• Instagram hit 500 million users — more than 300 million of whom use Instagram every single day
• Snapchat surpassed Twitter, with 150 million daily active users
• Facebook hit 1.13 billion daily active users and introduced Live video
• Twitter scored streaming deals with the NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB
• YouTube users spent an average of 40 minutes watching video on mobile each day
• Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26.2 billion
A lot changes in social media in a year. Take a look back at our 10 trends to plan for in 2016 to see the proof. We asked our social experts to share some trends that are on their radar for the coming year.
1. Embracing the temporary: Snapchat, Facebook Live and more
Live streaming and ephemeral content continue to become increasingly popular for brands, celebrities and regular social media users alike — and for good reason. They offer something that a perfectly crafted tweet or highly edited photo can’t: a true sense of authenticity. And for your brand, that means a chance to develop trust and affinity by showing your human side. Instagram recently joined the temporary content game with Instagram Stories. While nearly identical to Snapchat, it’s more accessible to brands who have been shying away from Snapchat.
2017 might be the year to experiment with temporary content or live video. Our biggest piece of advice? Draft a storyboard or script beforehand so you feel prepared.
Tips for Success:
• Humans are inherently curious. Play off this by enticing them to follow along with your content for an exclusive experience — a behind-the-scenes look at an event, a special interview with an important figure, or even a discount code for a secret product sale.
• Don’t sweat the small stuff. Save your perfectly edited videos for YouTube. Your followers aren’t watching your Facebook Live or tuning in to your Snapchat Story for the production value. They want to get a unique look into whatever it is you’re showing — plus, a little bit of imperfection shows your human side.
• Don’t forget to plan. While you should embrace spontaneity, organic conversation and the occasional imperfection, you should still create a plan for what you’ll be showing. Make an outline, script or storyboard to follow on the big day.
• Have fun! Incorporate some personality into what you’re creating. Make use of features like emojis, on-screen drawing tools and filters to spice up your content.
— Nicole Scilingo, Content Specialist
2. Video: continues to thrive, increased budgets, planning for formats
Video continues its ascent to the top of content mountain, garnering more budget dollars and more eyeballs as it climbs. One-third of all online activity is spent watching videos, and video ad spend will increase by double digits annually until at least 2020, if eMarketer’s predictions are correct. The bottom line is this: If you aren’t creating engaging video content for your audience, someone else is. Marketers’ investment in video is paying off — according to Brightcove, social video generates 1,200 percent more shares than text and images combined. That’s a lot of eyeballs on your brand, and a big opportunity if you approach video development in the right way. Brightcove also learned that 62 percent of consumers are more likely to have a negative perception of a brand that published a poor quality video.
Tips for Success:
• Brands shouldn’t assume that they need production studio quality video every time — there are many tools and apps available to up the ante on your iPhone videos, and production quality shouldn’t be favored over content quality.
• Find out what your fans and followers want to see, and give it to them! Don’t, however, make the mistake of assuming the same content should be shared across all social channels.
• Facebook is the media darling of video, but YouTube still dominates in terms of total hours watched per day. According to VentureBeat, YouTube viewers watch 11.3 times more video than Facebook viewers, to the tune of 8,061 years of video content per day on YouTube vs. 713 years per day on Facebook.
• The key is knowing what to share on each channel. For example, “how to” searches on YouTube have increased 70 percent year over year, according to Google. Could your customers and fans benefit from a more detailed look at some of the features and components of your product? Shoot a tutorial that helps them get up and running faster — you’ll address their pain points, or convince a potential customer that your product is right for them.
— Kim Ten Clay, Digital Strategist
3. Video live streaming
Video live streaming has been on the rise in 2016, and all signs point to a continued upward climb in 2017. At the tap of a screen — usually after a “LIVE NOW” notification — we’re able to tune in to breaking news, the latest announcements and product launches, and go behind the scenes through our news feeds and social channels. Video live streaming is offering a new layer of accessibility for brands, organizations and influencers. Even the White House is embracing it by taking us behind the scenes with FLOTUS and POTUS! According to Social Media Today, “People spend 3x longer watching video which is Live compared to video which is no longer Live.” Along with an increase in sophisticated live streaming features on established social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, we should also anticipate an increase in the number of NEW live streaming platforms to explore!
