Social media trends change fast. The “hot” social network becomes yesterday’s newspaper quickly. In this lesson, we outline some of the emerging trends in social media.
Social media marketing can do so much for your business than just update your followers with boring status and sales-related updates. Social media can also help you and your business connect with and learn from your potential consumers and the industry leaders. With these advantages, there’s no doubt that social media is an indispensable part of today’s digital marketing landscape. And with the new year, there are some impending social media trends that are bound to affect your strategy and campaign performance.
So what’s in store for social media marketers now?
- Snap’s Evolution Will Result in Interesting New Opportunities. Snap has transformed user expectations and major trends in the social marketing world. It’s helped bring back a more moment-focused view of communication, leading to more in-the-moment and live content, it’s facilitated more mobile-centric app developments, and it’s introduced vertical videos into the mainstream. But now, it’s looking to develop products outside its main means of exchanging messages, introducing real-world glasses to help users capture first-person visual information. Expect big things from this recently-renamed company in the near future, and huge marketing opportunities to go along with them.
- Twitter Fatigue Will Worsen. Twitter built itself on fast, bite-sized updates, but this leads to a barrage of both incoming and outgoing tweets. This was novel and exciting at first, but now users are starting to crave something different—bigger, more detailed, more interesting pieces of content that roll out slower, like once per day. You can see this trend taking hold already in platforms like Instagram.
- Users Want More Deeper Experiences. People are also starting to demand social media as a conduit for more vicarious experiences. It’s no longer enough to post your sentiments about an event; you have to show your users what it’s like to be there. You can do this with things like live video, 360 images and video, and even just more real-time posting. The idea is to make your users feel like they’re a genuine part of the experience, as it’s unfolding.
- New Areas of Communication Will Emerge. Historically, social media existed as a way for individual people to communicate online. When brands caught on, it also became a way for brands to speak to and advertise to consumers. But now, social media is evolving in new communicative areas. Some platforms are offering means of customer service, increasing the significance and interactivity of exchanges between brands and consumers. Others, like Facebook, are delving into more professional communication. Expect to see more diversity here as more brands catch onto the potential.
- Ad Renaissance. Organic visibility has been declining for a while now, as platforms try catering to individual users over companies and organizations. But the secondary benefit for social platforms is that it forces more companies to dabble in paid advertising. Increased competition and pressure to become (or remain) profitable have also forced social platforms to come up with more ingenious and creative advertising options for businesses. The combination of these factors may lead to a new resurgence in social media advertising in the years to come.
- Inspiration and Imagination Will Become Fashionable. Practical posts get a lot of consumer attention. Emotionally charged posts have a greater likelihood of circulating virally. But inspirational and imaginative posts are starting to make their appearances as even stronger candidates for social media success. These are often artistic in nature, giving users something “pretty” as opposed to something pragmatic or reactive. It also forces a separation from any kind of company positioning or low-key advertising, giving users something truly valuable. It will be valuable to forgo some pretense here, and just post beautiful images or sentiments.
- Brands Will Choose Social Platforms According to Survival of the Fittest. Every year, new social media platforms emerge to try and disrupt the status quo or find their place among the heavy-hitters of the social media world. But obviously, entrepreneurs and marketers can’t jump on every single platform that comes along. Instead, we’ll see more of a trend toward refinement; rather than spending equal effort on five different platforms, more businesses will find one platform that works especially well for them, and narrow their focus on it. As a result, we may see greater stratification between the major platforms of our era.
These are some of the most important trends forecasted for social media. It’s going to remain a strong branch for any content or SEO strategy, and is a must-have for any business attempting to market themselves on a frugal budget.
You don’t have to incorporate all these trends into your strategy for the coming year, but there’s a good chance you’ll stand to benefit from at least dabbling and experimenting with them.
Now that we have outlined some of the latest trends, here are some of the expected developments from the largest social networks:
2016 has been another huge year for Facebook. They’ve added 197 million more monthly active users and recently crossed a billion mobile only MAU for the first time. The future of the network – as reiterated by Zuckerberg in their most recent earnings call – is video, with more emphasis to be put on live-streaming and 360 content in particular over the next 12 months. And that will cause a significant shift in the platform – here’s what you can expect.
