As our beloved social media landscape is constantly evolving, people like you and me, working with social on a daily basis, might struggle to keep up with all the media plans, client calls, end reports and the endless stream of emails.
Sure, we’ve all read about ChatGPT, AR/VR and the shift towards snappy vertical video content. But what are the actual implications of all those trends on our daily work? How should they be applied? Look no further, we’ve got you. These are the most important social trends of 2023 and how we’re applying them in our daily operations.
1. Working smarter with algorithms
Years ago, we were the ones deciding on all the settings for our social media campaigns and keeping up with best practices per platform. Nowadays, the systems are mostly smarter than we are, advising us on what targeting, placements or ad types to use. For instance, while we wanted to be as specific as possible in our targeting at first, currently it’s best to let the algorithm find the people who are most likely to help us meet our campaign goals. This has made our role as consultants develop more towards tactically and strategically leveraging AI and algorithms that are trained to contribute to the best outcome for our clients. To do this, we need to find a healthy balance between our own brains and AI.
While we have joked around about it, smart technologies such as ChatGPT are definitely part of the growth and development of AI. With minimal input, the tool generates output in a fraction of a second. For social media marketing, it can help us with creative processes such as writing ad copies and headlines for different audiences, generating ideas for A/B testing and it can even provide an entire Facebook ads campaign strategy. The tool Jasper.ai can help you create copy for your ads, for when you are a little uninspired or want to try out a new style of copywriting. DALL-E can create an image from a description, which can inspire you with ideas for the image of your ad. And the tool Albert.ai can even optimize the ads, audiences, keywords (and much more) on your current campaigns, to make them more appealing to your audience.
However, we can’t just let an AI tool do our jobs for us. We need to understand how to use it to combine AI with our own experience and intelligence: the healthy balance between our brains and AI. The main advantage that we hold over AI is that we as humans are more creative. At the end of the day, we are the ones telling the AI systems what to create. This is where prompting comes in: knowing what input will generate qualitative output. Of course, having processed countless briefings into a campaign strategy, we as consultants know like no other what input is needed for a solid campaign plan. Tailoring this expertise to the AI tool’s needs is a skill we need to enhance by doing. Just like getting better at receiving the best answers from Google: having used search engines a lot, you keep on getting better at asking the right questions.
The trick is to provide the right background information and be as specific as possible with our instructions.Think about telling the tool about the goal of your campaign, the KPIs you will be measuring or the available budget. This way the tool will have relevant information to help you. Tools such as ChatGPT will remember the previous questions and answers given within the same session. So, if you continue asking the tool more questions regarding the same topic in the same session it will also remember previous questions and take this information into account. The AI tools can help solve specific tasks, once we have set the parameters. However, it can’t define tasks or think of new ways to combine tools to reach the campaign goals.
Take the Facebook ads strategy for example. You provide the tool with all relevant information about the product or service to be promoted, just like we get briefed ourselves, as well as specific instructions for the deliverables in a structured manner: copy, format, targeting, optimization, budget, and details. This is how we can help tools such as ChatGPT to create meaningful output. Once the tool has laid out a strategy for us, we use our own expertise and experience to check and tweak the output where necessary. Another thing to keep in mind is that most AI tools are new and might not have recent data. For example, ChatGPT only has data until September 2021, so this tool is not yet aware of the latest solutions and developments introduced by social platforms. For example, ChatGPT is not aware of the fact that Elon Musk bought Twitter in October 2022. This is where we can bring additional value.
Adapting these intelligent tools into our daily work is a matter of following in Nike’s footsteps: Just do it. The best you can do is collect and share experiences and best practices together with your colleagues to see what works best per platform, campaign objective or client type. Because AI tools such as ChatGPT, Jasper.ai, DALL-E, and Albert.ai are here to stay.
Beneath you’ll find the submissions of our colleague Niels Geerts to the internal Merkle AI Prompt Challenge for Copenhagen Zoo. The goal of this challenge was to create an ad by using AI tools to attract more customers to the Copenhagen Zoo. Niels did this by first using ChatGPT to find out what could attract customers to visit the zoo more often. This was done by asking ChatGPT several different questions. Then by creating different prompts, based on the information gained through ChatGPT, he was able to create the amazing images seen below in Midjourney. Niels' efforts are a great example of how important human efforts are when wanting to create something using AI tools. It was important for Niels to ask the right questions to ChatGPT, to be able to create the prompts he used. Curious to learn what prompts and AI tools were used by him or want some advice about the use of AI in marketing? Feel free to reach out to us via our contact form (NL or DK/SE/NO) and we will put you in touch with the right people.
