2016 was an interesting year for social media.
It’s the year that Snapchat emerged out of the shadows, evolved into Snap Inc. and created a new segment of wearables while everyone else got busy copying them. Instagram became more like Snap and suddenly filters and ‘Stories’ became the rage. Facebook started the year with 'Live' coming to personal profiles, but was highly criticised over its handling of fake news. Through all this, Twitter remained struggling and has failed to make a turnaround.
In terms of social impact, whether it be the highly controversial U.S. Elections or Brexit – social media was impactful as a source of information (or mis-information!). A few years ago, no one could have imagined the power social media could yield over something as big as the U.S. Elections, but this year, it proved to be a game changer and propelled Donald Trump to success. Don’t believe us? Here’s a stat: In 12 months, the country collectively spent more than 1,284 years reading about Donald Trump on social media.
Technology wise, 2016 saw the rise of chat bots. It was the year that video emerged as the king of content - real & authentic experiences were broadcasted live to the world and Facebook successfully absolved the competition that Periscope and Meerkat had built up in that domain. Emojis went mainstream with the launch of Facebook reactions. Authentication and video calling came to WhatsApp and shopping (powered by easy digital transactions) moved to Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook. Virtual became a reality with Oculus while images and videos came a full circle with 360 degree views.
2017 seems to be off to great start already. So here’s our pick of the top 4 trends that companies and brands need to capitilize on in 2017 for a socially successful year:
1. Video, Video, Video
Digital video has come a long way for social media. A few years ago, it was impossible to imagine people looking at videos as part of their regular content consumption as distribution was limited to Youtube. In 2016, video became the fastest growing content segment, no matter what device or channel you are using to access content. It will remain a must-have for brands looking to stay fresh, authentic and relevant as it continues to be the fastest-growing category on both mobile and desktop in 2017. Although YouTube still remainsthe most popular platform, Facebook Live has already surpassed YouTube as the preferred live-streaming real-time medium. Recently, Instagram and Twitter have also both added live capabilities.
For Businesses, Facebook's focus on optimization of its video features and the addition of videos to ads on both Facebook and Instagram will make them increasingly attractive advertising media in 2017. Just as text content moved to a visual medium in 2014-2015, the rise of videos will bring a paradigm shift to how content is being created, distributed and consumed.
Key Next Steps:
a) Brands will need to increase their investment in video content to engage their social audience
b) Capture first mover advantage and look to increase video ad spends as pay to play remains the model on all channels
c) No matter how interesting or boring your brand may be perceived, video will provide excellent way to humanize the brand and showcase the best of your people, skills and capabilities along with the difference you make in your customer’s life.
2. Inclusive Networks
If 2016 saw the rise of inclusive networks, 2017 signals that the trend is definitely here to stay. As opposed to having different channels showcase different content (Facebook for engagement, Instagram for images and Twitter for real-time updates), it is now possible for each channel to complement your strategy in more than one way.
Facebook best capitalizes on this trend - Technical extensions like Instant Articles and Shop Now features have now allowed for a more holistic user experience rather than jumping from one channel/webpage to the other. Meanwhile, Live streaming and events have helped capture people’s thoughts/actions as they happen.
Key Next Steps:
a) Analyze the channels that are working for you and the channels that are not. It’s now possible to be on 2 platforms and create great awareness than being on 5 and struggling to keep up
b) Understand your specific need for social media and choose a channel that complements your objective. For example, if lead generation and website traffic are your goals, look to Facebook and Twitter instead of Instagram (you can still do ads there though). Similarly if you are looking for design focus and image heavy content, take a closer look at Snapchat and Instagram as well as Pinterest
c) If you want to have 2 different types of channels in your social media mix, remember to create distinguished yet complementary experiences on both channels to maximize your effort and reap benefits.
