Social media has fast developed into a powerful channel with almost limitless influence, especially for businesses. So where will it go next?

One trend, which is proving to yield high returns, is investing in community and establishing a unique TOV (tone of voice), which existing and prospecting customers feel positive sentiment towards.

Since its inception, social media has often been used as a transactional platform and a huge reach tool for brands to sell directly to consumers with offers and discounts. One of the key trends moving forward will be nurturing your existing audience and rewarding them with insightful or engaging content, which makes them feel something positive, before asking them to purchase.

Historically, marketers have argued that you can’t build a brand on social media, as the sheer amount of competitor content makes it almost impossible to fight through the noise and establish your messaging. However, when brands understand the long-term value of curating a community across social and digital media, the results can be incredible.

Other than algorithm changes, which feel like they are implemented on a weekly basis at the moment, I don’t think that there is anything substantial that will change how we use social media. Businesses need to constantly be adapting to maximise effectiveness and over time.

Businesses need to be aware of, and understand these changes, and develop a wraparound ecosystem of content and communication. This will create multiple touchpoints and a meaningful connection with prospects, allowing brands to nurture them through the purchase journey rather than focussing on the transaction.

As media targeted at ‘upper funnel’ consumers becomes more and more expensive, paid media advertising is shifting towards middle/lower and post purchase segments of the funnel for nurturing and retention, but you cannot rely on paid advertising to do everything for you.

Performance marketing has a finite existence if you don’t have consistent top-of-funnel activity. You can’t force people to search at the bottom of the funnel without putting money in the top of the funnel to move its way through. You need to plan for long-term results, retention and reputation over short term hits.

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are becoming more strategic with their content budgets and are relying on their community for user-generated content, which helps build brand equity and generates content for performance assets. It’s time to use social media to engage with your audience, build trust in the brand and define and promote your USP. Significant growth in digital marketing platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram advertising, now enables smaller businesses and brands to build an engaged target audience on a competitive budget.

From a trend standpoint, I believe that social budgets are transitioning to ensure social and digital marketing is fully integrated with a creative concept, rather than as a bolt on or after thought.

For example, when I started working with PNW Components, a global bike brand, they had little experience in building a brand or social advertising.

Over the past two years, we have managed to significantly scale the business on all fronts, growing the audience, content output, revenue and profits. After implementing a lean strategy initially, they have since spent time building partnerships with creators and brand ambassadors, tightening their USP and setting themselves apart from others in the sector.

They developed and built a quirky tone of voice, which has won them a whole host of new followers. We have moved them away from transactional e-Commerce sales copy and now use strategic investments to build their presence on social media platforms, investing in content and influencer marketing, while nurturing the purchase journey with prospects.

By creating a cost effective and unique digital presence, our advertising efforts have been able to scale significantly. Since 2017, the brand has consistently seen 300 per cent Y-O-Y growth in revenue and in Q1 of this year, PNW achieved their first seven figure quarter.

This case study is one of the many examples that shows front loading your investment in community and content can put brands in a position to scale their social advertising exponentially.

The future of social media marketing is all about drilling down and finding the right customers and engaging with them on an almost personal level; it’s not just about pumping money into advertising.

Customers are progressively gravitating towards smaller and more personal platforms so that they feel as if they are engaging almost directly with the brand – it’s a user-centred approach so your message needs to align with the demographic to build a community, to earn trust, to get you more leads and increase conversions.