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5 Social Trends to Expect In 2018

Friday February 23, 2018

Reading Time: 6 minutes
Social media went through its fair share of changes in 2017. Instagram Stories proved they’re here to stay. Twitter raised the character limit from 140 to 280. Snapchat went public.
Platforms launch trendy, cutting-edge features left and right, and they affect users and brands equally. So what kind of social media trends can we expect to see throughout 2018?

1. An Increase In Instagram Stories

Since its launch in August 2016, Instagram Stories has acquired more than 200 million monthly users. That’s 50 million more users than Snapchat! By the end of 2018, experts project that almost half of all Instagram users will be using Stories, so there’s a sense of urgency for brands to perfect their Instagram Stories strategy.

2. More Investment In Messaging Platforms

Last year Facebook released Messenger Bots, and Walmart rolled out voice-activated shopping through Amazon Echo’s Alexa and Google Home. Although brands have been slow to jump on the messaging bandwagon, in 2018 they’re slated to invest more resources into connecting with consumers via messaging platforms, chatbots and voice assistants.
It will be interesting to see how brands employ WhatsApp, in particular, which has more than 900 million active monthly users. The app is especially popular in international markets, making it one of the most popular mobile social apps in the world. So far it seems to have caught on more with product-based brands, but it shows promise as valuable platform to provide support and feedback and communicate information blasts–useful tools for any industry.

3. Lots of Live Streaming

What once seemed like a short-lived novelty is now an effective way for brands to connect with followers. Live streaming has proven its status as a social media mainstay. As more brands try to harness the power of live streaming, it will become a more common component in marketing strategies.

4. An Emphasis On Gen Z

Gen Zers, the oldest of whom are 22 years old, are now considered more valuable to organizations than millennials. The eldest contingent of Gen Z is just joining the workforce and commanding more attention than ever. They’re critical of major brands, money-conscious and 60% more likely than the average consumer to hang up the phone if it’s not answered within 45 seconds. Brands have no choice but to step up their customer service and authenticity.
And Gen Z is online. Gen Z-ers spend an average of 4 hours and 10 minutes a day using a mobile device, so we’re more likely to see brands utilizing the social networks they love, like Instagram and Snapchat.

5. The Continued Rise of Influencer Marketing

An influencer is a social media user who has established clout and credibility in a specific niche. It’s hard to scroll through any social media feed without encountering an influencer of two, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere in 2018 because 94% of marketers find influencer marketing to be effective. Traditional marketing strategies just aren’t resonating with consumers like they used to, and influencer marketing offers a more meaningful way to connect.
It can be challenging to integrate cutting-edge social trends into your long-term strategy, especially for small businesses that are often more concerned with the day-to-day than the big picture. If you lack the bandwidth to keep your social strategy current, Webconsuls can help. We specialize in social media optimization and create strategies for businesses that generate leads and increase brand awareness. Contact us to learn more about how we can help design a social strategy that keeps your business up to speed in 2018 and beyond.
Reading Time: 9 minutes

For a lot of businesses, Instagram is one of the least-used social platforms, but with more than 500 million daily active users, it’s a well of untapped potential. According to Instagram, users 25 and up spend more than 24 minutes a day scrolling the app.

Instagram isn’t just for sharing pics of food and sunsets. It’s a practical way for businesses to engage with existing members of their audience and reach out to new ones because users engage with brands on Instagram more than any other social platform. And now that Instagram Stories have surpassed Snapchat in popularity, you’re missing out if they aren’t a part of your social strategy.

Webconsuls is a digital marketing agency that specializes in strategy for the addiction treatment and legal fields. Yes, it’s possible and practical for these businesses to incorporate Instagram Stories into your social strategy. Here are seven ways to do it:

1. Show a Day in the Life

Your Instagram Story is a great way to show your audience a different perspective of your business. Videos and still photos, captioned with less formal language, make your content more accessible and relatable.

For an addiction treatment center, Stories are particularly useful. Often people associate treatment centers with an impersonal, sterile, hospital-like environment, but your Instagram Story is an opportunity to show that your center is anything but. Take your audience on a tour of your facilities and show them the private bedrooms, the cozy common areas, the gourmet kitchen, the outdoor living space–the creature comforts that feel like home.

Day in the life, behind the scenes Stories add a lot of value, and best of all, you can put them together on a whim.

2. Humanize Your Brand

Your Story doesn’t need to be a work of art, but something polished that offers a glimpse of the people behind your business helps humanize your brand. Spotlight some of the people who work for your business with quick, engaging interview snippets.