2. Social Commerce is here to stay
In 2021, 82% of people that use social media stated they have discovered a product on social media and purchased it directly after on their phone. With some of the newest developments, such as being able to pay within social platforms, Meta’s product tags and TikTok's in-stream shopping you can only imagine how much this percentage will grow in the coming five years. In 2023 the social commerce market is expected to grow by 30.8%. More and more social media platforms are starting to function as online shops, giving customers the opportunity to experience the beginning-to-end buying journey on one platform. This growth is also caused by the rise of discovery commerce, meant for exploring and creating intent. Discovery commerce is an online sales method which guides the customer to a product. The rise of discovery commerce is evident by the use of social platforms such as TikTok and Instagram as search engines by Gen Z. Many people use social platforms when they are still higher up in the marketing funnel and are trying to gain inspiration. Discovery commerce allows us to turn seeking for inspiration into making a purchase. This decreases the gap between the upper and lower phase in the marketing funnel.
The shift towards discovery commerce is not completely new and on the move for a couple of years now. In addition, social channels start acting more and more as a replacement of search engines such as Google to start the exploration phase. Channels such as Pinterest and TikTok are performing strong in social search – starting search queries for lifestyle, travelling, clothing to explore around.
The main benefit of social commerce is that it decreases the gap between the SEE and DO phase. Customers see the product on their social media page and are able to find out more about the product in-app. In the US, customers can already purchase a product on some apps without leaving the app. This is an advantage, but also comes with the challenge of targeting people who are in different phases in the marketing funnel. With paid advertising this can be solved, since you can decide what type of customers to target as long as customers perform upper or lower funnel conversions.
So, it is important to set up these conversions and to use tracking in your campaign. It has now become our mission as social marketeers to be able to identify when we need to push customers towards the social commerce shop instead of just the website. And don’t be concerned that pushing customers towards the social commerce shop will make you miss out on valuable customer data. Fortunately, Instagram and Facebook already have many retargeting options when it comes to social ecommerce. Making it easy to retarget customers that have been to your social shop. This could definitely be beneficial when you look at the upcoming restrictions of cookies and data tracking.
The rise of discovery commerce has taken social commerce to the next level. This makes it possible to target potential customers and display multiple products the customer might be interested in based on machine learning. Because of machine learning the algorithm knows about the possible interests or behaviour of a customer and is then able to make a match between the customer and your ads. Making it more tempting for customers to buy a product they weren’t actively searching for. As marketers, we all know that personalization is the key to success. So, what could be better than using machine learning to show personalized ads to the right person at the right time, through the right channel?
3. Authenticity is key
Nowadays users are becoming more aware of the difference between paid and organic content. Paid social media advertising is a powerful tool for businesses looking to reach a wider audience and drive conversions. However, with so many ads fighting for attention, it's important to create content that stands out from the crowd. It's not without reason that ad quality scores on platforms like Meta and Google influence your position in the auction and that content-first platforms like TikTok see an ongoing monthly growth in app downloads. Moreover, 84% of millennials state that they do not like nor trust traditional marketing and 90% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support.
This is why building on your consistent, qualitative organic presence and working on authentic content is key. Authentic content is original, genuine, and true to the brand or creator's voice, mission, and values. This type of content builds trust with the audience as it is relatable and engaging. Authentic content highlights the human side of a brand.
In case you think your content is already authentic enough it's very likely that your customers think otherwise. Use the following tips and tricks to create content that resonates as authentic:
a) Know and Engage with Your Target Audience
To create content that resonates with your target audience, you need to understand their needs, wants, and pain points. This way you can show (potential) customers that you understand them and that your product or service is here to help them. One way of getting those insights is by making use of community management and social listening. By monitoring (listening) what users are saying about your brand, you learn more about their experiences, needs and desires connected to your brand. These insights can be translated in product or service developments as well as content for future campaigns.
However, listening to your customers is not enough. Social media isn't called social media for no reason. As a brand, it is important to engage with your (potential) customers and form a connection with them by starting conversations. This engagement will not only lead to customer satisfaction, reach and brand recognition but also brand preference and trust.
b) Consistent Storytelling
Storytelling is a powerful tool in marketing. By using storytelling, you can bring your brand to life and make your content more engaging and memorable. By creating a story that resonates with your audience it is easier for customers to relate to the brand and for them to find a reason to purchase your product.
