Social media has been around for some time now. Twitter launched 11 years ago, LinkedIn 14 years ago, Facebook 13 years ago — and you know what? They are still as relevant as ever.

Companies across the globe continue to use social media as a vital part of their marketing strategy — creating content to connect and engage their audience. Marketers have found their stride on social media, and B2B activity on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms has increased significantly in the past year. And in 2018, B2B social media use is undoubtedly going to see similar exponential growth as new technologies and marketing tactics come into play.

Gen Z and Gen Y, aka the infamous millennials, are starting to creep into positions with buying power, and a majority are very familiar with social media. In reality, it’s almost all they’ve ever known. They use it daily to connect with friends, check the news, read movie reviews, and even look for job opportunities. And after years of this behavior, this method of information seeking doesn’t just stop.

As new school B2B buyers step into the role of decision-maker, social media will influence their purchase decisions. Stay ahead of the curve in the new year with these B2B social media trends for 2018.

Augmented Reality

Pokémon GOIf you aren’t familiar with augmented reality (AR), it is computer-generated imagegry (CGI) that is overlaid onto camera-captured video. As a result, these CGI objects appear to be in the real world. And AR is already gaining popularity in the consumer market. It’s almost impossible to go on social media and not come across Snapchat and Instagram face filters and other branded AR content. However, the first widespread international use of augmented reality was the launch of Pokémon GO. The app had people running around cities across the world trying to catch a Pikachu (and it was awesome).

Now back to B2B, your CEO isn’t going to be posting selfies with the dog ears filter on the company Twitter account. But there are plenty of opportunities for AR in B2B marketing. As engineers refine these technologies, business will start to experiment with new marketing tactics.

Through social media platforms, brands will be able to put their products right in front of their customers. For example, take a look below at IKEA’s new “IKEA Place” app. It lets customers use AR to get an idea of what their furniture will look like in their homes using only their phone camera. Pretty cool, right?

IKEA Place App

Video

Video has already taken over the internet. During 2017, video is estimated to account for 74% of all internet traffic. It’s everywhere, and bumping into some version of a branded video on social media is a given at this point.

But it makes sense for marketers to favor this tool because video is a unique medium. It’s as close to face to face as you can get with your audience. With its various benefits and customizability, the use of video is only going to go up in 2018 as brands continue to refine the technique.

With video, especially on social media, shorter is better. In fact, 56% of all videos published in the last year are less than 2 minutes long. Don’t beat around the bush, be engaging and understand the goals of your video. In addition, the first couple seconds of your video must capture your audience’s attention and lock them in — keeping in mind the users on each platform. Mainly, Twitter and Instagram are quick-hit posts, so put your central message towards the beginning of the video. On the other hand, your audience on Facebook and YouTube will tolerate a longer video, so you don’t have to jump straight to the point.

If you feel like you’ve already overused traditional video, B2B animation is a great alternative for engaging your audience. Overall, animation is fun, playful and lets you stand out from all the other videos on B2B social media. Additionally, it’s a versatile medium that allows you to easily tailor your messaging or explain complex solutions and technical concepts. See an example below:

And lastly, make sure all your videos are mobile-friendly. It is a must as we transition into 2018.  Also, consider that most people watch mobile videos without sound, so a good rule of thumb for social media video creation is to design with no sound and delight with sound on.

User-Generated Content

User-generated content (UGC) is any type of content created and shared by an unpaid contributor. It can be pictures, videos, or anything else that someone uses to promote the brand. This content strategy has been around since the creation of social media, but it wasn’t until recently that B2B brands began to see its benefits.

UGC speaks volumes for your brand. You’ve seen Coke’s #ShareACoke and Starbucks’ #WhiteCupContest in the B2C world. If someone is willing to broadcast their use of your product on social media, essentially a free word of mouth referral, you have something special. They are letting their followers know that they trust your product and are actively associating themselves with it. And in terms of referrals, people trust people — not corporations. This content lets you leverage that. Retweet or share these posts on your page, or even offer a contest to stimulate action.

User-Generated Content

In short, you can guarantee UGC will continue to be on all platforms in 2018. No other strategy allows a brand to increase their engagement and follower base with this type of genuine interaction.

Look out for platform changes

Don’t be surprised if the social media platforms themselves shift in the upcoming year. In 2017, we saw Twitter make a major change by doubling their character limit from 140 to 280. This was huge for marketers. You no longer have to say more with less. This addition opens the door to new strategies, more content and longer messages.

Other platforms may look to change or expand their services in 2018. Chatbots are already taking over Facebook messenger in an effort to improve customer service. Facebook is also looking to continue to develop their Spaces virtual reality platform. This tool allows users to connect through VR, letting them talk, interact and share content in a whole new way.

Social media is a fast-paced environment. And these platforms will continue to expand and change almost as fast as users share content on them. The influence B2B social media has on buying decisions is going to increase with upgraded technology and younger decision makers. Make sure you stay on top of trends and try new strategies in 2018. You never know what will go viral.

All marketing tactics should be thought of as part of a larger whole, rather than separate pieces. By strategically integrating all marketing tactics, the marketing programs become more effective and cost efficient. As a B2B agency, we developed B2B 360 Integrated Digital Marketing to meet this improved performance need. To learn more about how it will benefit your business, download our free eBook: B2B Top-Tier Tech Marketing.

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Mitch Mathern is a public relations executive at Schubert b2b. Mitch graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in Marketing. When not at the office, Mitch enjoys spending time at the beach with his surfboard, or binging on the latest season of Vampire Diaries.

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