The bells have barely struck midnight, so there couldn’t be a better time to take a look into our crystal ball and make some social media predictions for the future.
Of course, it wouldn’t be right to start without a mention of the past 12 months. 2015 saw rapid changes in the world of social media, with new channels appearing on the scene and growing at an astonishing rate (hello, Periscope). Plus, as organic reach on Facebook declined, marketers have had to find new ways of grabbing their audience’s attention.
The rate of change looks set to continue in 2016, providing no rest for marketing teams. Here’s our take on how the year will play out.
Most savvy marketers have already added social media in their content marketing strategies, but the less perceptive will need to get on board this year.
That’s because several big social networks launched their own publishing platforms in 2015. They did so to keep users on their sites, instead of clicking away to other publishers, boosting their own visitor numbers.
Facebook Instant Articles, LinkedIn Pulse and Twitter Moments and the like will force marketers to consider where to publish their content. It looks likely that 2016 will be the year that brands start to share to social first. If you could potentially reach one billion users with one Instant Article on Facebook, why would you publish it to your website first?
Live streaming and video marketing will continue to grow in 2016, with marketers using the likes of Periscope and Blab to share events as they happen. A huge 10 million people already have Periscope accounts and that figure is increasing month on month.
This is supported by rumours that Facebook will open its live streaming functionality to all account holders. It’s currently only available for selected users (celebs, big name brands etc), but demand is so high that access will be extended in 2016.
With so many developments in live streaming, we reckon that marketers will see this as an opportunity to start their own efforts – especially on Facebook.
The rapid growth of Instagram points to a trend for visual content that’s quick and easy to consume. By creating and editing inspirational images on a mobile device, it's not hard to see why the platform is so popular.
And as the Facebook-owned network rolls out a host of advanced tools, like Layout and Boomerang, it can only be that Instagram use will increase, for brands as well as individuals.
Instagram advertising will also be on marketers’ hit lists for 2016. With more than 400 million users, Instagram is a great place to get your products and services in front of new and existing audiences. And with the introduction of Shop Now buttons in 2015, it will be easier than ever to get your audience to spend their money if your content is effective. Plus, you'll be able to identify a clear return on investment to boot.
Pinterest, the other big player in the visual marketing field, reported that there are now more than 60 million buyable pins on the platform. We expect to see that figure grow in 2016, as marketers look to monetise their visual content.
Twitter also launched Buy Now buttons in September 2015. While we feel that marketers will dabble in this, but it remains to be seen whether it will become as mainstream as Instagram or Pinterest advertising.
We also predict that marketers will start to explore new channel as a way to grow their audiences, especially with young people.
Although there are no recent stats about the number of Snapchat users, it’s estimated to be in the 200 million mark. Agile marketers will already be looking at how to use the self-destructing videos in the year ahead, especially if they want to reach millennials.
And while many marketers might sneer at targeting young people, it’s worth bearing in mind that people born in 2000 will turn 16 this year and start entering the workplace. Their buying power should be ignored at marketers’ peril. By carefully targeting them on the channels they use the most, marketers can start building relationships for the future.
As we mentioned in our look back at 2015, smartphone usage has exploded. People are using their phones to go online more than ever – especially to check in on social media activity. Marketers need to find new ways to secure their audience’s attention, even when they’re on the move. From striking visuals and snackable content to compelling videos and engaging updates, marketeers will have to innovate more than ever to stay ahead of the competition and maintain their following.
Of course, these are only our main predictions. With so many social media channels, we couldn’t cover them all. We’d love to hear what you think will be the biggest changes over the coming year – why not share them with us on Twitter or LinkedIn?