Experts Discuss the Social Trends to Watch in 2017 | Hootsuite Blog
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Experts Discuss the Social Trends to Watch in 2017

Our first Hootsuite Social Breakfast of 2017 took place on February 15 at The Soho Hotel, one of our favorite venues from last year’s social breakfasts. Rob Coyne, Hootsuite’s EMEA general manager, welcomed an auditorium and gallery overflowing with guests, many having to watch from screens in the bar and around 3,000 online viewers who caught the livestream of the event on YouTube.

Coyne opened by explaining the theme for the day and looking back at what we’d learned from 2016 and how our investigations and reports into the changing landscape of social media revealed the main points for future trends. Namely that social is a new front door in the sense that it’s gone beyond vanity metrics and has become a platform for so much more.

It’s become a gateway, allowing increased access for commerce, business, and advocacy. We’ve seen such growth in the platforms we use and their strategic use by business, that we’re even seeing a blurring of the lines between professional and personal use as even the world of work becomes more social.

But by far the greatest discovery from our report was the rise of video and how video content dominates audience attention on social media. It boosts social advertising and with the recent announcement from Facebook that they intend to develop a live television streaming app, it’s going to go mainstream in a big way.

Marketers are increasingly turning their focus to video ads on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram and we expect this to continue well into 2017.

Driving business growth through social

Amy McIlwain, Hootsuite’s global industry principal in financial services, took to the stage to welcome Ryan Vince, head of social at NFU Mutual, to discuss the challenges faced by businesses when it comes to social media.

Vince explained that his company is a traditional brand within the insurance industry with predominantly farming and more rural businesses as customers, so social media hadn’t been a part of the traditional marketing mix.

The challenges have been both in changing the internal perception and acceptance of social as a business tool and also creating relationships with customers that may not have been possible before.

With over 300 branches as well as the company’s main branded channels, how did NFU Mutual manage the social transition? Vince told us that being a very traditional company, they’ve always aimed to be a pillar of the community, forming strong relationships with their customers over time. Their two main challenges to getting buy-in were mitigating the risk of anything going wrong and demonstrating the opportunities that social represents.

By embracing social as a whole, they have been able to continue with that same ethos online, forging new relationships with customers that they may not have been able to reach otherwise.

As a company they recognise that social doesn’t sit within marketing anymore, it crosses boundaries into every form of communication with their customers. Vince continued to explain that by empowering their individual branches, identifying influencers and branch champions they were able to deliver a consistent approach to training, service, and tone of voice, which also allowed creativity and outreach—meaning that individuals were able to reach new leads, build trust and relationships with their audience as well as convert them into customers.

By becoming part of local communities, both offline and online, listening to what they’re interested in and actively talking to them on a personal level, Vince is finding that building a level of trust with NFU Mutual’s customers is very powerful to their business. Make it as much about the end-user or customer as possible.

Achieving more with ecosystems

It wouldn’t be a Hootsuite Social Breakfast without an expert panel discussion and we were privileged to have some of the industry’s best and brightest with us.

Having already heard how important building consumer trust and increasing employee advocacy has been for NFU Mutual, we were keen to discuss how building an ecosystem can help to achieve that. Rylan Holey, our EMEA partner manager, opened the panel by asking “What is an ecosystem and what does it mean to us?”

You have to think slightly outside of the social media framework and look at how you use it, what you use it for, the devices you use, and how you measure your success. An ecosystem, as the name suggests, is an environment that encapsulates all the processes you have in place for using social media, how you track that use, how you capture data, and how you calculate ROI.

One of our senior directors for global marketing, Susan Perry, sees it more as not isolating social media to one department, like marketing, but permeating out across your workforce.

All of our experts agreed that ecosystems rely heavily on collaboration with partners who are able to add value to your existing offering and ultimately to your community. For example, Hootsuite’s focus lies in capturing community conversations through the dashboard and what you can do with that.

But as Mike Price, CTO at ZeroFOX explained, by partnering with Hootsuite or Facebook they are able to add an extra layer of security to that ecosystem for their customers. It’s a service that compliments and grows the existing ecosystem and provides tracking and analytics.

While ROI was heavily discussed as being why we need such tools for analysis, Jeremy Waite, IBM evangelist, raised interesting points about how we often get carried away with having to measure and report on everything.

“We used to debate in the early days of Facebook, what’s the ROI of your dog?” Waite said. The point is that you cannot always attach a value to something and maybe you shouldn’t always try.

“Our responsibility, I think, is understanding when to measure stuff properly but also when you can’t. Tell compelling stories in the middle of that and get our bosses okay with the fact that you can measure that, but you shouldn’t,” he explained.

Sid Mankour—responsible for advertising, tech and business development at Facebook—agreed that sometimes you can’t put a value on the emotional link between a company and its customers.

“It comes down to trust and you can’t measure trust. You can do surveys and things like that, but you can’t measure the level of trust. But as a business you do still have to have KPIs,” Mankour explained. “It has to be a trade-off between realising this-and-that likes don’t pay bills.”

The panel continued to discuss what they meant by trust, as it comes in many forms when talking about customers. Not only are we talking about the customer being able to trust what you tell them in conversation or belief in your brand advertising but also security, data protection, and, ultimately, anything that can make a customer feel safe and trust that dealing with you will have no negative consequences for them.

There’s also very much an element of expecting some value upfront, before giving you their details or a sale.

The panel discussion ended with Q&A from the audience. You can see the discussion and all the answers by watching the video on-demand.

Why don’t people fall in love with brands anymore?

As the panel left the stage, only Jeremy Waite remained, taking to the podium as our final speaker of the morning. He opened by talking about community and what that actually means when it comes to social media, sharing a video with the audience to illustrate his point and to share the work that IBM has been doing with it’s AI, Watson.

Explaining that he wanted to focus on the audience’s vision for social, he continued with anecdotes from his first job in social media and how we’re all still trying to work out how to do social media the right way.

Working out what platforms to use, how we measure success, and how we build communities at scale with relatively low budgets—the common theme across all these issues was speed. If we can get ahead of our competition, even if it’s only by the time it takes to blink, then we have a massive advantage.

He made the comparison that on average people used to own shares for an average of four years, but today the average is around 22 seconds. Why does that relate to social media? Because it means 10,000 share trades are completed every second, which is also the number of tweets posted every second. It’s also the average number of swipes per second on the dating app Tinder.

We’re not competing with each other, we’re competing with time itself. Waite shared the perfect quote which he took from Facebook: “We need to create thumb-stopping experiences.” Something that is so compelling and appealing emotionally that it jumps out and stops someone from swiping.

Our challenge is winning the hearts and minds of people across our business, creating experiences and trust. We’d already touched on trust in the group discussion and Jeremy was keen to share details of the Edelman Trust Barometer which, as the name suggests, is an annual report which measures trust in business. It’s a fantastic document which illustrates across countries and industries where people put their trust.

But why is it important?

Well, because these are all things that a community needs from us as social media marketers. Which is what Waite chose to end on—what is a community?

“Just responding to everyone on social media—Facebook and Twitter—isn’t building a community. But we talk about it as if it is. When did we stop making compelling stories and focus more on insights and metrics?” he asked.

He raised some thought-provoking ideas on how social media has evolved since the early days of Facebook, where community building was very much what the platform was designed to do.

But now, are we too preoccupied with tracking outcomes and clicks to buy, instead of serving our communities?

Waite believes that the future battleground for us in social media isn’t about harvesting customer data. It’s about understanding our audiences emotions. Watch the final videos he shared with us here. He makes a very compelling case.