Digital and Social Media Trends to Watch in 2018

Content From: HIV.govPublished: December 19, 20176 min read


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When it comes to new trends, the team has found it helpful to analyze each trend and ask: 

  • Will this new technology/tool/trend help us reach our audience?
  • Does this new technology/tool/trend help us reach out strategic goals?

To help us and you get a jump start on planning for 2018, we polled our team on their top picks for the top social media trends to watch in 2018, below. Here’s a sneak peek at what we’re going to cover:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) use will continue to grow.
  • Videos will continue to be designed for the small screen. 
  • Chatbots will be seen as marketing channels, not just tools.
  • Social media channels will continue to divide brand content and personal content.
  • Personalized content will replace automated content.
  • The power of online influencers will continue to grow.
  • Voice-powered technology is here to stay.
  • Health communicators will harness the power of “micro moments” for behavior change.

Artificial intelligence (AI) use will continue to grow. No, this isn’t science fiction. AI is more common in digital communicationExit Disclaimer than you may think; 53% of marketersExit Disclaimer [PDF, 1.10 MB] reported using AI in the past year. AI tools can use data and metrics to enhance digital communicationExit Disclaimer by testing new marketing channels, personalizing web or digital content tailored to each user, and providing you with smarter audience insights. AI can also be used to identify an audience and deliver tailored information to the target audience, like the AI tool HEALERExit Disclaimer which was piloted in LA earlier this year. The tool delivered HIV information to teens and encouraged them to get tested for HIV and other STDs. 

Videos will continue to be designed for the small screen. Just like AI, video isn’t new, but experts predictExit Disclaimer video consumption will grow by 25% in 2018, and users will continue to watch videos on mobile smartphones instead of desktop devices. In 2018, organizations could consider how to prioritize creating video content; making sure videos are optimized for mobile, of course! Interested in learning more? We covered video in a previous blog post.

Chatbots will be seen as marketing channels, not just tools. The end of 2017 saw the shift from chatbots as platform add-ons to marketing channels. We can think of chatbot messengers almost like mini emails that can be triggered to deliver personalized content to your audience. In 2018, communicating will be about reaching your audience where they are, and messaging has more usersExit Disclaimer than social media. In addition, content sent in messaging apps has an average open rate of 80%. Organizations can consider using chatbot services to deliver tailored health content to individuals who need it most.

Social media channels will continue to divide brand content and personal content. In 2017, Facebook began testingExit Disclaimer dual news feeds in a few countries. The news feeds separate content from friends and content from brands and publishers. Similarly, Snapchat’s recent redesignExit Disclaimer splits apart content created by friends and content created by publishers and influencers. Some social media experts predict that this trend will roll out across other social media platforms. 

Goodbye, automation. Hello, personalized content. In 2017 we watched as content produced for mass audiences fizzled and engagement rates of personalized content soaredExit Disclaimer. Audience members are unique, and in 2018 they’ll continue to expect brands and organizations to meet their specific needs. To create personalized content, you’ll first need to understand your audience. Once you’ve gathered your intel, you can begin personalizing content, like emails tailored to include health information and services each segment of your audience might need. Part of this trend may cause organizations to reduce the quantity of content they created and focus more on personalization and quality.

I see digital communicators starting to think less about quantity and more about quality when generating content. Today, it's about finding the right balance of how much content your audience wants vs. creating a firehose that may drive some audience members away.



The best way to figure out how much content your audience wants and how you can personalize content is to review your social media metrics.  If you’d like to get started, we’ve previously written about how organizations can collect data and metrics

The power of online influencers will continue to grow. In 2018, audiences will continue to turn away from official brand sites and towards more “authentic” content sources, including online influencers. In a recent studyExit Disclaimer, 49% of consumers stated they relied on recommendations from influencers when making purchasing decisions. However, as the number of an influencer’s followers go up, engagement in their posts often goes down. Many marketers think that, for maximum engagement, working with micro-influencers (who have approximately 10,000 - 100,000 followers) is ideal. Micro-influencers are often more open to collaborating, even when the project doesn’t have a large marketing budget, making them potentially valuable partners for public health outreach. Interested in working with micro-influencers? Try conducting an audience assessment to identify micro-influencers in your community.

“Hello Alexa?” Voice-powered technology is here to stay. Smartphones, computers, tablets, and smart speakers are among many devices that can be operated by voice. Digital expertsExit Disclaimer predict that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be conducted by voice. What does this mean for you? Consider optimizing your health content for voice searches by writing and tagging content the way people may say their search term out loud: what words and phrases would someone use to search for a health center or HIV testing facility? 

Communicators will harness the power of “micro moments” for behavior change. Thanks to smartphones, our audiences are increasingly connectedExit Disclaimer to the Internet and can search, learn, and buy when a need arises. By understanding your audience and how, when, and why they’ll search for health information and services, your organization can tap into these “micro moments” through content design and the use of digital channels in 2018. Just like the example about voice technology (above), you can begin to harness micro moments by imagining how and when your audience might seek out information about HIV and AIDS on your website or social media channels. What keywords would they use? What time of day would they look for this content? By working through these scenarios with your team, you can begin to update your keywords and tagging on your site, or strategically post to social media at specific times.

It can be hard for communicators to stay up to speed with new trends and advancements in tools. Luckily, the team is here to help!


  • Sign up for our weekly newsletter so you’ll never miss a blog post on digital tools. 
  • Schedule a Virtual Office Hours appointment and a member of the team will call you for a 45-minute session on digital tools and social media.