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Where will social media lead brands in 2017?

Social is changing the way consumers interact with brands. And brands are sizing up new routes to exploit consumers’ shifting behaviours. But how will changes alter the landscape in 2017 and where will it lead tomorrow’s brands who want to ride the wave of new world engagement? Here are my predictions for what we can expect to see next year.    

Social ads diversify

Social ads aren’t anything new but as many brands will tell you, when integrated well into a social feed, they can be both innovative and effective. Currently customers are disheartened by the inconsistent experience they receive across an increasingly complicated web of channels. 

According to Gartner next year will be about embracing the right balance between paid, organic, and advocacy efforts to give customers the most consistent experience possible. Most companies know they must investigate paid promotions in some shape or form, with 80 per cent of social media marketing leaders set to place paid advertising programs on social media within the next 12 months. 

The question is, in which format should I place my ad investment dollar?  Next year, ads will be better at understanding the entire customer journey, not just the last click. It’s the kind of visibility that companies have always wanted and it will deliver in new ways in 2017.   

Shifting balance of power

Consumers are more likely to trust their peers to offer them recommendations of a product or service. From the brand side, according to Forrester, businesses that use employee advocacy see a direct link to increased revenue. It makes sense, particularly when looking at organic focused social media campaigns, to focus on employee advocacy as a key tactic. 

Consumers get to hear authentic voices, while businesses can reap the benefits of a trusted voice talking about their products and services. The tools that enable brands to do this more effectively will come into their own in 2017. 

Shopping gets immersive

We know consumers are researching brands on social. We also know that they’re interacting with brands on social. Social is maturing way beyond simply brand awareness and becoming a key way to drive revenue. In APAC this trend is heightened, Econsultancy quote that in one week social channel WeChat had 8bn transactions, more than the entire year for PayPal (4bn). Platforms like WeChat and Facebook have made headway but there’s been too much of a disconnect between the financial institutions and social networks on a global scale for the process to be enjoyable and seamless. 

We’ll see this change in 2017 through the likes of chatbots and automation as the networks, banks and brands work closely together creating a better, more personal and consistent environment for transactions.   

The market is there. Companies that capitalise on the rising interest in social shopping will be those who create context aware content. Primark used Christmas Jumper Day 2015 to encourage people to personalise their own Christmas jumpers. They used GIFs across social channels to show consumers how to design their own products leading them to purchase points. Then, on the day, they encouraged all consumers, influencers and celebrities to share their creations via selfies on social. Best selfies then received a personalised video from Primark’s #MysticMotherChristmas

When buyers see a brand presence throughout their shopping journey, that brand will be front of mind – wherever the buy button is located.  We’re well on the way to shopping having a lessened sense of place. Instead of having one singular destination, we’ll have more immersive shopping experiences that move with the customer. The technology is helping businesses to reach that utopia and we’ll take a giant leap forward in 2017.

Real impact becomes more measurable

Social is about a lot more than brand awareness. It’s at its best when it drives a positive change – whether that’s a change in sentiment or behaviour. Historically, the problem has been that efforts to measure engagement have been simplistic. They lacked the nuance and sophistication needed to gauge the extent to which social impacted the purchase process. 

However, we’re seeing the arrival of meaningful relationship moments (MRM) as a metric in social media activations, a concept originating from the very customer centric hospitality industry, where we are able to do a much better job of monitoring the success of campaigns. Social teams have long been under pressure to prove their value. MRMs are the type of interaction that shows that a brand is building a meaningful relationship with its customers. 

Currently, only five per cent of engagements end with MRMs but they are vital. They fuel deeper engagement at all stages of the customer journey and stand out above a sea of perfunctory ‘likes’. What’s more, they lead to higher customer experience levels. In 2017, businesses will have a much better picture of what success looks like when it comes to engaging stakeholders online. 

Tracking the traffic an increasing concern

Dark social is the source of almost 70 per cent of online referrals globally, according to RadiumOne. Dark social is web traffic that comes from online referrers that can’t be tracked. And at a time when brands are endeavouring to make analytics work in their favour, dark social can be a black hole that is difficult to plug. It will therefore become a bigger issue because measurement is now such an invaluable tool in the online marketer’s toolkit.  

The prevailing problem brands face is that of the growth of messaging apps. Because they are unable to reveal themselves as referrers, it will become increasingly difficult for those with an online presence to see where their traffic is coming from. They will need to move beyond standard web analytics and start tracking with specialist solutions to unlock new insights about their customers. As a result, they will be able to provide them a better service based on their needs than ever before. 


In 2017 brands are going to have to refocus their attention on authentic conversations with consumers. Chatbots and automation will enable companies to deal with customer questions and enquiries faster and with more personalisation leaving time for complex engagement to be the rightful responsibility of the community management teams.  

With changes to the way brands leverage paid promotional content for brand awareness, there will be a need to have a clear strategy for engaging with consumers on an organic level, through the entire customer journey.  Finally, brands that succeed will be the ones that are brave in embracing social commerce and with that embracing the increased ability to measure the success of social media campaigns beyond awareness right through the point of purchase, building brand advocates in a social, and very authentic way.

Image source: Shutterstock/Twin Design
Melanie Dichtl, Senior Marketing Manager Northern Europe & EMEA,

Melanie Dichtl is Senior Marketing Manager for Northern Europe & EEMEA at Hootsuite, Melanie leads integrated marketing programmes to enable brands across countries to unlock business value via social media.