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Published January 4th 2018

Social Media Trends 2018: What to Expect

What are social platforms going to do in 2018? How will this affect brands and publishers? We've got six predictions for social media in 2018 to help you prepare.

This year is set to be an interesting one in the industry so we’ve put together a list of social media trends we expect to see in 2018. The industry is ripe for upheaval as money pours in and controversies pop out. While it’s unlikely any big players are going the way of Myspace in the next twelve months, there’s still a lot that can happen.

Here are our predicted social media trends for 2018. It looks like it’s going to be a year for change.

Battling algorithms

This isn’t a new issue but one that will continue into 2018. The biggest instance of this is Facebook, where brands have seen their organic reach slowly decrease as the social media giant has tweaked their algorithm over the years. We’re also seeing changes to Instagram feeds, while Twitter pushes ‘best tweets’ and those you might have missed at you.

In the past, brands have looked at other ways to increase their reach, such as encouraging people to tag others on Facebook posts. But now Facebook have come down hard on these kinds of tactics. It’s possible other platforms could end up following suit.

But what does this mean for brands? It means a constant analysis of performance, tweaking posts and content to see what works, and attempting to keep ahead of the curve with new ideas.

Unfortunately that might just be bailing out a sinking boat with a spoon. It looks like the main solution will be our next trend.

More ad spend for more platform responsibility

Again, this is a trend that hit its stride in 2017, but will continue in 2018. Facebook and other platforms want your money, and they’ll make you pay to reach your audience. You can expect to see a big increase in social ad spend this year, with more companies building specialised and dedicated teams to it. And with this it’s likely we’ll see a more PPC approach to social spend as well.

But with this extra money being forked out, businesses will want something in return. They want platforms to tighten their ship when it comes to their advertising services.

Facebook has been accused of over-exaggerating metrics, targeting vulnerable people, and allowing advertisers to use demographic targeting for racist purposes.

They’ve also, along with Google, had issues with showing ads alongside extreme content. Meanwhile YouTube is facing issues with children accessing bizarre automated content and YouTubers getting into controversy after controversy.

Advertisers can often get shrapnel from these issues, so they’ll be expecting platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook to minimize these issues or correct them. In the end, with the changing algorithms we’ve already mentioned, the balance of power between platform and advertisers isn’t yet clear. Either way, those shelling out loads of cash will hold some sway.

Platforms chasing profit

We’ve already looked at how platforms like Facebook use algorithms to encourage ad spend (and it’s worked very well for them), but that’s not the only way to make money. While Facebook could probably just stick to this approach (they won’t), platforms like Twitter and Snapchat haven’t even made any profit yet – although Twitter may be close.

This means they will most likely attempt some new things this year. Twitter has already set the tone with increasing their character limit, while Snapchat has already experimented with augmented reality.

What else will they do though? It’s hard to predict, but there will probably be more attempts to work with big brands to bring in some revenue, along with new features to increase users and bolster usage. In other words, it should be an interesting year with a lot of change.

Riskier and more creative brand voices

Again linked to tightening algorithms, brands are taking more chances with how they act online. Companies like UK betting brand Paddy Power have made ‘banter’ part of their brand and brought it onto social. While Twitter accounts, like the one for Waterstones’ Oxford store, have employed a unique and creative approach to tweeting.

But more recently, the company to gain the most interest from this has been Wendy’s.

The American fast food chain’s Twitter account has taken up roasting competitors, memes and a offering snarky responses to their followers. While it’s all obviously in jest, a lot of this instances come close to the line, and the majority of social media managers wouldn’t touch this approach with a bargepole.

Nonetheless, it seems to have paid off. It’s given Wendy’s a lot of exposure, including the chance to do their own Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) which garnered over 9k comments. That’s a lot of publicity for the cheap act of tweeting.

So, expect the imitators to come out in force, along with a few innovators who will try something different. Being adventurous can clearly pay off for the right business. Although it seems like we’ve had the first disaster from this approach already, with Virgin getting in trouble just two days into 2018.

Virtual and augmented reality

You’re probably as bored reading about this as I am writing about it, but it’s possible 2018 could finally be the year where VR and AR break into social in a real way.

Obviously this isn’t new technology, but it’s becoming far more commonplace with proper headsets appearing in more homes by the day. Mostly this is for gaming, but there’s no reason why social platforms won’t look to move into this space. Twitter hired a VR team a few years ago, while Snapchat is already working with this technology as we mentioned.

The problem is that social media thrives on the fact it can be done on the go, while VR headsets keep you pretty stationary. Whether a platform will figure out the right approach is hard to say, but expect some attempts within the next twelve months – particularly if the technology gets more mobile.

Platform exodus and decentralization

As with every year, a bunch of new social platforms will appear, get hyped up, and then likely disappear again. But every so often someone does break through and 2018 seems like a good year for it.

With algorithms and controversies, concerns over data privacy, and an ever-growing number of people to see using social media as a given, if the right idea came along it could really take off. Discord achieved something similar last year as a place to congregate around specific interests, along with the choice to stay anonymous (for better or worse).

In fact, Discord could signal where social may be heading: a form of decentralization. Rather than all congregating on a few major platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, we could see people head to more niche and tailored platforms (arguably Snapchat could fall under this).

With social media now ubiquitous in society, it means there are more demographics using it than ever before. That means a bigger target market for ideas that five years ago didn’t have the audience. With everyone from primary school kids to OAPs on some kind of platform, that may no longer be the case.

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