2017: Get ready for the Amazonification of social media

Lithium VP Dayle Hall discusses the trends he'll be watching in 2017.

As a digital marketer, I’m constantly thinking about how brands are providing their customers with the best possible experience on digital channels, whether that be on social media, through chat tools, on popular e-commerce websites, or their own branded website. To that end, a few of the trends I’m seeing that will inform my 2017 strategy are as follows:

Social media data is no longer the secondary dataset
Social media had been growing in prominence for years. You’ve heard that before, right? After the Arab Spring, social media was recognized as a powerful means to reach and connect with one another. In fact, on a recent webcast I did with VaynerMedia and Marketing Land, Matt Sitomer described social media as just "the media."

Want more proof? Take the recent U.S. presidential election. The campaign was waged as much on social media as anywhere else. And like political strategists, brands can no longer treat social media as an afterthought or an extension of their traditional marketing campaigns.

Many are questioning their data sources as the election polls proved typical datasets may be disastrously inaccurate. There’s no denying that social can be a powerful means for brands to monitor consumer sentiment and perceptions in real time and gather feedback on products, services, and campaigns. But they need to engage in a meaningful way, and not just broadcast. To that end, we expect to see social media management tools and analytics become much more integrated throughout marketing departments in 2017, benefiting not just the organization but the customer as well.

While there is a fine line between creepy and targeted, research continues to show that consumers expect brands to recognize them as the same individual irrespective of channel. And, with consumers seeing social media as a go-to channel for everything, I expect brands to realize that customer support over social and the seamless integration of social data throughout the business will be essential in 2017.

2016’s most hyped: AI
A few big companies said it, and I see it on brands’ sites that have nothing to do with AI but are seemingly trying to catch a wave of relevancy and SEO. In 2017, we anticipate more brands will investigate and integrate with automation. But despite the buzz about one of 2016’s most hyped topics, the code of how to use this and when to deploy a bot vs. human, for example, will not get cracked. And that’s a good thing, for now. Many customers will still be left dissatisfied with these automated experiences. This will be similar to when customer service call centers moved almost entirely to automated systems and the brands that ended up benefiting were those that offered a human on the other end of the line. While there are some cost and resource efficiencies to deploying automation like bots, the key will be balancing this with the human touch.

Social steps up for the business: The ‘Amazonification’ of social commerce
Another trend we expect to have larger significance in 2017 is what we like to call the "Amazonification" of social commerce. As brands recognize the power behind social media, a greater emphasis will be placed on successfully integrating social and commerce. This means we’ll see more customer reviews and product information sitting directly alongside the shopping cart and social and commerce becoming completely integrated. People will use their own social network as a proxy to purchase decisions, and the brands better get on that or risk losing a whole generation of customers.

Dayle Hall is VP of marketing at Lithium. 

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