Social media is on track to play an even more important role than ever in 2016; A strong weapon in the armoury against ad-blocking (according to a recent report from PageFair the use of ad-blocking in the UK grew 82% in 2015), an increased importance in the consumer journey at pre-trigger stage as search behaviours leaks out of more traditional engines, and responsibility for a whole new way of communicating based on video and motion.
Below is the exploration of the top 7 trends I believe to be the biggest social evolution’s in 2016 that agencies and brands should be structuring their communications and priorities around
1. Search Is Going Social
Google, Bing and Yahoo are going to have some serious social competition this year as people’s search habits evolve outside of traditional search engines in the quest for more visual responses to their searches and the shortcut of peer endorsement.
Facebook dumped Bing at the beginning of 2015 to focus on improving their own product and are also working on a digital personal assistant called ‘M’. Google’s renewed firehose with Twitter which pulled relevant tweets into search results, also gave a nod to how the growth of search in social platforms is changing the way people choose to find their information.
Therefore the link between Social and SEO will be more integral than ever in 2016 as we apply basic SEO best practice within social platforms and honour Google’s algorithmic principles of Expertise, Authority and Trust to social content and in social environments. We desperately need to work to understand social’s new role in pre-trigger and active stages of purchase.
In 2016 we should all be asking “How can I get found on Google AND social?”
2. Video is the Dialect of Social
New data from Cisco shows that globally consumer internet video traffic will be 80% of all consumer internet traffic in 2019, an increase from 64% 2014. Increasingly motion (GIFS, cinemagraphs, vines) are how people choose to express themselves and consume content.
Auto-play features in newsfeed from Facebook and Twitter in 2015 opened up a world of possibility this year, forcing creatives and brands to think differently – how do we capture attention in 3 seconds? How do we do it without sound? This is brilliant for creativity and innovation and drives campaigns such as this
With video shares increasing by 43% at the start of 2015 the fight between YouTube and Facebook (and even Twitter) was evident by the introduction of native video players and organic rewards for posting through platforms rather than a YouTube link. This will only get more aggressive in 2016 in an attempt to seize advertiser’s budgets.
And finally to give a nod to live-streaming. Despite widely publicized high figures of user uptake on Meerkat and Periscope (which also won Apple’s app of the year) these apps are struggling to find a regular role in people’s lives – possibly for reason that people can’t edit or amend (critical to an online persona that needs to be carefully crafted) and undeniable issues with sound and quality. Live –streaming is already being picked up by celebrities and influencers (Facebook’s streaming product is currently only open to celebs) who may help tip it into mainstream behaviour.
Also keep your eye out for Facebook’s 360 videos, ‘Suggested Videos’ and maybe even a dedicated video feed – this space will continue to evolve at a vociferous pace.
Agencies and clients should be setting Motion to Static ratio targets across their digital content for 2016 to move in line with consumer expectation and the landscape. For brands with larger production budgets it should be around 80:20 in favour of motion.
3. Data and Insight Will Increasingly Inform Creativity
Much to the delight of the industry in 2015 Facebook finally opened up access to its wealth of audience data via topics, symbolizing a shift towards much more informed activity for advertisers. There is absolutely no need for advertisers or agencies to ‘guess’ what content consumers might want to engage with and with the plethora of data and predictive technologies available already ( Mashable’s Velocity tool for agencies was an important release in 2015) this will only continue to grow.
Just as importantly data will start actually informing creativity itself. Two of our award winning campaigns this year (the Netflix FOMOmeter and McVities Breakfast Buzz) have social data at the heart of them and shaped the whole creative output.
Also in 2016 keep your eye out for advancements in technologies and tools that can ‘read images’ for products, mentions and context – meaning Instagram could soon be as useful as Facebook as a data insight provider.
4. Organic Decline Will Spread To Other Platforms
One of the tallest stories in social media is that Facebook ‘switched off’ organic reach to punish advertisers and collect the pennies. The simple reason for organic reach decline is pure saturation and overcrowding – if Facebook didn’t filter your newsfeed with the algorithm you could potentially have up to 15,000 stories served to you every day.
Facebook organic reach for advertisers is typically now less than 1%, Twitter roughly around 15% and on LinkedIn we’re seeing almost 100% (an abundance of organic potential which B2B advertisers are taking advantage of).
Some are predicting 2016 will be ‘Twitter Zero’ for organic reach as the platform gets more cluttered, and certainly as platforms evolve and develop and bring more attractive propositions to market we will see more competition- and less organic reach to go around!
2015 was defined by paid media, and the importance of this isn’t going away in 2016. Targeting options such as Facebook’s 3rd party data options and custom audiences will only continue to evolve and help offer a halo effect to organic reach.
The relationship between the two is what’s integral in 2016 – neither should be looked at separately.
5. Social Keeps Getting Better At Proving It’s Worth
The accountability back to ROI from social will only continue to grow in 2016 – the surge of buy buttons across platforms like Pinterest and ‘Shop now’ ads from Instagram will continue as users get more comfortable with the concept of social commerce. Things like Apple Pay are also helping consumers get more confident in this space.
Facebook’s introduction of ‘Instant articles’ shows attempts to make platforms more ‘sticky’ ( back to the ‘walled gardens’ of the internet we saw years ago) so people spend more and more time in the contained environment. Time spent and familiarity will help consumer trust and leads to users buying in this environment – a massive kick start to the proper social commerce era.
Platforms are also using data as a huge tool for accountability and predictability and this will help strengthen their roles with advertisers and better justify their presence on a media plan. Facebook also have a very convincing argument for incremental reach on top of a TV campaign, and the role they can play to compliment more traditional media choices.
6. Messaging Mania
There are now nearly 4 billion global active users of messaging apps; including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat as dominant players. The top five apps in the world in 2015 in terms of frequency of use are all messaging apps!
Messaging has traditionally been bundled in as ’Dark Social’ (a term used to describe private sharing between individuals or small groups) and platforms have to be very VERY careful about how they get data and learnings from their users. WhatsApp even went as far as to get banned in Brazil recently because it would not release data on a judicial case.
User privacy on messaging apps has to be safeguarded as a priority before advertisers can even begin to start integrating into these environments.
7. Social Media In The Workplace
Often hailed as being the email killer, social media structures internally at companies could take a massive stride forward in 2016.
Slack has proved to a serious contender in the states U.S. It now has 1.25 million active business users in just two years’ time (including NASA!) Facebook at Work also soft launched in 2015 and is predicted to be opened up for wider use as a freemium model in 2016.
This is great news if social media gets widely adopted in clients businesses, and means they are spending more time in social environment, using the platforms, and better understanding of the role for social in their business.
You will notice that mobile or handheld is not on the list, it is not a ‘thing’, it’s everything! The more savvy agencies are now presenting creative concepts on a mobile instead of a large screen. Mobile sits underneath and within every single one of these trends.
Here’s to more steps forward in better user experience, advertising accountability and utility from social media in 2016!