State of Social in 2018

by Ashley Reed, 17 Jan 2018

This year, social will hit major milestones, from record-breaking social ad revenue and an explosion of video content, to strides in visual search and the evolution of influencer marketing. Below are top trends to watch for in 2018 and how marketers can prepare.

Paid Social Revenue Will Soar

In 2018, US social ad spending will account for 28% of all digital ad spending (reaching $26 billion!). As expected, the vast majority of revenue will be driven by Facebook, making up 23% of all digital ad spending. The social behemoth will claim $1 of every $10 spent on both digital and traditional marketing combined. Instagram will follow, accounting for $5.6 billion, surpassing Snapchat ($1.18 billion) and Twitter ($1.14 billion, a 4% decline from 2017). (Note that Pinterest revenues aren’t available since they are still privately held).

What’s fueling this trend? First, the widespread adoption of social usage. 199 million US adults will be social network users this year (that’s 6 in 10 people). Second, the rapid decline of organic reach, especially on Facebook, has forced brands to pay for eyeballs.

With this explosive advertising growth, marketers will need to be increasingly strategic in their paid social campaigns as competition increases and inventory becomes more limited. Zuckerberg’s most recent announcement will make this more important than ever. Brands must invest in thoughtful content strategies that bring value to users and develop creative that is aligned to each audience and stage of their customer journey in order to stay relevant in an incredibly noisy space.

Social Video Will Explode

It’s no surprise that mobile video will continue to be a big focus in 2018. With Mark Zuckerberg’s prediction that Facebook will be mostly video by 2020, and Cisco estimating that video will account for 69% of all internet traffic this year alone, marketers are beginning to take notice and invest accordingly. (70% of media companies said they would increase video spending in 2018). No longer just an awareness play, social video has been shown to influence purchase decisions and even drive last-click sales. But with this growth comes challenges. Marketers will need to strategize around video length, placements, and which social platforms deserve their ad dollars.

Pinterest Will Lead Visual Search

This year Pinterest will make big strides in visual search, making ad offerings even more valuable. In 2017 they announced their new Search offering, giving advertisers the ability to buy promoted pins at a granular level, similar to what Google and Bing offers (keyword level bidding). In addition to keyword buying, the new Search interface allows for shopping campaigns which are similar to Google’s Product Listing Ads (PLA’s) and pull the pin creative directly from a brand’s product feed. This is huge for advertisers who previously didn’t have the creative resources necessary to run on Pinterest.  Pinners are highly valuable, with most being in a mindset to purchase and actively searching for products, inspiration or ideas; with these advancements we can expect advertisers to increase their Pinterest investments accordingly.

Influencer Marketing Will Grow Up

Marketers will continue to evolve their influencer marketing programs in 2018, shifting away from celebrity-only partnerships to a mix of influencer types, such as bloggers, micro-influencers, brand advocates and celebrities.

With this growth will come more regulation and enforcement from the FTC, cracking down on influencers who do not disclose posts that are sponsored. Instagram, which has become a key platform for influencer marketing, will also continue to roll out their paid-partnership content label, possibly even making this a requirement.

Social AR (Augmented Reality) Will Expand

Many AR developments will emerge on social this year. Snapchat will lead the charge in making AR functional rather than just entertaining. Specifically, they will enhance the capabilities of Context Cards, which overlay helpful information on top of images and videos. Facebook will also make headway in AR, offering AR tools and developer resources for advertisers.

So What Does This all Mean?

Marketers must learn to build a custom, customer-focused social content strategy and walk away from the one size fits all solution. In 2017, clients started to understand that just having a presence isn't enough. In 2018, we'll start to see brands getting smarter and investing more in strategic content and targeting strategies that deliver real business results from each channel—results that will impact the company’s bottom line.

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