A staggering 69% of U.S. adults are social media users. With that number increasing all the time, and with consumers across generational demographics using social media, small businesses need to look to platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to reach their customers. Social media is a viable way to drive sales and build relationships with customers, but it’s important to always keep up with the latest developments to ensure you’re maximizing your efforts. To help you get the conversation started on social in the new year, here are the top emerging trends and tips for integrating them into your social strategy today.

1. Authenticity

Now, more than ever, consumers value transparency and authenticity in marketing. Recent studies have shown that 90% of millennials, 85% of gen Xers and 80% of baby boomers say that authenticity is important when it comes to making purchasing decisions. When a brand seems disingenuous on social media, its followers leave. In fact, 20% of consumers have unfollowed a brand because its content appeared inauthentic.

How to integrate authenticity into your social strategy: Consumers’ trust in big influencers — people with more than 100,000 social media followers — is eroding, as followers often perceive a transactional nature to those endorsements. So look to micro-influencers — everyday consumers with 1,000 – 100,000 followers — to promote your business on social media. Reach out to someone whose audience is similar to your customer base, and who will genuinely enjoy and enthusiastically endorse your products or services. User-generated content — that is, social posts about your brand created by your customers — is another great way to create authentic content.

2. Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that overlays computer-generated graphics, sounds or video on the physical world. In 2016, Pokémon Go — a mobile game in which players use their smartphones to spot cartoon creatures in real-world environments — brought AR to the masses. It has since become one of the most successful mobile games of all time.

But AR isn’t just big in the gaming world; we’re also seeing an increase in its use on social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. With filters that turn users into puppies or tell them which Disney character they are, AR has added a fun and exciting way for people to experience their favorite social networks. AR is interactive, and from a branding perspective, enables consumers to actively engage with businesses. It also can create a more immersive customer experience. For example, makeup and beauty retailer Sephora offers social users the opportunity to test out products on Facebook Messenger using AR filters.

How to integrate AR into your social strategy: If you don’t consider yourself tech-savvy, you can still give this trend a try. There are services like Lensthat to help you bring AR to your social channels. Once you find the right service, consider using AR to enhance events or, like Sephora, to try on different products.

3. Video stories

Instagram Stories is a feature found within the Instagram app, allowing users to tap their way through a slideshow of videos. While the images posted to your Instagram photo grid are static and can be viewed anytime someone visits your page (unless of course, you delete them), the content you post on Stories is only publicly accessible for 24 hours. The Instagram interface has Stories at the top of the page, so this content is likely the first thing customers see when they open the app. Stories can also appear on the Instagram Explore page, which can give your profile more exposure. If you want to grab your audience’s attention, be sure to leverage this type of video content. With 400 million Instagram users accessing Stories — and one-third of the most viewed Stories produced by businesses — this feature has the potential to greatly amplify your message.

How to integrate Instagram Stories into your social strategy: Use Stories to give your followers a behind-the-scenes look at your business, share educational content like how-to’s, demonstrate how to use your newest products or share limited-time discount codes. Whatever you post, make sure the content has some value to viewers and that you’re staying true to your brand’s personality and voice.

The way that you use social media — and really, every marketing channel — should always be evolving. Although every new trend might not be the best fit for your business, it’s important to try new techniques to make sure you’re getting the best results possible. Experiment with these trends in the new year, and track your performance.

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