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13 Social Media Trends for SMBs

Young social media influencer recording his podcast on mobile phone – concept of vlogging, content creation from home office.
Photo credit: WESTOCK - stock.adobe.com

Seven in 10 Americans use social media regularly, according to the Pew Research Center. Social media powerhouse Meta boasts 2 billion daily active users, while its sister social media site, Instagram, is hurtling toward 1.4 billion daily active users.

Noteworthy as those raw numbers are, it is social media’s continued ability to drive consumer behavior that is most astounding. Numerous surveys and studies over the last decade have outlined social media’s ability to drive awareness, boost site and store traffic, generate sales and even increase brand loyalty. And in order to keep users engaged with their platforms, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and others are relentlessly focused on adding new features and functions. They’re constantly evolving to meet new consumer needs and preferences, updating algorithms and creating new advertising services to support businesses of all sizes.

While major brands may have bigger budgets, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have the power to compete on social media. They can think creatively and innovatively to help their brands shine through. They can create entertaining videos and illustrative posts that show their unique storytelling. When SMB leaders and marketing teams effectively monitor social media trends and use market movements to their advantage, they position themselves to earn deeper brand awareness, cultivate richer relationships with customers, and better compete in a crowded marketplace.

These are the most pressing trends driving enhanced engagement on social media: 

Embrace Short-Form Video Content

Video content is highly engaging and shareable. It is also a media format businesses can use to showcase their personality, atmosphere, teams and products. But as attention spans dwindle, short-form video content on TikTok, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts have surged in popularity.

While years ago brands found success with the typical 30-second video, sometimes referred to as “mini-commercials,” brands today are seeing their most successful videos cap out at 10 seconds in length. This short and snappy approach stops users from scrolling and keeps their attention.  

Go “Live”

In addition to short-form videos, live videos on platforms like Instagram and Facebook are generating heightened attention. When going live, businesses can interact with their followers in real time, offering demonstrations or tips, promoting upcoming events or teasing the grand opening of a new location or renovated location, enticing audiences to visit them in person. 

“By engaging with customers in real time, indie restaurants can create a more personal connection and build loyalty,” said Ashish Goswami of Krish Technolabs, a full-service digital commerce agency.

Leverage Influencers

There remains an ever-swelling ecosystem of tech-savvy souls creating substantial followings, and even full-time jobs, from original content creation. These influencers can help restaurants reach new audiences and generate buzz on social media, noted Jessica Luna, a marketing analyst with Net Influencer, a media company that tracks influencer marketing.

So-called “micro-influencers” might range from a school principal to the local TV station’s meteorologist to a local food blogger. Name, image and likeness (NIL) deals for college athletes have also opened a new opportunity for restaurants to tap into others’ social networks. The key is to find influencers who align with a business’s brand and values and who have a genuine interest in promoting the restaurant.

Created Branded Hashtags to Inspire User-Generated Content

Brands have long sought user-generated content (UGC) – that is, customers or audiences creating their own original content about a product, service or business. UGC provides external validation and valuable social currency.

Progressive businesses are increasingly encouraging customers to share photos and reviews of their visits on their personal social channels. Businesses are supplying branded hashtags to amplify this UGC and permeate the social web. The branded hashtag also helps leadership track content more easily, repost customers’ photos and videos, and expand social proof. This can help build a sense of brand community and loyalty. 

Focus on Authenticity

Many consumers cringe at the idea of being sold to. Rather than sharing super polished content, businesses are favoring unscripted content on social media, such as videos recorded from a point-of-view angle or photos that appear unedited and natural. This authenticity is critical to resonating with your community.

For example, Venone Public Relations founder Kelly Richardson is seeing more independent restaurants leaning into social media to share the stories behind their restaurants, from the motivations of founders to the local farmers who supply ingredients. Above all, Richardson says, diners are attracted to stories and lively original content.

