What does the future look like for social media?
Sometimes a cutting-edge technology changes the game, or an old idea like virtual reality becomes new again. The social media landscape continues to evolve in unpredictable and surprising ways as new technologies, platforms and methods of content creation arise to capture our imagination and continually alter how we communicate.
Savvy brands that stay ahead of these trends hold a huge strategic advantage if they’re well prepared when these changes occur. Let’s take a look ahead and see what social media has in store for us in the year to come.
Live streaming video
Live video was first made popular by Twitter’s Periscope, and Facebook Live took it to the next level by offering social video content in real-time. Facebook Live is relatively new, but the format has already seen tremendous success. Some of the most viewed live videos are during events like the Academy Awards or NBA Finals. Instagram is now launching their own live streaming video option, and they won’t be the last. Millennials love video content and are the most active video viewers of any age group. Brands will need to sharpen their video capabilities and develop recognizable video styles to drive engagement and maintain visibility as customer expectations on the platform progress.
Snapchat popularized the concept of short-lived content through their disappearing “snaps.” This was extended through Snapchat Stories, which are semi-public and viewable for just 24 hours. In 2016, Instagram launched its own version of Stories based on the same notion: users love quick videos and photos that disappear a day later. Brands should be considering the best ways to incorporate this expiring content into their marketing. This format works best when turning everyday moments into a version of unique, informal storytelling.
GIFs and emojis
From Kim Kardashian’s Kimoji keyboard to Twitter’s Branded Hashtag Emojis, the choices users have for self-expression on social has gone far beyond a smiley face. Now, GIFs and personal Bitmojis are becoming commonplace. Many social media platforms are ahead of the curve; iOS 10 supports these new means of expression through iMessage keyboards, and Facebook has fully embraced GIFs. Brands would be smart to take advantage of this trend. Brands should be using GIFs and emojis in their own context, plus offering opportunities to consumers to express themselves through these images.
In the age of fake news and alternative facts, authenticity is more valued than ever before. Millennials get their news predominantly from social media, so they’re more likely to investigate and verify what they see. They also push for more transparency from media outlets and are quick to reward unexpected honesty. If users can see the real, human story behind a brand and its product, they’re much more likely to make a connection and cultivate a priceless brand loyalty.
Facial lenses and filters
Pokémon Go and Snapchat selfie lenses brought augmented reality to the forefront of social media. These facial filters and lenses are incredibly addictive and fun to use, as they increase the user’s ability to create a personalized experience and encourage sharing the silly results with other users. Facebook’s acquisition of Masquerade (MSQRD), a face-swapping selfie app, could play a key role in this. They’ve already begun experimenting with lenses within Facebook Live – enabling users to try on a variety of masks when sharing live video. Platforms will continue to improve on lens features in 2017, and brands should capitalize on these tools.
Customers aren’t interested in dealing with irrelevant content. Thanks to the amount of consumer data and analytics available to businesses, irrelevancy can be a thing of the past. According to Alison Lewis, the CMO of Johnson & Johnson, “getting the right message to the right person at the right time has never been easier, driven by digital and data.” Highly targeted ads are bringing in massive revenue for most social media platforms. Using personalized content and smart data usage, brands can further influence and persuade their audience.
Yes, there’s much more to the world of social platforms than just the major players like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Smaller platforms carefully built around specific interests are growing in popularity. Whether they’re based on an app or website, niche platforms represent opportunities for brands to showcase expertise to these potential audiences. These close-knit online communities offer chances to research and better comprehend a consumer demographic. Some great examples are GoodReads (book lovers), Ravelry (knitters) and Raptr (gamers).
Partnering with influencers is a great way to get your products noticed in a crowded marketplace. You also get an advantage of the trust they’ve built up within their target audience. Of course, it will be difficult to convince influencers to promote your product just by giving free samples. Make sure your proposal or campaign is equal in value to the influencer. Brands should also identify influencers, not just by the number of followers they have, but the kind of engagement they have with their followers. An influencer with a higher engagement score makes an even bigger impact when they promote your product or service.
Social platforms are providing users with better controls over how their feeds offer content. Users are demanding more control over their social media experience, tailoring news feeds to their individual preferences. Twitter recently rolled out quality filter tools to help users control their experience and block specific words from being mentioned. Facebook overhauled their Privacy agreement, making the controls even more user-friendly. Users will have increasingly more power to view content related to their interests, changing the way they use social. Brands should ensure that their user experience falls in line with customer behavior and preferences.
2017 may be the year that virtual reality (VR) social networking comes to life. VR and augmented reality technology are entering the mainstream in 2017, and social platforms are set to embrace it. VR allows people to further connect on social media in a more realistic way. For example, Facebook and YouTube have both introduced 360-degree videos. This paves the way for users to share interactive VR experiences. The innovative technology will also offer brands more ways to engage customers. Brands should be looking at ways to utilize VR, or at the very least should be producing memorable experiences in 360 degrees that could eventually translate to VR technology.