Social media features are not only constantly being introduced, but old ones are being used in new ways, or straight up abandoned. Video has has always been around in one form or another, but now it is being used on social channels and newsfeeds to make messages stand out. And with the improvements in streaming technology, live video has become more popular than ever before. Case in point: Twitter bought the live-streaming app Periscope a few years ago. Twitter read the signs on how their platform could evolve to incorporate this newly-improved technology. Now they’re even streaming NFL games, election coverage, and media channels. (Up next: live commercials making their way to social?)
As a science marketer who needs to use these channels to reach customers, it can be a difficult task to stay on top the latest and the greatest. But don’t worry, we’re here for you. This article will discuss the evolution of three key social media features we saw in 2017, and how you can leverage them to reach more customers in the coming year.
Live Video on the Rise
As hinted at above, this is a big one. Only 14% of marketers tried live video in 2016, while 43% of marketers surveyed by Wyzowl.com planned to use live video content in 2017. More than one in five videos on Facebook are live, and are watched up to three times longer. That’s a huge market of interest, which simply wouldn’t be possible without the social channels there to distribute them on. (Will Facebook Live be impacted by the recent algorithm changes though? WordStream had this to say: “Creating live video or events or recurring series of how-to posts or news that addresses meaningful issues—anything that might lead to discussion and provide actual value to your prospects and customers—is the only surefire way to maintain some semblance of organic reach.”)
How can you use video in your science marketing? Ideas for live video include special events, Q&A sessions, answers to frequently-asked questions, and product demonstrations. C&EN itself went live on Facebook to show what it was like for two of our writers to experience color for the first time.
Ideas may be plentiful for showcasing our technologies, but where should you actually focus your video marketing efforts? There are so many social media channels available that it can be very difficult to decide which to employ. That’s why it’s important to do your research and identify which channels will give you the most “bang for your buck” for your initiative. Short video styles can be great for Instagram, or if you have the budget, a larger video shoot can be arranged, then repurposed to fit each channel’s style and audience. First, figure out where your audience spends their time. Does the majority of your customer base use Instagram or YouTube? A big budget may help you launch the channel you’re not yet on, while a one-off is best suited for the audience you already have.
Brands Use Messaging In New Ways
According to HubSpot, messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have over 5 billion active users every month. Yes, that’s billion with a “b”. That’s an enormous pool of potential for science marketers.
In short, brands are using messaging to communicate on a one-on-one basis with their customers. Think 24-hour customer service without the hold message or the wait for an email response, — and that doesn’t necessarily mean 24 hour staff. Plex, a streaming service, has harnessed the power of the trend by using ZenDesk as an automatic answers program that reduces wait times and frees support team members up to focus on tasks only people can do. Automated response programs like these are one way companies are using chatbots – just be sure to communicate how the system works to your customers! For our industry, a key roadblock is making sure more complicated science questions about your products aren’t automated, especially where safety is concerned. But the more chemists are using messaging services, the more likely companies will begin to use them too.
There is huge potential for messaging to become a big part of your marketing campaigns as well because of its storytelling and gamification capabilities. You might consider a trivia game via a messaging app to build relationships with current and potential customers, or perhaps there is a conference or event you could report on in real time, like the NY Times did with the Summer Olympics.
If you’re having trouble coming up with something new, don’t fret—innovation isn’t easy. Sometimes the best way to get started is to follow in the footsteps of others until inspiration strikes. (A great example of the use of messaging comes from hotel chain Hyatt. Hyatt is using Facebook Messenger as a 24-hour concierge of sorts.)
Virtual Reality Will Continue to Develop
Virtual reality (VR) isn’t actually new, but only recently has the technology caught up with the vision. As more technology companies get involved in the VR space, from Facebook to news organizations, this novel marketing tool will continue to develop and evolve even further. If its current momentum continues, it will certainly be the biggest social media trend in the coming years.
The unique aspect of VR is how it provides an immersive experience that encourages engagement even greater than regular video, print, radio, and literally every other medium, but more and more can be integrated within them all. And social of course, will be key to its success. As the popularity of video content continues to rise, brands will likely put the VR format to use as a means of A/B testing its audiences. Companies will also use VR to show the world its own unique message via a novel medium.
Shoe company TOMS is doing just that. They’re using virtual reality to highlight their “One for One” mission to give away one pair of shoes for every pair sold.
The virtual reality video in question shows a recent trip to Peru to provide shoes for children in need. The video was shot using 360-degree virtual-reality-ready cameras so even if you’re not viewing it through a VR headset, you can click or tap to see an immersive view of Peru. The 360-degree nature of the video is truly an engaging and novel contribution to regular 2D media.
How Can Science Marketers Leverage Social Media Trends?
When you’re thinking about ways to leverage these social media trends, keep in mind that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel… at least not right away. Just make good use—and more use—of these emerging technologies. If that’s the way your potential customers are going, that’s the way you should go too. Start by emulating those brands who are already using these trends to good effect. Do what they’ve done but keep your eyes open for new ways to do things better. Once you have your bearings and a bit of experience in these marketing niches, you can branch out on your own and create something novel and new.