We all know that Marketing strategies and best practices change more often than the British weather.

We all want to be at the top of our game - ahead of the crowd - but keeping up to date is, well, time consuming.

Take Hootsuite's latest webinar #SocialTrends2019. It was a great session, which took a deep dive into what's been going on in the social space recently, and what activities are set to take the digital world by storm in 2019.

It also ran for over 30 minutes. 30 Minutes is a long time in the business world. We get it. But you also don't want to miss out and fall behind.

Well friends, you don't have to, because we attended the webinar for you! Check out a summary of our findings below:

Size Matters: Utilise Micro-Influencers

If there's one thing that 2018 has taught us, it's that trust is becoming a key factor in the decision making of consumers across the globe.

The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May of this year, and the subsequent flurry of activity for businesses, brought data privacy and control into the spotlight.

Consumers are far savvier. They know they're being targeted, and are becoming increasingly immune to common advertising tactics, such as those used to suggest scarcity and time-sensitive deals.

So if consumers are beginning new user journeys with a heightened level of mistrust, what can you do?

Don't ask what you can do, ask what others can on your behalf.

Think about it, if you were approached by a complete stranger who, dressed head to toe in branded clothing for a new juice bar, offered you a free sample - would you take that drink?

Hopefully not. (Don't take drinks from strangers, folks).

Instead, if your colleague, friend or family member - or perhaps a someone in your industry you respect and admire - discussed this very same juice bar, how great the drinks are, the health benefits they've seen since, the tremendous customer service... would you be tempted to give this new brand a try?

I know I would.

Micro-influencers are all about conversations like this, seeping into communities on a small scale and working like a domino effect. You'll be surprised how fast word spreads.

Hootsuite discussed how big brands such as Adidas are moving away from big-scale influencers, instead opting for this more grass roots approach, engaging and deploying a greater number of 'micro-influencers' to better spread their message and foster a sense of community.

Big budget influencers might well become a thing of the past - which is great for smaller companies - and it comes down to trust (again).

Consumers are so aware that big celebrities will happily take that big pay cheque to share a tweet (that someone else probably wrote) singing the praises of some brand or other. But if a consumer sees a brand engaging with smaller, relevant people, who actually care about the brand - who use or wear a product every day - they're more likely to listen.

Don't know where to find influencers?

Hootsuite suggested trying a tool like Brandwatch for social listening, but that could get pricey.

You could simply search for hashtags relevant to your product or service to find micro-influencers with those small, focused (and most importantly) engaged audiences you want to reach, on the platforms you're interested in. Easy.

Summary - What can you do to grow your community?

  • Create and nurture a Facebook Group
  • Identify and utilise micro-influencers to capture their communities

The Rise of Facebook Stories

Next up on the agenda was one of next year's most sought after ad format and placement types: Facebook Stories.

In line with consumers' increasing desire to build personal relationships with brands, Facebook Stories has become an unexpectedly fruitful platform for big names such as The Guardian for better engaging with their audience and growing their following.

What's interesting is that Hootsuite noted that for this particular format, lo-fi 'in the moment' content far outperformed scripted content with high production values.

The clue is in the name, Facebook Stories. Users want story-specific content, they expect the 'in the moment' feel. This is not the place for your latest big budget ad. It should feel personal, with a 1-to-1 style approach.

Stories are growing 15x faster than newsfeed sharing. Users are craving that personal connection that Facebook seems to have lost in recent years, overwhelmed by advertising.

So read the room. You're in a user's personal space, allow them a peek into yours! Hootsuite noted that behind the scenes style content, e.g. giving users a peek into your business, showing the brand community, perhaps giving an insight into the manufacturing process etc. all works great here.

It's not the place to be going for big sells. Facebook Stories are where you make those crucial connections with your audience, to gain trust, and ultimately loyalty.

An extra note: In their testing - Hootsuite found that live action content works best here compared to animation.

Summary - What can you do to succeed using Facebook Stories?

  • Utilise Facebook Stories to build brand loyalty and trust
  • Story-first, low-fi, unscripted approach - avoid animation
  • Be creative!

Going Private - the Messenger App Movement

With the growing apathy towards aggresive advertising in social spaces, many consumers are moving away from the once abundant news feeds and timelines...

More and more people are taking their conversations into the private, secure spaces provided by Messenger platforms, such as Messenger and WhatsApp, and these platforms now boast larger user and activity numbers than any social network.

In fact:

The top messaging apps collectively count nearly 5 billion monthly active users.

So where do businesses fit into this, I hear you asking?

Well, 90% of consumers want to be able to converse with companies using private messages, so if it's a channel you're not currently using - you're going to want to change that.

Don't panic if you don't have a large team in place, conversational bots can help customers through the frequently asked questions and basic transactional conversations.

Make sure you have a process though and that you stick to it. Set expectations on when your company is available to chat - and automatically let people know (using bots) when they can expect to hear from you.

Opening up Facebook Messenger or Twitter Direct Messages as an extra channel for support will help contribute towards establishing trust in your brand (with 69% of US respondents saying that being able to directly message a brand makes them feel more confident about them).

Not only this, it means that users are more likely to come to you privately for support - especially if you work on your response times - to prevent any public demands for it.

Summary - What can you do to capture consumers via Messenger apps?

