What lies ahead for social media marketers in 2017

Toss the crystal ball, trash the Tarot cards, ditch the runes, and put those tea leaves into the garbage disposal. Here’s your forecast, based on survey data, for the coming year.

Imagine being able to predict the next big thing on social media.

You’d know what online platforms will look like in 2017 and beyond, as well as how brand marketers will use them to connect with audiences.

For anyone who works with social media regularly, this information would be invaluable.

To better understand how social media marketing is changing, we collected data from more than 1,200 marketers to create the State of Social Media 2016 report.

Let’s start with three social media takeaways for marketing in 2017:

1. Video is about to peak.

Five out of every six marketers said they’d like to create more video content. Also, 30 percent of marketers seek to focus specifically on Facebook video in 2017, with 28 percent looking to add YouTube to their marketing efforts.

Right now, video stands out in the Facebook News Feed. As video rises in popularity and more brands and individuals share it, getting noticed will become harder. Eventually, brands may have to pay for video reach, as many do for sponsored posts and ads.

The takeaway: 2017 could be a great time to grab attention before the video crush hits.

2. Almost every marketer is using Facebook (93 percent) and Facebook ads (91 percent).

Our report found that 93 percent of marketers use Facebook for business and 91 percent have invested in Facebook Ads. Despite the drop in its organic reach, 72 percent of respondents said their use of Facebook has held steady or increased in the past 12 months.

The takeaway: Facebook is worth figuring out.

3. Just one in five respondents uses social media for customer support.

Only 21 percent of businesses listed customer support as a way they use social media.

With more and more customers turning to online platforms for support issues, there’s great opportunity for businesses, individuals and entrepreneurs to build advocacy by providing outstanding support on social media.

The takeaway: Delight your customers by using social media for customer support.

2017: Objectives and challenges

Over the past five years, social media marketing has become incredibly important for businesses of all sizes, but exactly why are marketers using social media?

Objective: Businesses are on social media primarily to boost brand awareness.

The top reason for using social media was brand awareness (85 percent), followed by community engagement (71 percent). Among all reasons to use social media—including awareness, community, distribution, lead generation—customer support was the only factor cited by fewer than half of brands (just 21 percent).

Challenge: More than half of marketers puzzle over how to drive traffic from social media.

Fifty-eight percent of marketers said driving traffic to their website was a primary social media challenge, followed by generating leads (49 percent).

Measurement and ROI continue to present problems for marketers, with 42 percent of respondents listing it as a challenge:

Here are 10 insights into how marketers use social media:

1. Facebook is the top marketing platform.

Facebook is the leading platform for marketers, with 93 percent of respondents saying their business actively uses it. Twitter was close behind, with 89 percent saying they use it for business.

Other channels respondents use are Google+ (42 percent), Pinterest (35 percent), Facebook video (29 percent), messaging apps (16 percent), Snapchat (12 percent), Medium (10 percent), Quora (5 percent), Vine (3 percent).

2. Marketers are abandoning Google+.

Google+ is the channel most marketers feel they will invest less time in over the next 12 months (27 percent of respondents). Twitter was second in declining interest, with 23 percent.

Other channels respondents said they’ll move away from in 2017 include Instagram (11 percent), Snapchat (9 percent), YouTube (9 percent), messaging apps (8 percent), Facebook video (6 percent), Quora (6 percent), Medium (6 percent).

3. Facebook video will be a priority for marketers.

Multimedia content seems a prime focus for 2017, with many marketers banking on video.

Facebook video came out on top, with 30 percent of respondents saying it’s on their radar for 2017, closely followed by YouTube (28 percent), Instagram (26 percent), and Snapchat (22 percent). All four platforms focus on visuals, heralding a spike in multimedia content in 2017. The prominent inclusion of YouTube is telling, as marketers weigh their video options.

Also on respondents’ radar: Pinterest (15 percent), LinkedIn (14 percent), Twitter (13 percent), Messaging Apps (11 percent), Medium (11 percent), Google+ (10 percent), Quora (6 percent).

4. Facebook’s decline in organic reach isn’t scaring away marketers.

Despite Facebook’s organic reach continuing to drop over the past year, most businesses are still actively using the platform: 46 percent of respondents said their use of Facebook has held steady, 26 percent said they share more content, and 28 percent said they now post less.

5. Businesses are adapting to Facebook as a pay-to-play channel.

Facebook appears to be the leader in paid marketing spending, with 91 percent of respondents investing in ads on the platform—way ahead of Twitter, which finished second with 34 percent having bought Twitter ads.

6. Social media spending is stable or increasing.

This calendar year, 42 percent of respondents have spent more than in 2015, with only 7 percent of companies decreasing their social media marketing budgets. About half (51 percent) saw their annual budgets stay the same.

7. Video yields to factors such as time, resources and budget.

If there were no obstacles (time, resources, budget), 83 percent of marketers said they’d create more video content. Blog posts finished second (57 percent) on the wish list, and live video, significantly, was third (42 percent).

8. Time constraints hold marketers back from creating video.

From the survey, 73 percent of marketers cite a lack of time as a hindrance to creating videos. The perceived cost was also a reason why many (41 percent) have yet to dive in or create even more videos.

9. Live video has yet to hit mass adoption.

Despite the excitement around live video during 2016, most marketers (74 percent) have yet to create live video content. For those who have done so, Facebook Live was the platform of choice, ahead of Periscope and YouTube.

10. Marketers are still figuring out Snapchat and Instagram stories.

Marketers seem excited about the potential of Instagram and Snapchat, with 26 percent and 22 percent saying they’re looking to add the platforms to their channels in the next 12 months. Despite this, 71 percent have yet to create stories on either platform.

Looking ahead, 37 percent of respondents said they don’t plan to create stories on either channel, with 34 percent looking to create stories on Instagram and 27 percent looking to use stories on both platforms.

Multiple hats

Only 15 percent of respondents work exclusively on social media, with 80 percent agreeing with the statement, “Social media is only a part of my role.” To elaborate:

  • 84 percent also do content marketing alongside social media.
  • 68 percent also do email marketing alongside social media.
  • 62 percent combine social media with community-focused projects.

With so much of social media success relying on stand-out content, it makes sense that social media marketers would blend social media with content marketing.

A version of this article first appeared on Buffer.


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