Deep Dive: The Evolution of Social Media in 2016

2016 has been quite the year for social media. With the United States election, Brexit, and a more global online community it has become an even more important tool for individuals and companies to disseminate their messages, brands, and views. We’ve had losses (we’ll miss you Vine), innovations (Snapchat goggles? What!?), and evolutions (Twitter is now a news organization?). We’ll break down the year in review for you, and give some quick predictions on where each platform is headed in 2017.

Twitter

Twitter’s evolution into a news platform during 2016 was exemplified in their election night coverage. Twitter partnered with BuzzFeed and broadcasted for over six hours, which included video and a live stream of Tweets that reached more than 6.8 million viewers. We expect these broadcast partnerships to continue into the New Year as a more successful iteration of Periscope and live video.

What’s ahead for Twitter in 2017?

In 2016, Twitter also introduced moments giving users snippets of news, weird internet happenings, and ways to string together various tweets to tell a story. We wouldn’t be surprised if this continues and is expanded to give more cohesive content and microblogs allowing users to catch up on news without leaving the platform.

Amid criticism and abuse by some users, we also expect customer service and a focus on reducing hate speech to be emphasized more heavily, hopefully reducing the negative impact and helping the platform move into a more productive stage of its life.

Facebook

This year Facebook has come under fire for their use of trending stories (going from staff curation to using numerical data), as well as circulating fake news. The expansion of the ads platform and the addition of reactions, instant articles, and Facebook Live continue to demonstrate the platforms commitment to expansion, innovation, and growth. While brands and companies often struggle with the network, it remains an integral part of social strategy for nearly every company’s branding.

Facebook’s most recent innovation, marketplace, mirrors Next Door and Craigslist with their local sales destination. The feature allows Facebook to capitalize on the local Facebook groups that have been operating similarly for years. It’s mobile-only for now, which means marketing must adapt and gives an advantage to those of us who have been anticipating these features for years.

What can we expect from Facebook in the coming year?

It’s safe to assume the next year will continue to be video heavy (though we may see a peak), the continuation of filters and lenses in the style of Snapchat, news continuing to be a focus (a la Twitter), and finally, perhaps the most interesting: a rise in search. Facebook now sees 2 billion searches per day, which means content creators and brand managers will likely utilize the platform even more heavily to assist in getting more visibility.

Instagram

In the style of Facebook and Snapchat, Instagram has launched stories and an increase in business tools. It likely is moving toward being the next Facebook of mobile advertising, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the direction the platforms ad product goes. If it’s following in Facebook’s footsteps to help brands generate traffic and revenue, it could be a game changer for brands who have diversified and are able to expand beyond the giant that is Facebook advertising. However, we continue to believe diversification and careful evaluation of your audience is the most important factor in choosing social networks.

What innovations can we expect from Instagram in 2017?

Instagram will also likely expand their live video offerings a la Facebook and continue to adapt and innovate with Instagram stories in an attempt to oust Snapchat’s domination. The links within stories is a great start to making Instagram stories a more coveted advertising model than Snapchat, as it offers a way for influencers to share products and services with their audience directly, instead of relying on a two-step process that Snapchat requires. It may also be able to utilize Facebook’s AR acquisitions letting it push even further into the Snapchat realm. Only time will tell which platform will reign supreme. Their recent change to allowing users to like comments also emphasizes the similarities between Facebook and Instagram, so keeping an eye on each platform’s innovations may help inform what’s next for the other.

Snapchat

Snapchat this year has, frankly, out-Snapchatted itself. With Spectacles it proved AR and 360 video are not mere figments of the future, but are on the brink of becoming mainstream. They also strayed from the intrinsic fleeting nature of the platform with Memories letting Snapchat users share photos they had taken outside the app, as well as put together whole, downloadable stories that could be packaged according to the location or memory they were associated with.

Can Snapchat un-Snapchat itself in the New Year?

They still struggle with discovering new users (outside of Snapchat discover and collective streams), and thus must solve this issue in 2017 to help the platform expand. Vurb may be the solution to thisi — but it remains to be seen. We should also be on the lookout for the expansion of their ad products that now play between stories and are integrated into brands Discover pages. Whether it’s through sponsored filters and location-based ads, or a more comprehensive dissemination of ads between stories we’re sure to see innovations this year that brands and institutions can use to their advantage.

