With 2018 swiftly wrapping up, all eyes are on the crucial trends for the year ahead. As always, social media is a topic on every brand’s mind – and for good reason.

The term “internet user” is synonymous with “social networker” in many markets, and the average internet user now has accounts across 8.5 different social media and messaging platforms.

While this omni-presence offers a wealth of opportunities for brands to engage their target audience, anyone looking to have an efficient strategy needs to keep up with changing social media behaviors.

Here are the latest trends we’ll be seeing more of in 2019.

Mobiles are now the primary social device.

Internet users are most likely to be accessing social media via their mobiles, with the device having seen a sharp increase in engagement over the past few years.

Although it’s still true that the majority of users access social platforms via computers at least some of the time, PC/laptops are declining as social devices.

What this means for brands: While PCs and laptops are still widely used, any social media strategy must now have a primary focus on mobile behaviors and experiences in order to meet consumer expectations.

Different age groups use social media for different reasons.

Social media is now equally as likely to be used for keeping up with the news as to stay in touch with friends.

But not everyone uses social media for the same reason.

If we hone in on 16-24s we can see they primarily use it to fill up spare time and find funny or entertaining content, meaning anyone looking to engage these users would do well to supply this sort of content on their channels of choice.

What this means for brands: It’s crucial to know not only what social media platforms are most popular, but why and for whom. When you know this, you can focus your efforts on the channels that really matter.

More than 4 in 10 use social networks to research new brands or products.

Social media is now the second-most prevalent channel for brand and product research, once again proving the importance of offering the right content for users.

For 16-24s, social media is now the most important research channel overall, having overtaken search engines towards the end of 2017.

And good word-of-mouth on social media goes a long way; a quarter of 16-24s and 25-34s say that seeing a brand/product has lots of likes would encourage them to buy something.

What this means for brands: Consumers are already using social media to conduct their research – make sure they find what they’re looking for. Have your brand story and products readily available, and ensure you’re pushing the right content, in the right place, at the right time.

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

It’s great news for any retailer with a strong focus on social that 1 in 4 social media users follow brands while considering a purchase. It shows the potential for social commerce is still relevant, despite not having great uptake in Western markets.

At the moment, social media plays a big role in the purchase journey right up to the point of purchase, but the appetite to complete a final purchase within the platform remains low. Most users still move to retail sites when moving to the actual purchase.

What this means for brands: While social commerce has yet to take hold in the Western world, brands should remember that their social media presence is still a crucial part of the purchase journey. Great content on the right channels could be the final push for a consumer when trying to make the decision to buy.

While Facebook has the most users, YouTube has the most visitors.

It’s easy to assume that having the most members means having the highest engagement rates – but this isn’t the case.

While Facebook retains the highest membership volume with 85% of internet users outside China having an account, it falls behind YouTube in terms of weekly visitors.

YouTube has fewer registered members, but its visitor rates are 6% higher than its membership, making the video giant unique in this sense.

What this means for brands: Membership numbers don’t necessarily paint the true story. To know what platforms actually have the best engagement, and, crucially, where your target consumers spend their time, you must look deeper.

Video is an essential asset.

28% of users of the four major social platforms (not including China) engage with live streams on social media every month. Facebook has the highest engagement rates with live video.

But it doesn’t stop with live streams.

59% of internet users now consume video on social, and 27% create or share them.

What this means for brands: Video is no longer a nice-to-have – it’s a must. Any brand looking to make the most of their social media strategy should look to creating the kind of social video content their target audience will respond to, be it live or pre-made.

Social media success story: Iceland – ‘Rang-tan’

In April 2018, affordable food retailer Iceland became the first major UK supermarket to ban the use of palm oil in its own-brand products.

So it came as no surprise when the brand’s 2018 Christmas campaign continued its focus on spreading awareness and promoting reduced usage of palm oil.

The Insight

A survey of more than 5,000 UK consumers found about a third weren’t sure what palm oil was. But when they were told about the effects it has on the environment, 85% said they didn’t think it should be used in food products.

Palm oil production is thought to be responsible for around 8% of the world’s deforestation between 1990 and 2008, leading to disastrous results for the local wildlife – particularly orangutans.

An estimated 25 of the already endangered orangutan die every day as a result of this deforestation in Southeast Asia.

The Message

Iceland’s animated 2018 Christmas ad partnered with Greenpeace to raise awareness of this issue, focusing on baby orangutan Rang-tan and his story of losing his family and home in the rainforest as companies burn it down to produce palm oil.

Why it Worked

The emotionally-driven advert was controversially banned from being shown on TV, after Clearcast said it was in breach of the regulations around political advertising.

But instead of pulling the ad completely, Iceland saw an opportunity.

Knowing consumers are keen on environmentalism, the brand moved the campaign to social media. It chose to highlight the ban, encouraging people to watch it on YouTube and share it using the dedicated hashtag #NoPalmOilChristmas.

And with the likes of James Corden tweeting about the advert, it was a viral hit.

The ad has earned an accumulative 30m+ views so far, over 100,000 organic posts on Twitter, and over half a million shares on Facebook.

It’s proof of a brand that knows not only what its audience cares about, but how to adapt under difficult circumstances and use the right channels to ensure its message has impact.

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