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Biggest social media trends of 2018: Rise of Instagram Stories

Brands are taking advantage of Instagram Stories to reach users while chatbots have not been as successful in customer outreach

2018 was a huge year for social media, with many changes to navigate, including privacy scandals, a new algorithm at Facebook, the impact of influencer marketing, and the rise of Instagram.

Social media marketers found themselves having to aim for targets that were not only moving but morphing into new entities altogether.

RISE OF INSTAGRAM STORIES

Perhaps the biggest story of 2018 is the rise of Stories. This year, Instagram dethroned Snapchat as the most-used social media platform among teens.

The volume of brands posting Instagram Stories also increased by 400 per cent this year. Instagram began with a feed similar to Facebook but the introduction of Stories changed all that, increasing engagement with users and attracting the attention of brand advertisers.

Although Instagram posts still garner more impressions than Instagram Stories, the trend is clear. Stories are the new stars of social media.

Even with all the new attention, brands are still moving slowly to catch up with this trend. We still see many brands investing most heavily in traditional Facebook ads.

Instagram may have a smaller audience than Facebook, but users are much more engaged. As audiences are already on Instagram, Stories offer superior traction for advertisers.

INFLUENCER MARKETING

Influencer marketing is a big enabler of revenue, and big brands are getting on board.

The estimated influencer marketing ad spending will reach US$10 billion (S$13.8b) by 2020. The reason is that consumers prefer to see authentic content from people they trust.

 However, in this golden age of influencer marketing, there is also a good deal of fraud.

Social media marketers have learned that they need to do their due diligence before investing in an influencer.

 It is critical that brands gain the capability to sniff out influencer marketing fraud such as fake fans, fake engagement and fake interests.

For instance, brands could examine an influencer's performance over a longer time period and their engagement level per 1,000 fans. Without these data insights, brands may waste time and money on an influencer with no real reach or engagement.

CHATBOTS? NOT REALLY

Chatbots were supposed to be the next big thing for customer relations and brand outreach, being deployed on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to communicate one-on-one with consumers and prospects, solving problems and marketing goods and services.

But this year, the brands that experimented with chatbots began to realise they weren't going to be the big success it was thought they would be.

 The truth is that chatbots can have difficulty understanding exactly what a person is asking of them. There isn't much room for nuance or ambiguity - using a computer to conduct a conversation can still be a barrier to an engaging experience.

However, in process-oriented industries, chatbots are generating a significant return on investment. If you need to book an airline flight or reserve a hotel room, a chatbot is a handy way to walk you through that process. Overall, in terms of raising brand awareness and reaching a broader audience of consumers, chatbots were still not ready for prime time this year.

DATA IS STILL KING

These are just a few of the many emerging trends that had a transformative impact on how brands use social channels to reach their target audiences. Of course, there is one aspect of social media that didn't change this year.

Reliable data will still be a business imperative to help you know precisely where to invest your advertising budget in order to maximise reach, engagement and business impact.

The writer is the CEO of Socialbakers, a social media analytics company

Technology