Fast forward to social media marketing 2018

Back in 2013, digital marketing specialist Justin Kirby posed a fascinating question to a series of social media experts.

Namely: What do you think will have changed in social media five years from now and what will still be the same?

It was – and is – a tough question to answer. Social media moves so fast that even a single year brings significant, unpredictable change.

So how did our experts fare? We caught up with them five years on and asked them to comment on their predictions…

Dave Chaffey, CEO & Co-Founder, Smart Insights

What will change: “It’s not strategic, but what I’d like to see are more powerful tools to curate content across the sources so we get a summary of the best advice around a topic. I used to love Postrank in my Google Feedreader to show the content that’s really worth reading, but we lost that tool when Google acquired them and killed off Google Reader. Still, we have Feedly, Flipboard and similar.”

“When I was asked to look forward I was bemoaning the loss of tools for keeping up-to-date. Five years later my request has been answered, with a tool specifically for marketers with the arrival this year of Zest. Zest is a Google Chrome extension, new in 2017, which I and the team at Smart Insights use to alert us to the latest developments and best practices in digital marketing. Its curated content is specifically designed for and updated by marketers. Like Feedly, you can use it to review the most useful content recommended by ‘the crowd’, in this case ‘your crowd’ of marketers.”

What won’t change: “Content Marketing Strategy will be at the heart of effective social media marketing. Your hear the HiPPOs say “We need a social media strategy”, but actually what they want is a way of engaging different personas and it’s the content that fuels this and you need a strategy to compete now that everyone knows about the importance of quality content.”

“I originally talked about the value in having a content marketing strategy to fuel your social media marketing activities. This was talking to the need for integration and better planning for digital marketing channels, which our research shows is a huge pain point for businesses today. Investing more in planning and optimising always-on lifecycle marketing activities including social media can help here. For example, our lifecycle visual below shows how paid social can support remarketing, which is an opportunity that more and more businesses are taking advantage of.”

Full B2B customer lifecycle

This is also a theme many of the contributors, including Luke Brynley-Jones of Our Social Times, make in our social media trends and predictions article.

Katy Howell, CEO, Immediate Future

What will change: “Smarter use of metrics, better benchmarks and increased social marketing skills will bring stronger performance marketing to social activation. The norm will be to gather key measures, evaluate, optimise and drive social to deliver value goals. And it will raise the bar on social media, taking it out of the fluffy and making it integral to customer communication and experience.”

“Oh my! Well this happened in spadefuls this year. Without a doubt, this was driven by paid social media’s dominance in any social marketing plan. It has raised the bar and social media professionals are vastly more skilled and in demand. The next year will see a further step change as the social channels (especially Facebook) position themselves as our core mobile app (in the same vein as Tencent’s WeChat) – the one stop, trusted and data rich place to buy, connect and run our lives. Expect lots of innovation in the coming months.”

What won’t change: “Even in five years, I think social will continue be an evolving media. The challenge will be staying on top of the rapidity of change!”

“The challenge is the same: keeping ahead of evolving social media. That won’t change even in the next five years. The need for social media marketing specialism is as strong if not stronger this year. We need skilled folk that are immersed in the world of social from insights, to creative and paid.”

Jemima Gibbons, Social Media Strategist and author of ‘Monkeys with Typewriters’

What will change:“In 2018, personalisation and brand experience will have been taken to their logical extremes: consumers will have far more control over the relationship – in fact, brands will be paying them to advertise in their social ‘space’. Consumers will be involved more closely in product and service development, to the point of co-creation.”

“Strangely enough, I’ve just got back from a client conference where user-centredness and even talk of co-design were central to the debate. Those ideas are much more mainstream now – but full ‘co-creation’ is still a long way off! As to brands paying consumers to advertise in their social space, I think the rise of influencer marketing has proved that to be true.”

What won’t change:“Sadly, bad customer service will still exist – it just won’t be as mainstream as it is today.”

“Sadly there are still plenty of terrible customer experiences out there!”

