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PHOTO: Gene Bakner

Social media marketing is never dull. Marketers face a raft of choices and challenges, including choosing which metrics to watch to gauge the success of their campaigns, deciding where to allocate resources and more. 

Marketing on social media can provide real opportunities, but first marketers need to navigate through some rocky terrain. If you are one of those beleaguered marketers, watch for how the following trends unfold as 2020 rolls along.

1. Oh the Places You'll Go! (With Hyperlocal Marketing)

The big driver for social media will be hyperlocal marketing, the use of metadata like zip codes, landmarks and neighborhood mentions to connect people with services and products nearby, be it a few blocks or even a specific street address.

Google noted this phenomenon back in 2017 when it saw an uptick among people typing the phrase "near me" into smartphone searches. It incorporated “near me” in its search algorithm for smartphones queries as a strong indicator of purchase intent.

With social media, retailer and services will incorporate hyperlocal qualifiers in the content they post to highlight local events. All the major social media platforms have revised or added digital advertising options meant to bring together these nearby options for customers. Marketers must decide how these features fit in their strategies, potentially through making a purchase convenient.

Related Article: 3 Keys to a Global Marketing Mindset

2. Channel Chasing — Where Should Our Brand Advertise? 

Another question is which channels should brands invest in to capture their customers' interest. The answer isn't simple. Social media platforms have to prove that conversions from their audiences — be it social commerce or lead signup — are achievable and sustainable. 

Social media platforms will be competing against not only each other to provide digital ad services, but from other services that offer advertising. The rise of Amazon as the third largest ad platform by market share has shown that marketers can be offered a safer advertising alternative — a platform for brand content that avoids being mixed into a world of fake likes, extremist commentary, and varying decisions for controversial media such as political ads. The walled garden nature of streaming networks like Disney Plus and Netflix, or the nascent growth of other digital media like podcasts, may cause marketers to reconsider social media platforms where user engagement and ROI is questionable.  

Related Article: Is it Time for Marketers to Invest in Amazon Ads?

3. The Downgraded Value of Likes, Tweets and Page Views

Likes, follower counts and page views aren't going anywhere — they just won't be a central strategy. The trend to deemphasize basic metrics has existed for some time now. The demise of the rating service Klout in 2018 was the first major signal (I wrote about it in this post). Instagram’s decision to hide likes further punctuated the trend.

The new measurement of reach will be a challenge to predict — how can you assess if people are responding when you start a campaign? The idea of “spray and pray” posting is long gone. Instead a multi-attribution approach will be essential for understanding how people engage.

Look for analytics solutions that can correlate metrics to determine behavioral value. Some techniques have long existed — you can review Google Analytics reports to see what traffic arrives consistently. But now data can be exported into tools, allowing calculations on how text is clustered, where social media activity is correlated to sales, and if platform data can be used a variable in a regression model or as part of machine learning experiment.

Related Article: How Marketers Can Use Regressions for Better Machine Learning Initiatives

4. The Rise of Time as a Valued Metric

The rise of new metrics from digital sources will capture marketer attention. One metric that will gain attention for retaining audiences is time. People spend a lot of time on digital media, but the overall growth rate has declined somewhat. This means platforms and marketers will have to compete for people’s time long enough to engage content.    

Marketers will see time as a gateway metric for multi-touch attribution, especially with video.

5. Banishing Trolls and Bad Content Is a Frontline for Clean Metrics

At an IAB leadership conference in 2017, Unilever CMO Leith Weed urged Google and Facebook to “drain the swamp” of extreme and illegal content or risk losing advertising dollars. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms have since responded (at varying levels of success) by purging bad content and users. Moreover, government agencies have accelerated their understand of the implications of quality digital content. TechCrunch reported last October that the FTC reached a $2.5 million settlement with Devumi, following a New York Times’ investigation which revealed Devumi sold fake likes and followers.

But marketers must pay attention to how well social media platforms protect an environment of real users and usage. The enforcement ultimately dictates the trust marketers can have in platform dashboard metrics.

6. Influencers Can Attract Audiences ... But Choose Wisely

Influencers are crucial to connect brands to specific audiences, especially with regard to diversity. Platforms like Twitter and Instagram index heavily for culture and subcultural interests — I noted the trend in my post on diversity and inclusion.

But with the FTC raising concerns about endorsements between brands and influencers, marketers should scrutinize how influencers provide an audience. Good influencers will encourage real interactions by managing relevant discussions around content and engendering trust. Brands will look to pick influencers who are naturally engaging yet able to generate interest that can be measured. 

Marketers must pay attention to social media platform demographics and incorporate strategies that increase the likelihood of attracting the intended demographic. The results can ensure a positive reception for their marketing message instead of creating a horrible PR nightmare.

Related Article: Has Influencer Marketing Lost Its Bloom?

7. Usage Metrics for Immersive Experiences  

Marketers have a tremendous number of media options — from AR that can be layered on a video to VR choices being refined by software developers. Yet the emergence of 5G will give marketers a broader playing field as the protocol will ease streaming to a smart phone or device. Social media marketers will be tasked once again to rethink usage metrics in these instances in order to measure how people are engaging, to influence further branding or sales activity.