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If the past year in social media has taught us anything, it’s that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It seemed that copycat features applied across platforms became the new norm in the digital world. Pure innovation (no Twitter, increasing characters does not count) seemed missing from the social media space.

That’s why this year should be an exciting one for social media. It’s my hope that 2018 delivers some of the most unique and interactive digital user experiences, with companies betting on innovation and disruption in a way that was lacking in 2017.

Let’s take a look at some social media trends I’m predicting will make a long-lasting impact in 2018:

1. Widespread Adoption of Augmented Reality 

Pokémon Go brought augmented reality into the mainstream in 2017, and we can expect to see more wide adoption and advancements to this space in 2018. This should be the year social media platforms begin to capitalize on this burgeoning technology, incorporating it within existing social media to provide users with AR experiences that go beyond catching a Pikachu. Imagine trying on a piece of clothing being promoted through a social media ad virtually first, or seeing how a piece of furniture fits in your home. Snapchat has been doing serious experiments with augmented reality lenses (remember the dancing hot dog?) so it’s only a matter of time Facebook, Instagram, and who knows which else will jump on the AR train.

2. Creating Video for Audiences

We continue to read statistics that suggest video is one of the top online activities, and the number of hours users spend viewing and uploading videos is staggering. More people watched more livestreams in 2017 compared to the previous year too. With that in mind, I think we’ll continue to see more video content produced in 2018, however the type of video created—especially video from brands—will change to reflect consumer preferences. Brands should stop mistaking stats about video to mean they should produce more video—rather they will start to consider what type of video they should create that most resonates with audiences. That might mean, for example, less brand-produced videos, and more brand video partnerships with influencers.

3. When it comes to Influencer Marketing, think Micro-Influencers.

Speaking of influencers, last year paved the way for more widely-adopted influencer marketing. For 2018, influencer disclosure is likely to be a hot topic, as brands and influencers try to get a better handle on how best to disclose partnerships and sponsorships in a way that stays authentic and true to audiences. At the same time, we should see a rise in micro-influencers—these are social media users with not necessarily huge followings, but huge engagement for the niche following they have. Brands who are already partnering with micro-influencers report this group is much more effective than highly popular accounts.

4. Pay to Play means the End of Organic Reach

A brand’s organic reach, especially on Facebook, has continued to steadily decline over the past several years as platforms push the ‘pay-to-play’ model—want audiences to see your post? You’ve got to spend ad money to boost it. In 2018, we will see more promoted posts on Instagram (it is owned by Facebook remember – it will adopt the same revenue-generating model Facebook) We’ll also see (if it was even possible), even less organic reach, as Facebook looks at pulling all brand content (unless promoted), from the regular news feed. What does that mean for brands? You should start a pretty healthy budget for paid and organic social media plans in 2018 if you aren’t already doing this.

5. Rise of the Digital Assistant

Voice-powered digital assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant, made a heavy push into households during the latter half of 2017. The conversational interface—as we’ve seen through chat bots—is on the rise, and is an intriguing frontier for marketers. The ability to order anything you want by simply speaking to your device is a promising concept for both consumers and marketers. Big brands have even begun to experiment with creative tie-ins using voice-assisted technology.

6. Will Blockchain Technology Integrate with Social Media?

The world may be familiar with the word Bitcoin, but few people understand the underlying technology of the cryptocurrency craze. In a nutshell, this “Blockchain” technology is a decentralized database where information is processed, stored, and receives peer-to-peer reviews and approvals that ensures greater security, authenticity, and transparency. Imagine the applications block chain technology could have within social media platforms, including giving users more control over the privacy of their account information. Imagine using blockchain to create a social media system were users could be compensated for the creation of trending or popular content. Blockchain technology could also make online shopping safer. The applications are truly limitless. It will be very interesting to see how blockchain is applied (and better understood) over the course of 2018 and subsequent years.

7. QR Codes Make a Comeback

Remember those strange-looking barcodes with the ability to open links when scanned with a smartphone camera, that never really quite took off in the mid-late ‘00s? Well, QR codes are apparently back and 2018 could be its big comeback year. This past fall, Apple snuck an unexpected feature into iOS 11: a native QR code reader. Instead of downloading an app to open the codes, all you have to do is point your iPhone camera at a QR code and it’s automatically activated. This removes a huge barrier for iOS users. QR codes can be used in a variety of ways such as instant Wi-Fi logins or automatic purchases using PayPal. In terms of social media marketing, QR codes could even be used to send pre-populated tweets or share on Facebook. Even major platforms like Snapchat and Facebook are increasingly pushing their own proprietary QR-like code technology onto users. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing QR codes return in 2018.

8. Vine Returns From The Dead

In December, Vine founder Don Hofmann tweeted a mysterious logo for what appeared to be a sequel to Vine, the six-second looping video service owned by Twitter, which grew a loyal audience base but was ultimately shuttered in January 2017. It’s been reported that a beta version of this new Vine app will be released in early 2018. It is unclear what features of the original, much-beloved Vine will carry on into Vine 2, but it’s safe to say social media users are excited about the app’s return. Here’s hoping we’ll get all of our old Vines back to the original accounts too! Nowhere is this development more hotly anticipated than in the office of CB Strategist @ChrisHenderson. He LOVES Vine.

Whether or not my predictions come true, we can expect plenty of change in the digital world in 2018. What are your predictions for social media trends over the next year? Tweet us @calderbateman.

Intrigued with some of these social media trends? Need a social media strategy or some help executing your social media this year? Get in touch. Reach out to Digital Coordinator James Lo at jlo@calderbateman.com to get started.

About the author

James Lo
It was no surprise to us that James was Canada’s Karate Champion in 2003 and 2005. His discipline, focus and patience make for great attributes as he helps the CB team manage projects and navigate the social media space for our clients and their audiences.

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