Share a Look Behind the Scenes

Taking people behind the scenes of your business appeases consumers’ growing appetite for content about the companies and brands they love. They want to see how things are created and want to learn more about the people who work for the business. 

Using short-form videos, forward-thinking brands and businesses are pulling back the curtain and providing fans a glimpse into their operations. A food-driven business, for example, can showcase everything from the dough-making process to the preparation to the plating. Such behind-the-scenes content shows the personality of the restaurant, unlocks storytelling capabilities, heightens feelings of community and, perhaps most importantly, strengthens trust among current and potential customers.

  • Get on TikTok: Over the last five years, TikTok has surged in popularity, especially among American teenagers. In its Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022 study, the Pew Research Center found TikTok was the second most popular social
    media platform among U.S. teens, trailing only YouTube. Two-thirds of teens reported using TikTok and one in six said they used the app “almost constantly.”

“If restaurants are already shooting short-form video, they might as well maximize its use and post it on TikTok,” Garcia says. “TikTok reaches a different and relatively younger audience with growing spending power.”

Showcase a Commitment to Sustainability

There is climbing consumer demand, especially among younger Americans, for businesses to act with environmental stewardship and social responsibility in mind. More businesses are highlighting these actions on social media. For example, more restaurants are sharing posts and videos spotlighting the sourcing of local ingredients, their steps to reduce waste and their use of environmentally friendly products like eco-friendly packaging.

Create “Instagrammable” Experiences

Instagram is all about visual aesthetics. Many businesses are leaning into this by creating photo-worthy opportunities onsite to inspire picture taking and posting. (Think of a flower wall or a prop area.)

To encourage UGC that spreads the business’s name, restaurants are creating photogenic dishes like colorful pizzas or monster-sized desserts served in unique vessels. They also are goading photos by installing distinctive décor in their eateries, such as an oversized throne in the lobby or a retro neon sign that reads, “I’m Hungry.” 

Here again, inviting customers to take photos and share them with a branded hashtag increases the velocity and impact of the post.“Instagrammability” can certainly extend to other social media platforms as well. 

Prioritize Engagement, Not Promotions

Overly promotional content is out on social media. Consumers are increasingly skeptical of blatant advertisements screaming “buy, buy, buy.” As a result, there is acceleration toward informative, educational or entertaining social content.

“Too many restaurants think you post your food pictures or videos each day and then wonder why no one interacts,” says Matt Plapp, the CEO of America’s Best Restaurants, a national media company that highlights local restaurants.

Instead, Plapp sees restaurants capturing success by prioritizing engagement over promotion. On Mother’s Day, for instance, a restaurant might post photos of staff members with their mothers and urge followers to share a special memory of their own mother in the comments.

Create Fun Challenges

Social media challenges continue gaining momentum as a way for brands of all sizes to capture eyeballs and stir engagement.

Here’s an example of what this could look like: Imagine a consumer brand creating a poll or bracket-style competition to select the name of a new product. Or, imagine a brand “challenging” consumers to craft their own version of a product using a select group of ingredients/materials and then posting their results via video or photo on social media.

In 2019, IHOP found momentum with its #SyrupTurnUp challenge, which invited TikTokers to send in videos doing funny skits with pancake syrup bottles. “Humor works really well on social media, so a challenge like [#SyrupTurnUp] went viral,” said Joshua Wood, CEO of the tech hospitality company Bloc. “It’s a fun and easy way to showcase your indie restaurant brand’s personality, which is great for marketing.”

Employ Social Media to Listen and Learn

So often, business owners think of social media solely as a megaphone to broadcast their message. Wise businesses, however, have noted social media’s potential as a listening tool and a path to improved customer service and enhanced offerings. 

Through social media, businesses can gain perspective on customer preferences and experiences, double down on what’s working and attempt to recapture customers with earnest and empathetic responses.

This article is based on a piece written by Daniel P. Smith for Pizza Today. Smith is a Chicago-based writer has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications, newspapers, and magazines.

