Fast forward to social media marketing 2018

How will social media change over the next five years? That's what we asked a group of experts back in 2013, and here's what they said...


Back in 2013, digital marketing specialist Justin Kirby posed a fascinating question to a series of social media experts.

Namely: What do you think will have changed in social media five years from now and what will still be the same?

It was – and is – a tough question to answer. Social media moves so fast that even a single year brings significant, unpredictable change.

So how did our experts fare? We caught up with them five years on and asked them to comment on their predictions…

Dave Chaffey, CEO & Co-Founder, Smart Insights

What will change: “It’s not strategic, but what I’d like to see are more powerful tools to curate content across the sources so we get a summary of the best advice around a topic. I used to love Postrank in my Google Feedreader to show the content that’s really worth reading, but we lost that tool when Google acquired them and killed off Google Reader. Still, we have Feedly, Flipboard and similar.”

“When I was asked to look forward I was bemoaning the loss of tools for keeping up-to-date. Five years later my request has been answered, with a tool specifically for marketers with the arrival this year of Zest. Zest is a Google Chrome extension, new in 2017, which I and the team at Smart Insights use to alert us to the latest developments and best practices in digital marketing. Its curated content is specifically designed for and updated by marketers. Like Feedly, you can use it to review the most useful content recommended by ‘the crowd’, in this case ‘your crowd’ of marketers.”

What won’t change: “Content Marketing Strategy will be at the heart of effective social media marketing. Your hear the HiPPOs say “We need a social media strategy”, but actually what they want is a way of engaging different personas and it’s the content that fuels this and you need a strategy to compete now that everyone knows about the importance of quality content.”

“I originally talked about the value in having a content marketing strategy to fuel your social media marketing activities. This was talking to the need for integration and better planning for digital marketing channels, which our research shows is a huge pain point for businesses today. Investing more in planning and optimising always-on lifecycle marketing activities including social media can help here. For example, our lifecycle visual below shows how paid social can support remarketing, which is an opportunity that more and more businesses are taking advantage of.”

Full B2B customer lifecycle

This is also a theme many of the contributors, including Luke Brynley-Jones of Our Social Times, make in our social media trends and predictions article.

Katy Howell, CEO, Immediate Future

What will change: “Smarter use of metrics, better benchmarks and increased social marketing skills will bring stronger performance marketing to social activation. The norm will be to gather key measures, evaluate, optimise and drive social to deliver value goals. And it will raise the bar on social media, taking it out of the fluffy and making it integral to customer communication and experience.”

“Oh my! Well this happened in spadefuls this year. Without a doubt, this was driven by paid social media’s dominance in any social marketing plan. It has raised the bar and social media professionals are vastly more skilled and in demand. The next year will see a further step change as the social channels (especially Facebook) position themselves as our core mobile app (in the same vein as Tencent’s WeChat) – the one stop, trusted and data rich place to buy, connect and run our lives. Expect lots of innovation in the coming months.”

What won’t change: “Even in five years, I think social will continue be an evolving media. The challenge will be staying on top of the rapidity of change!”

“The challenge is the same: keeping ahead of evolving social media. That won’t change even in the next five years. The need for social media marketing specialism is as strong if not stronger this year. We need skilled folk that are immersed in the world of social from insights, to creative and paid.”

Jemima Gibbons, Social Media Strategist and author of ‘Monkeys with Typewriters’

What will change: “In 2018, personalisation and brand experience will have been taken to their logical extremes: consumers will have far more control over the relationship – in fact, brands will be paying them to advertise in their social ‘space’. Consumers will be involved more closely in product and service development, to the point of co-creation.”

“Strangely enough, I’ve just got back from a client conference where user-centredness and even talk of co-design were central to the debate. Those ideas are much more mainstream now – but full ‘co-creation’ is still a long way off! As to brands paying consumers to advertise in their social space, I think the rise of influencer marketing has proved that to be true.”

What won’t change: “Sadly, bad customer service will still exist – it just won’t be as mainstream as it is today.”

“Sadly there are still plenty of terrible customer experiences out there!”

Dom Dwight, Marketing Director for Taylors of Harrogate

What will change: “Five years is a long time for this subject – just look how different things were in 2008! That said, I think it’s safe to say the biggest change will be the almost total shift to mobile, and consumers interacting with companies via their smartphones (or smart glasses or whatever!) will be the norm rather than an interesting trend.”

“I’m quite pleased with this prediction! It’s actually quite weird to remember that smartphones were once an interesting tech disruption, rather than a mainstay of the modern world. I think we’ve barely scratched the surface of how these powerful little devices are going to change consumer behaviours.”

What won’t change: “Is what will matter to consumers: excellent service and quality products that make their lives better. Only the brands that realise this and reflect it in the way they connect with consumers will get any real value out of interacting online.”

“With Yorkshire Tea now the number two brew in the UK and the nation’s most popular FMCG brand (according to YouGov), I am naturally inclined to stand by this! Generally, the rise of discounter-driven, savvy shopping has seen a split, where relationships between consumer and brand at the value end often being purely transactional now, but at the premium end of most markets there’s more interactivity than ever.”

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