Dom Dwight, Marketing Director for Taylors of Harrogate

What will change:“Five years is a long time for this subject – just look how different things were in 2008! That said, I think it’s safe to say the biggest change will be the almost total shift to mobile, and consumers interacting with companies via their smartphones (or smart glasses or whatever!) will be the norm rather than an interesting trend.”

“I’m quite pleased with this prediction! It’s actually quite weird to remember that smartphones were once an interesting tech disruption, rather than a mainstay of the modern world. I think we’ve barely scratched the surface of how these powerful little devices are going to change consumer behaviours.”

What won’t change: “Is what will matter to consumers: excellent service and quality products that make their lives better. Only the brands that realise this and reflect it in the way they connect with consumers will get any real value out of interacting online.”

“With Yorkshire Tea now the number two brew in the UK and the nation’s most popular FMCG brand (according to YouGov), I am naturally inclined to stand by this! Generally, the rise of discounter-driven, savvy shopping has seen a split, where relationships between consumer and brand at the value end often being purely transactional now, but at the premium end of most markets there’s more interactivity than ever.”

Social Media Marketing Report: Does Your Engagement Measure Up?

If I had to sum up marketing’s relationship with social media in a single nerdy meme, it’d be this:

Yes, much as Obi-Wan Kenobi was dismayed to find that Anakin had turned to the dark side, many marketers feel betrayed by social media. Each platform offered the potential to build an audience and deliver content straight to their feeds. They were supposed to be a powerful tool for organic reach. But one by one, they fell to the dark side of the algorithm.

But don’t throw away your social media channels just yet. After all, if you strike them down, they will become more powerful (sorry, that’s the last Star Wars reference). Instead, let’s have a clear-eyed assessment of what organic engagement looks like on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and see where to go from here.

Rival IQ just released their 2017 Social Media Benchmarks Report, which analyzes engagement by industry on the top three social media channels. These benchmarks can help determine what the best next steps are to maximize your engagement and your reach.

#1: Instagram Leads in Engagement

More than any other platform, Instagram seems to be the place people go to engage with brands. Engagement rate per post averages out to 1.66%, the only platform with over 1% in engagement.

The amount of interaction per post varies widely by industry, however. Higher Ed leads the pack with 3.55%. Surprisingly, Health & Beauty trails behind, with just 1.14%. While Instagram has a reputation as a health, beauty, and fashion platform, none of these categories come close to Nonprofit and Higher Ed for engagement.

Instagram’s visual, mobile-first format is definitely driving more engagement. Video performs exceptionally well on the platform, too—see these examples from brands rocking Instagram video.

You may not think your industry or brand is suited to the format, but if GE and Dell can do it, so can you. It’s not about creating million-dollar visuals or movie-level video. Keep it low-fi, stay honest and authentic. Use Instagram to showcase the people behind your brand and take your audience behind-the-scenes. More importantly, use Instagram’s tools to edit your photos, just like the user base does.

#2: Facebook Has Bigger Audiences, Lower Engagement

Many companies have an exponentially larger audience on Facebook than they do on Instagram. For example, Dell has 287,000 followers on Instagram and 10 million Facebook followers. That increase in audience almost offsets the drop in engagement rate, which is a fraction of Instagram’s. Higher Ed leads with just .33% engagement, while Media lags at .12%. Yes, twelve tenths of a percent.

This benchmark confirms what our agency has been saying for a long time: Facebook should be considered a pay-to-play platform. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Facebook ads are relatively inexpensive, and their targeting options make it easy to reach new audiences.

You should still post organic posts on Facebook, but don’t count on the algorithm to help you with engagement. Use ads to boost posts that are already seeing at least a minimum of engagement—they’re the ones resonating with your audience. Put a little budget behind them and be precise with your targeting, and you can get results.

#3: Twitter is Becoming a Broadcast Platform

Is Twitter dying? Perhaps not, but it has developed a nasty cough. Our own Caitlin Burgess pondered what’s next for Twitter, and a lot of it depends on what the company does in the next year to get well again.

RivalIQ’s numbers are pretty dire: Food & Beverage leads in engagement with .069%, while Media takes the caboose spot with .015%. To put those numbers in easily-understandable terms, if your Twitter engagement was a blood alcohol percentage, you’d still be legal to drive.

