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The Instagram posts seem so easy-breezy: an endless blue ocean with pedicured red toes in the foreground. The perfect nursery with a sweet baby in an adorable white outfit. A hyperlapse fitness video that tones muscles in 60 seconds. Behind the scenes, though, business owners know that managing social media is rarely simple.

Social media trends move fast. I should know—it’s my business specialty. When I returned from my three-month maternity leave in June 2016, our entire company had morphed and pivoted due to one Instagram algorithm change. Coming back to a reinvented job on major new-mom sleep deprivation while holding the only C-suite title on our executive board was a serious learning experience.

So in the spirit of helping my fellow entrepreneurs avoid being blindsided by changes at Facebook and Instagram, here are some social media trends that smart businesses are adapting for 2018.

Playing with new social products

Experimenting with new bells and whistles on Facebook and Instagram could increase your chances of discovery by newcomers. With Facebook Live and Instagram’s Stories and Live, for instance, both platforms are pushing the features and rewarding users who create content for them—say, with a nudge toward the top of the newsfeed or a higher chance of getting into Instagram’s coveted Discover tab. So make a plan to include Live and Stories in your social-media mix, ideally at least once per week.

Creating TV-style content

With mobile devices driving more audiences to consume a greater share of content outside actual television screens, smart brands are using social media as a platform for thematic programming. Tastemade is a great example of a food brand that’s developing longer-form videos that resonate on Facebook Watch, including “Kitchen Little,” a series in which cute kids “teach” pro chefs how to cook. Such videos deliver feel-good vibes with a strong theme to generate return viewers. 

Looking beyond vanity metrics

I’ve worked with many clients whose primary focus was gaining followers and likes. Impressions, too, which sound good because they’re the biggest number in the room. Problem is, these vanity metrics don’t always translate to ROI. Unless those “likers” are sharing your content or following through on a call to action, odds are they’re not doing much to drive your business.

In response, smart companies are starting to evaluate deeper conversations taking place—through actions such as comments, tagging and sharing (and completing purchases, of course). You can do likewise by articulating some concrete business goals. Again, likes aren’t a goal; a goal is “we want to grow our membership by 20 percent,” or, “We want more bookings.” Only then can you effectively measure the impact of social.

If you have great content and no one shows up to see it, then what does it matter?

Taking a stand on current events

Dolce & Gabbana is selling T-shirts that read “#BOYCOTT.” Lush Cosmetics is blogging about transgender rights. Those are just two brands in a recent slew that are taking a stand on hot-button issues to express alignment with their customers’ deeply held beliefs. Even if your business isn’t creating ripped-from-the-headlines merch, finding ways to express your brand values can be a shrewd way to heighten customer loyalty. This can include reposting or sharing a timely image on Instagram, linking to a charitable donation site to support a given cause, or observing a day of silence or solidarity following a tragic national event.

“Hiring” artificial intelligence

Whether you’re a new or established company, it’s tough to manually respond to hundreds of comments and customer inquiries without a large team in place. Some of the best-known brands in the world—such as CNN—are now turning to A.I. for everything from chatbot responses to data mining for content creation. On a slightly less futuristic level, social-listening tools such as Chartbeat and Dash Hudson can monitor wider social-media conversations around your brand and topics of interest to suggest content ideas your audience craves and inform your strategic decisions about products, campaigns and more. This can be an invaluable form of social intelligence.

Not waiting for a traffic miracle

Pretty much anyone with a website will tell you: After Facebook and Instagram made changes to their newsfeed functions, organic reach and referral traffic nosedived. This is the new reality (at least until those sites change tack yet again). So companies now are making space in their budgets for ads across social platforms to boost traffic, acquire followers, stoke brand awareness and drive engagement. After all, if you have great content and no one shows up to see it, then what does it matter? My suggestion for small businesses: Get comfortable with the idea of allocating $100 to $300 per month for social ads on Facebook and Instagram, and play around with them to see what works best for your niche.

I know that was a lot, and there’s no pressure to try everything at once. Plan small ways to jump into a few of these trends, keeping your overall business goals in sight. Hey, I wouldn’t mind my toes popping up on a lounge chair with only the ocean in front of me. First small step: a pedicure.

Heymama member Gabrielle Blitz Rosen is the mother to an incredible little girl. She’s also the CEO and founder of Townhouse Digital, an editorial house for social and digital products, as well as co-founder and chief content officer at Full-Time Travel. Previously, Blitz Rosen was the chief digital officer of Beautiful Destinations, a content-creation agency with the largest travel and lifestyle following on Instagram.

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