5 Social Media Trends That Might Surprise You

After conducting high-level research into the into the strategies employed by Fortune 500 companies across the United States, Mintel’s social media analysts Gabi Lieberman and Lizz Martinez singled out the top five trends in online consumer marketplace behavior this quarter. Some may seem like common sense in a digital age, while others may open your eyes to even more possibilities for consumer engagement. Read on and find out how social media-savvy brands — like Wawa, Apple, Amazon and Lay's — are realizing results by tackling these timely trends.

1. Brands with low usage and awareness garner large numbers in online mentions thanks to their cult followings: Take a lesson from Wawa: While more than half (56 percent) of Mintel survey respondents have not heard of or visited Wawa (due to its regional presence solely on the east coast of the United States), but the convenience store has developed a cult following, drawing more than 1.1 million Facebook ‘likes’ and close to 30,000 Twitter followers. The store even beats out top competitor 7-Eleven in Instagram followers with close to 8,000 at the time of writing. Similarly, the brand popchips, which records the lowest levels of overall usage and awareness with 42 percent of adults surveyed unaware of the brand, records the highest levels of interaction among all reviewed household snack brands.

2. People are taking to bloggers and online mediums to educate themselves on DIY and beauty and personal care: Blogs are an effective way for lawn and gardening enthusiasts to share their current projects as well as tutorials for newer landscapers to share information. Selected retailers could benefit from partnering with popular bloggers in order to gain more online visibility. In fact, Mintel data shows that 39 percent of adults believe social media is a good way to educate themselves on lawn care or gardening. Switching gears to the beauty and personal care segment, accounting for close to nine in 10 online mentions (88 percent), blogs are a perfect place for nail color and care enthusiasts to share product and line launches, publish nail art tutorials, and review nail color and care products.
3. Social media interactions strong before purchase, supporting need for information-driven content: For example, parents are most likely to interact with before purchasing back-to-school items from the retailer (39 percent). This speaks to people’s lack of familiarity with the online retailer in regards to back-to-school shopping purchases and the need to research product availability and pricing before making a purchase. To further support this, 33 percent of parents surveyed have interacted with on social media to compare it against other brands. The high levels of people interacting with to share a positive experience (25 percent) may be linked to people interacting with the brand’s review platform, with its review functionality often considered one of the original social networks and one of the cornerstones of the brand’s business.

4. Brands empowering fans to express their creativity: Taste stands out as a leading driver of discussion online and an important factor in determining consumer consumption. Lay’s ‘Do Us A Flavor’ social media campaign was built around the idea of tapping into each person’s unique taste identity, empowering people to creatively design their ultimate taste experience. PepsiCo’s Lay’s brand first introduced the campaign in the United Kingdom, which saw the creation of the flavors such as Cajun Squirrel, and then brought it to the United States in 2013, which generated 3.8 million flavor submissions.

5. Employees, top executives moving front-and-center of brands’ social media strategy:  While for so long Apple has been able to rely on the community to help drive awareness and maintain positive brand associations, the increasingly competitive landscape has shown that it may finally be time to embrace social media, with initial steps taken by its leader. CEO Tim Cook  joined Twitter in September 2013 — something his predecessor Steve Jobs never did. The launch of Cook’s Twitter account coincided with the release of the iPhone 5, and is notable in that it marks the beginning of a new era in the company that for so long rejected the need for social media in its marketing efforts. Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller also launched a Twitter account in 2013.

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