The start of a new year is always an exciting time and a period that will hit us up for the year ahead. A period to inspire us about the creative possibilities and innovations in marketing and get us thinking about how to take our brand to the next level using the latest marketing trends and technologies. Specifically, if you’re a marketer, you may also be setting up your strategic plan for 2017.
Social media has become a crucial part of the marketing strategies. Consumers are using social media more frequently before making a purchase decision. Having in mind that most of the people will discover certain brand/business either on Social Media or in Google search results (and later they will search your Social Media profiles), my focus in this blog post will be the future of using Social Media.
Marketers and business owners should plan ahead where to focus their attention. And before looking forward, it’s important to consider what challenges marketers faced in the year before. Social Media Examiner published a very insightful report that will help us understand how social media marketing is being used by over 5,000 marketers. They covered everything, from social media, video, content marketing, and more. The top platforms used by marketers last year are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest. Which network will be on top and which will fall off the list? The history of these sites has told us to expect the unexpected. Since 2015 the usage of Instagram jumped from 36% to 44%, Twitter declined from 79% to 76%, LinkedIn dropped from 71% to 67%, YouTube went from 55% to 53%, Google+ declined from 56% to 49%, and Pinterest dropped from 45% to 40%.
Following this data, what are the trends that you should watch out and expect in 2017?
Video content will become even bigger
- Live video Everyone loves exclusivity. Facebook Live, Snapchat, Instagram stories, YouTube Live streaming, Twitter with Periscope become extremely popular because of their spontaneity, personal and human way to engage and share a story with the audience in real time. It almost takes no effort to share a powerful story that will promote, educate and engage. The usage of live video is obvious and expected. What can be improved depends on how the technology will evolve to provide better quality and make it easier to use. What I see coming is incorporating live video into the marketing strategies of the businesses in order to build deeper connections with their communities.
- 360-degree video The most exciting innovation in camera technology, giving the marketers and consumers the opportunity of filming and photographing in 360-degrees. Facebook is going big with it, and last year Twitter and YouTube also announced this tool to help brands share immersive stories, places, and experiences with their fans. If you are interested and want to learn more about the technique of creating, editing and uploading 360-degree videos, check out this guide.
- Disappearing video First Snapchat, then Instagram with its stories, disappearing content is widely used and popular. Brands are accepting it more and more to showcase the “other side” of brand’s personality with authentic and unpolished content, especially through video. Product reviews or announcements, How-to videos, Behind-the-scenes, Takeovers, streaming Live events, you can make your audience feel like it’s a genuine part of the experience you share, whether is an event or announcing a new product. According to Social Media Examiner’s report, Snapchat is on a growth trajectory: Only 5% of marketers are using Snapchat, yet 16% plan on increasing their Snapchat activities. But, it’s easily predictable that Instagram stories will dominate in 2017, they already get ahead before Snapchat with the number of users.
In-app integration functionalities
What social media giants want from us, is to spend more time using their platforms instead of competitors’. I’ve mentioned the integrated live video functionality in the most popular apps, but what with the content that is not picture or video? Facebook found a way to keep people engaged within the social media app with Instant Articles, rather than visiting an external website when clicking a link. Instagram is still not allowing clickable links on the pictures, but it’s a huge step forward that they’ve added “See more” links on their stories for the verified accounts. I hope this year will be the last for the frustrating “Find the link in bio” and Instagram will present what everyone is waiting for so long, might be similar to Facebook’s solution.
Another functionality that is expected, is integrated on-platform shopping or social commerce. Pinterest announced Buyable Pins, Facebook introduced Marketplace (limited for few countries and only for individuals), Instagram is testing in-app shopping as well. Back in 2014/15 Twitter was testing “Buy” button and Product pages, but it ended ingloriously. That doesn’t mean the idea of social commerce is dead entirely, because mobile has changed the way people shop. These changes may require adjustment for businesses in order to stay competitive, but also to the advantage of the large audience on the social messaging apps to push their products and services. WeChat has interesting integration concept with “Instant apps” where users will be able to shop, order food, book holidays within the app. Maybe this idea is the future of the social apps in general, creating superapplications.