These numbers might be indicative of Twitter’s failing vital signs, but I believe there’s a simpler answer. Twitter is a lousy forum for conversation. There’s a ton of content, it moves fast, and most people aren’t watching their feed 24/7. It is, however, a good forum for building relationships. Follow people you want to work with, share their content, and then start a private conversation.

Depending on your audience, it’s still worth investing in paid promotion on Twitter. If it works, keep doing it. But for the most part, think of Twitter as more a platform for broadcasting and building relationships with influencers.

When It Comes to Engagement, Quality Is Key

The most striking find in RivalIQ’s report is that there is virtually no correlation between post frequency and level of engagement. I would love to say there’s a perfect frequency or just-right time of day to post that guarantees you can beat the odds, but the data doesn’t back that up.

Think of it as a positive, though. You’re free from having to post on Twitter three times a day, Facebook 1.5 times, and so on. Now you can focus on quality and relevance over everything else. Even with engagement rates in the single digits—even when they’re below single digits—quality content is always the path to the light side of the social media world.

Need help with social media marketing? We can help. Dig into this delicious TopRank Marketing customer success story to see how we do it.

©Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. | Social Media Marketing Report: Does Your Engagement Measure Up? |

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The Gift Economy and Social Media Marketing

The term “gift economy” is one that has been floating around for quite a while, and although it used to primarily be used to describe a kind of new-age alternative to capitalism, it is now gaining ground with the expansion and growing importance of social media.

What is the Gift Economy?

To understand gift economy theory and how to apply it to your social media marketing, we’ll take a look at the beginnings of the theory and how it interconnects with the new standard of online branding and marketing via social media platforms.

The gift economy is also referred to as cultural economy. Instead of being based on an exchange of goods and services for money, the gift economy is based on trading objects or services for personal connection. It has its roots in ancient culture but is still used widely today, albeit in different forms.

Imagine giving a friend a gift for her birthday – you aren’t giving it to her to prompt her to give you money for the item, but rather to symbolize the importance of the relationship in the hopes that she will reciprocate with friendship. It’s similar to random acts of kindness and selfless giving with no expectation of monetary reward. Instead, givers are paid through increased personal connection.

How Does the Gift Economy Fit With Social Media?

Image via Flickr by Animated Heaven

Social media is, at its base, a gift economy. According to Ray Rahmati, people engage with each other via social media because “It’s less transactional and more relational. Status is something that is earned through dialogue, relationship building, and giving—it is social currency.”

Social media influencers – men and women who earn money often through lifestyle blogging on various platforms – have learned to monetize this social currency. They earn through producing personal and carefully curated content in an attempt to forge connections with their audience, and then direct them towards products and services they are paid to promote. This use of the gift economy is the perfect way to understand why it’s so important to take it into consideration when working towards creating an effective social media marketing strategy.

The gift economy is based on creating intimacy and transparency with an audience in the hopes they will spread your message. Relationships are the mainstay of the gift economy. Think of the ‘like’ button on Facebook. When a user clicks that button, he’s expressing a relationship, not giving actual currency. In doing this, he is expressing to the poster that he sees and appreciate their content.

As previously stated, social media runs off of this economy. People join these sites to cultivate and create relationships with others, not to participate in marketing schemes. This is why many social media marketing attempts fail; they aren’t able to tap into the gift economy but instead try to work like traditional marketing, using tools and strategies that aren’t effective when carried over to social media.

Social media marketing is often marked by funneling or getting the desired audience to visit a specific website or blog. This is a mainstay of the stickiness model, one that was particularly effective before social media and its gift economy began its radical transformation of how consumers, especially millennials, consume and spread information. Instead of looking to direct consumers to a specific landing page, engaging with the gift economy that powers social media use may provide a more direct and effective marketing strategy.

How To Start Engaging with the Gift Economy

One of the most effective ways to excel in a gift economy is to build relationships. This system is all about the social bonds between people. If your marketing strategy is more focused on broader pictures or rote information about your product or service, it’ll be difficult to tap into the gift economy.

