This time last year, the world of marketing was getting ready to embrace the latest and greatest industry trends such as influencer marketing, automated chatbots, and an even bigger emphasis on video. Looking back, it’s fair to say that for the most part, they have all been equally significant.

But what about 2018? Once again, some of social media’s most noteworthy commentators have been issuing predictions on what to expect from both brands and users over the next 12 months.

In light of this, here’s 5 social media trend predictions for 2018 with comment from those who know best.

  1. The standardisation of social media

It’s amazing how many brands still think of social media as a new-fangled, somewhat gimmicky technique, even though the likes of Facebook and Twitter have been in the public domain for over 10 years now. As a result, brands should use past experiences, present examples, and the wealth of data currently available to implement standardised social media strategies.

“Take the time to audit your current efforts, research what has been working for others, evaluate your competition, and start really considering how your target audience is going to engage with you on social media,” recommends Brent Csutoras, Managing Partner, Search Engine Journal.

The same goes for social media advertising. While some still seek widespread exposure through organic means, the very best results and returns can often be achieved via paid-for promotion. This might have to be through necessity rather than choice too, given Mark Zuckerberg’s recent revelation that Facebook will prioritise posts from friends and family rather than publishers and brands.

On the bright side, social media targeting options are now extremely specific. Along with identifying interests and preferences, you can also see whether users have changed their relationship status or are attending a nearby event. Some may feel this is rather invasive, but if it leads to more authentic and personalised interactions, users are more than likely be in favour.

  1. The increasing importance of video ads

As mentioned previously, video dominated social media in 2017. But as for this year, 43 per cent of people want to see even more video content from marketers. So, how can you make the most of this increasing audience desire? With video ads.

“Video ads are already starting to trend and will continue to trend as we hit the first quarter,” says Ashley Ward, Corporate Speaker and Evangelist, SEMrush. “As they should, since viewers retain 95 percent of a message in a video compared to only 10 percent when reading it in text.”

Ward goes on to add that huge exposure can be achieved when video ads are played in the middle of Instagram stories, before YouTube videos, and while scrolling through Facebook and Twitter feeds.

You don’t even need much experience or expertise when it comes to video production. As dozens of YouTube celebrities have shown, it can be as easy as sitting in front of your smartphone or computer and conveying stories your audience are interested in.

  1. The continued case for ephemeral content

Another trend that kept gaining momentum last year and could leave other social media techniques trailing in its wake this year is ephemeral content. In other words, short-form, bit-sized content that disappears almost as soon as it is published.

“I think we’ll see Instagram and Snapchat ramp up their arms race in 2018,” says Leah DeKrey, Social Media Strategist, CoSchedule. “As new functionality is released, we’ll likely see returns in the form of better engagement, and brands will want to be a part of that.”

One idea for ephemeral content is going behind the scenes at your company to showcase its human side. After all, much of the millennial generation want to build authentic relationships with brands before they convert.

But in spite of the rewards that ephemeral content can potentially afford, more traditional marketers remain tentative. Therefore, it might help to enlist the assistance of a member of staff who would relish the opportunity to be in front of the camera.

  1. Saying hello to an entirely new generation

Despite the fact millennials traditionally dominate social media conversations, they might not be your biggest concern anymore. The next band of content-hungry consumers coming your way is Gen Z, who represent an excellent marketing opportunity due to their progressive purchasing power.

But as Jes Scholz, CMO Emerging Markets, Ringier warns: “Of cause, for many of us, Snapchat springs to mind. But effectively targeting Gen Z is more involved than simply adding another social media channel to your mix.

“This generation, even more than their millennial predecessors, isn’t going to be engaged by the traditional public broadcasting approach to social media taken by platforms such as Twitter.”

Thankfully, ephemeral content can save the day. Not only does it add authenticity to your brand’s message, ephemeral content also keeps ‘FOMO’ users engaged.

  1. Gaining and growing strategic partnerships

Seeing as social media is an avenue for brands to show their personal and relatable side, the rise of influencer marketing comes as no surprise to many. But how can you take this outreach further? According to Mark Traphagen, Senior Director of Brand Evangelism, Stone Temple Consulting, the answer is to gain and grow strategic partnerships.

“In marketing our agency, friendships and partnerships with data suppliers, tool and software vendors, industry publications, and more have played a significant role in expanding our reach and providing us with data and insights we can turn into valuable, brand-building content,” he says.

Traphagen adds that many of these relationships started on social media, as it is much more personable and human than sending an out-of-the-blue email or picking up the phone for a cold call.

Building prudent partnerships with other brands doesn’t need to be overly complicated either. Start with a typical human response to a potential partner’s post, provide them with additional insight or resources, and contribute to their projects. Over time, you’ll be more likely to get seen, be heard, and receive exciting opportunities.