3. Customer Service and Artificial Intelligence
While social listening evolved in the past year, a notable change that took place was how companies interacted with customers and solved their queries and concerns. While Twitter took the lead in customer service by ditching its “mutual follow” requirement for its DM (direct messages) feature as well as lifting the standard 140-character limit for direct messages, Facebook gained ground in 2016 to become the leading network in finding and retaining customers. Facebook launched scoring for highly responsive pages and allowed for metrics to announce how fast/slow a brand or page is to respond. This created a rush for greater acceptance of Facebook as a channel to air and resolve customer queries.
Late last year, Facebook brought the bot functionality to Messenger by launching the Messenger for Business to further broaden the scope of customer interactions. It was now possible for simple and personalised two-way communication to take place between a brand and an individual – check out this conversation that KLM can have with a passenger right from booking until the passenger boards the flight, and even after.
If 2016 heralded the first wave of artificial intelligence technology in the form of chatbots, then in 2017, this will power the next generation of customer service to create more meaningful exchanges of information. Chatbots seem likely to be accepted and integrated to even more mainstream applications within messenger – for example, this demo from Skyscanner shows how easy it is to have a conversation between friends, find flights, book tickets and even share payments all on the same messenger platform. Also with the rise of Internet of Things, it might be possible for chatbots, devices and brands to exchange information without the customer handing out information separately to each.
Key Next Steps:
a) If your brand is not still serving customers on social media, there is no better time to start. The key is to maintain a good responsiveness score on pages to ensure that your customers (current and prospective) understand that you are available and approachable
b) Depending on your business needs, it might be a good idea to build a bot that allows your customers to seek direct clarification. Alternatively, create a bot that can resolve/direct the most pressing customer concerns in a way that frees up time for your customer service agents
c) Utilize the time to build on the capabilities of your customer service team by providing them tools such as Artificial Intelligence and Connected Systems, that can help them be closer to the customer and resolve issues much faster
4. From Mobile First to Mobile Only
No other device that has made technology as accessible and inclusive as the mobile phone. The advent of mobile brought about the terminology “mobile optimized”, but soon that wasn’t enough and we moved to “Mobile first”. Now, we seem to have moved to a time that is increasingly “mobile only” – mobile-confused anyone?
Here’s how mobile has changed the game for social media. Today’s customers are usually Digital Natives who have accepted mobile technology as a natural extension to their digital persona. As a result, how and when customers are choosing to transact with brands throughout the lifecycle is also moving to the small screen — from awareness to purchase to support, all the way through to loyalty and advocacy. Combine that with the time that a person spends online (an average of 90 mins a day for teens/young adults) and you can start to imagine why mobile technology and social media are a match made in heaven.
However, mobile dependency has also altered content for social media. While infographics used to be highly socially shared assets in 2015, an inability to read them on a small screen coupled with no option to promote it using Facebook’s new ad algorithms have led to their decline in 2016. Similarly, we saw the rise of GIFs, shorter videos and cinemagraphs this past year as they aligned better with the consumption patterns of viewers. Similarly, social logins to sites have gained acceptance as people want to seamlessly move from one channel to another on mobile interfaces and ensure that their experience remains personalized.
Key Next Steps:
a) Include mobile friendly content in your overall plan – it should not only be possible to easily view and understand it on a small screen but also to act/reach to it immediately as well. It will be worthwhile to invest in channels like Instagram/Snapchat which are exclusively mobile
b) Map your customer’s mobile journey - Look at their browsing patterns to figure your immediate challenges and next opportunities
c) Measure and optimize - You need to know what outcomes and responses you expect from the user’s social journey and if they are measurable. Map them to goals and KPIs and optimize as necessary to improve user experiences
As 2017 is now underway, it’s important to take some time to reflect on the past year and all of the changes to the social media landscape. This landscape is ever-changing to we expect a lot of great and business-impacting changes to follow this year. Stay tuned for our next social media trends post in 2018!
As always, we look forward to hearing your comments on what you have planned for the year ahead.