Instead, creating translucency and cultivating a personal approach is a surefire way to gain access and therefore build relationships with your customer base. Authenticity is a cornerstone of the gift economy and customers will be able to tell if you lean too heavily on stock responses. Inauthenticity is one of the quickest ways to sabotage a social media marketing strategy.

The more your company builds its brand and engages with customers on social media, the more likely customers are to share information and posts your company creates on their social media accounts, creating a grassroots campaign that can only be achieved via building customer loyalty. Allowing your employees to become involved in branding and empowering them to engage in the online gift culture is a great way to show the personality of your company and present it as a group of individuals instead of a faceless corporation.

By fostering goodwill through authentic and personal online engagement, you’ve begun to tap into the gift economy. But that isn’t always enough to get customers engaged. Customers remember personal service more than anything and keeping tabs on the things your consumer base likes and catering your social media strategy towards that is imperative. Knowing your audience is always important, but it’s especially pertinent to social media marketing.

Once you have a good handle on what your customers are like and are looking for, it’s time to start giving back to the gift economy. Coupons, informational articles, events, competitions, and giveaways are all great ways to start really building customer loyalty. It shows your dedication to winning their support as well as your knowledge of them as consumers.

Once you have an online base, your audience will often begin sharing your contributions among their social media accounts, which widens your customer base considerably with built-in trust – the friends and family of your consumer base already have the trust of their social media connections, and they lend your business credibility through their support.

Just because you’ve implemented these strategies doesn’t mean your results will be instantaneous. Creating an effective social media marketing strategy via the gift economy can take a while. But the effort is worth it. The more you put into the gift economy of your online social media presence, the more your audience will begin to contribute to your monetary market economy, therefore creating a cyclical relationship that benefits both the business and your clients.

Real estate social media marketing that sells

In an industry that’s as competitive as real estate, having a strong social media presence is essential to finding new homebuyers. After all, real estate is about relationships. A strong social network helps establish brand identity and makes potential customers feel that the agent takes their job seriously. Real estate social media marketing just works.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 70 percent of agents use Facebook to build relationships and network, while 64 percent use it for visibility, exposure and marketing.

Here are some real estate social media marketing tips that will help you sell your services online.

7 pro tips for real estate social media marketing

Social networks are all about connections, a valuable commodity for any real estate agent. Follow these tips to excel at social media marketing.

  1. Make a plan.

  2. Decide which platform to use.

  3. Measure your efforts.

  4. Use hashtags.

  5. Include high-resolution photos.

  6. Engage with your audience.

  7. Follow the 80/20 rule.

Seems everyone uses social media for personal exchanges. But the rules around business use of social media are completely different. An endless stream of posts about how many houses you sold last month will only annoy people. Read these tips to do it right.

1. Make a plan

Real estate industry website RIS Media suggests you plan out the content you’ll post in order to stay focused on your goals. You want to establish yourself as a trusted, educated and well-respected professional in the real estate industry, so active and consistent posting is a must.

On Blast Blog’s 2017 Social Media Cheat Sheet shows how often (and when) you should post.

2. Decide which platform to use

Every social media site has a different purpose and serves a different demographic. There’s no reason to spend time posting on a network that won’t put you in touch with prospective buyers and sellers. Start with one network and focus on developing an active presence on it.

Use this infographic from 9Province to decide which network will work best for you.

3. Measure your efforts

Using multiple networks to promote your services? Social media management apps such as HootSuite make it easier to manage all of your social media accounts in one place and measure how successful or unsuccessful your posts are. HootSuite also shows insights such as demographics, reach, likes, follows and page views.

4. Use hashtags

Using effective hashtags will attract even more potential customers to your social media page and gain more views. Examples of hashtags could be of the city, residential neighborhood, your business name or slogan. Check out Zillow’s list of 30 Twitter hashtags every real estate agent should know.

5. Include high-resolution photos

The sharper and more colorful the image, the better it will attract the eye. Make sure the image also has a business watermark so it shows you rightfully photographed and own the photo. If not, credit the source. Refer to this handy cheatsheet to resize images for various networks. Looking for high-quality photos you don’t have to pay for? Find them here.

