Future Trends in Social Media

Picture of Aliza ShermanAliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

Future Trends in Social Media

As a small business owner, you know the importance of looking at your company through a short-term and a long-term lens. What do you need to do in the short term to grow your company? What are the steps you’ll take over the longer term? In marketing, you also should look at the immediate needs and current tools you use. But it is smart business to also look toward the future. What new tools and technologies are on the horizon or trending that can affect or benefit your company as you market what you do?

Here are some trends and tech developments affecting social media and digital marketing as we know it.


Chatbots are programs built to automatically engage with messages received through your instant or direct messaging channels. Chatbots can be programmed to respond the same way each time (canned answers) or to respond differently to messages depending on keywords used. You can use chatbots with your SMS text messaging system, on your website in pop-up chat windows, and in your social customer service using Facebook IMs and Twitter DMs. Think of chatbots as a smarter, adaptable autoresponder to answer questions or provide preliminary customer service when you’re not available.

Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Machine Learning is an aspect of Artificial Intelligence that can be used in marketing to help you anticipate your customer’s next move and improve their customer journey by delivering relevant content and a more individualized experience. Special software on your website, for example, can “learn” about your website visitors and produce a more personalized experience for each individual. “AI Marketing” leverages customer data and can be used to analyze consumer behavior and search patterns.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

An example of AR can be seen on product packaging such as wine labels or on magazine ads where an app can make an image appear on the screen, usually a 3-D rendering of something within the ad. Virtual Reality or VR is more of an immersive experience requiring special viewers. Brands are still experimenting with AR and VR even though there are some drawbacks. For example, the biggest barrier to VR adoption is the effort and equipment it requires to access it. If consumers have to download a special app or wear clunky goggles, they need a lot of incentives to make that extra effort. Augmented Reality or AR is more accessible because it usually can be rendered on a smartphone, but there’s still a barrier to experience because you can’t just “see it” with the naked eye.

Voice Search

Companies can now engage customers with conversation interfaces like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Voice Search. A simple way to prepare for voice search is to rethink your SEO approach online to accommodate voice inquiries. Tailor search phrases for your website to be more conversational instead of simply listing keywords which is the current SEO norm. Write your online content and even product descriptions in a conversational versus technical style.

Micro Influencers

As a small business owner, you may think you can’t afford an influencer marketing campaign in social media where you pay someone with a high profile to promote your products or services. Enter “Micro Influencers.” These are niche bloggers, YouTubers and Instagrammers who have built an audience of loyal followers but aren’t huge compared to celebrities with millions of fans. Smaller can mean more attention, engagement and conversions. Find influencers based on reach to your ideal target audience, relevance to your brand, and high engagement. Work with them in a variety of ways including having them host a live stream on your Instagram, Facebook or Twitter accounts or to post about your company on their account. There will be fees involved but more in the hundreds rather than the tens or hundreds of thousands.

While these trends might be on the cutting edge today, they are already having an impact on how people communicate, buy, and interact with companies. You don’t have to adopt any of these techniques or technologies for social media marketing success. Simply be aware of the fast-changing social media landscape to understand how these developments impact the way you market.