13 Social Media Trends for SMBs

by | Dec 8, 2023

Young social media influencer recording his podcast on mobile phone – concept of vlogging, content creation from home office.

Seven in 10 Americans use social media regularly, according to the Pew Research Center. Social media powerhouse Meta boasts 2 billion daily active users, while its sister social media site, Instagram, is hurtling toward 1.4 billion daily active users.

Noteworthy as those raw numbers are, it is social media’s continued ability to drive consumer behavior that is most astounding. Numerous surveys and studies over the last decade have outlined social media’s ability to drive awareness, boost site and store traffic, generate sales and even increase brand loyalty. And in order to keep users engaged with their platforms, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and others are relentlessly focused on adding new features and functions. They’re constantly evolving to meet new consumer needs and preferences, updating algorithms and creating new advertising services to support businesses of all sizes.

While major brands may have bigger budgets, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have the power to compete on social media. They can think creatively and innovatively to help their brands shine through. They can create entertaining videos and illustrative posts that show their unique storytelling. When SMB leaders and marketing teams effectively monitor social media trends and use market movements to their advantage, they position themselves to earn deeper brand awareness, cultivate richer relationships with customers, and better compete in a crowded marketplace.

These are the most pressing trends driving enhanced engagement on social media: 

Embrace Short-Form Video Content

Video content is highly engaging and shareable. It is also a media format businesses can use to showcase their personality, atmosphere, teams and products. But as attention spans dwindle, short-form video content on TikTok, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts have surged in popularity.

While years ago brands found success with the typical 30-second video, sometimes referred to as “mini-commercials,” brands today are seeing their most successful videos cap out at 10 seconds in length. This short and snappy approach stops users from scrolling and keeps their attention.  

Go “Live”

In addition to short-form videos, live videos on platforms like Instagram and Facebook are generating heightened attention. When going live, businesses can interact with their followers in real time, offering demonstrations or tips, promoting upcoming events or teasing the grand opening of a new location or renovated location, enticing audiences to visit them in person. 

“By engaging with customers in real time, indie restaurants can create a more personal connection and build loyalty,” said Ashish Goswami of Krish Technolabs, a full-service digital commerce agency.

Leverage Influencers

There remains an ever-swelling ecosystem of tech-savvy souls creating substantial followings, and even full-time jobs, from original content creation. These influencers can help restaurants reach new audiences and generate buzz on social media, noted Jessica Luna, a marketing analyst with Net Influencer, a media company that tracks influencer marketing.

So-called “micro-influencers” might range from a school principal to the local TV station’s meteorologist to a local food blogger. Name, image and likeness (NIL) deals for college athletes have also opened a new opportunity for restaurants to tap into others’ social networks. The key is to find influencers who align with a business’s brand and values and who have a genuine interest in promoting the restaurant.

Created Branded Hashtags to Inspire User-Generated Content

Brands have long sought user-generated content (UGC) – that is, customers or audiences creating their own original content about a product, service or business. UGC provides external validation and valuable social currency.

Progressive businesses are increasingly encouraging customers to share photos and reviews of their visits on their personal social channels. Businesses are supplying branded hashtags to amplify this UGC and permeate the social web. The branded hashtag also helps leadership track content more easily, repost customers’ photos and videos, and expand social proof. This can help build a sense of brand community and loyalty. 

Focus on Authenticity

Many consumers cringe at the idea of being sold to. Rather than sharing super polished content, businesses are favoring unscripted content on social media, such as videos recorded from a point-of-view angle or photos that appear unedited and natural. This authenticity is critical to resonating with your community.

For example, Venone Public Relations founder Kelly Richardson is seeing more independent restaurants leaning into social media to share the stories behind their restaurants, from the motivations of founders to the local farmers who supply ingredients. Above all, Richardson says, diners are attracted to stories and lively original content.