Tips for Success:
• The impulse and desire to tune in live isn’t going away, and brands should continue to experiment (or begin experimenting) with how video live streaming can help them connect with their audiences on a whole new level.
• As accessibility to more and more data continues to increase, and the number of mobile device users also increases (Facebook reports having 1.03 billion mobile daily active users in June 2016), the ability for brands to reach their fans live will become more and more valuable.
— Jessie Hill, Social Media Specialist
4. Mobile as a moving target
Overall, internet usage is 71 percent mobile, and consumption is growing at the expense of other platforms. In many cases, marketers are moving dollars from more traditional platforms to mobile. It’s important to note that mobile usage can be broken down further into mobile web and mobile apps. Flurry reported in 2015 that users spent 90 percent of their time in apps, compared to the mobile web. App installs are up 5 percent year over year, but according to Google, 25 percent of installed apps are never used and 26 percent are abandoned after the first use. If you’re investing in mobile app development, understanding the wants and needs of your intended audience is critical.
Wearables / IoT
Wearable usage is predicted to rise 18.4 percent (in terms of sales) over 2015, according to Gartner. Wearable devices introduce a new, smaller interface, and personalized metrics ranging from steps walked to quality of sleep. Not only does wearable technology tell us where a consumer is, but it also provides biometric data and details about what a person is doing — even the media they’re consuming.
Geo-targeting and Push Notifications
According to EContent, in a study published by Retale in 2015, 84 percent of millennials acted on push notifications sent to their mobile devices. This included taking advantage of coupons, customer rewards, new product updates or sale information, among other actions.
Tips for Success:
• As mobile usage increases, geo-targeting and push notifications allow brands to go directly to a customer’s device, circumventing social feeds and inboxes. Brands should beware, however, of crossing the line; the same group said they don’t respond when notifications aren’t relevant, are considered invasive, or are sent too frequently.
• Geo-targeting within social platforms continues to improve, with brands able to reach users as they enter a certain geographical area. For those brands without traditional storefronts, this capability can and should be used at events like trade shows, conferences and other events where the brand has an opportunity to interact with customers. This creates a more relevant and personal — and ultimately positive — experience with the brand.
— Kim Ten Clay, Public Relations Supervisor
5. Continued decline of organic reach
Facebook, Twitter and other social networks have matured right along with their users. Being publicly traded means these channels — ahem, businesses — need to make money to keep their stockholders happy. And advertisers are eating right out of their hands. How can they not? Just a few short years ago, brands could easily reach their fans for free. Compare that to July 2016, when nearly 40 percent of Facebook pages advertised — accounting for 30 percent of audience reach.
As more content is published on any given social network, the algorithm is weeding it out so only the best of the best organic posts — and ads — are pushed to the news feed. Social networks continuously tweak algorithms in hopes that users stay engaged and logged in — even if it means advertisers lose organic reach. Some social experts predict organic reach will cease to exist and brands will have to advertise to reach anyone. You can read up on Facebook Zero and Reachpocalypse.
Tips for Success:
• Create content your fans want to read, watch and share, and be more selective about what and how much you post. There are fewer chances to have your content be seen — make sure every post counts.
• Targeting the right audience should boost engagement and help your posts continue to be served organically. Rather than a shotgun approach of reaching as many people as possible, try to target your content to just those people in the bull’s-eye.
• Diversify your content platforms to help battle Reachpocalypse. While social media is typically considered an owned channel, it’s actually more like a rental property. Truly owned channels include websites, microsites and blogs. Continue reaching and engaging your audience in other places than just social media.
• When planning for 2017 and beyond, take into account that organic reach is almost certain to continue decreasing and paid reach will become more expensive as more brands vie for limited ad space. Social networks will keep adding new advertising features and tools, so staying up to date will help optimize paid reach.