6. Engage with your audience

Do not just use a thumbs up on Facebook or a heart on Instagram or Twitter to show someone you like their post or appreciate their feedback. Instead, take the time to engage with them by writing back in the reply sections. Spark a conversation!

7.  Follow the 80/20 rule

Real estate social media marketing faucet
Four out of every five comments you make on social networks should be informative, instructive or entertaining. Photo: Dan Watson on Unsplash

According to HouseLens, the 80/20 rule for social media marketing says that 80 percent of your posts should be informative, entertaining or useful while the remaining 20 percent should be used to promote your business. This is the golden rule of real estate social media marketing.

Real estate social media marketing post ideas

What you post on social networks should provide value to buyers and sellers — this is the best way to attract their interest. RIS Media recommends posting the following content on social media pages:


If you really want to engage people, video is the way to go. Create videos to highlight featured homes or neighborhoods. You can also make a video with industry updates or interviews with leaders to discuss current housing or lending trends. Why not  broadcast from an open house or home show using Facebook Live?

Neighborhood listings

This is the No. 1 thing house shoppers look for online. Posting listings allows the prospective customers to see what is available in the area they are searching and what houses are current hot sellers (and how they’re priced).

Local events/landmarks/classes

This will show prospective buyers all of the activities in neighborhoods they’re considering so they’ll want to live there.

Highlight new homeowners

Congratulating a buyer on a new home purchase not only shows a level of interest, but also shows that you’re a connected real estate agent.

Start a blog

Starting a blog is another innovative idea. It’s a great way to reel in homebuyers while generating social media posts at the same time. Blogs don’t necessarily have to be just written content — they can (and should) also include photos with captions underneath them. You can check out real estate website Placester for 101 tips on engaging blog topics.

Start a real estate blog the hassle-free way: with GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress. 

Moving/buying/selling tips

Think about what prospective buyers and sellers are interested in reading — probably things related to buying and selling, right? These types of posts will motivate potential buyers to step up their house search or sale (and call you).

Share something interesting about you

Do you participate in a sport in the community? Volunteer? Attend annual events? Show connections something unique about you so they can get to know you on a personal level. This will increase trust.

Social networks: the lowdown

Given the number of social networks, you’ll need to be selective about which ones you spend time on. Here’s an overview of the top six networks for real estate social media marketing:


According to NAR, 77 percent of realtors use Facebook as their main social media outlet for promoting their businesses. Remember, only one out of every five Facebook posts (or ads) should directly promote your business — the rest should be helpful or interesting posts. Read “Five ways to make Facebook work for your real estate business” for more information.

Real estate social media marketing handshake
Relationships that start on social networks often spill over into real life. Photo: on Unsplash


Pinterest is a very visual network, which makes it perfect for real estate agents with houses to sell. Once again, just 20 percent of your Pinterest content should focus on your business, whether that be listings, awards or team photos. The rest should feature local home renovations, interior design tips or neighborhood information. Before you pin, make sure the description is understandable and that the link from the image matches the appropriately named board.


According to NAR, 51 percent of homebuyers use YouTube as the most popular video medium when researching listings. Placester suggests including your business website in the page content, along with a brief description. Also, don’t forget to include your YouTube link on your Facebook and Twitter profile pages.


Twitter is considered the most engaging social media platform, with NAR advising real estate agents to post up to 10 times a day with:

  • Industry-related articles
  • Pictures/videos of listing
  • Personal comments about real estate
  • Links to your blog posts
  • Retweeted real estate content
  • Replies to tweets on your page


In addition to posting informative and fun content (again, using the 80/20 rule), REALTOR Magazine recommends the following activities:

  • Liking photos
  • Commenting on other user’s pictures
  • Using hashtags
  • Following users who follow you

Instagram is also an appropriate place to highlight your personal interests.


A professional network, LinkedIn is a great place to join real estate groups and connect with other agents, mortgage brokers, home appraisers, clients and others for networking opportunities. Always keep your company profile page complete and up-to-date.

Start small and keep at it

Like personal relationships, a strong online presence takes effort and time to grow. With the right real estate social media marketing strategy — and your content, passion and enthusiasm — your business will be brimming with prospective buyers and sellers in no time.

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