With storytelling, it is very important to stay true to your brand's voice. Make sure that your content aligns with your brand's voice, mission, and values. Make sure your story is consistent across all your marketing platforms, as consistent storytelling will help build recognition and trust with your audience and reinforce the authenticity of your brand, which ultimately will lead to the growth of your follower base.
c) Make Use of Brand Ambassadors
92% of consumers worldwide say earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, are trusted more than advertisements and 79% of people say user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions. Reposting user-generated content as a brand often leads to a 28% higher engagement rate compared to standard brand posts. This comes as no surprise, as 51% of consumers say they’d be more likely to engage with and/or purchase from a brand if it shared their photo, video or social post across its marketing channels. User-generated content often comes from brand ambassadors. These ambassadors can be fans but also employees or content creators.
When a brand actively activates, motivates, and facilitates their employees to become brand ambassadors for their company, the brand is advocating employee advocacy. Employees can create authentic content in many ways. They could post about why they like working for your company or explain how your product or service is changing their lives. LinkedIn data shows that engaged employees drive key business outcomes. They influence eight times more Company Page views, seven times more job views and four times more job applications. Moreover, posts from employees are perceived as three times more reliable, are shared 24 times more often and lead to six times more reach, eight times more engagement and seven times better conversions compared to organic company posts. Find out more about the three ingredients for successful employee advocacy here.
Influencers, nowadays often called content creators, can also be used to generate more authentic content as research shows that 92% of consumers trust influencer marketing more than regular advertisements. As 49% of the consumers rely on recommendations made by influencers, including influencers in your social media strategy is a smart tactic to gain trust. Allow influencers to try out your products and share with their followers what makes them like and recommend your products or services. Curious about 3 influencer marketing trends of 2023? Read more about that in this article.
4. Measurement & Performance
As data tracking limitations for our social media campaigns are increasing, it’s now more important than ever to show our clients how our campaigns drive results and how our data contributes to their business goals. Some of the latest adjustments in the EU regulations are making it harder for platforms, such as Meta, to use behavioural data from users for targeting purposes. Meta does not think that behavioral data is crucial for advertising. Moreover, these choices can significantly affect other platforms whose operational model revolves around behavioral advertisements.
We need to employ every possibility to maintain the guaranteed delivery of the qualitative data that we have always provided. How do we do that?
On the one hand, continue making sure that there is a solid fundament: are tracking pixels/tags properly installed and are they tracking the right things?
On the other hand, explore the possibilities of newer means of tracking such as Conversions API (CAPI) to be able to capture all relevant online and offline data. This gives us more control over the data that is being collected and can help us enrich platform data with other data sources, for example product margin or customer lifetime value.
Advantages of CAPI compared to the regular Facebook pixel are:
- Improved Data Quality: instead of relying on cookie IDs with CAPI you can send hashed email addresses to Facebook which then tries to match that hashed email to platform users. Which results in better attribution of conversions to specific campaigns.
- Data Governance: with CAPI you are fully in control of what data gets sent to what platform. Since all data is being collected by the same server container, changing the data you want to collect is easy.
- Faster loading times on your website: since CAPI relies on one server container collecting all the data there is no need for third-party app scripts that slow down your website. Therefore, using CAPI results in faster loading of your website.
It is also advised to work closely together with your CRM department to further enhance 1st party data about your customers. In today's data privacy landscape, using 1st party data helps you ensure compliance with data protection laws and regulations. By obtaining explicit consent from your customers, you can use their data in a transparent and ethical way, building trust with your audience.
By leveraging 1st party data, you can personalize social campaigns and ensure that ads are relevant to your audience. This helps to increase engagement and drive more meaningful interactions. This also allows you to optimize your social campaigns to target the right audience at the right time, leading to more efficient use of your resources and a higher return on investment.
Examples of leveraging first party data in an effective way are excluding or upselling on recent customers or retargeting users who have not completed the full checkout yet.
At last, talk to the data science department if you have them at your company. Data scientists are your friends when it comes to getting extra insights out of your 1st party data, for instance they can run RFM-analysis and can create several segments of users for you to target in your social campaigns. An RFM-analysis is a way to segment buyers in different categories based on their order history.
It's our role to explore (compliant!) opportunities and be a social ethicist at the same time. People are becoming more and more aware of their privacy online - and we should take that into account when making decisions for clients on how to track and target.
In conclusion, the social landscape is rapidly growing and changing with new and innovative inventions, that make the jobs of social marketers both easier and more challenging. It is crucial to leverage the latest trends concerning AI, social commerce, authentic content and measurement and performance to create a successful social strategy. This article should facilitate figuring out your next steps. Want any help, further information or advice? Feel free to contact one of our social media marketing specialists, so we can brainstorm with you.
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