Welcome to the age of 'social media marketing'.
Dubai - Shift in communications paradigm has resulted in emergence of new powerful way for businesses to reach prospects and customers
The digital media landscape is evolving quicker than at any time in the past. The way in which consumers view online content is forcing brands to engage and communicate differently on the web. It is no longer about telling your story and broadcasting a message; it is about receiving and exchanging perceptions and ideas from users.
This shift in the communications paradigm has resulted in the emergence of a new powerful way for businesses of all sizes to reach prospects and customers. Welcome to the age of "social media marketing", also known as SMM.
Since we are into the final quarter of 2018, it is perhaps time to acknowledge the mega trends that will shape the SMM space in 2019.
Video content: In 2019, I expect video content to continue growing and become even more valuable as it generates consistent engagement and builds a loyal following. In fact, according to Global Media Insight, 71 per cent of Saudi Arabia's total Internet users are most active on YouTube. The trends are not too different in the UAE and other Middle East markets. It's only a matter of time before other brands find creative video content to engage users online. Having the ability to create short videos that keep consumers' attention will definitely benefit brands in 2019 especially when linked to relevant written content.
User-generated content: With consumers being exposed to so much content these days, it is difficult to affect their buying behavior and decision making process with regular posts and advertisements. Therefore, content created by your audiences/followers/fans (unpaid contributors) is powerful and influential. Subliminally, they are promoting your brand with unique, authentic and transparent content offering real value to other audiences. They are organically becoming your brand's advocates. I see this trend growing in 2019.
Internet TV - rise of on-demand content: A recent report stated that with so many high-quality streaming services such as Netflix, VuClip, Starzplay, etc now available in the local market, "online video streaming is booming in the UAE". Importantly, the definition of TV is changing: it is no longer provider-driven. The advent of content-on-demand has made TV more consumer-driven. Today, viewers can be in control and consume content, on demand. The traditional televised content is also available as live streaming content on end-user devices. We can expect companies to spend less money on television ads and more money on web video, social media and Web ads in 2019.
Social video story: Snapchat started the story era with Snapchat stories (2013) followed by Instagram, YouTube and Facebook that also introduced live video services, as well as WhatsApp and Messenger. They have all adopted stories as a key way of sharing content. I believe that the future of creative and engaging visual storytelling is only going to increase. These interactive stories will be one of the best ways to engage with audiences in 2019.
Customer service through chatbots: Recent reports have shed light on the importance of chatbots in the UAE citing Gartner, which confirmed that by 2019, "40 per cent of enterprises will be actively using chatbots to facilitate business processes and natural language interactions. By 2020, customers will manage 85 per cent of their relationship with a company without interacting with a single human." Constant, fast, easy feedback - that's what customers want, a quick and straight to the point answers to all the questions that pop in their head when they are purchasing something online. Consequently, the use of chatbots as a source of information seeking for online purchase will grow.
E-commerce expansion and integration: As a hyperactive market, e-commerce is rapidly evolving from simply being a sales portal to more experiential social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Through the direct integration with these social channels allows brands to reach their consumers where people tend to spend more time seeking more content and devote more of their attention. At the same time, this integration seamlessly complements traditional retail.
Influencer marketing: Social media influencer marketing has reached record highs in the UAE according to a study by YouGov and is expected to keep growing in 2019. However, today many have started to question the effectiveness and genuineness of these stories. Meanwhile, the sheer numbers of so-called "influencers" and their expectations of high scale campaign budgets are increasing by the hour, making it potentially risky. Going forward, I see more brands evolve their thinking to a measured approach. Marketers and agencies will likely become more selective of the type of personalities they work with.
The writer is regional category development manager (communication and retail) at Jotun Middle East. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.