Shelley Polansky BBB

Shelley Polansky, BBB president/CEO.

Social media is here to stay – it helps businesses build brands, drive traffic to their websites, connect with their customers and spread awareness about their offerings.

But businesses need to offer content that has value. They can’t just say “buy my product” and expect to get results, especially with a rapidly changing social media landscape. Social media platforms frequently alter their algorithms or add new features, requiring a change in strategy to boost engagement and connect with audiences.

To keep up with those changes, it’s important to be aware of the trends before diving into writing another blog or scheduling a post.

Social media trends

First and foremost, video content is rising in popularity, and short, shareable videos are the place to be.

Research shows that 60% of viewers will stop watching a video after two minutes, so keeping them short will boost the number of viewers staying to the end. Short videos are ideal for platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat because viewers are usually scrolling quickly and don’t want to visit a post for too long.

Though viewers want short content, the average individual spends at least 100 minutes a day watching online videos, according to Zenith (see https://www.zenithmedia.com/online-video-viewing-to-reach-100-minutes-a-day-in-2021/), opening up opportunities for more posts, shares and Likes.

Along these lines, the creator economy, referring to the culture of content creators who get revenue from their creations, will increase in importance. This presents an opportunity for businesses to partner with collaborators and influencers for brand and product promotion.

Also popular are memes, images and GIFs (graphics interchange formats that can express emotion) included in posts. Businesses can increase their online presence and engagement by using the extra content, since viewers think they’re liking and sharing something small and easy to consume, not an advertisement.

Five ways to drive engagement

Engaging and connecting with customers is key to marketing success in 2022. Businesses can get the attention of customers through social media and other sources, such as paid ads and email marketing. They have to rise above all the noise.

To do this, they will need to figure out their target audience and create content around their customers’ needs, being sure to match social media platforms to their desired messaging.

1. Invest in social commerce

One place to start is with social commerce, the buying and selling of products or services directly from a social media platform, something that only the most innovative businesses did prior to the pandemic. Once consumers faced stay-at-home mandates, they spent more time online and sought out new ways to shop.

According to Hootsuite, social commerce is an $89.4 billion market that’s projected to grow to $604.5 billion in the next seven years. Social apps that allow for this kind of commerce include Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, where viewers hit “shop now” or the like to complete a purchase. This is different from e-commerce, or shopping from a website or dedicated branded app that involves an extra step and potentially causes leaks in the conversion process.

Options for social commerce include Facebook Shop, Instagram Shop and Product Pins on Pinterest. Businesses will want to focus on the products that audiences on these platforms will like and create shopping posts or ads that allow them to see the products in context before they place their orders.

2. Include video in postings

Videos are increasingly becoming popular, evidenced by consumers wanting to see more of them. In fact, according to Hubspot, approximately 54% of consumers say they want more content from the businesses they support (see https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/content-trends-preferences).

Consumers want the videos to be short – attention spans are shrinking, and the desire for quick and new content is on the rise. Vidyard, a video hosting software company, found that 60% of videos published on the internet in 2020 were less than two minutes in length.

Businesses wanting to go this route will want to make sure the videos cater to the needs of their audiences, providing content that’s creative, innovative, entertaining or educational. They will want to translate videos for each channel and to strategically tie the content back to their offers, such as a webinar registration or booking page.

Businesses can place their videos through Facebook Reels, Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, LinkedIn Stories and TikTok, where the authentic and lower production nature is part of the appeal to consumers. This is a way to build trust by not making everything look like an ad, but more genuine.

3. Share creator content

Creators refer to both professional influencer marketers and amateur content creators who write, design and film content specifically to place on social media outlets. They’re entrepreneurs who are part of the creative economy wanting to monetize their hobbies, create a second income stream or do freelance work.

Businesses are expected to spend $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022. Several social media platforms added monetization tools and include TikTok’s Creator Marketplace, Instagram’s Branded Content Ads and Facebook’s Brand Collabs Manager. The tools are a way to pay content creators, encouraging them to add value to the brands they promote.

To get involved in creator marketing, businesses will want to define their audience and search creator marketplaces to make a shortlist of creators with an already established fan base that can reach that audience. They also will want to allow for commentary on the content they create.

4. Get audiences directly involved

Another way to increase social media engagement is to ask audiences questions or let them do the asking.

One approach is to create interactive polls. Often in question format with multiple-choice answers, the polls are a way to gather feedback and interact with audiences. Start by including polls in posts and videos, cueing consumers interested in brand stories to stop scrolling.

A second approach is to host an AMA community-driven event that allows audiences to “ask me anything” and engage with the brand. Audiences can directly engage with business owners and their teams to chat about business stories and events. This is a way for businesses to build trust by being open and honest with their responses.

5. Livestream the shopping experience

Transforming e-commerce, livestream shopping, also called live shopping or shop streaming, rose in popularity during the pandemic when brick-and-mortar shopping became less available.

Livestream shopping operates similar to a home shopping network with a host, typically an influencer or celebrity, who talks up the features of a product on a social media stream and offers opportunities for viewers to purchase the product during the broadcast.

Unlike a home shopping network like QVC, livestream shopping builds on social commerce by enabling viewers to interact with the host through a chatbox or poll. Viewers can ask questions about the product or chat with other viewers to get their opinions. They also can use “likes” and reactions to interact with the stream.

Find the best strategy

Social media is a great tool to drive engagement with an audience, but it’s best to find a strategy that aligns with the business’s brand, while providing value and resonating with viewers. It’s a way to show viewers that the business is authentic and transparent as it builds awareness about its offerings.

The BBB wants to align and partner with honest, trustworthy businesses. Businesses that are accredited with the BBB recognize BBB’s focus on trust and often will promote their partnership on social media to further engage with their customers. It’s a win-win for everyone – businesses, consumers and the social media savvy.

Shelley Polansky is president/CEO of BBB Serving Northern Colorado and Wyoming.

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