Originally published on the Vistage Research Center

As the new year ramps up, many CEOs and business leaders are spending time thinking about how to get more ROI from social media marketing in 2018. Not surprisingly, the social media landscape looks a lot different for businesses today than it did on this day last year. Audience behavior is different, new players have entered the game, competition is fiercer than ever and some of the tactics that helped brands succeed 12 months ago are much less viable today.

When it comes to business, there’s nothing worse than going into a new year with the intention of executing the very same strategy that you implemented the year before. Every smart CEO knows that in order to continue fueling growth, you have to alter and build upon your plan.

The same is true with social media marketing. To get a better return on the time and money you invest in social media, you have to leverage insights and data gathered by yourself and others over the past 12 months to build a more effective plan for the year ahead.

Here are the trends, insights and opportunities you need to know about as you work to evaluate and update your social media strategy for 2018.

Demographic data on social media users

In order to understand how to connect with your audience on social media and drive more ROI in 2018, it’s helpful to first dig into some up-to-date demographic data. In 2005, only about 5% of people in the U.S. were using social media. According to the Pew Research Center, adoption has skyrocketed to 69% in just over a decade. Here’s what the breakdown looked like by age group in 2017:


  • 86% of people between the ages of 18-24 were using at least one social media site (down from 90% in 2015)
  • 80% people between the ages of 30-49 were using at least one social media site (up from 70% in 2015)
  • 64% of people between the ages of 54-60 were using at least one social media site (up from 51% in 2015)
  • 34% of people age 65+ were using at least one social media site (down from 35% in 2015)


When it comes to the social media sites people use on a regular basis, Facebook remains the most popular across all age groups.

Digging into demographic data in this way is important because it gives you the opportunity to better understand where to focus your time and money. For example, if you’re targeting women between the ages of 30-49, it’s helpful to know that this age group doesn’t spend a lot of time on Twitter. According to Pew, only 22% of women in this age group actively use Twitter, while a whopping 79% are active on Facebook. An insight like this could lead you to decide to cease participation on Twitter in 2018 and instead focus all your efforts and energy on establishing and nurturing relationships with your audience on Facebook instead.

To see more demographics relating to other social media sites, gender, age, income and community, spend some time exploring the 2017 report from the Pew Research Center.

The current state of social media

Once you’ve taken the time to understand the demographics of social media sites, it’s important to realize a few truths about the current state of social media as it relates to business.

Here are seven essential truths you need to know going into 2018:

Truth #1: Most businesses have caught up. The social media landscape is more competitive than ever before. More businesses and brands are now using social media sites to target and engage with consumers than ever before. According to Geo Marketing, there are now 65 million local businesses using Facebook pages to connect with customers. As more businesses work to target similar audiences, it’s more important than ever to execute on tactics that help your target customers understand what makes you different than your competitors.

Truth #2: First impressions are happening on social media. Online consumers are now using social media to extensively research products and businesses before making purchasing decisions. According to Retail Dive, “more than 65% of consumers conduct online product research before stepping foot in a store.” According to Help Scout, “58% of Americans perform online research about the products and services that they are considering purchasing.” These days, your customers are often getting their first impression of your business by finding you on social media sites. As a business owner, it’s up to you to use social media to manage expectations and build trust.

Truth #3: Social media is a real-time customer service tool. Whether you like it or not, more people prefer using social media than any other channel or platform when it comes to customer service. According to Social Media Today, “an estimated 67% of consumers now use social media networks like Twitter and Facebook to seek resolution for issues.” Businesses that are using social media to interact with customers and solve problems are seeing the benefits. Social Media Today also reports that, “customers spend 20-40% more with companies engage and respond to customers via social media.”

