In this post, we cover four must-know social media trends that we believe all SMEs should master.

For small and medium-sized businesses, social media has been a revelation. Finally, they can reach large audiences without paying the huge advertising fees that traditional media demands. But as always, there are catches. Apart from the expertise and time needed to manage social media, it’s vital for companies to stay on top of current trends. Social media is constantly evolving, and if you don’t keep up, your audience will simply move on.

With this in mind, let’s look at what’s happening right now in social media, and how SMEs can use it to their advantage.

Communicate trust and transparency

In just a few short months, people’s attitudes to social media have shifted considerably. Ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, social media users have started to look harder at their providers. The revelations of just how casual Facebook had been with personal data has badly tarnished the reputation of social media companies.

One result is that users are far more wary of sharing their personal data online, because they quite reasonably question how it’s being used and shared. But more broadly, it’s affected the way people view individual businesses using social media and how they want to interact with them.

In the wake of the Facebook debacle, social media users want marketing that’s less intrusive, more authentic and more transparent. That means that companies need to be upfront about how they use personal data and give updates when this changes. They should avoid carpet-bombing their prospective clients with ads — there’s little patience with that at the moment. And they need to be transparent about how their company functions, including its services, employment practices, policies and so on. Millennials in particular are demanding greater transparency before they part with their cash.

It all boils down to this: in 2019, people are turned off by corporations that treat their users like data points. Any company with a social media presence needs to bear this in mind and think carefully about the image it’s projecting.

Develop a human face

The loss of trust in social media explains our second social media trend: companies are having to become more human online. Buyers are wary of anonymous business entities. Increasingly, they want to see what lies behind the logo and the brand colours. They’re itching to buy from other people, with names, faces and stories. They want to feel part of a human transaction.

For SMEs, this means that their social media presence has to humanise the company. We’re seeing far more on social media about the people within SMEs, especially the owner or others in senior management. Whether it’s through tweets, blogs, webinars, videos or podcasts, companies are learning to talk directly to their customers and their prospects. It’s a powerful way of connecting with an audience that’s become a wee bit cynical.

More video, please

So, companies need to be human and connect. And what better way of doing that than by video? Video is the most direct way of showing the living, breathing people within the company — and that’s certainly one reason why video is becoming so important on social media.

However, even before the current demand for authenticity, video was already growing strongly. Video is part of the massive changes in how we consume information and instruction. For example, 91% of smartphone users have used their phone for ideas when they are carrying out a task. Viewing figures for ‘how to’ videos have been rising by 70% annually and show no sign of slowing down.

Smart SMEs are cashing in on this trend, using video on social media to engage with their audience.

User-generated content

User-generated content is a beautifully simple idea: get your customers to market on your behalf. Essentially, users take part in some sort of company-generated event and share their experiences on social media.

For example, Starbucks runs an annual White Cup Contest, where customers decorate their white coffee cup and share the results on Twitter. The winning user gets a gift coupon and their design printed on the company’s cups. But the real winner is Starbucks, which — for relatively little outlay — gets masses of brand exposure and user engagement.

There are dozens of ways to encourage users to generate content. It’s a cliché, but nevertheless true, that the only limit is your imagination. We’re currently seeing increased use of user-generated content on social media, and don’t expect the trend to die off anytime soon. It’s something many SMEs should consider embracing.

If you don’t have time to keep up with social media trends, but want your campaign to fly, why not get in touch? We specialise in helping SMEs reach their marketing goals.