What’s next for the biggest social media platforms? Only time will tell, but here are my 7 social media trends for 2017 to watch out for. In addition, I include a number of notable considerations for your social planning efforts.
Social Messaging and the Growth of Dark Social
General sharing of content isn’t being “shared” as much as it used to be. Consumers are tending to use WhatsApp, Snapchat and other messaging applications to share content. This has meant that almost 70% of online shares are taking place within “dark social” mobile messaging. Dark social is difficult to measure because the tools don’t yet exist.
With the growth in messaging apps, it is becoming increasingly popular for people to turn to private social messaging, rather than engaging with social media. So much so, in February 2016 WhatsApp announced it hit the 1 billion user mark. Combined, the four most popular messaging apps, Facebook Messenger, WhatApp, QQ Chat and WeChat, have a wider conversation pool than the top four main social networks.
Brands can attempt to reduce the amount of traffic that comes from dark social by adding share buttons to their sites. The key problem is to track where the traffic is coming from, and this problem is likely to continue in 2017.
Live Video Streaming
In 2016, Meerkat, Periscope and Facebook Live brought streaming to the masses. In 2017, YouTube is readying the launch of YouTube Live. Video has seen the major growth in Facebook this past year, and consistently shows higher engagement that other forms of posts. As social networks fight to keep people online, a big focus on video makes sense.
It is worth keeping an open mind on how to use live video effectively. For example, through the release of live video of a marketing event, or even paid influencer product promotion. With the priority that Facebook is giving to video, coupled with the reduced reach of organic reach. You need to be experimenting with live video in 2017.
Using Video to Gain Share of Voice
On the topic of live video, 2017 is going to be the year when established big brands are going to start feeling the pressure from their smaller and more agile competitors. Particularly, in the execution of their video content strategies.
If it isn’t already obvious, Facebook is rapidly becoming full of video content. The simple reason is that people watch the content, particularly if they know the person, or are interested in the brand. For most brands, just 10% of their budget is allocated towards creating content, with 90% used for boosting content through advertising.
To gain the majority share of voice in 2017, brands will need to focus on using 90% of their budget on creating unique and useful content, that resonates with their audience. 10% boosting it or turning it into an ad. To get the best results from video, brands are going to need to understand their audience and what resonates with them. Start to experiment and develop content for Snapchat and Instagram stories, it will pay off later in 2017, as your audience develops.
Paid Social Advertising
In 2017, if you want your content to be visible by consumers, you will have to resort to paid social advertising. Despite increased competition from brands, it is forecasted that by 2017, marketers will spend up to US$35.98 billion on social advertising. As such, expect the price of ad inventory to increase as brands step up their advertising efforts.
Facebook continues to update its algorithm, which caused less traffic to be sent to content sites. Rather, the platform now prioritizes posts shared by friends and families, rather than those from publishers and brands. The challenge for companies will be to produce much more interesting ads that will result in conversions. Companies need to focus on communicating their brand message to customers, while also being able to stand out from the crowd.
My advice is that unless you are a trained PPC expert, get help from a fully trained practitioner that can deliver ads that drive traffic to your site. With social, the wonderful days of free content distribution are over. The algorithm changes brought about by the social networks mean that organic reach is greatly reduced, in Facebook’s case from 15% to as low as 2%.
Brands have two choices, spend more on advertising, or have a true understanding of the content your audience wants to see and provide it to them. Even then, you would need to think about how you can maximize sharing, and engage influencers to increase reach. In the end, a successful strategy will most likely have to include both understanding and segmenting your audience and boosting the right content to those segments.
Plan for Mobile
Very much a given for 2017, but worth repeating. Mobile traffic has overtaken desktop on the web this year. Google is also now working on a new, mobile-first web index. These changes mean that it is more important than ever to make the mobile experience as great as possible. Increasingly, this means putting mobile first, rather than simply optimizing for mobile devices. If you are not already optimizing for mobile devices, then you have failed before you have even begun.
Co-collaboration with Super Fans, Influencers and Brands
In 2017, collaborating with others should become an important part of your overall content strategy. Collaboration is the fastest way to grow your fan base and attract new audiences. Focus on finding ways to co-create content together. Also, consider publishing some of your content on LinkedIn and Medium. Both have established audiences and networks and will give your content a fresh pair of new eyes.
Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots
Artificial intelligence is now reaching a level where it is becoming useful to many people’s daily lives. The rise of digital assistants, such as Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and the new Google Assistant have kicked off a trend of getting people to talk to their devices, rather than use their fingers. This is one area to watch closely in 2017.
Chatbots are also going to have profound effects on how customers interact with brands on social. Chatbots will deliver human-like conversational interactive experiences and provide capable customer support. Linking a purposeful chatbot to website content, will mean consumers will be able to ask and pull information more quickly and deeply than visiting a product landing page. Chatbots make sense for brands, allowing common questions to be answered and simple bookings to be made. This can free up customer support agents to answer more in-depth queries.
Notable mentions to consider in 2017
The true value of excellent copywriting will finally reveal itself. Whether it be scripting video content, writing blog content, or even Facebook copy with a call-to-action. Great copywriting has the power to drive clicks. Excellent copy drives an emotion, whether it be to sign up to a newsletter, buy a product or even to remain memorable.
In 2016, I’ve seen many brands skim the value of great copywriting. They think that “words” are enough. (These are also the same brands that think just getting a post up on a social media platform is a win. It’s not.)
Great copywriters are hard to come by, but they are worth the investment. Why? Because they are the ones who take your story and tell it in such a way that your audience wants more of it. This is particularly true in social. In 2017, have your posts written by an in-house copywriter (if you can). Or develop your own skills at copywriting.
GIFs and Emojis
GIFs and emojis bring personality to how consumers express themselves. Apple’s recent iOS 10 functionally supports these new means of expression, and Facebook has embraced animated GIFs. Many brands would be smart to follow to this trend, both by using GIFs and emojis in their own content. But a word of caution, don’t overdo it!
Social User Experience
Social media consumers now have a richer control of their own social user experience. As such, social platforms are providing users with better controls over how their feeds view content. Consumers increasingly have more power than ever to block content or see it less often. To meet these changes, brands should perform usability testing to make sure the social experience they provide is truly in line with customer behavior and their preferences. 2017, will be the year of the finely tuned news feed. Noisy brands will disappear from the social feed altogether. Test, test, and test again the impact that your posts are having on the consumer’s social feed.
Lenses and Filters
Lenses and filters took off in 2016, with Snapchat selfie lenses bringing augmented reality (AR) to global attention. In 2017, Facebook will also invest heavily in AR to compete with Snapchat and others to deliver new experiences on mobile devices.
In Facebook’s Q2 2016 earnings call, Zuckerberg notes:
“The biggest thing that I think we can take away from this as we invest in augmented reality in addition to virtual reality is that the phone is probably going to be the mainstream consumer platform [where] a lot of these AR features first become mainstream, rather than a glasses form factor that people will wear on their face.
And one of the big themes that we’re talking about here is becoming video first. And as people look for richer and richer ways to express themselves, just like people in the past have shared a lot of text and photos on Facebook, we think in the future more of that is going to be video, and more of these augmented reality tools I think are going to be an important part of delivering that experience and making that fun to use and expressive as it can be.”
With planning for mobile in everything that you do, it is also worth your time experimenting with filters and creating new experiences. As the tools develop further this year, I see these becoming more and more important as part of our everyday lives.
So, these are the trends I see developing further in 2017. From your experience, what would you add?