2016 has been a period of consolidation for many of the biggest social media platforms. In this blog post, I review the year and highlight a number of key product launches from a marketing perspective. 2016 was the year that video exploded across the major platforms, with Facebook emerging as the winner. However, let’s explore this and other emerging trends from the year.
In 2016, Facebook shifted to become a video-centric social platform. With the launch of Facebook Live and vertical video ads , both relatively new products, they are already seeing fantastic brand popularity. Facebook forecasts that its own News Feed will mostly focus on video within the next five years. As such, brands must focus their efforts on delivering compelling videos which drive engagement. This will be easier said than done! Brands will need to experiment with a variety of video styles, which best reflect their own individual narratives.
Here are a four of the main highlights from Facebook in 2016:
- Facebook Live: Allows anyone with a smartphone to broadcast to anyone, anytime and anywhere in real-time.
- Instant Articles: These are fast and interactive articles on Facebook and load up to 10 times faster than regular articles on smartphones.
- Reactions: Facebook Reactions enable expression with five additional emojis, in addition to “like.”
- Marketplace: In a move to promote social selling, this feature enables you to buy and sell items to the Facebook community.
2016 has been another record-setting year for Facebook. In their latest earnings report, Facebook earned $7.01 billion in revenue during Q3 2016 and now has 1.79 billion monthly users (up 16% from Q3 2015).
The importance of search
In 2016’s Q2 earnings report, Facebook revealed that it now sees 2 billion searches per day, up from 1.5 billion a year ago. Google remains the leader in search with 3.5 billion searches per day. But it is clear that Facebook sees search as a key discoverability tool for brands.
Since April 2016, Facebook has been automatically adding alt tags to images that you upload, and are populated with keywords representing the content of your images. Most regular Facebook users have no idea to the amount of information that is now routinely being extracted from photographs. Below is an image from my own feed, that shows the keywords Facebook is able to extract from the image.
Search has the potential of increasing your reach on Facebook and driving attention to your key shared posts. It is worth keeping a close eye on Facebook search in 2017.
In 2016, Twitter refocused its product strategy. It is no longer a social network, instead it is a news product. In a recent message to Twitter’s employees, CEO Jack Dorsey made it clear:
“Twitter is what’s happening, and what everyone is talking about (literally!). News and talk. We’re the people’s news network.”
People choose us for news because we’re the fastest. Fastest to get news, and fastest to share news with the whole world. Now let’s strive to be the first. The first place people check to see what’s happening…and the first place to break what’s happening. In the moment LIVE, or a fast recap of what we know so far…what matters.
This makes sense for Twitter, particularly as Twitter is where many people go to learn about breaking news. In 2016, both Twitter and Facebook had to deal with the prospect of people creating and sharing fake news. This problem will continue into 2017, and new tools will need to be created to deal with the problem. Particularly new tools to help with fact checking.
Key product launches from Twitter in 2016:
- Customer support tools: Easier ways for businesses to provide support to their customers on Twitter.
- Moments: Twitter Moments enable users to stitch together multiple tweets into slideshow-like stories.
Twitter focused on providing customer support features in 2016 at the request of many brands who deliver support on the platform. On the marketing side, there were no new tools for marketers.
2016 was an incredible year for Instagram. The Facebook-owned company has gone from strength-to-strength with a number of key product launches and achieving growth with more than 500 million monthly users.
Key product launches from Instagram in 2016:
- Stories: Instagram Stories enables its users to post photos and videos that disappear after twenty-four hours, much like Snapchat Stories.
- Business tools: Instagram is getting serious about businesses and has worked with hundreds of brands to enhance the Instagram experience. The focus has been on three key areas —customer acquisition, data insights and post exposure.
Instagram trends to watch in 2017
Facebook has been extremely bullish on live video, and has shared that its users watch live videos more often and for longer periods of time than non-live videos. So it’s no surprise to see Instagram is testing live video too (though there’s been no confirmed launch date for this feature yet).
The evolution of Instagram Stories
Instagram launched a Snapchat style stories to “fill the gaps” between the posts in our Instagram feed, as Kevin Systrom explained to The Verge:
If Instagram is built around highlights, we’re filling in the space in between — and becoming more about visual expression in general. We’re capturing all the world’s moments, not just the best ones.
The stories product, will continue to evolve and give brands a way to drive traffic from Instagram. Those with verified accounts can now share links through Instagram stories.
The top 100 advertisers on YouTube have increased their spend on YouTube video ads by 50 percent. This goes to show the faith in video ads that marketers now have. YouTube has also seen an increase in brands partnering with creators on branded content opportunities such as product placements, promotions and sponsorships, this trend will continue.
There you have it, 2016 was the year social continued to evolve particularly on mobile platforms and a year of consolidation of products and features.