Last week I had the pleasure of talking at #HootWinter, the twice-yearly event put on by Hootsuite to gather together some of the best and brightest in Social Media in London (and me). I spoke as part of a ‘predictathon’, where each speaker had to lay out their 3 Big Predictions for Social Media in 2018. Mine had a Paid angle, naturally…

Trend 1: Efficiency is going to be the main driver of Paid strategy in 2018. Testing, learning and optimising has been a big part of Paid Social media management since its inception. However, at the same time this has been curtailed by the endless stream of new formats and features brought out seemingly every two minutes by Facebook/Twitter et al. As such, it’s more often than not been about proving the use case of each shiny new format or even the effectiveness of the platforms themselves to wary clients dipping their toes into Paid Social for the first time. That has now calmed down (thank goodness!) and we are moving into Paid Social Phase 2.0: the case for Paid Social in and of itself has now been proven beyond doubt. It’s time to properly double down on efficiency.

Trend 2: Because of Trend 1, Paid Social campaigns are going to start resembling PPC campaigns more and more in their structure and management. This means that accounts and campaigns will become increasingly complex to run and analyse in 2018. The upshot? Two things: there is going to have to be a move towards greater automation, but this still needs coupled with the clever strategic thinking that has always been part of managing a media campaign. Most agencies still use Facebook/Twitter’s proprietary tools and interfaces to manage the majority of their Social ad spend – the adoption of third party management tools hasn’t been as predominant as it has been in PPC and Programmatic display. That may not necessarily change as the social networks themselves are offering improved tools that will facilitate this trend, from automated creative, to dynamic optimisation, even auto post boosting. Having said all that, the need to plan and think strategically (the ‘art’ to the algorithm’s ‘science’) will never be obsolete.

Trend 3Video is going to be more and more mobile firstand Social is already the primary delivery mechanism for that. What I mean by this is that I think that 2018 is where video creative is truly built for mobile with TV being at least only an equal player in the creative intention, if not secondary. This doesn’t mean that everything is going to be ‘bite size’, ‘snackable’ 30 second clips (although there will be a continued drift towards shorter-form content in 2018). Instead, I predict that advertisers will catch on to the fact that longer-form videos work in a Social context. This year’s M&S Christmas ad was filmed with a 1:1 format (accompanied with clever subtitling for sound-off) very much in mind from the outset. I predict that by this time next year, most big ‘Hero’ ad campaigns will be treated in the same way – mobile first which already means Social first.