— Jessica Wardenburg, Public RelationsSpecialist
6. Social as mainstream media
When one gets on social media channels, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, they’re able to access mainstream news just seconds after it has occurred. These channels are turning into major news sources, providing real-time event coverage all across the world. Not only are viewers able to learn about global events in real time, but they are also able to comment and discuss these happenings. Channels that were once used primarily for communication have now become resources for up-to-the-minute news.
For example, in its latest positioning, Twitter claims that one does not have to tweet in order to use Twitter to the best of its capability. Twitter has become more of a listening and hearing application, transforming itself into a remarkable information service platform. According to Bill Gurley in Above the Crowd, “With Twitter, you get news faster, you see updates from your favorite artists, you hear directly from key politicians and gain insights from influencers in a wide variety of spaces.”
Tips for Success:
• Make sure the content you’re sharing on social media is timely and newsworthy. Consider seasonal topics that are trending and relevant to your audience and industry as a starting point for content.
• Stop thinking like a marketer, and start thinking more like a publisher. Consider ways to reach your audience through content that builds affinity vs. selling your products and services.
• Most importantly, take note of what’s happening in the world, and craft a policy around how to react when big events take place, especially tragedies. With content from friends and family, publishers and brands all in the same news feed, it’s important to know when to join the conversation, simply show your support, or pause activity altogether.
— Brianna Fujan, Digital Content Specialist
7. Augmented reality gets social
Augmented reality (AR) is one of the most celebrated and talked-about aspects to come out of the new Pokémon app, and the technology is poised for more success and more innovation in the near future. In the manufacturing industry specifically, companies have been incorporating AR into day-to-day operations, maintenance, training and inspections, but few brands are marketing those experiences with the technology to the public.
With applications from Snapchat filters that can turn your eyes into hearts to talk of augmented reality construction sites, it’s obvious we can expect big things from the technology in 2017. It’s even being said that AR will be a staple in the industrial industry within the next 10 years. While we can’t predict just how AR will appear in our social media in the years ahead, we can encourage our clients to strike while the trend is hot.
Tips for Success:
• Geofilters on Snapchat are still extremely cheap and easy to make. If you have a special event coming up, explore this option as a way to generate buzz not only among people at the event but among their Snapchat friends as well.
• If you’re already incorporating AR into your day-to-day operations, brainstorm ways you can market that achievement without disclosing confidential information.
— Meredith Augspurger, Public Relations Specialist
8. The future of Twitter
2016 has been a big year for Twitter amid a new algorithm and timeline tweak and the on-again, off-again rumors that the platform was expanding its 140-character limit. Twitter’s slowing growth has marketers wondering what’s happening with the social network, and how to invest moving forward. According to eMarketer, Twitter’s share of U.S. social network users is dropping. In its latest forecast eMarketer significantly reduced its projects due to nearly stagnant growth reported by Twitter in Q2. By the end of this year, 52.2 million people in the U.S. will access their Twitter accounts at least once a month — just a 2 percent increase over last year (compared to the 8 percent projected). Furthermore, Twitter will add just 3.6 million users by 2020 instead of the 13.9 million previously forecast.
Despite the social network’s sluggish growth, Twitter still ranks above Pinterest and Linkedin for daily use, and the company’s About page still boasts 313 million global monthly active users, which is certainly no small feat. So, regardless of its declining growth, the channel is still the fourth most active social channel in the U.S. based on share of visits, just after Facebook, YouTube and Reddit. Quantcast also ranks Twitter in the top 10 most visited websites in the U.S., coming in at No. 8, with over 91 million monthly visitors. And no matter how aggressively Facebook, YouTube and Instagram try to compete, Twitter is still the go-to place for politics, business leaders, athletes, and other influencers to make important announcements.
Tips for Success:
• Brands should focus on a quality over quantity approach that leverages Twitter’s current strengths, including video, live video, paid content and broadcast programming.
• Brands should focus on creating individual connections with users, rather than bombarding them with content.
• Strategies should be adjusted to focus on targeted audience (vs. mass reach), clicks to website and proactive listening to ensure optimal reach and engagement. To play on Twitter’s success and recent partnerships, consider targeting second screen users during relevant broadcasts with highly visual content, hashtags and Twitter ads.
