Brands, agencies, and marketers working in digital media will tell you, innovation happens so rapidly that predicting future trends and reviewing trends from previous years can either be illuminating, or a subtle evolution, as platforms attempt to better monetize their offerings from the previous year's developments. For example, with the popularity of the Millennial target as a marketing focus, last year, brands became more interested in Snapchat, although Snapchat had already launched Stories and Discover back in 2013 and 2014. However, as a result of Snapchat's growing popularity among this target, as well as messaging trends around with the world along the likes of LINE, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Kik, we saw a larger movement from major platforms like Facebook and Instagram to develop enhanced messaging capabilities.
In 2015, companies serving the industry like Union Metrics, Spredfast, and Sprinklr, continued to acquire, merge, and develop their offerings in an attempt to become all-in-one solutions more sophisticated in their ability to track, measure, and curate content. Looking to 2016, we expect to see improvements when it comes to the accuracy of measurement capabilities, the integration of tracking paid performance, and refining clunky or overwhelming U/X issues.
Additionally, the following five trends will continue to drive best-in-class social media marketing.
1. SMALL(ER) DATA IS HERE
When consumers are faced with significant lifestyle events like having a baby, getting married, or buying a house, they are more open to changing their purchasing habits. If you can determine when consumers are going through these life events and send the right advertisements at the right time, you have a higher chance of earning their loyalty. The ability to drill down into behavioral data allows brands to create social media content that targets people with more customized content when people are more likely to purchase their products. In turn, they become more likely to advocate for a brand. In fact, companies can realize 30% greater margin per eyeball when their marketing platforms are micro-targeted by audience segments. Coca-Cola leveraged Twitter's Tailored Audiences to create personalized tweets using consumers first name in their Share-a-Coke campaign. The campaign increased Australia sales by 7% and U.S. sales by 3% (Twitter 2015).
2. LIVE BROADCASTING IS BECOMING THE NEW REAL-TIME
With the steady increase in popularity of streaming apps such as Snapchat and Periscope, and more up-to-date stories available via Twitter Moments, the importance of in-the-moment content has increased. Now a consumer is a reporter, a content curator, and a distribution platform of everyday or culturally relevant events. A recent Comscore report found that with 32.9% penetration, Snapchat is the third most popular social app among 18-34 year-olds. Users are actively seeking Super Live, always new content, and brands are seeing results. iHeartRadio generated 340MM views, while Cosmopolitan Magazine received 3MM a day via their Discover.
3. THE PASSIONATE CONSUMER IS THE NEW INFLUENCER
User Generated Content is the new content pipeline, creating an emerging generation of influencers. Thanks to social media, everyday consumers have built an undeniable follower base, giving them stronger voices and the ability to impact public opinion and sales. In fact, consumers engage with 11.4 pieces of content prior to making a purchase, making user generated content even more powerful than before. Curated content is also more engaging. Posts with curated content links generate 33% more clicks than original content links.
4. GIFS AND IMMERSIVE VIDEO ARE DRIVING FORCES OF ENGAGEMENT
Young consumers are obsessed with micro-video and gifs as a form of expression. The popularity of gifs and cinemagraphs has translated to increased engagement. Cinemagraphs alone get 60% more engagement than static images. As a result, legacy social platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter are all fighting for more video and integrating gif content. With Facebook and Google adding 360 degree video capabilities and VR content on the horizon, expect to see a deeper dive into more immersive moving content, and the opportunities for social engagement within them to follow.
5. MESSAGING APPS AND EMOJIS JUST KEEP GROWING
Messaging Apps now have the same user-base as the top 4 social platforms (Entrepreneur, 2015). Providing quicker, simpler, and more engaging opportunities for consumers to connect with friends, now, users can send a friend money, send love (or Kim Kardashian's backside) with emojis/stickers, purchase products, get 1:1 customer help, make a call, and even host group chats within these messaging apps. Due to it's in-app ease, user base, integrated payment functionality, WeChat contributes to $1.76bn in lifestyle spending in China. This year, Facebook Messenger also added Gif Apps to create more interactive expression. The Gif option is available to over 700 million monthly active users.
As always, none of this is meaningful without possessing the 'test and learn' mindset that the platforms themselves also possess. Although social commerce has been a predicted trend for a few years, successful platform integration ebbs and flows, depending on the behavior of consumers. Websites and apps like Liketoknow.it and Like2b.uy that integrate with Instagram appear to be taking off, particularly when it comes to fashion influencer integration, while Twitter continues to still be in the testing phase with the Buy Now button. Another interesting trend to watch may be the virtual assistant space. Although it's nothing new when it comes to bots that help you navigate through life (e.g. Siri, Cortana, Mona), Facebook is experimenting with "M", the human side of a "chatbot" to help consumers with personalized needs, similar to a concierge.
2016 should be an interesting year for the evolution of social and, who knows? Perhaps we'll even have a new breakout social star or offering.