Pinterest

Pinterest’s ads and shoppable pins have turned the platform into a fully functional platform for sales brands. From fashion and accessories to cookware, brands with loyal followings have seen successful on the platform. Some of the most impactful campaigns in the past few years have been brand’s partnerships with successful pinners, like Target’s collaboration with Who What Wear. However this year we saw more of an emphasis on branded content and ads, as well as increased analytics with Pinterest’s new marketing partners like Buffer and Adaptly. Testing these ads, slideshows, and displays is a must for those with an audience on Pinterest.

What can we expect from Pinterest in the coming year?

People have long said Pinterest was a female dominated platform, but the site is seeing 40% of new sign-ups coming from males, while 55% of those searching are men. They have also started to encourage video content and their “suggested for you” and search features continue to evolve to function in a more Google-esque manner. Staying vigilant and avoiding getting married to one strategy keeps you flexible and allows you to move nimbly with the platform and make adjustments as needed.

LinkedIn

When Microsoft acquired LinkedIn, it boded changes and new information on the platform. So far, things have remained fairly similar; though rolling out new ways to find freelance jobs and specialists, as well as an increasingly popular job board makes the acquisition more interesting. We’ll be interested to see how LinkedIn premium and other monetization ideas play out under Microsoft’s watch.

How could LinkedIn provide a better advertising experience in 2017?

For years, LinkedIn has been trying to lure users back to its platform through a desktop redesign, tweaks in its messaging platform, and more. However, this touted “social network for professionals” just isn’t measuring up. LinkedIn continues to feel impersonal and fails to connect with its users. If they can adjust the platform to feel more informative, likening it more to a brainstorm session as opposed to a job interview, we believe the platform could find its footing.

While the ad platform still mostly functions as sponsored posts, display ads, PPC, and InMail, the B2B opportunities are numerous and are worth exploring. We’re not holding out for any major changes in 2017, but we’ll be keeping our ears to the ground.

YouTube

While YouTube remains mostly the same: a platform for content creators and brands to share longer-form video messages, we’ve seen a rise in video ad buys and changes to the model. Original premium content will be a big part of YouTube’s next wave of programming with YouTube Red.

Is the YouTube Red the message next year?

YouTube is taking advantage of the music audience on the platform with YouTube Red. Producing original content, leveraging the musicians on the platform, and more has helped YouTube continue to stay relevant while other platforms expand their video offerings. For brands, partnering with content creators, utilizing pre-roll and display ads are still growing, with the top 100 advertisers upping their spend by 50%. We’ll be watching to see where this goes as Hulu and other streaming video vie for space at the top of the streaming video model.

Google+

While Google+ has been hanging on, it still struggles to achieve the user base that makes it an advantageous platform for companies to focus on. If innovations make it more relevant we could see developing a strategy for this platform, but in general focusing on your reviews and rankings is likely the avenue to pursue with Google.

Could Google+ become more relevant in 2017?

According to Google, there are 300 million users on Google Plus. But last year, an independent study from digital marketing agency Stone Temple Consulting found that less than one percent of Google users are active on Google Plus. Eric Enge, Stone Temple’s CEO, estimated that 111 million users have an active profile and just 6.7 million users have at least 50 posts ever.”

Will the new updates be enough to keep Google Plus alive and relevant? The outcome looks bleak — considering none of the changes incentivize users to be more active — but only time will tell.

Top 5 Social Media Marketing Considerations for 2017

What does this evolution in social media bode for 2017? The sky is the limit as far as digital advertising goes. These are our top takeaways and things for your company to consider when planning your 2017 digital marketing strategy:

  • If you haven’t yet, consider creating interactive ads, videos, and other collateral that supports your brand and promotes your products or services. These can be leveraged across multiple platforms as well as your website.
  • Be nimble. While you may feel confident about your strategies, it’s important to be ready to change with the platforms in an age where failure to evolve can result in the death of a brand on social media.
  • Don’t adopt a one-size-fits-all strategy. The kind of content you put on each of your platforms should feel uniquely relevant and useful. Your Instagram post won’t necessarily work on Facebook or Twitter. Your blog content might be best suited for LinkedIn.
  • Know your audience. When you’re marketing on social media, you’re reaching people in a different mindset than when they’re googling your brand. You should be reaching them with the kind of content they want on the platform, as well as recognizing the purpose of each network so they get the information and content they want at the right time in the right place.
  • Everyone has heard they should diversify, but have you actually done it? Most brands are guilty of being too Facebook-centric, but now more than ever it’s imperative that you have adapted to and embraced the newer kids on the block.

Keep an eye on the horizon for new and evolving social media platforms to help your company stay ahead of the curve.

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