Truth #4: Video is bigger than ever. In the last 12 months, more social media users have been watching videos shared by friends and brands than ever before. What’s more, these users are engaging with the content longer and at a higher percentage than any other piece of content being shared. According to Buffer, “Facebook is rated as the most impactful social channel for video — 8.4X higher than any other social channel.” According to WordStream, “45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week.” As social media sites become much more saturated by businesses seeking the attention of consumers, video presents a great opportunity to differentiate and cut through the noise. Live video is also quickly growing in popularity, especially on Facebook. According to Buffer, “Facebook users comment 10X more on live videos than they do on regular videos.”

Truth #5: Storytelling is on the rise. More businesses and brands are also taking the opportunity to tell more original stories on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. It’s an effective way to build trust with your audience and differentiate from other competitors trying to reach the same audience on the same channels as you.

Truth #6: Pay-to-play is a must. As competition on social media heats up, it’s becoming harder and harder to reach users organically. As a result, more businesses are now allocating more money toward advertising campaigns on sites like Facebook and Twitter. According to Hootsuite, “Social media advertising budgets have doubled worldwide over the past 2 years — going from $16 billion U.S. in 2014 to $31 billion in 2016.” The bottom line: if you want to play, you gotta pay.

Truth #7: Influencers matter. More online consumers are being influenced by the thoughts and opinions of influencers than ever before. To fuel growth and boost engagement on social media, many businesses are now hiring or partnering with influencers to gain access to audiences that they otherwise might not have had easy access to. According to Tapinfluence, “49% of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchase decisions.” Partnering with the right influencer can help you boost brand awareness, differentiate from competitors and build trust with your target audience in much less time.

What business owners should focus on in 2018

You’ve got the demographic data and you’re up to speed on the current state of social media as it relates to business. So the question is, what should you focus on in 2018 in order to boost ROI?

Based on the insights outlined above, I’ve compiled nine recommendations that will help you put together a winning social media strategy for 2018:

Recommendation #1: Use social media as a customer service tool. Help your customers understand that they can reach out to you on social media and get answers to their questions. Automate support by using a Messenger bot tool service like Manychat.

Recommendation #2: Tell more stories. Differentiate from competitors and boost brand awareness by creating and sharing more original stories with your social media followers. Share photos and videos of your employees, your customers and yourself. Show people what makes you different, and why they should care.

Recommendation #3: Hire a visual expert. Get help creating high-quality videos and photos that you can share with your social media followers. Remember: your goal is to build trust and make the right first impression with people who are spending time looking into your business and products. Don’t overlook the importance of coming across as a professional, reliable business that people can trust.

Recommendation #4: Try live video. Consider creating more live video on Facebook in 2018. Feature one of your products, interview your team or educate your followers by addressing pain points that you know they have. Use live video to interact with your customers in real time.

Recommendation #5: Create a movement. The time for using social media to explicitly promote your business and products is long, long over. To succeed on social media as a business, you need to understand that it’s not about you — it’s about your customers. It’s about their problems, their interests, their motivations and the things that they’re passionate about. Create and support a movement that your followers can get behind (e.g., get healthy, be happier, become more productive, travel more, live better).

Recommendation #6: Focus in on the channels that matter most. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Look to data to determine which social media sites you should be spending your time on. Don’t go where you think you need to be. Go where your customers and target audience are spending most of their time. Again, as mentioned earlier, that might mean taking attention away from one social media site in 2018 and reallocating the time toward another.

Recommendation #7: Increase ad spend. Be willing to spend money on social media advertising campaigns. If you’re not sure where to start, spend time learning from others. There are thousands of free blog posts, eBooks, courses and videos online that can help you understand how to master advertising on social media.

Recommendation #8: Leverage influencers. Try partnering with an influencer in 2018. Find someone who aligns with your mission and goals using influencer sourcing and hiring tools like Shoutcart, grapevine or Famebit.

Recommendation #9: Become obsessed with data. Go out of your way in 2018 to really understand what is or isn’t working when it comes to social media, and why. Push yourself to proactively monitor social media analytics and advertising campaign metrics in order to identify gaps or opportunities. Use this data to make informed decisions about your strategy in an effort to boost awareness, engagement, traffic and conversions throughout the year.