If your business has yet to grab a seat on the social media train you are now becoming the minority. In 2016 active users of social media topped 2.3 billion people. That’s rather more people than you could fit on the average Virgin Cross Country train.
We call this the ‘instant gratification’ generation, they want everything now. Social media their preferred method from communication. It is instant, fast and free, what is not to love? But, we must not get complacent and assume that it is only for social use as the name suggests. Far from it. All businesses, no matter how big or small, need to embrace social media. It needs to form a strong part of their marketing plan. 
When it comes to social media the aim is two fold. First, enable customers access to your products and services whenever they choose. Then build a reputation through replying, commenting, liking and sharing. Show your viewers that you are human, that you care, and that you an expert in your field.
Let’s have a look at three of the predicted trends for social media in 2017. Implementing these will help you make an impact with your business. 
This has become my favourite subject on which to bore anyone that will listen. Even the dogs are not safe from my chatbot ramblings. Chatbots harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI). These virtual assistants provide rapid and accurate responses to basic customer queries. They are alway on duty, ready to help and incapable of error. Unless you have equipped them with dud information of course. 
Chatbots are currently used in many businesses customer service strategy. Some offer information retrieval to enhance the customers experience. Some are more complex. Performing tasks such as ordering and taking payment for goods and services. This is common place already in some famous fast food outlets in the US. 
It is worth noting that installing a chatbot into your Facebook messenger is simple, and free to use.
Live video
Three of the top social media platforms have launched live video. This is a smart move, as we already know that users love to consume information via images and videos. YouTube is still one of the top contenders for prerecorded content. Live functionality has a huge viral uptake rate potential. Social media users love the chance to be part of the life of the person streaming. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all allow live video, and there is no cost. This offers businesses a great chance to interact with their consumer base. Pick your live time after researching your target audience. There is no point hitting record if your audience has already gone to bed.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Before the blank looks come out, let me follow that up with two words: Pokemon Go. This viral gaming trend is version of AR, where Pokemon can be ‘found’ living in our locality. In our coffee shops, our parks and even our homes. According to the industry experts, the forerunner for AR is likely to be Facebook. They are currently using lenses and masks for Facebook live in beta testing. To quote the marketing hype: 
‘This feature will allow the users to try on a variety of different masks whilst sharing a live video. Delivering a different experience for their users worldwide.’
These newer uses of social media marketing will become common place over 2017. The smart businesses are getting grips with them now.
Anna Everett is a responsive social media marketing expert, author and self confessed Geek Girl.

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