies, which you can find more about here on our events page.

Here’s to another great year, and happy holidays!