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This is the first in a series of posts looking ahead to social media trends for 2017.
Social media moves fast. Just as you’ve wrapped your head around a set of features or developed a great new marketing tactic, the rules change.
Looking back at the recent developments can help us work out what to expect in the future. So here are our predictions for the social media trends of 2017.
Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality
I know, I know… you’ve been reading predictions of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) taking over for the last few years. It never quite happens.
But think about what happened this year. For a while, you could barely walk down the street without someone bumping into you while they tried to catch a Rattata. Pokémon Go introduced a lot of people to AR, and it showed that there is mass appeal for it when it is executed well. Several VR sets went on sale and generated hype, although they don’t seem to have that killer app yet.
The practical application of these technologies is yet to be worked out beyond gaming. Brands with physical stores are likely to be interested in AR development, as it makes proximity-based offers and engagement possible.
We are still at the beginning of the VR/AR journey. While I don’t expect AR or VR to be a dominant social media trend in 2017, a few brands will surely experiment over the coming twelve months with these new technologies.
Pay to play continues on social
How do you best reach your audience? It’s a vital question for marketers, and one where the answer is always changing.
You may choose to aim for the 3.5 billion searches per day conducted on Google. Alternatively, you can aim for social media. Facebook holds 1.71 billion people. Instagram has 500 million active users. WhatsApp has 1 billion. Youtube has 1 billion.
With search, an SEO practitioner can get your content high in the results page. A PPC expert can deliver ads that drive traffic to your site. With social, the halcyon days which saw brands’ content being distributed at no cost are over. The changes brought about by the social networks mean that organic reach is greatly reduced, in Facebook’s case from 15% to as low as 2%.
Brands have two choices: pay up, or have a true understanding of the content your audience wants to see and provide it to them. Even then, you would need to think about how you can maximize sharing, and engage influencers to increase the reach. In the end, a successful strategy will most likely have to include paying money to the networks.
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Live streaming video
Last year Meerkat brought live streaming to the masses. Earlier this year, Facebook introduced live streaming for celebrities. Recently it was rolled out for all users. YouTube Live is about to launch too.
Video has been responsible for a lot of the growth enjoyed by Facebook this year, and consistently shows higher engagement than other formats. As social networks fight to keep people online, this push into live video makes sense.
At this early stage, it’s difficult to know what the possibilities for brands are. Facebook will surely have rules around this. However, forward-thinking brands will be watching this social media trend for opportunities. Brands have the potential to release engaging content, conduct marketing around an event, or even pay influencers to feature their products.
With the priority that Facebook gives to video and the reduced organic reach, we should see brands experimenting with this new format in 2017.
Rise of the chatbots
Artificial intelligence is now reaching a level where it is useful to many people’s daily lives. The rise of digital assistants, such as Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant have got people used to talking to their phone rather than exercising their fingers.
With Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Google Allo all introducing integrated bots to help with bookings and customer service, prepare to start talking to machines much more often.
Chatbots make sense for brands, allowing common questions to be answered and simple bookings to be managed. This can free up customer service representatives to answer more in-depth queries.
More expiring content
The success of Snapchat has seen many of its competitor’s introducing features inspired by the ephemeral messaging app. Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp have all ‘borrowed’ Snapchat features recently.
It seems disappearing content might be about to become even more popular. It will be interesting to watch the inventive ways brands embrace these new features, just as they have for their Snapchat campaigns.
Maybe I’ll start deleting my blog posts two days after posting them.
The amount of data available increasingly allows ads to be shown to the right people at the right time, both across the web and specifically on social networks. The huge increase in the amount of content published online means that this needs to be seen by the right person at the right time too.
There is so much choice for the reader that if you don’t personalize and focus on a specific target, your content is much less likely to resonate with consumers.
Niche content, interactive content, innovative campaigns: it’s all part of the content arms race, trying to win limited attention in a very busy space.
Dark social has been an issue for companies for some time. The popularity of direct messaging apps and the growing number of untraceable, encrypted messages mean attribution is becoming increasingly difficult.
This creates problems when trying to measure, analyze and optimize marketing campaigns. There doesn’t appear to be a solution to this growing problem yet.
You can reduce the amount of traffic that comes from dark social by adding share buttons to your site. You can measure, with a degree of accuracy, the amount of ‘direct’ traffic that actually comes from dark social. What you can’t do is tell where that traffic is coming from, and that seems unlikely to change.
‘Optimize for mobile’ could have been on every social media trends post written in the last five years. That doesn’t make any of those predictions wrong, nor does it devalue it’s entry this year. Its importance has increased every year, and this year is no different.
Mobile traffic has overtaken desktop on the web this year. Google is working on a new, mobile-first web index. These changes mean that it is more important than ever to make the mobile experience as good as possible. Increasingly that means putting mobile first, rather than simply optimizing for mobile.
So that’s your social media trends for 2017.
Can we all agree to not dig this up in a year’s time to find out how right or wrong I was? A lot can happen in twelve months.
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