• Also, watch for news about Moments opening to all users in 2017 (currently limited to select influencers, brands and partners). Moments will give brands and users a new and dynamic way to tell stories. Consider ways your brand could curate tweets using Moments to tell compelling stories that reach your target audience.
— Hillary Ferry, Digital Marketing Director
9. Shifting budgets
The idea of shifting dollars from traditional PR/advertising to social media/owned channels has been an ongoing battle for some time. Some advertisers feel these types of marketing efforts should be treated with separate budgets. However, research is showing this is really just a shift in mentality: Instead of shifting dollars, advertisers need to look at how these two categories can be merged. Similar to expanding paid media opportunities to include digital, marketers must think of their PR efforts not only in traditional form but also in how social media channels can be used.
One recent study showed that marketing budgets from 2016 to 2017 will not significantly change in dollar amounts, but allocation among the various forms of paid and earned media may change slightly and will vary based on a company’s goals and objectives. Digital efforts, whether paid, owned or earned, will see the biggest increase in budgets; but how efforts are allocated will often depend on previous channels and past return on investment. For one brand it may be email marketing, while another may be through social media channels. However, in the end all of these should work together and be planned out.
Tips for Success:
• As with any marketing plan, a mix of media should be considered vs. purchasing just one form of media. This holds true with PR as well; traditional PR should not stand on its own, nor should social media channels.
• As advertisers are moving more aggressively into owned and earned media, the role of paid media should also change. For example, it may be used to drive consumers to a company’s owned media channel or to boost a new-product launch or promotion. It will require more coordination between all marketing teams involved regarding the design and placement of content.
— Heather Weaverling, Media Director
10. Marketing to millennials
As part of our Millennial Series Hillary gave a full rundown on how to effectively market to millennials, with two big takeaways being millennials’ love of digital and their rejection of traditional advertising. One main reason for this is because they don’t view the controlled brand messaging of traditional advertisements as authentic. Millennials want to make a connection with brands that tailor content to their experience and engage them on social platforms.
Brands have to put their customers first and focus on the types of content they will respond to. Millennials trust the recommendations of their friends and family the most. With this in mind, leverage millennial influencers who can attract a younger demographic. Focus on being open and honest while providing the best quality products and services, and let your consumers speak on your behalf.
Tips for Success:
• Meeting up with millennials on their digital playground can have a significant impact on how they react to your brand. Simply having social media accounts isn’t enough. Millennials want brands to engage and interact with them.
• When brands focus on building relationships and getting personal on social media, they create brand loyalists. According to a study by Forbes with Elite Daily, 60 percent of millennial participants said they are often loyal to the brands where they currently purchase products. If brands want to successfully connect with millennials, they have to stay on top of digital trends and create content with their customers in mind.
— Sharaya Jackson, Marketing Insights Specialist
11. Proving the ROI of social
When people hear ROI, they immediately think of “did it lead to a sale?” But when you look at those letters and what they mean (return on investment), it doesn’t necessarily mean “did it lead to a sale,” but rather did the company get some sort of value or “return” on the investment they made in a marketing activity? The “return” in social media is almost always NOT going to be a sale, and this makes a lot of brand managers and salespeople in the B2B world uneasy or confused about why they are investing in social media. Sales is often the only measurement they know, but you can get a return on a lot of different things. The trend needs to move away from demanding a sale out of every marketing activity and instead measuring the actual return you receive from your social media activity.
Tips for Success:
• Measuring the return on your social media investment is no longer optional. To secure buy-in for larger, dedicated budgets, marketers must be able to demonstrate how social is impacting a brand’s overall business goals.
• Tie your social media key performance indicators (KPIs) to your overall marketing, PR and communications objectives to ensure your efforts are contributing to your overall business goals.
• Consider other kinds of return beyond sales when measuring the success of your social media, including the ability to solve customer service issues efficiently and effectively, expanding and extending your investment at trade shows, increasing brand awareness and overall brand satisfaction scores through the social interactions you create, and projecting an image of contact activity and power to your competitors.
— Patrick McGill, Marketing Insights Director