If you work in the addiction treatment or legal field, you and your colleagues have a wealth of knowledge to share. Up the engagement factor with an “Ask Me Anything”-style Q&A. Open up your DMs, ask viewers to submit their questions and have a member of your team answer them.

3. Promote Blog Content

Instagram Stories are a fantastic way to drive traffic to your editorial content. With Stories, you can share condensed versions of your blog content in an engaging and easy to understand format.

You don’t have to create anything new. Take inventory of existing blog content for topics that can be easily distilled. Blogs with titles like “7 Things to…” or “5 Ideas for…” break down into a few slides nicely.

Structure your Story with a great cover image that entices viewers to tap through, followed by informational images and a conclusion image with a call to action and a URL so viewers can swipe up to be directed to your site.

Remember: getting your audience’s attention is great, but it’s only part of the goal. You need your audience to do something once you have their attention, so give them a clear direction to take.

4. Make Company Announcements

Whenever you have business-related news you want to share, post it to your story. Think about awards you’ve won, new hires, new services you’re offering, renovations and upgrades that you’ve made–these are all great Story subjects. For newsier company announcements, you could even tease the story with a link to leads straight to the press release on your website.

5. Promote a Live Stream

Going live on Facebook or another streaming platform? Cross-promoting content using Stories is a great way to create excitement, build up your audience on a platform where you might not have as large a following, and link viewers right to the main event.

6. Incorporate Hashtags

What are 3-4 keywords that relate to the image or video you’re sharing and your business? Use Instagram’s hashtag sticker to broaden your reach.

Hashtagify is a free tool to use for hashtag research. Type in a keyword, and you’ll immediately see stats on its popularity, as well as related keywords. For addiction recovery centers, #12steps, #recovery, #soberliving, #addiction and #mentalhealth are all fair game. For those in the legal field, #lawyer, #attorney and #lawyerlife show promise.

You can even create personal or branded hashtags to engage with your community.

7. Use Story Highlights

Instagram recently introduced Highlights, which are Stories attached to your profile. Any Story or Stories can be turned into a Highlights album by navigating to “Story Highlights” on your profile.

Highlights preserve your Stories content for posterity. It’s the first thing any user will notice upon visiting your profile, so use it to keep content that humanizes your business, builds credibility or shares important updates. Ideally, these Highlights also include built-in links to your website.

If there were ever a perfect time for businesses to fine-tune their Instagram strategy, now would be it. Webconsuls’ can help you create a strategy for Instagram and other social platforms. Our social media services are structured to increase brand recognition and generate qualified leads using a combination of paid and organic tools. Contact a managing partner directly at 949.701.4714 to learn more.

Reading Time: 10 minutes
live chat benefits website

Customers have pretty high expectations of the websites they visit. They want a richer online experience and instant gratification, whether it comes in the form of same-day delivery or real-time live chat if they have an urgent question.

With live chat, most issues can be resolved immediately, but solving problems in a snap isn’t the only benefit. If you implement it optimally and make it work for you, live chat can help your business flourish.

1. It boosts customer satisfaction 
We’ve all been there: the customer service phone call that still doesn’t answer your question, despite being on the phone for an hour, or the never-ending email thread. Getting an answer can be really hard!

Live chat wait times are significantly less than a call center. With live chat, visitors don’t have to stop what they’re doing to call an 800 number and navigate a complicated menu of options or write an email. They can get immediate problem resolution without ever leaving the page.

It’s no wonder why customers report greater satisfaction with live chat, which has the highest satisfaction levels out of any customer service channel: 73% of customers prefer live chat, while email and phone clock in at 61% and 44%, respectively.

2. It saves money 
Live chat is extremely cost-effective customer service. Instead of handling one phone call or email at a time, a live chat rep can manage as many as six chats at once, depending on the issues. Being able to handle multiple chats at once doesn’t require as big of a customer service team, immediately slashing your overall support costs.

This doesn’t mean you have to stop offering phone or email support altogether–but by adding live chat to the mix, you’ll quickly be able to determine which channel your visitors prefer.

3. It builds trust 
It’s a lot easier to sell someone on something in person, but you lose that valuable interaction when the conversation occurs online. Humans are skeptical by default, but the exchange between website visitor and live chat agent can help build credibility and trust.

If you can’t get a customer to trust you, they’re not going to give you their business, let alone any personal or contact information. Engaging in real-time, back-and-forth conversation is such an effective way to build a relationship with potential customers.

4. It boosts sales 
When a visitor has a question or needs help, they’re much less likely to bounce from the page and more likely to take the intended call to action if live chat is available. In fact, according to the American Marketing Association, B2B companies that implement live chat experience a 20% increase in conversions.

