2016 has seen a vast number of changes to the social media landscape over space of twelve months. Storytelling and fostering a community of loyal fans appears to be more important than ever before, and each platform appears to be embracing this with new features for its users. While there are no doubt an unlimited number of possible trends and changes set to appear over the course of 2017, taking a look back at the previous twelve months gives a key indication of where the social media marketing landscape could be heading.
If you can’t beat them, copy them! Snapchat is the key influencer
If there’s a platform to watch, it should be Snapchat. While this might not be to every person’s taste or suitable for every business, it appears to be inspiring a whole number of copycat features across other largely used social networks. This is a network to keep an eye on over the next twelve months, as I predict it could set the bar higher and higher for other platforms.
One of the first copycat features was ‘Instagram Stories’, which allowed users to upload short photos or video clips to their profile. While this seemed like an easily forgettable feature, it has seen 150 million daily users since its launch in early October. The difference between Snapchat’s own stories and Instagram Stories is that content has a wider reach. Whereas Snapchat stories are only viewable by people users allow, Instagram stories on public accounts can be seen by any user on the platform. Followers now have the opportunity to dive deeper into content on Instagram with the ability to @ mention other users and include links in their stories. Very recently, Facebook has launched its own ‘copy of a copy’ in the form of Facebook Stories which although is not available worldwide at the time of writing, this is currently undergoing a testing phase before it is rolled out across all users.
The second Snapchat clone, announced more recently, is Facebook Collections – a take on the discover section of Snapchat. In a similar way to Snapchat Discover, Collections will bring news, listicles, videos and other curated contend. While at the time of writing there has been no confirmed launch date for this feature, this could provide a whole new platforms for brands to take advantage of in the world of content marketing.
The Rise of Live Video across all platforms
Facebook began to push its live multiplatform feature early in 2016, with a larger push of the platform towards the end of October this year. According to sources from Facebook, the number of users livestreaming via Facebook Live had grown fourfold since May 2016 and that the “vast majority” of Facebook Live videos come from average users over celebrities or public figures.
Facebook owned Instagram also added this feature to its Stories section within the last month, allowing users to share live content for up to one hour. Followers gain a notification when someone they follow goes live so they have the option to tune in if they wish.
During a live broadcast across both platforms followers and friends are allowed to comment and like as much as they please. This could be set to be a useful tool for brands wanting to present a ‘behind the scenes’ insight to their business – whether that be a product photoshoot, demonstration or presenting reviews in a different way.
Not only is this appearing across a number of platforms, it’s also something social networks are pushing to a great extent (how many times have you seen an advert for Facebook live on television?). This is looking to be a key area that social media platforms look to push over the next twelve months.
Authenticity is important when it comes to visual media
Platforms such as Instagram encourage individuals to achieve perfection in the images that they share. The angle, lighting and framing of a shot can make the difference between 10 likes and 100 likes. With feeds and feeds of perfect imagery, it’s hard not to strive for this.
However, authenticity encourages more engagement than perfection. One major example is that of an Instagram fitness star who shared two similar posts taken from a different angle – one a typically ‘fitspo’ image and the other of a more ‘natural’ image taken mere minutes later. The realistic photo got 10x the amount of likes the “perfect photo” received.
While this example may not apply to all businesses, it shows that people relate to honesty and sincerity from brands. It’s easy to use stock images, but when it comes to social media platforms it’s always useful to inject personality and the story of your brand into content to drive higher levels of engagement.
I believe the next twelve months will see audiences beginning to tire with pristine content, and search for a mixture of candid and personal visual content, especially on platforms such as Instagram – audiences want to buy into personality.