I recently attended a marketing education event on social media. Minneapolis-based industry expert Arik Hanson creates an annual “social media trends” report. It’s his look at social media as a business marketing tool, and it’s based on his research and work with medium and large businesses nationwide. I’m adapting this report to apply – as much as I can – to the powersports industry and for dealers. Let’s jump in.

For many years, YouTube has been the world’s second most popular search engine after Google. That still surprises people, but it shouldn’t today with the growth of streaming video and YouTube TV. But using social media tools as a search engine goes beyond searching

More than 45 percent of adults ages 25 to 44 use TikTok as a search engine. For those aged 18 to 34 years, it’s 73 percent. They are doing product research on TikTok. It happens on Instagram, too, with 80 percent of Instagram users acknowledging they use the platform to make buying decisions.

What should you do? Use relevant keywords in your social media profiles. Use “Alt Text” on your images on both Instagram and Facebook. Social media users with disabilities can use screen readers that see the alt text behind an image and read it aloud. Alt text can boost SEO in general as well because algorithms account for all the words in your posts. And on YouTube, add keyword phrases and subtitles to your videos.

Platform shift

This trend is slow moving, showing user interest in social media platforms shifts over time. A group called Insider Intelligence studies, among other things, users’ trust in social media platforms. It reported in December 2022 that trust for all platforms declined, with Instagram declining most year-over year and YouTube declining least.

The platform shift is in the continuing decline of Facebook and Twitter, what Hanson calls the “legacy platforms.” Both these social tools get low scores for trust, with Facebook’s issues caused by a variety of conditions, and Twitter’s low-trust score due mainly to Elon Musk’s purchase of the site. Still, even with Facebook’s poor showing here, the site remains the most used social media platform worldwide. And it’s one that customers will likely access to learn about your store, business hours, special events, and more.

What should you do? Consider increased use of LinkedIn. It earns higher trust scores, and it’s more than just a job search site. If you sell to a professional audience, or if you simply want to connect with and learn from industry professionals, spend more time on LinkedIn.

Video earns eyeballs

About 10 years ago, those in the media talked about a “pivot to video.” It didn’t really happen. Is Hanson correct to say today that social media video is an important trend? He shares data saying that short-form video posts on social media gain the most engagement of any type of post. The difficulty, he admits and you will probably agree, is that video is a labor-intensive effort. That’s true for powersports dealers and for manufacturers whose social media staff is probably smaller than you think.

What should you do? Create more videos, yes, but manage your expectations for time needed. Create more reels for Instagram and less image posts. Or make shorts for YouTube and save time by posting less on Facebook. And, yes, you should seriously consider using TikTok.

Increasing fragmentation

Social media experts like Hanson consistently advise marketers to use the social media platform their audience uses. With the growth of newer platforms such as Discord, Lemon8, BeReal, and Twitch, social media fragmentation means you need to broaden your search. While the masses might continue to use Facebook, niche platforms allow smaller communities to gather organized around topics of interest.

What should you do? Don’t make assumptions about any platforms until you do your research. Discord, for example, has earned some negative attention recently, but it remains an active gathering spot for more than just video gamers. It comes down to knowing where people spend their time online. Hanson says you should not be afraid to ditch bigger social platforms if they aren’t right for you.

Creators become the face of brands

Marketing is shifting away from highly produced corporate messaging to more personal communication created by individuals in real time. Consumers and social media users respond to messages they deem more honest and fun. Kwik Trip, the midwest-based convenience store chain with more than 800 locations, is gaining attention on Instagram for videos created by “KT Girl.”

This type of marketing works best when it’s hyper local. Your followers will enjoy getting to know your business and the people behind it. What should you do? Find the right “talent,” an employee or two who are comfortable being on camera and can represent your brand with fun and integrity. But be aware of potential challenges. What if your “face” leaves your company? Have a plan.

More user-generated content

Remember America’s Funniest Home Videos? That was a hugely successful version of user-generated content or UGC. From that hit of the broadcast-TV era, the streaming smash “Fail Army” was born. Marketers and retailers can use UGC for product tests, reviews and testimonials, and instructional or how-to videos.

What should you do? Your customers are already making videos, and it should not be difficult to find them. Then, you simply ask if you can use the video they created. Most people will appreciate that you want to share; this might cost you a t-shirt or a branded cap.

Less production

This last one is less of a trend and more of an opinion, but it’s well founded. Heavily produced branded graphics rarely communicate well on social media. With small text on top of a product image, and a company logo in the corner, these designs are seldom optimized for different screen sizes. Some manufacturers like to create these when they introduce new products.

What should you do? Whenever you post an image containing text and a logo, make sure it looks good on a small phone screen. Better yet, avoid these posts.

Post less, post better

Social media platform leaders and some social media agency experts will advise marketers to post frequently. E-commerce giant Shopify advises, “posting (on Instagram) at least once a day to maximize your visibility and engagement. However, if you have more time and resources, you can post multiple times a day, or even several times a week.” Hanson advises otherwise, for the sake of your overburdened social media staff (which is probably you!).

What should you do? Focus your social media activity on quality instead of quantity. Spend your time wisely, and that might mean creating videos and less image posts. And amplify those higher-quality posts by testing social advertising.