More than 3 billion people around the world now use social media each month, with the latest data showing a 13% year-over-year increase. The average internet user also spends around 6 hours per day on connected devices according to the latest data from GlobalWebIndex.
For the average user, that’s approximately one-third of our waking lives – over 100 solid days out of the year – spent searching, messaging, shopping, watching, reading, playing and swiping in apps and across the web.
Staggeringly, almost one million people started using the internet for the first time every single day throughout 2017, meaning there are now more than four billion internet users worldwide. This growth has been largely driven by more affordable smartphones and mobile data plans in places like central Africa and India, as well as increased adoption of social media from the over-65 demographic in the west.
With such extraordinary growth, and with users across the globe spending even more time glued to their smartphones every day, it should come as no surprise that the world’s biggest and best consumer brands have stretched further across the social sphere, going deeper in an attempt to win the attention of consumers.
Here we look at the changing face of brand communications across social media in 2018, analysing what the best do right and sharing the details with you.
Instagram Moves to the Forefront
With increasingly limited reach on Facebook, it has been a natural transition for brands to move much of the organic resources at their disposal to the social media giant’s younger, cooler sister Instagram. As the fastest growing platform with 800 million daily users, the image sharing app is the perfect place for visual storytelling, and a natural home for brands across fashion, travel, sports, automotive, food – and everything in-between.
As of November 2017 there were 25 million brands on Instagram in total, up 10 million in the five months since June. 2017 truly was the year that Instagram moved to the A-list for brands, where they enjoy higher engagement rates than on any other social platform.
The fact that “porn” can be innocently added to the end of so many categories (#foodporn, #travelporn, #carporn) demonstrates the powerful effects imagery can have on our brains.
Take this image posted by Maserati as an example:
It’s easy to see how people’s minds would wander, thinking what it would be like to sit behind the wheel of their own luxury Italian sportscar. The image practically whispers to the brain, subconsciously seducing any (well-heeled) motorhead to find out how they can make their daydream a reality.
Maserati combined this emotive branding with paid Facebook and Instagram ads, targeting a custom list of people who had visited the car model’s landing page or watched one of their promotional videos in full, as well as a lookalike audience based on their custom list.
The campaign was a success, so much so that 21,000 people were inspired to look into buying the model on display, with 127 of those leads actually making a purchase.
TIP: Try to build an emotional connection with your audience through evocative, high-quality photography. Follow up with ads that target those people who performed a specific action in relation to your products, to turn their engagement into sales.
The Rise of ‘Stories’
Snapchat invented them but the ‘Story’ baton has well and truly been passed to Instagram, which now boasts 300 million daily users compared to Snapchat’s 175 million. The rise of stories as a new, rich content format has seen brands increase content production to capitalise on this new mobile ‘real estate’.
The best brands use stories in a number of different ways, showing raw and authentic ‘behind-the-scenes’ style content, entertaining their audiences with gifs, motion graphics and video, and showing of new products in exciting and engaging ways.
ASOS is notably active on Instagram Stories, posting content daily to its 6.9M followers. One of the brand’s greatest attributes is their proclivity to react quickly to emerging trends and styles. This is true for both their product-ranges and their marketing tactics.
The fashion giant was one of the first brands on Instagram, and one of the first to make proper-use of Stories.
“We tested loads of different content types,” says Leila Thabet, Global Director of Content and Engagement at ASOS. “From stop-motion animation to behind the scenes footage, we’ve incorporated influencers, how to’s and narrative stories. It’s still a new platform and audiences are learning how they want to engage with it.”
One of the key differences between Stories and other visual formats is the full-screen, portrait layout. Footage that looks like it was shot on a mobile will feel native to the format, and in keeping with the type of videos uploaded by users.
TIP: “Understand how, where and why people are using Instagram Stories and then weave your brand narrative into that.” – Leila Thabet
Ads in Stories
Another way brands are leveraging the rapidly growing Stories medium is with sponsored ads – images or short videos that fit the format of a story, inserted between the stories of people your target audience follows. This keeps the user experience consistent and flow uninterrupted, allowing brands to hold people’s attention in a full-screen experience, if only for a brief (up to 15 seconds) moment.
A drawback of these ads is that they are easy to skip. A simple thumb-tap on the screen will skip to the next story, which means the ad needs to be immediately engaging. One-second is realistically all you have to grab your audience’s attention.
The format means that the brand message needs to be communicated entirely through the visual asset, as there is no room to add a caption or accompanying text. Marketers do have the opportunity to send traffic to a landing page though, with a simple ‘swipe up’.
McDonald’s used Stories to capture the attention of millennials and increase sales of its ongoing McFlurry and McCafé campaigns in Malaysia. The global brand took some existing assets and optimised them for the Instagram Story experience, with colourful overlaid text and animated elements.
The campaign reached 60% of their target audience (18-44 year-olds in Malaysia who had shown an interest in coffee and desserts) and successfully tripled in-store sales.
TIP: Try to make the ad visually appealing from the first frame and ensure the brand message is clearly communicated in the photo or video itself.
Facebook live has become something of a win-win for brands. Video has been the most engaged-with content format on the web for several years now, and live streaming gives marketers the opportunity to create conversations around events, with reactions, comments, and viewer numbers shown in real-time.
The Facebook algorithm also favours live video, and even notifies people when a page they have liked goes live. Combine this with FOMO – the fear of missing out – and you have a powerful way of reaching and engaging your audience. Facebook found that users spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that’s no longer live. This is because Facebook Live videos are more interesting in the moment than after the fact.
This Facebook Live stream from Nike pitted eight professional footballers against each other in a battle to be crowned the ultimate finisher. Viewers could award bonus points to players by voting with different emoji reactions, helping their favourite stars progress to the next round. These reactions increased the reach of the video which ultimately amassed over 3 million views, 75,000 reactions and almost 9,000 shares.
The stream was part of a campaign to promote a new football boot which was sported by each footballer in the tournament.
Facebook live is perfect for events and behind-the-scenes style content, and a mobile phone with an internet connection is all you need to get started.
TIP: Remember that, just like with any live event, timing is key. Plan ahead and stream at a prime time when a large volume of your target audience is likely to be online.