Social media has become one of the most exciting and fastest changing industries, thanks to cutting-edge technologies and old ideas gaining viral popularity. They also offer a great opportunity for brands to increase their exposure and interact with followers in exciting and innovative ways.Here’s our predictions for some of the top social media marketing trends we can see on 2018’s radar to help you tell your brand’s story and get the results you desire in the new year.1. Social Messaging AppsSocial messaging apps are gaining popularity, and in 2018 it’s predicted they will overtake social networking as the preferred platform. This isn’t surprising, considering these apps are used everyday by four billion users worldwide. Ultimately, it’s predicted social messaging will become a part of every online interaction, with an estimated two billion users to be messaged through over-the-top (OTT) apps by 2018.So why social messaging apps? The appeal for social messaging over social networking is it allows for the instant, real-time connection online users crave, especially millennials. In fact, 62% of millennials are more loyal to brands that engage with them via these channels. They want the personal touch, transparency and collaboration that this one-on-one communication enables.With its proven popularity that will clearly continue to grow for years to come, there’s a tremendous opportunity for businesses to leverage the trend in their own online marketing. For example, businesses can use social messaging to communicate one-on-one with customers, which completely changes the way they conduct their customer service.Facebook customers can now click on an ad and it takes them directly to a chat window with the brand. This provides a faster and easier way for customers to get the assistance they need, rather than being placed on hold or waiting for a returned call. As a result, it ensures a better experience for the customers as brands can solve their problems quickly and efficiently.2. Live VideoIt’s no surprise that video continues to dominate the social media platforms, satisfying our information and entertainment needs in one easily digestible snippet. So in 2018, expect to see a continued shift towards video content and in particular, live video.Users are after authentic content that captures those real, unfiltered moments, and social media channels provide the perfect platform for this content, allowing users to like, comment, share and connect with the tap of a button.Many brands have begun to capitalise on the introduction of highly engaging video features on different social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Using the platforms to live stream events, the approach aims to keep followers engaged with their brand by bringing an event - like an interview or a competition draw - they otherwise might not be able to attend, directly to their screens. As a result, the transportive medium drives further engagement and makes brands become more personable.Facebook Live is the perfect example of a popular video feature making the most of the shift towards visual storytelling as a priority digital marketing strategy. And who can forget Instagram Stories? Thanks to its fast adoption rate, it feels like we’ve been able to update all our friends and followers in real time forever, but it was a little less than a year ago that the viral feature was graced our screens, with 100 million active users within two months of its release. Encouraging users to share more off-the-cuff Snapchat-style content to Instagram, these stories have also helped businesses drive more traffic to their websites.With video streaming predicted to represent 75% of all internet traffic in 2017 and showing no signs of slowing down, next year look out for additional updates rolling out to the different live streaming platforms to amp up your own video content strategy. If you’re not already integrating video into your marketing strategy - now is the time to jump on board!3. Augmented RealityAugmented reality is a relatively old technology that has started going viral thanks to a big boost from social media. It all started in 2016 with the Snapchat selfie lenses bringing the idea of augmented reality back into focus. And digital marketers haven’t had to wait long for other competitors in the social sphere to catch up with their own facial filters.At its current adoption rate, virtual reality seems to be the medium to watch. However, there is still lots of room to expand the concept in 2018, and next year we can expect to see other social media platforms continue to jump on the AR bandwagon. Facebook, for example, has already begun experimenting with lenses and masks in Facebook Live, enabling users to try a variety of different masks when sharing live video.With virtual reality finding its way into more and more marketing experiences, brands are quickly recognising its value. Encouraging engagement by offering an immersive, memorable experience unlike any other medium, brands can leverage this in their digital marketing campaigns. Brands not only want consumers to recall, they want them to be excited and share the content with their network, and augmented reality allows them to do this.4. ChatbotsWe’ve already listed chatbots as one of our social media marketing trends to watch in the second half of 2017, and we see no sign of it slowing down moving into 2018. With a number of social media platforms introducing integrated bots to assist with customer service, artificial intelligence continues to help brands optimise their services.Facebook has already integrated them within Facebook Messenger and businesses are now using them to communicate with customers, answering frequently asked questions and providing immediate information on products and services.With more than a third of people already preferring social media over a phone call for customer support, in 2016 the average number of social messages needing a response grew 18% year on year. This has many brands looking for ways to increase their customer service resources and more are turning to chatbots.Will you be adding any of these social media trends to your own digital marketing strategy in 2018? If your business wants to strengthen its marketing efforts moving into the new year, have a chat to Bang Digital. Our passionate and innovative social media marketing team have the tools to help you create a memorable brand presence across your social media platforms.