2015 has been another big year for social media:

● Facebook reached 1.49 billion monthly active users and 1.31 billion mobile users
● Live video streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat launched
● Instagram reached 300 million users, and Instagram ads went global
● YouTube now has more than 1 billion users
● Facebook’s video traffic reached 4 billion daily views, rivaling that of YouTube

2RM_Social_TrendsNow that we’ve taken a look back, it’s time to look ahead to the social media trends we can expect in 2016. We asked Two Rivers Marketing employees to share some social media trends they’ve been hearing a lot about. Without further ado, here are 10 social media trends to watch for in 2016.

1. Social emerges as a multitasking medium in the buying process

The days of marketers focusing solely on awareness and the purchase cycle are becoming obsolete. A recent study by the CMO Club showed that not only are marketing budgets up, but marketing budgets are also extending across the entire buyer journey, making marketing less about the funnel and more about the journey. In fact, CMOs are planning to increase their spending across every stage of the buyer journey over the next two years by an average of 50 percent. Furthermore, social media is taking on a bigger role across the buying cycle as social channels continue to emerge as multitasker mediums across all stages of the buy cycle.
— Patrick McGill, Marketing Insights Director

2. Social meets retail with buy buttons

It’s no secret that social media has been driving e-commerce sales for quite a while now, but Pinterest and Instagram will continue to take this to another level in 2016. Both social platforms launched their version of buy buttons in 2015, creating new ways for e-commerce brands to reach their target audience as they plan for the upcoming year. Pinterest’s Buy It button and Instagram’s recently launched ads with Shop Now buttons allow users to buy products directly through the app or platform. It will be interesting to see how these two channels help drive e-commerce sales in the coming year.
— Hillary Ferry, Digital Marketing Director

3. Social advertising will continue to play an integral role for brands

The line between public relations and media teams will continue to blur with social advertising. Principles of PR are key from a content perspective —¬ be relevant, tell a story, no hard sell — but the media team will provide expertise in the form of audience analysis, research, targeting, planning, placement and performance analysis.
— Kim Pfannebecker, Public Relations Supervisor

Advertisers are able to create highly segmented targeting by leveraging their email lists and advanced targeting options on social channels. These lists will be even further segmented by CRM data, based on user behavior and purchase habits.
— Heather Weaverling, Media Director

Instagram, which recently announced that its advertising platform will be open to all advertisers, is expected to bring in $1.48 billion in ad revenue in 2016. Just three years after Facebook shelled out $1 billion to buy Instagram, Facebook’s targeting tools will be opened up to Instagram advertisers, making it easier for advertisers to target specific users. For users, ads on Instagram will be more targeted to their interests, making them even more effective.
— Hillary Ferry, Digital Marketing Director

4. Content gets even more personal

Personalization creates greater relevancy for fans and followers, which in turn generates greater engagement. Consider the fire hose of information that is directed toward the average social media user each day — eventually, the user becomes adept at scrolling past irrelevant content, no matter how “in your face” it may be. The force and volume of that hose will only increase in 2016, and fans will become increasingly choosy about who they follow and engage with.

It’s imperative that your content be relevant to your fans and followers. Content that speaks to who the user is as a person, their interests and their passions will be rewarded with more interaction. Often, engagement begets reach, so your content is now being distributed to an even wider audience in a more organic way. As fans and followers share with their own networks, they become a third-party endorser of your content and your brand and help to increase your ROI.
— Kim Pfannebecker, Public Relations Supervisor

5. Facebook as a publishing platform

Facebook will continue to look for ways to incentivize their users to stay on their channel. This has been accomplished in numerous ways, but as it relates to long-form content (like stories) they are beta testing “Instant Articles” — a service that allows third-party content to appear natively in its entirety on Facebook so users don’t have to link out to view it. They have even developed a revenue sharing model with publishers, so Facebook users don’t have to leave the Facebook ecosystem to get access to their content.
— Zach Keller, Public Relations Director

6. Search becomes more social

With Facebook working on tests for its own search engine and digital personal assistant M, it’s inevitable that search capabilities will span far beyond Google, Bing and Yahoo in the coming year. These new features are part of Facebook’s plan to keep Internet users within its own ecosystem. About 28 percent of all Internet time is spent by users on Facebook. If Facebook can eliminate the need for people to search Google for articles, Facebook may steal even more of that attention. Add to that Pinterest’s ever-expanding Guided Search and visual search capabilities, and we’re sure to see social media users turning more to these specific channels to find exactly what they’re looking for.
— Hillary Ferry, Digital Marketing Director

7. Social video will continue to thrive

Social media video is no longer limited to YouTube. Facebook, Vine, Snapchat and Instagram are making plays to grab a greater share of the market, and the increasing competition will continue to drive innovation in the development of video and the way it is displayed on various channels. Further, as the volume of video content increases, fans will be given greater control over what they see in their news feeds. Another area we’ll likely see change is analytics — the more marketers spend to promote their video content on various social channels, the greater the demand for analytics that allow for almost immediate improvement.
— Kim Pfannebecker, Public Relations Supervisor

Keep in mind that optimizing video for social begins before you capture video content. Understanding the required format and picture frame — widescreen, vertical, square — impacts how you shoot your video. Don’t forget to make your shots compelling or be ready to enhance your message with callouts and titles. Many videos viewed through social channels play without sound so making the visuals pop is imperative. Ensure your videos are transcribed properly. Finally, understanding who your audience is on each channel will be key — the audience on Facebook is likely different from your Snapchat followers, who are probably very different than those who subscribe to your YouTube channel. Chopping an existing long-form video up into shorter segments for channels like Snapchat, Instagram and Vine is no longer enough. Think outside the box and think about the channel — what’s the best way to deliver your content?
— Jim Hibbs, Director of Video Services

8. Live streaming

While the popularity of video is nothing new to social media platforms, a new way of producing that video content has come to life. Apps such as Meerkat and Periscope are tapping into video streaming — a recent form of video where everything is shot in real-time — and they’re seeing tremendous results. Periscope now has over 10 million registered users and sees 40 years of watch time per day. And it’s expected to grow: New data from Cisco shows that globally, consumer Internet video traffic will be 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2019, up from 64 percent in 2014.
— Brianna Fujan, Digital Content Specialist

9. Real-time, agile and responsive content marketing

It all started with a tweet back in February 2013. Oreo’s “You can still dunk in the dark” live tweet during the Super Bowl blackout at the Superdome captivated the world and sparked the real-time marketing craze. In 2016, brands will continue to focus on a social media content strategy that’s more real-time, agile and responsive. Content budgets will continue to expand to allow for more flexibility, planning and the appropriate resources to drive a more agile approach to creating and publishing content focused around the consumer. To achieve real-time marketing success, brands must remember that RTM requires timing and efficiency. And, most importantly, instead of competing for the moment, brands should aim to achieve the ultimate connection with their fans.
— Keesia Wirt, Content Strategist

10. Internet of Things (IoT), wearable tech and big data

By 2016, wearable technology is expected to reach a 28 percent adoption rate. That means there’s going to be A LOT of data for marketers to mine, and advertisers will have the ability to not only target people by their browsing habits online but also their day-to-day habits as communicated by wearable devices. Will we see the first ads native to wearable technology in 2016? One thing is for sure, IoT will continue to grow at a rapid pace as marketers continue to find new and innovative ways to use these tools to engage with customers.
— Hillary Ferry, Digital Marketing Director

About Two Rivers Marketing

Two Rivers Marketing is a full-service business-to-business (B2B) marketing communications agency. Email us with your thoughts or questions at blog@2rm.com.