Over the past few years, social media has changed as technology has become more attached to every aspect of our daily lives. The line between internet users and social network users is now blurred, with most internet users now using social networks. The fact that many of us are glued to a phone (or more than one phone!) is reflected in the impact mobile is having on the social media environment. Mobile traffic now exceeds desktop traffic, with 77% of adults owning smartphones. This year, facebook has completed its transformation to mobile.
Over the last year, large social media companies are seeking to absorb other successful social startups, creating a trend of merging social media (thank goodness!). Facebook bought Instagram, What’s App, and Oculus Rift. Twitter acquired Periscope. This reflects the desire of big companies to bring to their audience new ways to interact with each other.
Social media trends to watch for in 2017 reflect these trends as well as the inevitable requirement of profit in social media, and the oh-so-devastating implications of fake news this year.
Social isn’t just for ‘millennials’ anymore. (In fact, millienial social media use may start to decline.)
Can you get too much of a good thing? Yes!
Platforms are being taken over by older demographics, mainly thanks for Facebook, where most users are now older than 35. On Twitter, 45% are older than 35. But not surprisingly to some, millienial social media usage may actually start to decline, thanks to social media burnout. Anyone who has ever felt a budget crunch while watching their acquaintances on facebook share photos of exotic vacations knows that particular feeling – the facebook effect. For some, facebook can be a chronic source of unhappiness. Social media can feel dominated by questionable news and "friends" facades of perfection, causing us to long for breaks from the never ending updates. So althought 90% of millennials currently use social media, that number may decline, or users may take ‘social media vacations’ or ‘black outs’ where they just log out completely for several weeks or months.
Meanwhile, millennials continue to love Instagram and Snapchat. These social mediaplatforms are still domainated by the young. Snapchat skews especially young at 82% of users under the age of 35. We may see these platforms getting older and users age, and new platforms TBD grow favour with the next generation. A trend with these platforms in particular is expiring or ‘ephemeral’ content, i.e. images or video that expire after a certain amount of time. This started with snapchat and videos that expire after viewing, and has expanded to Instagram with their ‘Instagram stories’ feature.
#5 Video as present and future king
As processing power improves, video becomes king. This is true across web design trends as well as social media. This year there is a definite trends towards ‘authentic content’ or live videos, through Periscope (twitter) and Facebook ‘Live’ Instagram ‘Stories’.
Many businesses are increasingly using twitter, facebook and Instagram to stream live events that customers and clients would otherwise not be able to attend due to geographic limitations. These events might be large scale concerts, to small scale Q & A or live makeup tutorials. Some social media platforms are really expanding on this, Facebook, for example, is introducing its 360 degree feature, which could really be a cool way to show crowds, or design spaces.
#4 Augmented reality
Though the concept of augmented reality itself is not new, platforms like Snapchat started the trend of augmented reality video. Believe it or not, augmented reality & virtual reality is here, and it’s a trend that’s actually growing. AI Lenses such as Snapchat’s facial features, make the platform interactive, engaging and unique.
The gaming industry has succeeded at pushing augmented reality to the mainstream through games like Pokemon Go. With Facebook’s recent purchase of Oculus Rift, it seems like the application of AR/VR with social media is inevitable. I suspect the change will occur gradually rather than be widespread this time next year.
#3 Harder acquisition of organic social traffic
Current changes in the need for social media profitability is resulting in the greater difficulty for businesses and organizations to acquire social media traffic organically. Currently, if you want to be seen, you need to spend $$.
The upside is, current SM ads can be highly targeted, are easily shareable and it’s easy to track your purchase in terms of views/clicks. More platforms are expanding their advertising offerings, such as Snapchat, which is inserting ads between Stories.
Though the truth of the matter is that some organizations or businesses aren’t get ready to invest serious money into their reach, so they’re reaching out to something they already have – employees. The current trend of employee advocacy programs asks employees to share their posts of their own personal social media profile, which can result in hundreds or thousands of new followers. People don’t trust companies, they trust other people, and using employee advocacy can help circumvent algorithm problems. The downside, of course, is that advocacy can’t be forced, and only works for certain kinds of posts. Asking your employees to share a straight pitch or something they don’t believe in is a bad move and will come off as disingenuous.
A related trend is the growing importance of social media ‘influencers’. With 47% of users now using Ad Blockers, those with substantial social media backings become more and more important to advertisers.
#2 Conversational Commerce – The rise of Social Messaging & Chatbots?
2017 will further the trend of social media as a means of increasing customer care. Customers now seek customer service on messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, and they expect to get a response quickly.
This trend is further accelerated by the use of chatbots.
When I asked my husband his thoughts on chatbots, his reply was: “Are those still a thing?” He built one in college (many years ago!).
For those who don’t know a chatbot is a virtual assistant living in Facebook Messenger, or another platform. Or a “chat” “robot”. They can reply to a client in natural, conversational formats, therefore tricking people into thinking they are chatting with a real person while booking a flight, rather than an AI. Though so far, this is a controversial idea, as chatbots aren’t performing quite as well as hoped . It will definitely be something to watch for.
#1 FAKE NEWS *Sigh*
In case you've been living under a rock in 2016, fake news is a huge problem on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, and is having global consequences. The response (and/or lack of responses) from social media CEOs will have a significant impact on the shape of social media in the near future.
Just very recently, Facebook and Google announced their response to fake news, read more here, including admitting that governments have used them to spread propaganda.
More resources on fake news:
Snopes: Best website for telling what's real and what's fake.
Got any trends you think I've missed? Let me know!
Check out my next post, Top Design Trends for 2017 & 2018, coming soon.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimmyrohampton/2017/01/03/5-social-media-trends-that-will-dominate-2017/2/#6c3ece91126c (fake news, social messaging, authentic content, augmented reality, chatbots)