Social media is the most influential communication tool of the modern era; it has fundamentally changed how we interact with the world and each other.
Like any global innovation, social media is constantly evolving.
Here are eight big and emerging social media trends racing quickly down the tracks that every communication leader should know about.
1, More CEOs will use Social Media
There was a time when it was considered too risking for chief executives and presidents of major corporations to engage directly on social media on behalf of their organizations.
The fear has traditionally been that these top corporate leaders could become unintended targets for a range of issues online.
While this concern still exists in many organizations, things are changing at the smartest corporations.
As a new generation of younger, more digitally savvy CEOs takes over, the positioning of the CEO as a social media ambassador is seen as too valuable a communication opportunity to ignore.
When CEOs join the big, mainstream social media networks as an authentic voice they can attract a lot of followers from inside and outside their companies because they are seen as authorities and big influencers.
Many of the new-generation CEOs are already there, ahead of the pack.
The upshot is more CEOs are expected to join social networks as a credible voice for their organizations over the next three years.
The three popular social networks for these CEO ambassadors will likely be Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
However, the best CEO engagement on social media will be governed by sage and strategic advice and guidance from their top communication advisors.
2, Employee Advocacy Becoming a Competitive Edge
Smart companies are realizing that in a crowded communication environment their best ambassadors are their employees.
In an age where trust is a rare commodity, particularly in the business world, rank and file employees are considered some of the most trusted spokespeople.
In this environment, employee advocacy is emerging as a powerful strategy where employees promote or communicate on behalf of their companies on their social networks.
It involves equipping employees at all levels with the messages, tools and empowerment to be authentic ambassadors for their companies, all within a strategic and approved framework. However, the key is it cannot be a free for all.
This can be a particularly effective enhancement to communication in large organizations with thousands of employees who become brand ambassadors for their companies.
It’s estimated that a growing number of businesses will invest in employee advocacy over the next few years to boost their brand awareness and reputations.
Employee ambassadors give external publics the comfort level they are interacting with real, authentic people rather than a canned corporate voice.
3, Retaliation Against Fake News will Spread
It’s estimated that an astonishing 90 percent of social media users use social media to access news.
Over the past year there has been an explosion in so called “fake news” as a growing number of websites use shocking and false information and headlines to drive traffic.
These sites often aggressively use social media to promote their false or misleading information.
This is an enormously dangerous phenomenon as people often believe what they read online.
Facebook is already said to be taking steps to crackdown on the posting of fake information.
Other social media sites are expected to follow suit by becoming more sensitive to the type of information posted on their platforms in an effort to put a lid on fake stories.
4, Private Social Messaging will Grow Rapidly
Private messaging over social media sites is a huge trend which will grow dramatically over the next year.
Facebook Messenger, for instance, already has more than a billion monthly users.
This growth in private messaging as an alternative to simply posting public messages on social media sites is seen as a positive trend since private messaging allows deeper, two-way conversations online.
The growth in private messaging is also seen as a healthy reaction to the spam and one-way sales messages that permeate public social media sites.
5, Augmented Reality is the New Cool Thing
Augmented reality is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a users view of the real world. In a nutshell, it enhances what we see before us.
During the summer of 2016 the location-based mobile game, Pokemon Go, was launched across the world beginning in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
The game lets users interact with virtual characters in real-world locations, and it quickly became a global phenomenon with more than 500 million downloads.
As a result, augmented reality is becoming part of our mainstream vocabulary. For instance, Facebook is already said to be experimenting with augmented reality.
Augmented reality will increasingly be viewed as a fresh way for brands to engage with their audiences on social media by sharing experiences rather than just information.
6, Live Video Taking Off, Big Time
Live, unfiltered video is changing social media.
A growing number of big social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have launched their own live video streaming platforms.
These services are proving popular in an age where social media users crave real time, authentic and breaking content.
Live video streaming became popular when Twitter launched Periscope in 2015, followed by the more recent launch of Facebook Live.
Facebook Live is becoming so popular that some news outlets are already referencing it as a source for breaking stories.
7, Instagram will Grow Exponentially
In an age where a picture paints a thousand words it’s not surprising that Instagram is popular.
But the growth of this social media platform is nothing short of astounding when you look at the data.
Instagram is less than seven years old yet already has more than 700 million users; its participants have posted more than 40 billion photos since the site was launched.
In a world that is moving at a hyper-drive speed, images will continue to drive social media engagement.
Instagram will continue to overtake other social media sites in popularity, particularly with users under 35 years of age.
8, Businesses Not Investing in Social Media Training
Research suggests close to 90 percent of businesses do not have employees with the sophisticated and strategic social media skills to use social media as an effective business tool.
It seems much of the issue is that businesses aren’t investing in advanced social media training for their employees.
While social media is being taught in some of the leading public relations programs at major colleges and universities, this skill set has not yet penetrated the business community in a significant way.
Engaging publics strategically on social media in a fundamentally two-way manner in order to grow online communities and build powerful, sustaining relationships is not happening in a big way in the business world.
This is probably the biggest opportunity in the corporate world and social media ecosystem where top public relations professionals – not marketers – need to take the helm.
Most businesses are missing the point by using social media as a one-way selling tool rather than a two-way communication mechanism to tell their stories, build their brands and develop sustainable connections with their customers and strategic publics.
The Bottom Line
Social media engagement is no longer optional for connected organizations and individuals – it is a necessity.
What will separate the winners from the also rans will be how effectively they stay on top of – and ahead of – the latest social media trends and forces of change.
Sources: Online research including BuildFire and Forbes
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