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Social media predictions for 2016

Written by Kathryn | 10-Dec-2015 11:07:00

This year, just like many others this decade, we have seen a vast number of updates across social media channels –from the old regular networks to the newer kids on the social block. With a new year fast approaching, we’ve started to think about what we might see more of in 2016.

Real-time and live (main)streaming

With the likes of Periscope, Meerkat and Snapchat making their marks when it comes to sharing live content this year, we can only expect to see more of this in 2016. Providing on the go broadcasting with real time interactivity, these platforms are an easy way for brands to engage with their customers. Brands are already starting to jump on the bandwagon to share real-time content, so this is first on our list of 2016 predictions with the potential growth in popularity of not just the platforms themselves, but also the commercial opportunities that will surely follow. This may have to wait until the likes of Facebook and/or YouTube join the live-streaming party but should they decide to invest, the potential for audience reach becomes massive, and hence that commercial potential becomes a lot more viable.

In the meantime, while we will continue to see plenty of live-streamed video from around the world, from sunsets in Manhattan to safaris in Africa, we can expect to see more brand-generated content from live-streamed events, behind the scenes footage and interviews. With more consistent and quality content from users and brands, audience growth will surge and that will only help to attract that big player investment.

Social commerce

Pinterest and Instagram were the latest social platforms to add e-commerce to their networks this year, following in the footsteps of Twitter and Facebook who added in-feed buy buttons last year. Although buyable pins are yet to be rolled out in the UK, it will be interesting to watch what impact these buttons have on the retail market – and the social channels themselves.

Being able to shop within the network provides the best of both worlds for both the retailer and the consumer. The overall experience for the user is better because they’re not obliged to be distracted from what they were doing on the social network and can complete their shopping without leaving the site. Much better for the individual, and of course that leads to a higher propensity for converting a sale for the retailer.

Although early signs from our friends in the US indicate that social commerce isn’t taking off as expected, for 2016 we’ll hedge our bets that this will be one area that will see success.

Publishing

Facebook is already testing “instant articles” and we think this will just be the beginning. As we see the slow take off with shopping going in-feed, keeping content in-feed may be more popular. After all, the more a social channel can keep you on their network the better (for them, that is). It didn’t take LinkedIn long to open up their publishing options to most, if not all, users, so it makes sense that other networks will start to follow suit.

Being able to publish longer articles will be great for content marketing for businesses and organisations. Content quality will continue to be an important factor in search rankings. It therefore makes sense going forward that this also becomes a useful tool for businesses to build authority and improve their social rankings – which would in turn further complement their search rankings. Obviously this is taking traffic away from the website, so could we also start to see a move away from relying on using websites for content production next year?

Social as a search engine

If the above does indeed come to fruition, it seems only natural that as more content is shared in social networks users will start to treat them like search engines. Consumers are already using the sites to search for reviews, advice and opinion, where there is already a wealth of useful content that can help influence purchasing decisions. With the addition of quality content being published, could we see SEO focusing more on search results within social network platforms? We might have to wait to see how the testing of the likes of “instant articles” goes before we see how likely this might be, but we could start to see the change coming in 2016.

Virtual reality to take off

In our “
Digital Futures” events this year, we’ve talked about how we’re starting to see virtual reality hit the high street. With the likes of Thomas Cook bringing Samsung powered headsets into its Bluewater shopping mall last year, they were saying 1 in 10 customers were going on to book holidays immediately after.

With the Oculus Rift platform launching this year, we can be sure to expect to see the virtual reality world descend at some point on social media with its owner, Facebook! By going social the experience becomes more open by not being seen as just a VR app for gaming. With Google’s Cardboard platform as an open source way for companies to produce inexpensive headsets that can be used with a smartphone for that virtual reality experience, we could see this really take off in 2016 and become more mainstream.

That’s it then, unless we dare to mention the revival of Google+. There seems to have been a suddent flurry of new look social sites with LinkedIn now looking more like Facebook. Is it a coincidence that the new Google+ has a bit of a Pinterest look about it?! With the announcement in November that Google have listened to what people using the network have to say, maybe there’s still hope. We will reserve judgment for now as there will be plenty more happening in 2016, plenty that will be as good for the social user as for the social business.

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