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The Future of Social Media: 5 Trends to Watch in 2016

The Future of Social Media: 5 Trends to Watch in 2016

The early adopters of the social media phenomenon were the young and the tech savvy. Today, however, it has moved far beyond that and touches every strata of society; even a good percentage of grandparents are now counted among the regular users. It’s importance as a shaper of our cultural mood and values cannot be overstated.

This broad and influential reach has made social media impossible to ignore for companies, for causes, and undoubtedly for associations — anyone with a message they need to find an audience for. It’s no longer a question of whether you’re going to use social media in your marketing, but only what your strategy is going to be.

Things are moving quickly. We can only speculate where this great social experiment is ultimately taking us, but the following 5 trends are clear right now and at least give us a roadmap to plan our route for 2016 and the next few years ahead.

  1. VIDEO! More of It … and Livestream.

YouTube has succeeded in significantly shifting online content consumption patterns from text to more and more video; their audience alone watches up to 500 million hours per day. They claim that this viewership has been growing at more than 60% annually.

Predictably, the other social platforms have been chasing the titan for market share, developing their own video features. Add to that the newcomers like Periscope and Snapchat who have added the next level of LIVE video, and what we are seeing unfold is the future direction of social.

This year Facebook is set to raise the bar on everyone when they roll out their own version of livestreaming, as well as 360-degree videos and even (with their recent acquisition of Oculus VR) virtual reality.

The Takeway: Association marketers who want their content to be noticed will need to find ways to include more video in their social media strategy. The Good News? Video is cheaper and easier to produce than ever before.

  1. Changing Algorithms.

Facebook have led the charge on this. Until recently, anything you posted to Facebook would immediately appear in the feed of all your friends and fans. That’s no longer the case. The algorithm has been rewritten so that if you want your post to get that kind of maximum reach you have to pay to “boost” it.

Both Twitter and Instagram have been testing, and are set to introduce similar kinds of changes. Essentially this means that the future of social marketing is being intentionally moved toward paid advertising. This was inevitable given that these companies are now large public concerns who answer to shareholders.

The Takeway: Get used to the idea that social media advertising fees will become a budget line item. The Good News? The data collected by social media platforms provides unprecedented targeting ability, and the cost is low, so it’s extremely dollar effective. Paid ads will also accelerate your access to a wider audience than you’ve been able to build organically.

  1. Social Media Users Prefer Private.

The increasing use of messaging apps (like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Line, etc) means that the trend is toward private conversations and groups. Mobile users now spend more time on these apps than on their public social media feeds.

The Takeway: Expect to see marketers increasing the presence of their brands on these channels, and also creating exclusive content that’s accessible only to those with the permission to see it. The Good News? Social media is making personal interaction with your audience (and in real time) more achievable than ever before.

  1. Not Just the Big Three.

The growth rate of Instagram has now passed that of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But you also have to consider several other successful contenders yapping at their heels: Pinterest, Snapchat, Google+ and Vine to name a few.

The Takeway: Some platforms are more popular with particular demographics than others (see the Social Media Chart we’ve included on page 2). Becoming familiar with these nuances will help you decide which platforms are most important for you. The Good News? The variety of channels presents opportunities to find your audience and communicate with them in unique ways, and the competition between platforms will continue to drive innovation and keep advertising costs down.

  1. Less “Click Through” Content.

In the past the common tactic was to post small content extracts on social media with a link for users to click through and view the whole piece on a blog or website. The trend, however, is toward “instant articles”, where the content is contained entirely on the social feed. This is the preferred experience by users, and it’s being actively encouraged by the platforms who want to keep users on their sites.

The Takeway: Strategies will need to be built around the reality that most users will not be consuming your content on your online real estate. The Good News? The once daunting challenge of having to “drive traffic” to your sites has become less critical now that you can get content out onto the flowing social media highways.

Stepping Forward with the Trends

When the playing field is changing so rapidly, it’s easy to feel paralyzed; it’s tempting to want to ignore the shifts and carry on as you were. That, however, is a recipe for getting left behind.

Instead, focus on the new opportunities. You won’t be able to do everything, but make a plan to seize the ones best suited to the needs and strengths of your association. And do develop your ability to capture metrics that will help you adjust your strategies in the future and keep on improving.


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