Live chat provides immediate assistance and keeps the visitor on your website, allowing you to guide the visitor toward a decision.

5. It gives you customer insight 
As a business, your number one priority is to understand your customer’s pain points and design and market your product or service to serve as solutions to those pain points. By implementing live chat, you’ll get further insight into your customer’s pain points, especially when it comes to how they perceive your website and brand.

Being able to understand your business from a customer’s perspective will help you develop better products or services, finetune your marketing strategy, refresh your website structure and ultimately grow your business. Regularly reviewing chat transcripts lets you see what common questions or issues your customers have.

Maybe you’ll discover that your visitors are having difficulty navigating to specific pages, so you decide to optimize your site structure, or perhaps you keep getting the same question about a service you offer, so you update your website content to make the answer more evident.

How to Get Live Chat Right 
Live chat is useful, and we’re going to see more of it, but if you really want it to benefit your business, there are a few pointers to keep in mind:

  • Be authentic. Customers are pretty savvy, and they can see right through robotic, impersonal language. Make sure your chat language is in line with your brand voice and customer-directed. Your customers will tell the difference.
  • Make sure you have the bandwidth. Live chat is great in theory, but you need to have the resources to be able to pull it off. Make sure you have someone on your team manning the chat, and train them on best practices. Any live chat agent needs to be ultra knowledgeable about your product or service, as well as your website layout.
  • Use discretion. Live chat is a great tool, but you need to implement it wisely. Slapping it on all of your pages tends to feel a little spammy and impersonal, so consider placing it on your homepage and product/service pages.

Think strategically. What about placing live chat on 404 pages or deleted pages? With a live chat agent present, visitors may be less tempted to exit the window and navigate away from your website.

Give Your Business a Competitive Edge
Brands have been relatively slow across the board to adopt live chat, so there’s a fair chance your competitors haven’t started using it either. Implementing it on your website can give you a major advantage.

After 20 years of helping small businesses keep their digital marketing efforts current, Webconsuls has become pretty good at weeding out digital trends from the stuff that’s here to stay. Live chat doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, and it’s worth implementing on your website. If you’re curious about how we can help your business stay current in such a competitive landscape, contact a Managing Partner for a complimentary consultation.

Reading Time: 6 minutes
technical SEO

It happens to the best of us: You go into the New Year with high expectations, more determined than ever to crush your goals and succeed. But when you check in on the progress you’ve made come February, you find that you’ve hardly made any progress at all. It’s all too easy to get carried away with goal setting for ourselves and our businesses.

Goals are good, but achieving them is even better. There’s something to be said for having a laser-sharp focus on one or two goals.

This quarter, we’re concentrating on AMP and schema, two technical SEO trends we’re obsessed with and already implementing for our clients.

The Emergence of AMP
One of the biggest SEO trends to come out of 2017 are accelerated mobile pages–AMP for short. These are pages coded to load lighting fast–4x faster, in fact, and using 10x less data than non-AMP pages. It should come as no surprise that the Google algorithm favors them.

Sure, you lose some design and user experience elements with AMP pages, but with load speeds that clock in at fewer than one second and proven increases in click-through rates, it’s worthwhile.

News outlets were among the first to adopt AMP, but in 2018 we expect AMP to become ubiquitous across more websites. SEO experts should consider adopting AMP and another way to improve mobile rankings. We recommend that a website has a few pages–or at least one–that provide an overview of programs and services.

Schema’s Still Important 
A lot of websites are behind on implementing schema markup: website code that helps search engines deliver better search results. For such an SEO essential, it’s not as commonplace as you’d imagine.

In a study of 300 U.S. marketing agencies and B2C advertisers, just 17% reported using schema markup. And it’s no wonder. It’s a time-consuming, techy task, but it’s a crucial component of a great SEO strategy.

As voice search becomes even more prominent, schemas will become even more crucial to helping voice assistants understand content. We expect to see more developments in schema markup technology this year.

That’s why we custom code it into our websites. It’s not easy, but we work hard on the things that matter. Schema matters.

Talking Tech 
All this tech talk is esoteric, but it’s vitally important. Why else do you think SEO experts get so amped up (no pun intended) when they talk about it? The content that your website visitors can’t see is just as important as the content they can see–because the stuff they can’t see is ultimately what gets them there in the first place.

If you’re ready to rev up your business’ SEO strategy in 2018, Webconsuls’ SEO services can help. We’re proactive in keeping abreast of SEO trends, tools and best practices, so we can implement them into strategies for our clients that just plain work. Contact us for a free, no-strings-attached consultation.