by Jayson DeMers –
Social media marketing has always been a peculiar animal. Since its early days, where platforms were finicky and critics insisted that social marketing was not a viable marketing strategy, we’re now witnesses to an era with rock-solid platforms, useful advertising options, and plenty of free opportunities to make our content public.
Still, the world of social media changes quickly, with dozens of new platforms arriving each year and most existing companies scrambling to stay ahead of the game with new features and innovations. If history and some recently emerging trends are any indication, 2016 will be a host for a variety of new trends and changes in the social scene.
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Here are seven landmark social media marketing trends I predict we’ll see in 2016:
1. In-the-moment updates will dominate. Social media is already “in-the-moment” by nature, but there are some posts that are more “in-the-moment” than others. For example, take Periscope, which was recently acquired by Twitter—it allows users to give a live video broadcast of some stretch of their lives. Compare that to simply taking a video and posting it later—Periscope users collectively watch 40 years of live video each and every day. Instagram and Snapchat also support on-the-go, in-the-moment updates as opposed to late-game retrospectives, and could collectively herald in a new era of immediacy in social media. If it catches on, you can forget about scheduling all your company’s social media posts in advance.
2. Buy buttons will take over. Facebook and Pinterest are just two of the platforms that gained attention this year by introducing new “buy” features for their advertisers and users. Mobile users of Facebook and Pinterest who see a product they like in a sponsored post can now use one click to purchase it, without ever leaving the app. Instagram isn’t far behind on the trend, and I imagine more social platforms will follow. By the end of 2016, most major social media brands will feature some kind of buy button naturally as an element of their advertising campaigns.
3. In-app functionality will diversify and spread. Facebook is the king of adding new functionality. In the past year, they’ve introduced Instant Articles (a new form of publishing), an in-post search engine (to find articles you’re referencing), and videos that play instantly when scrolling. Now, they’re developing their own digital assistant (though it’s technically a digital/human hybrid assistant). Other platforms are working similarly, with Twitter, Instagram, and others trying to expand their platforms to a similar degree, preventing users from ever leaving the app. Expect this trend to continue well into 2016, giving marketers ever more opportunities to engage with their audiences on one platform.
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4. New publication options will be available. Facebook’s Instant Articles are only the beginning. Publishers on board with the program can publish full-length articles to Facebook users, without having to link to an external source. As social platforms become more competitive and more aggressive about keeping users in-app for as long as possible, I imagine they’ll dream up even more sophisticated forms of publishing for businesses and organizations. Twitter’s upcoming Project Lightning puts publication in the hands of its users, but it still represents a dynamic way to present material to the public.
5. User privacy concerns will hit an all-time high. After another year full of high-profile security breaches (like the one with Ashley Madison), user concerns over privacy are going to hit an all-time high. Snapchat’s explosive popularity is, in part, due to user demand for a more private, secure method of communication and engagement. Facebook is introducing more privacy awareness tools for its users, and it’s smart to do so, because as tension continues to rise, only platforms which offer a degree of privacy and security will continue to thrive. For advertisers, that might mean backing off of sometimes-intrusive forms of advertising.
6. Competition for organic visibility will increase. Finally, as the ROI of social media marketing becomes more established and social marketing itself becomes more accessible for a wider range of businesses, there will be a greater level of competition for organic visibility. Already, Facebook is throttling organic visibility to force people to buy advertising, and as more businesses emerge in the market, that throttle will only increase, and among more social media channels. The cost of advertising, too, is set to rise over the course of the next year.
7. Fewer small platforms will emerge. For the last several years, we’ve seen at least a few dozen new social media platforms rise up and either blink out of existence just as quickly or settle in as a middle-of-the-road platform that never gets more attention but never really dies out. This past year, the trend has changed—platforms have tended to skyrocket in popularity to stand on their own, get enough attention to be acquired by one of the big three (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), or die a quick death. In 2016, I expect we’ll see fewer small platforms as the big players race to gobble up the promising small fry, meaning you’ll have to worry about fewer up-and-coming opportunities.
I anticipate these trends will permeate the landscape of social media marketing, across multiple platforms and of course many audiences. Already, you can see platforms like Facebook and Twitter rushing toward these achievements at an alarming pace, but it’s the companies who adapt to these changes who stand to benefit the most. Prepare for these changes and beat your competition to the punch, and you’ll be rewarded with more visibility and a greater reputation.