social-media-advances

As 2016 winds to a close, we’d be remiss not to discuss the big changes this year brought to social media. These advances prove the unpredictable fluidity of the social landscape, and the importance of keeping up with emerging trends – lest you put all your brand’s eggs in the wrong basket.

What does that mean? Well, one of the components of effective social media analytics is knowing where to reach your audience. Assuming this will always be on the same platforms, and using the same media, is as dangerous as any other assumptions you could make.

Consumer tastes change over time, and new platforms and media emerge to meet those shifting preferences. The challenge for brands lies in keeping up with these changes and meeting consumers where they are, instead of where you want them to be.

Here’s a recap of the biggest advances in social media in 2016:

Live video exploded

Meerkat and Periscope might have been first to plant the live-streaming-app flag – at least on the mobile-first front – but Facebook Live has secured streaming video’s place on the social map. Easy to do given their 1.79 billion monthly users to Twitter’s 317 million. And a little help from Chewbacca Mom, which according to Recode was the most popular Facebook Live video of the year, with 162 million views.

chewbacca-mom

Being built in to their respective platforms is a boon for Facebook Live, Twitter-owned Periscope, and Instagram’s new live capability as well – and part of the reason Meerkat didn’t fare as well according to their own CEO, Ben Rubin: “The distribution advantages of Twitter/Periscope and Facebook Live drew more early users to them away from us and we were not able to grow as quickly alongside as we had planned.”

Meerkat losing its early lead demonstrates just how quickly things can change – even when you’re poised for success. Maybe this time next year we’ll be talking about how YouTube’s mobile live streaming – currently available to a select few – has changed the face of social yet again. Or how Meerkat has reemerged to disrupt the category anew.

The takeaway here? Stay vigilant and follow your crowd. You can’t stubbornly stick with a platform just because it’s familiar. If your audience has moved on, you need to as well.

Video overall expanded

It’s not just live video that’s enjoying success. Video overall continues to grow. According to Mediakix, 80% of that oh-so-important Millennial audience uses video when researching purchasing decisions. That’s not surprising when you consider how often Millennials share their lives via video – and they’re not alone.

Instagram reports their 500+ million active monthly users share an average of 95 million photos and videos per day.

Of course, not everyone is celebrating – Vine is shutting down due to failure to thrive after its initial launch. With 200 million monthly viewers, that’s a difficult pill to swallow.  But it’s likely users became more interested in Instagram and Tumblr videos which offer the same short, looping playback – for users who liked Vine’s 6-second limit – but also allow videos up to 30 seconds or 5 minutes respectively. By the time Vine offered longer video as an option this past June, it was too late.

The lesson? Timing is everything when it comes to jumping on a trend.

Snapchat, meanwhile, doesn’t loop, but does give users an opportunity to send a super short video – up to 10 seconds – that then disappears. Which has always been part of Snapchat’s appeal.

marketing-land

Marketing Land’s Guide to Social Video (partial image)

Stories grew in popularity

Snapchat has an additional perk in that 10-second video clips, along with images, can be incorporated into Stories – another popular social media trend that gained ground in 2016.

Snapchat debuted Stories in 2013, as a way to compete with the timeline approach of “traditional” social networks – if it’s not too soon to categorize any social network that way – but this year Instagram got in on the fun.

There’s no real difference in the way the two Stories features work – so it will come down to what users want in addition to Stories that will ultimately tell the tale. Snapchat’s fans like the ability to be more personal, sharing silly things temporarily, while Instagram’s users post images with a bit more polish.

But who can say what anyone will want next year – or how many new players will offer Stories themselves?

Sharing emotion got faster – and more fun

Emotion is the driving force behind all social sharing – which is why we always highlight the importance of sentiment analysis. But as time spent using mobile devices increases, text is often kept at a minimum in favor of easier forms of expression.

Emojis aren’t new, but they’re no longer merely punctuation at the end of social posts – in many cases, they are the post, or the sole response to a post. Because of this, new emojis continue to debut – like the long-awaited face-palm emoji, and more.

One 56-year-old woman even worked with a designer to create emojis for seniors that are currently under review at the Unicode Consortium. If you thought only young people cared about such things, you were wrong.

Meanwhile, the popularity of tweeted GIFs inspired Twitter’s GIF library – a treasure trove of GIFs to express a variety of common social sentiments.

Twitter gives users a hand expressing their emotions… (screen-cap by NetBase)

Twitter gives users a hand expressing their emotions… (screen-cap by NetBase)

Ironically, Twitter recently expanded their 140-character limit by no longer including links and image links in that count.

Not to miss out on the fun, Snapchat added a variety of filters and lenses users can embellish their images and videos with at the end of 2015 – which they continue to expand with special themed offerings for events like the Rio Olympics. Before you assume there’s no marketing value here, check out Amanda Bell’s viral Kohl’s rant.

What will 2017 bring us?

The trends heading into the New Year point toward consumers valuing a more fun social experience that’s real and live – with the option for privacy when they want it. Brands need to keep a close eye on customer experience analytics to understand how to properly leverage the above social media advances for best results.

Trends on the horizon, like in-message purchases – something Facebook Messenger already has in beta – and incorporating virtual and augmented reality into the everyday, are just a couple examples of changes to the landscape we could see in 2017.

If you want to be there on the cutting edge, put your social listening tools to work and pay attention to what gets consumers excited. If you can offer them that, you’ll always succeed – no matter the technology at play.

Reach out and we’ll show you how!

NetBase-Brand-Passion-Report-2016--Top-100-Global-Brand-Love-List

Image from European Southern Observatory

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