AI and Chatbots
Artificial Intelligence is no longer science fiction and this is just the beginning of being part of our everyday lives. Today AI is more and more used to create insights from data and then react automatically. With the emerging technologies, marketers should understand and use that data to create better customer experience and improve the positioning of company’s products or services. Fueled by the development of artificial intelligence 2016 was the year when Chatbots emerged (only 33,000 bots on Facebook Messenger in September 2016). In 2017 Chatbots will define the future of messaging apps, help brands create tailored experiences for each person, especially for those who need to deal with large customer care numbers.
VR & AR
Highlighted as trends in the past few year, the progress of VR and AR is probably slower than expected, but in 2017 will continue to grow. Brands are recognizing the value of virtual reality, because it boosts engagement by offering an immersive, memorable experience. With the trend of 360-degree video, VR is becoming more accessible to the audience and this year we’ll see even more, as the technology is continuously improving. These are some of the examples how companies are using VR for Marketing:
Augmented reality can display all types of information such as text, locations, signs, visual and audio data. It can also serve as an interactive experience, where users can respond easily to what is being shown. The growth of AR correlates to consumers’ addiction to smartphones. Also, the success of augmented reality-based game Pokémon Go has opened up the potential of the technology and this year is expected more consumers to engage with AR via their smartphones if it provides value and entertainment. In this video, IKEA is showing how they were using AR for marketing, 4 years ago.
Adaptations on platform changes
In the world of Social Media trends come and go, as the technology is constantly changing. Mobile traffic has passed desktop this year. Google is working on a new, mobile-first web index. It’s important to remain on the top of those changes so that your brand can stay relevant and continue to attract the customers you need. Whether it’s about adopting new app functionalities, or get used to the latest algorithm changes and advertising policies, adaptations are essential for every brand, business, organization or individual. And this is what we can expect by the most popular platforms in 2017:
- Facebook – will remain as a leading platform, a major player in video content with Live and 360-degree videos, chatbots, and social media ads. The major challenges will be on improving the algorithm for better audience segmentation and targeting options and to cope with the fake news.
- Instagram will become more than just a photo-sharing app with Instagram stories with the expansion of video content and the option to advertise. They also announced analytics on the stories that will share basic insights.
- Twitter is stuck with the core base of loyal users, the harassment problems, fake followers, and the constant noise. If one more year Twitter fail to fix these problems, it doesn’t face a prosperous future. Even though it’s my personal favorite app, new features are required to stay on track with the latest trends that other platforms are providing.
- Snapchat will have Instagram as their main competitor. With AR lenses as one of the main and successfully commercialized feature, they are distinguishing themselves, but that won’t be enough to keep their user base engaged. Personalization, tools that are organizing going out, shopping, and also new accessories from Snap are expected. Extra: They are testing new Ad features.
- LinkedIn in 2017 should focus on fixing their interface, as well as improving the mobile app. I suppose they won’t implement any of the latest tech trends, like live video, chatbots or integrated in-app functionalities 🙂 The latest news is that LinkedIn debuts new desktop version with chatbots, new search and more.
- Google +. There are news from there too 🙂
- Pinterest‘s president shared what marketers can expect from the platform in 2017.
My all-time favorite rule. With the continuous trend of “content overload”, changes in news feed algorithms will keep happening and make it harder for businesses to be seen. No money will turn bad into good and valuable content. Even though in some cases organic reach is not enough to see great results and you need to make a smart investment and proper optimization of social ads, it’s not true that social media only works when you boost your content. It helps to build an audience, but not to keep it engaged and turn them into permanent fans. This implies on everything mentioned above. The audience is expecting quality content, if your live video doesn’t bring them value, they won’t come again.
There’ll be many other areas to focus on, and lots of other new tools to try out, but from a social business perspective, these notes are worthy of consideration and could become increasingly significant. Social media will remain on the top of the reasons why people are online and a strong branch for any marketing or SEO strategy. It’s a must-have for any business attempting to market themselves. The visual content will dominate and as the technology develops, users will gravitate towards the mediums that best enables them to share their experiences and marketers will need to be there too.