Sorry to interrupt your holiday shopping and Christmas parties, but only a few days left until 2018 comes to a close. We’d like to take a moment to look back at this turbulent year for social media – and brace ourselves for what to expect in 2019.

Here are the three main trends circulating in the crystal ball of social media marketing predictions.

  1. Instagram will become (even) more shoppable

We can expect to hear some champagne glasses clinking over at Instagram’s headquarters for the company’s annual review: Finally hitting a billion active users, the platform has had a successful year in growing its popularity especially among those born from the 90’s onwards. And the platform seems firmly set to on courting businesses, too: More than 200 million Instagrammers visit one of the 25 million business profiles at least once a day.

One ‘megatrend’ for social marketing that is now catching up with business are Instagram stories, offering video content that is available for only 24 hours. According to a new survey by Hootsuite, more than 60% of businesses have already implemented a marketing campaign through stories or are planning to do so over the next 12 months. Yet only one-third of the most viewed stories are from businesses, indicating that there might still be a huge potential for marketers to improve their content. “Stories are doing a lot more than just improving brand awareness”, says Joe Carrozza, co-founder of bidpin that advises businesses on how to improve their content strategy for stories. “They are increasingly linked to concrete marketing goals: Brands can build high-quality engagement that really allows them to drive traffic.”

Instagram has also started testing a new feature of ‘Shopping in Instagram Stories’ that will spread out in 2019. After allowing external links in stories was the last big hit, this feature will include a new type of stickers will give customers quick access to product information within the story itself.

And more updates are sure to come. Last month, Instagram introduced a new tool that allows users to ‘bookmark’ products that they find on the app. And in the new year, Instagram insights will step it up, too, allowing brands to browse through which of their items users like to save. The new feature is supposed to be released in the next six months, according to an Instagram product manager. Finally, rumors have it that Instagram might be experimenting with building their own shopping app – something that the company so far refused to comment on. In any case, it is likely that the Christmas shopping a year from now will involve more screentime on Instagram than ever.

2. Brands will have to text back – and AI is happy to help

“Businesses call, people text”: This is the summary of a recent survey of more than more than 6,000 people of how they interact with companies around the globe. In the US, direct messages have surpassed both Emails and Calls as the preferred way of reaching customer services.

What platform do users prefer? While in the US, Facebook Messenger is the most popular app for direct messages, globally Whatsapp clearly is the No. 1 choice – earning the gold medal in 104 countries. With more than 50 million active users, SnapChat is coming second in the US, while it is internationally often beaten by Viber, Telegram or WeChat. And in 2019, we might see a new kid on the block: Instagram is apparently testing a new direct messaging app to revamp its rather slow and unhandy direct message function.

Customers should expect not only to be able to send companies a direct message but also to receive a direct reply. And as there is a high price tag on stocking up the customer success teams, 2019 is likely to see chatbots continue to rise: Powered by artificial intelligence, bots can not only answer a range of simple queries, but also automatically analyze and predict client requests, helping to realize those purchases on Instagram, Facebook Marketplace and Co.

On Facebook, there are already more than 200,000 automated bots. Other platforms such as Instagram provide so much much more hostile environments for chatbots – but as Instagram keeps on becoming a little bit more like Facebook, we are confident this will change with time, too.

3. Everybody will need to keep it real

When it comes to designing content itself, rebuilding trust and authenticity are the two big challenges. 

We should not forget that 2018 was the year that Twitter had to purge millions of fake accounts while Facebook’s list of scandals grew so long we could barely keep track of it. Two congressional hearings in the US and a trip to testify in front of the European Commission later, both policy-makers and users have become increasingly suspicious not only how their data is handled, but also how fake news, trolls, and bots may be working to manipulate public opinion on social media.

In a world where historically the “Like” button used to rule, the atmosphere has palpably cooled. 60% of users do not trust social media anymore and have grown pickier of who they include in their own circles. This means that social media marketing in 2019 will more than ever need to show its human side. The quantity of reach has already started to become deemed less important than the quality of engagement. For example, this can be seen in the rise of micro-influencers catering to specific niches of followers with high engagement. Furthermore, the quest to build a personal(ized) experience is further fuelling the mentioned trends of direct messages and, not least, of stories: Designed from the start for the quick glance on a small mobile screen and programmed to disappear within 24 hours, they “feel real, immediate, and intensely personal”, say social media firms.

Social media has seen a shift to become both the center of the political arena and commercial business in 2018. Marketers will not only have to keep up with the rapid development of new gadgets and features but also get more creative to build more authentic and meaningful customer relationships.

Social media marketing might not become much easier, but one thing is for sure: 2019 will bring an exciting year ahead.


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