Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Social media has undergone a significant evolution over the past few years, with return on investment no longer measurable in “likes” and tweets. As we prepare to welcome a new year, JP Kloppers, CEO of social data analytics company BrandsEye, looks at some of the trends that are set to affect social media and its usage in 2017.

Perhaps the most significant trend, says Kloppers, is the fact that clients have started to scrutinise the quality of the data generated through social media campaigns. As the tools become more sophisticated, marketers will start to put more weight behind this data and, instead of being satisfied by a mere “like” on Facebook, they’ll be more concerned with the question of “so what?” – delving into what the “like” actually means for the brand.

As social media grows in popularity it is increasingly seen as a source of intelligence that can be used to understand consumer behaviour. BrandsEye was able to correctly predict Brexit earlier this year and, more recently, the outcome of the US presidential election.

“This is not because we have any particular expertise in the political arena, but rather because we understand what people think and feel as a result of what they share on social media platforms – and we know how to interpret that information,” says Kloppers.

Emotion continues to be a strong driver of consumer behaviour – so much so that Kloppers believes content will get no response at all if it does not evoke some sort of emotion, good or bad. He says the US presidential election is a prime example of this trend: Donald Trump’s message was not an intellectual one but an emotional one. His promise to “make America great again” resonated with the public. They didn’t care how he planned to do it – but his emotional messaging struck a chord and won him the necessary number of votes.

Tied closely to emotion is consumers’ expectation of personalised content. Consumers will back a brand, organisation or even political party if they believe it will bring value to them; they want to be treated as individuals. It’s the difference, say’s Kloppers, between receiving a handwritten card from a partner versus a printed one from the florist. Though it may be challenging for brands to connect with consumers on an individual level in an age where loyalty is cheap, he adds, they should make every effort to do so.

Kloppers cautions that organisations or brands that have large customer bases and use call centres to deal with telephonic and social media queries need to remember that consumers get extremely irritated with “cut and paste” responses. Personalisation is crucial. People employed by the brand, including call centre agents, need to have a sense of humour, be good communicators and think on their feet.

Good content, says Kloppers, will remain central to the success of any social media marketing campaign.

The big take-out: Social media trends for 2017 will reflect more data gathered through social media campaigns as a way to understand consumer behaviour. Content that is personal and creates an emotional connection will continue to be the foundation of a good social media campaign.