5 major changes that could revolutionize social media this year
How will social media evolve in 2016? Contributor Timothy Carter discusses how several big tech trends might impact the social media space in the near future.
In marketing, it pays to stay ahead of the curve. New trends, new technologies and new consumer expectations force you to change your game or get outpaced by the competition.
In no arena is this more pressing or evident than in social media. Social media commands a wide audience, has roots in technology and comprises dozens of platforms, all evolving to one-up each other on a large scale. The result is a faster pace and higher universal demand when it comes to paradigm shifts and major changes.
This year, we’re either in the middle of or on the precipice of several game-changing shifts that could revolutionize the world of social media as we know it. Are we entering a world where messages are transmitted by thought, or where our profile information is stored on subdermal microchips? Not quite.
But if your brand wants to stay relevant in the eyes of your customers, you have no choice but to adapt to the following incoming or ongoing changes.
1. The diminishing returns of organic content
You aren’t imagining your content is reaching fewer and fewer people; Facebook formally confirmed years ago that it has been deliberately reducing your organic visibility.
The company claims this is an ongoing effort to improve the relevance of users’ news feeds, but I wouldn’t blame you for suspecting this decrease is a way to encourage more brands to harness the power of paid promotion.
Facebook isn’t the only platform under pressure to perform, either — Twitter has been worrying investors for some time now, and its revenue growth leaves much to be desired.
Gradually, but surely, you can expect the organic visibility of your branded posts to decline across multiple platforms as they follow Facebook’s lead.
It’s hard to imagine any platform evolving to become paid-only, especially this year, but you’ll have to think carefully about how you manage your content syndication efforts and find alternative ways to increase your reach.
2. Advanced audience targeting
On the other hand, platforms are doing more to help brands maximize the effectiveness of their social activity. Facebook, for example, recently launched a new feature to help non-advertising brands target specific audiences in each post.
On the surface, this seems like an exclusively positive tool for brands, but think about it this way: you’re restricting the overall reach of your content, essentially doing Facebook’s job of limiting your organic visibility for it. You just happen to control it in a way that best benefits you. It’s a useful spin on a necessary restriction, and it’s one you can expect other social brands to imitate.
Beyond that, audience targeting options on paid advertising platforms continue to become more robust, leading us into an age where you can target individuals based on almost-creepy factors, like social behavior and contact lists.
3. The hybridization of e-commerce
Pinterest’s recent addition of a “buy” button was met with confusion and criticism from a number of sources, but users are responding warmly to the feature. In fact, Pinterest is expanding the feature to more companies, and you can expect more bells and whistles to roll out over the course of the year.
Why is this relevant, when advertising is commonplace on social media? Because this is a new kind of advertising; in fact, I’d argue that it isn’t advertising as much as it’s a hybridization of a social media and e-commerce platform.
With so many brands competing for advertising dollars, I’d bet good money that by the end of the year, at least one other major player will introduce a similar e-commerce hybrid feature, transforming consumer expectations of social media and presenting new options to brands.
4. The rise of real-time streaming
Users are demanding more instantly available content. It’s not enough to hear a post-game recap; they want to see the game in progress.
Soon, it won’t be enough to schedule your posts in advance or retroactively make announcements or posts. You’ll have to live in the moment, communicating with your audience immediately. Fortunately, you’ll have the technology to do so easily.
5. The emergence of virtual reality (VR)
The Facebook-owned Oculus Rift is ready to ship early this year, and it’s expected to spark a new revolution of VR technology. You can bet that Facebook will have a major incentive to urge users to create, share and demand more VR-compatible content, and others will follow in its footsteps.
Several of the major players in the gaming space are working on their own versions of a VR headset, and even Google is getting in on the action. I won’t speculate about how fast this trend will grow or if it will explode the way it’s been widely predicted to — but I can tell you if it takes hold, it will almost certainly challenge and transform the way we consume media and communicate with each other.
These changes aren’t the only ones you need to think about, nor have I exhaustively covered these here; it’s up to you to stay abreast of these ongoing developments and dream up a strategy to make good use of them.
As always, it’s important to take trend and technology predictions with a healthy dose of skepticism — so don’t put all your eggs in one basket by only focusing on one emerging trend. Instead, hedge your bets, stay flexible and be prepared for anything.