- Video First. Facebook’s been refining their focus on video for some time, and you can expect this to continue into next year. Just recently, Facebook announced a trial of a new camera option which Zuckerberg sees as eventually taking over from the text box as the default status update tool. This new option – the latest in Facebook’s efforts to beat out Snapchat. This will become more and more common on Facebook, advancing the platform’s shift towards becoming ‘mostly video” by 2020.
- Facebook Live. Expect Facebook to keep pushing the issue on Live and working to unseat Periscope (if they haven’t already) as the key live-streaming platform and to announce more live-streaming partnerships with major broadcasters and move to screen more exclusive content through Facebook.
- Winning The TV Screen. In order to really make Facebook a genuine competitor for traditional TV broadcasters, Facebook needs an easy way for people to connect Facebook to their TV set. If they can do this, that’s the next big threshold for Live, that’s what will take live-streaming to the mainstream in a big way, disrupting all aspects of traditional TV as we know it.
- Virtual Reality. The next frontier for Facebook is virtual reality. But don’t expect VR to have an all-consuming entertainment takeover effect right off the bat.The lack of affordable fully operative VR-enabled system and lots of content will cause this focus to take some time.
- Facebook Search. As noted by Zuckerberg back in June, Facebook’s now facilitating more than 2 billion on-platform searches every day, with search activity rising 33% in just nine months. The platform’s now working to actively boost this trend, introducing new recommendation and event tools to help users find more of what they’re after, as well as their new marketplace option to facilitate more common on-platform search activities.
- Messenger Business. Facebook’s been working to build out Messenger as a new platform for direct connection with brands. More than 33,000 automated bots are now active on the platform. Facebook will continue to push Messenger bots, but in future years, expect them to start providing more compelling use-cases from the business perspective – i.e. the use of Messenger bots to automate these simple interactions will save you money in labor costs.
- Reactions. Made available to all users back in February, the intention was to provide Facebook with more ways to express their responses more easily, but research has shown that adoption of Reactions thus far has been poor. Given this, expect Reactions to remain, and expect to see more themed Reactions, including possibly a few promotional tie-ins – you can imagine movie studios would be keen to get in on this. But at the same time, I don’t think Reactions are going to become a significant part of the Facebook experience, nor would I expect them to be providing a new wealth of audience data, as originally expected.
The micro-blog giant has faced all sorts of challenges and problems, and none of them, as yet, have been resolved. So what does Twitter do next? There are a few areas in which we’ll see Twitter increase their focus.
- Live-streaming. It’s no secret that Twitter’s placing big bets on live-streaming. As such, Twitter’s concentrating on making live content a centrepiece of the Twitter experience – and with research showing that one in two Twitter users are active on the platform while watching TV, that focus makes sense. In terms of live-streaming for individuals, Periscope’s reportedly already struggling to keep up with Facebook Live, as per data from Socialbakers. Because of this, I can’t see Twitter shutting down Periscope, as such, but I do believe Periscope will be wholly integrated into the Twitter app, and that Periscope, as a separate app, will cease to exist. In December, Twitter announced that users will now be able to live-stream direct from Twitter without a Periscope account.
- Data Value. Over the past few years, Twitter’s been working to claw back control of their data to build a more sustainable source of revenue from their available insights. Expect Twitter to focus on showcasing why and how their data is valuable, what important insights can be gleaned via tweet beyond just basic trends. Twitter will be working to highlight such data uses, and provide better data tools, including improved search and discovery capacity, in the next year.
- 360 Tweets. With 360 and VR content becoming the next big thing, Twitter too will be looking to get on board. This is less a prediction than a known shift – Twitter recently noted that they’re looking to release something on this front early in the new year.
- For Sale. There will also be ongoing speculation about a possible sale, and/or a leadership change at Twitter. Will Twitter be sold? I expect it will, though it depends on how they’re streamlining and refining efforts go from here on out. Twitter has a lot of cost overheads that they need to restructure and fix before any company will be willing to pay Twitter’s asking price.
- Edit Tweets. Experts can’t see them adding this anytime soon. For one, it only appeals to existing users who probably aren’t going to stop using the platform anyway. In addition, it takes away resources from other elements that are critical concern – like tackling on-platform trolls and bullying.