  • Open up Facebook Messenger (and potentially Twitter Direct Messages) as an additional support channel
  • Utilise the business hours feature so that users can know when you're contactable
  • Utilise auto-bots to automatically respond to users, letting them know where they can find useful information, and setting expectations on how long it will take for you to respond

Social Commerce - Catching up with China

In interesting part of the webinar for B2C brands and e-commerce store owners was the push, particularly from Facebook and Instagram, to grow Social Commerce in the West.

With 70% of China's Gen Zers confident to buy directly from social, the social media giants are doing everything they can to close the gap and encourage more users in North America to do the same.

Instagram shoppable posts are evidence of this, allowing consumers to buy without ever leaving the app. Facebook Marketplace is also showing considerable growth, proving that the appetite for social commerce is there amongst users.

So how can you succeed in Social Commerce?

Well it comes down to that word again, trust.

Users need to feel like they have all of the information, that they aren't being misled. Hootsuite noted that video plays a big part in the success of product sales on Social Commerce.

Particularly when selling in such a visual environment, the suggestion is that video should be used in place of traditional product descriptions, to show and tell at the same time, show the product in use and show video testimonials from happy customers.

Just make sure (of course) that the quality is good. Many people are reporting lack of video expertise and budget as a barrier, preventing them from delivering in this market. Take the time to trial and test - there's little excuse these days, with high quality cameras and lights available for little cost - make yourself the expert.

Summary - What you can do to sell via Social Commerce?

  • Utilise tools such as Instagram shoppable ads and Facebook Marketplace to sell directly to consumers
  • Focus on building trust and loyalty through other means (such as Facebook Stories) as well as using video to better inform and entice consumers to your product
  • With Facebook Marketplace's popularity growing, why not test Marketplace specific ad placements?

How to battle rising ad costs

Amongst all the excitement about new channels and opportunities, there's bound to of course be some bad news.

The rise in digital advertising investment has, unsurprisingly, led to a sharp rise in ad costs.

There's been a reported 61% increase in Facebook's CTR (click through rate) costs and 112% increase in CPM (cost per impressions) costs in 2018.

If Facebook is your main source of traffic, and your margins are tight, these increases could be enough to put you out of business. There's no two ways about it.

Which is why you should never rely on just one our two sources of traffic, FYI - as we discussed in the Hybrid Approach to Buying Web Traffic...

Not only are you paying through the nose, Hootsuite reported that more and more millenials are using adblocking software, so there's no guarantee that your ad is even being glanced at by some of your target audience..

What can you do to battle rising ad costs and consumer indifference?

Well, a lot of this comes down to hard work, creativity and knowing your audience.

Hootsuite's advice?

Invest in your creatives.

Invest in high-quality content. You've got to do something different, smart, eye-catching, you've got so much competition, you can't afford not to stand out. If you do it right, these aren't one-time investments, top quality content can be repurposed. It can be lengthened or condensed, it can be turned into an infographic or video campaign, used on multiple channels. The possibilities are endless...

Repurpose your best performing organic content

It's not just about the longevity of your new content. Take a look at your best performing organic content, what can you do to re-use and leverage that?

Work the crowd

There's no doubt that content is king. But it's all for nothing if you don't take the time to understand and target the right audience.

People expect you to do your homework, they expect to be delivered content that is useful to them. If you don't target the right audience, and make the effort to tailor your creatives and copy to their needs, you'll both be disappointed.

Ride the wave

Keep abreast of new ad formats and placements - embrace them. Don't just stick with what you know, because you may well find that one day it doesn't work so well for you, or that your audience are no longer spending their time in the same place.

Take the information from Hootsuite's webinar for example, see if you can rise to the low-fi challenge with Facebook Stories, test out the Sponsored Messages objective or why not run some tests on the Facebook Marketplace ad placement?

Summary - What you can do to combat rising ad costs and indifferent consumers?

  • Invest in your creatives - and get creative
  • Identify and re-use the content that has worked for your in the past - make it work harder
  • Continually assess and listen to your audience - tailor your content to them
  • Embrace new ad placements and formats - be bold and put your stamp on them before they become oversaturated

Summary

Hootsuite's webinar was certainly an insightful one, and supports that notable shift in consumer awareness and perception of the advertising industry - they're demanding more from us - but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Let's re-cap the key points to focus on for 2019:

  • Utilising influencers
  • Facebook Stories
  • Messenger Communication
  • Social Commerce
  • Investment in Creatives and audience understanding

Yes this may seem daunting, and with increased competition and costs, we advertisers will all have to work a little harder... but if the result is a situation where brands and consumers develop stronger, two-way, lasting relationships? Well then both sides will ultimately be better off.

Let TrustAds automate your ad monitoring and management. We'll handle the repetitive, monotonous tasks - you go get creative!

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Main reference:

  1. Hootsuite: Hootsuite's Social Trends 2019 Webinar

References from the Webinar used in this blog:

  1. Tech Crunch: Stories are set to surpass news feeds
  2. Block Party: Beyond the News Feed
  3. Digiday: Guardian finds less polished video works better in Instagram stories
  4. Hootsuite: Social Media Trends Survey 2019
  5. Mary Meeker: Internet Trends 2018
  6. WARC: China's Gen Z relies on social media for shopping
  7. Adweek: Instagram introduces a shopping tab
  8. CNET: Facebook Marketplace
  9. Reuters Institute: Digital News Report 2018
  10. Twilio: How consumers use messaging
  11. Facebook IQ: Why messaging businesses is the new normal