Share a Look Behind the Scenes

Taking people behind the scenes of your business appeases consumers’ growing appetite for content about the companies and brands they love. They want to see how things are created and want to learn more about the people who work for the business. 

Using short-form videos, forward-thinking brands and businesses are pulling back the curtain and providing fans a glimpse into their operations. A food-driven business, for example, can showcase everything from the dough-making process to the preparation to the plating. Such behind-the-scenes content shows the personality of the restaurant, unlocks storytelling capabilities, heightens feelings of community and, perhaps most importantly, strengthens trust among current and potential customers.

  • Get on TikTok: Over the last five years, TikTok has surged in popularity, especially among American teenagers. In its Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022 study, the Pew Research Center found TikTok was the second most popular social
    media platform among U.S. teens, trailing only YouTube. Two-thirds of teens reported using TikTok and one in six said they used the app “almost constantly.”

“If restaurants are already shooting short-form video, they might as well maximize its use and post it on TikTok,” Garcia says. “TikTok reaches a different and relatively younger audience with growing spending power.”

Showcase a Commitment to Sustainability

There is climbing consumer demand, especially among younger Americans, for businesses to act with environmental stewardship and social responsibility in mind. More businesses are highlighting these actions on social media. For example, more restaurants are sharing posts and videos spotlighting the sourcing of local ingredients, their steps to reduce waste and their use of environmentally friendly products like eco-friendly packaging.

Create “Instagrammable” Experiences

Instagram is all about visual aesthetics. Many businesses are leaning into this by creating photo-worthy opportunities onsite to inspire picture taking and posting. (Think of a flower wall or a prop area.)

To encourage UGC that spreads the business’s name, restaurants are creating photogenic dishes like colorful pizzas or monster-sized desserts served in unique vessels. They also are goading photos by installing distinctive décor in their eateries, such as an oversized throne in the lobby or a retro neon sign that reads, “I’m Hungry.” 

Here again, inviting customers to take photos and share them with a branded hashtag increases the velocity and impact of the post.“Instagrammability” can certainly extend to other social media platforms as well. 

Prioritize Engagement, Not Promotions

Overly promotional content is out on social media. Consumers are increasingly skeptical of blatant advertisements screaming “buy, buy, buy.” As a result, there is acceleration toward informative, educational or entertaining social content.

“Too many restaurants think you post your food pictures or videos each day and then wonder why no one interacts,” says Matt Plapp, the CEO of America’s Best Restaurants, a national media company that highlights local restaurants.

Instead, Plapp sees restaurants capturing success by prioritizing engagement over promotion. On Mother’s Day, for instance, a restaurant might post photos of staff members with their mothers and urge followers to share a special memory of their own mother in the comments.

Create Fun Challenges

Social media challenges continue gaining momentum as a way for brands of all sizes to capture eyeballs and stir engagement.

Here’s an example of what this could look like: Imagine a consumer brand creating a poll or bracket-style competition to select the name of a new product. Or, imagine a brand “challenging” consumers to craft their own version of a product using a select group of ingredients/materials and then posting their results via video or photo on social media.

In 2019, IHOP found momentum with its #SyrupTurnUp challenge, which invited TikTokers to send in videos doing funny skits with pancake syrup bottles. “Humor works really well on social media, so a challenge like [#SyrupTurnUp] went viral,” said Joshua Wood, CEO of the tech hospitality company Bloc. “It’s a fun and easy way to showcase your indie restaurant brand’s personality, which is great for marketing.”

Employ Social Media to Listen and Learn

So often, business owners think of social media solely as a megaphone to broadcast their message. Wise businesses, however, have noted social media’s potential as a listening tool and a path to improved customer service and enhanced offerings. 

Through social media, businesses can gain perspective on customer preferences and experiences, double down on what’s working and attempt to recapture customers with earnest and empathetic responses.

This article is based on a piece written by Daniel P. Smith for Pizza Today. Smith is a Chicago-based writer has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications, newspapers, and magazines.