- On-Platform Abuse – Twitter will need to take some big, bold steps on this, even if only to show just how seriously they’re taking the issue. They’ve introduced new tools and options this year, and have more coming, but they’ll need to announce something significant on this front early in the new year to really underline their efforts. Twitter’s been improving their machine learning capacity, I’d expect this is what they’ll use to detect and eliminate more hate speech and abuse.
- Stabilization. Instagram has seen some pretty big changes, including the expansion of ads on the platform, the introduction of a feed algorithm and the arrival of Stories. Given this, and the cumulative effect they’ve had on the user experience, I’d expect Instagram to have a period of stabilization and growth as they let these new features settle and grow amongst the audience.
- eCommerce. In terms of their ad options, Instagram has already flagged the next level of product ads on the platform, in the form of shopping tags. The introduction of shopping tags will eventually change the perception of the platform, and as such, Instagram will likely roll them out slowly. As interesting as the new option is, I wouldn’t expect them to be made widely available for some time yet.
- Stories. Facebook’s boldest challenge to Snapchat yet, Stories is already being used by 100 million Instagrammers daily. Expect Instagram to add improved visual features like MSQRD video masks and Facebook’s own new reactive filters to enhance Stories and make it a more viable option.
- Insta Live. Reports have suggested that Instagram’s looking to introduce its own variation of live-streaming – speculation which Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom amplified when he noted that they were considering adding a live option back in August. There may be a unique use case for Instagram Live that enhances Stories, but not sure it’ll gain significant momentum. Initial tests are reportedly underway now. Instagram announced in late November that live-streaming is being made available to all users.
- Visual Search. And another area where Instagram could gain significant momentum is in visual search. Facebook’s already working on visual search elements – if Instagram could add such functionality to their platform, that would provide a significant boost in data collection and ad targeting capacity. Expect an announcement on this in the first half of 2017.
- Trying Times. Snapchat has become a victim of its own momentum, with the bigger players now paying more attention and looking to beat the app at its own game. Facebook’s been accelerating its efforts to slow Snapchat’s momentum, introducing Snapchat-like features into all of their apps and aiming to bring those tools into regions where Snapchat adoption is low – effectively beating them out before they even have a chance to compete.
- New Options. That said, Snapchat is working on new ad types and formats, and they’re looking to improve their analytics to boost the platform’s credibility and appeal to big business. If Snapchat can continue to introduce innovative ad tools and offer better targeting, the platform will remain a desirable one for brands looking to reach that younger audience.
- Spectacles – Spectacles will no doubt prove popular, largely because of their 115 degree angle lens. If they’re able to do this, and offer more than what initially seems available with Spectacles, that’ll help the platform maintain their momentum and their appeal among younger users.
- Search Evolution. Pinterest has made significant advances in their on-platform search functionality over the last year, particularly in regards to image recognition within Pins.The next level of that will be the introduction of augmented reality shopping – essentially, this will enable users to place virtual objects within their homes to see how they fit.
- Pinterest Video. Pinterest’s newly introduced video ads will prove to be a big winner. As more brands use more video, it’ll become the thing to get maximum attention on the site, which will force all Pinterest marketers to up their game and make the switch to more engaging, moving, Pins.
- Data Evolution. With the backing of Microsoft, LinkedIn is in an excellent position to build out their key platform offerings and transform HR as we know it. Thus far, LinkedIn has never really utilized their vast professional data set in any meaningful way. But latest signs show that’s changing, and with that shift towards more data-driven functionality will come enhanced use cases for LinkedIn, both as a recruitment and advertising platform.
- More Content. LinkedIn has seen major growth in on-platform content creation and consumption, and they’re working to advance this with improved content recommendations and on-platform search tools. In addition to this, LinkedIn’s also looking to add native video in an effort to become the hub for professional news and information. Expect to see LinkedIn work to emphasize their on-platform content options, and improve their targeting to provide each user with more relevant content matches, with specific focus on LinkedIn Publisher originated posts. By providing a defined path for each user to follow to get more information on any given subject, or build their standing as an industry thought leader, LinkedIn can also better guide people towards their own resources, like LinkedIn learning.
Social media marketing trends change quickly but some of the trends outlined here are the foundation for strategies that you should be weaving into your marketing strategies and tactics.