Just like any other part of the consumer journey, social media usage isn’t stagnant. Different platforms evolve to be used for different things, and it’s the users themselves that make the rules.

Done right, social media can be an extremely valuable part of your brand offering. Done wrong, it can be a huge waste of time, effort and money.

So how can you be sure you’re getting the most of your strategy? And what does it take to make one that’s tailored to your audience?

Social media trends for 2019 – and what they mean

Based on our latest research, here are some of the biggest trends dominating the social media space.

1. Mobiles are the most popular social device.

Consumers do still use PCs and laptops, but social media strategies must now look to mobile behaviors and experiences first in order to meet consumer expectations.

2. Over 4 in 10 research new brands or products on social media.

Social media is now a key channel for research, meaning brands must make sure they find what they’re looking for. By having your brand offering readily available on social, and pushing the right content on the right networks, you’re giving your audience what they need to convert.

3. 1 in 4 follow brands they’re thinking of making a purchase from.

Social commerce has yet to take complete hold of the Western world, but this doesn’t mean social isn’t a crucial part of the purchase journey. Offering tailored content on your consumers’ channels of choice may well tip them across the line to convert.

4. Facebook has the most users, but YouTube has the most visitors.

It’s all well and good to have high membership numbers – but that doesn’t mean your target audience is spending any time there. To identify where your consumers actually spend their time and are switched-on, you must look deeper.

5. 59% of internet users watch videos on social, and 27% create or share them.

Video is now a crucial part of any social media strategy, with more than half of consumers consuming them on social. Any brand looking to squeeze the most of their social media need to incorporate this into their strategy in a way that will resonate with their target consumers.

The importance of consumer insight

The motivations users have for being on social media are changing – and they’re using it for wildly different reasons.

It’s crucial for brands to know not only which social media platforms are most popular, but why, and among whom. This is the only way to truly be sure you have a solid strategy based on absolute truth.

So where does this insight come from and why is it so important?

It’s easy to spread yourself thin when it comes to social media marketing. Many brands will target every channel in much the same way, throwing resource at every major platform in the hopes that something sticks. But this isn’t a strategy – it’s a guessing game.

To get real, visible results from social media, it takes understanding which platforms are worth the investment, and what kind of strategy will work for each, tailoring your approach to fit.

Only with deep insight into the actions, motivations, interests and attitudes of your consumers on each of these channels can you put this into practice.

That’s where granular consumer data comes into play – the kind you can’t find by simply tracking site visits.

A robust source of the right data will give you all the insight you need to map the needs and actions of your target audience, guiding you to a strategy that sticks.

Here’s an example.

Looking at three key consumer groups – Gen Z, millennials and baby boomers – their preferences for interacting with brands, while similar in some aspects, differ dramatically. Anyone looking to target one or more of these groups simply can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach and be successful.

It not only highlights the need for a hyper-targeted strategy, but the absolute requirement of having actionable insights into your target consumers to reach them effectively and form a social media strategy that will resonate.

How to create a social media marketing strategy

Using consumer insight to inform social media strategy gives you the tools you need for an actionable end-to-end solution you can optimize throughout the year. Here’s how to get started.

1. Audit your performance.

Odds are your business has been using social media for a while, and a great place to start when looking to create a new, more efficient strategy is to look backwards first. This way, you get a view of what’s worked so far and therefore might be a great addition to your 2019 strategy.

Look at your most popular posts. What were they about? What hashtags did they use? When were they posted? On which channels?

Once you have a clear view of what your followers have engaged with in the past, you have insight into what may resonate with them in the future.

2. Set your social media goals.

Why are you using social media?

There’s no point pumping time and resource into something that won’t give you a good ROI. That’s why your goals need to be clearly outlined from the very beginning, alongside some definite KPIs to identify what your measurement of success will look like.

First off, the best way to create achievable, relevant goals is to make them SMART. That means they’re:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Following this framework ensures your strategy is steeped in logic, and your efforts have clear direction.

You also need to determine what success looks like for your brand.

This ties in with your SMART goals, and should answer how you determine whether these goals have been met.

These are some elements that may spell success for your brand:

  • High engagement with posts
  • Increased brand awareness
  • Increased sales numbers
  • New business leads
  • A more switched-on brand community

Having deep insight into how your target consumers engage with social media will allow you to see what outcomes are most relevant to your brand – and how you can reach them.

3. Create audience personas.

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Which social platforms do they use most?
  • How do they use each of these platforms?
  • Why do they use them?
  • How do they interact with brands on these platforms?

By answering questions like these you can know how to engage your target consumers and streamline your strategy – only doing the things that matter, where it matters, and when.

These answers can then be used to shape pen portraits of your most important audience segments, which are meant to make you truly understand your consumer and what lies behind their actions.

Here’s how to create a pen portrait of your audience:

1. Find out their interests.

2. Know where they spend their time.

2. Know where they spend their time.

3. Understand their perceptions and motivations.

4. Put yourself in their shoes.

With this information at hand, and in an actionable format, you can begin forming a plan.

4. Map your key channels and post times.

Once you know everything you need to about your target consumers, your strategy can start taking real shape.

Focus your plan on the channels you know they spend their time on, and shape your communications to match their reasons for being there.

For example, if the data proves your target consumers primarily spend their time on Instagram and they mainly use it for product research, ensure your Instagram strategy gives your followers useful information on your products and services.

This way, you can be confident you’re communicating in the right way and in the right place – and you’re giving your potential customers what they want, proving you’ve taken the time to get to know them.

Making it stick

Whatever the aim of your social media strategy is, knowing your target audience well is crucial to making it a good one.

Look to a reliable, granular data source that goes far beyond demographics and behaviors to give you insight into why your audience acts the way it does on social media, and where your brand can step in.

This is the only way to create a strategy that will resonate from day one, giving you a solid foundation you can continuously build on.

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