We are closing in on the halfway mark of 2016, and we have already seen some interesting shifts in social media dynamics, from Instagram’s major newsfeed algorithm shuffle to Snapchat influencing vertical videos in mainstream advertising. There is still lots of 2016 left to play out, & social media marketers are wondering exactly how it is going to unroll.
At the end of 2015, many ambitious predictors were forecasting the emergence & rapid spread of virtual reality (VR) as a new social media integration & more conservative predictors were not predicting much at all. I do not think we are going to see any major upsets as we begin closing out the year, but there is plenty of room for shakeups.
These 4 predictions explain how I see social media shaping up by the end of the year:
- More private messaging options are going to appear.
First, I think that more private messaging options will appear. Snapchat saw massive growth during its 1st few years of existence in part because of user concerns over privacy. Messages last only temporarily on the platform, & even though the rules have loosened up (some messages can be retrieved from the digital graveyard), it is still seen as one of the more private social apps available. As concerns over user privacy increase, both in social apps & in broader contexts (see: Google antitrust charges), apps will scramble to assist reassure their users that their info is being used responsibly.
- Platforms will begin to adopt unique visual content formats.
Instagram’s massive rise in popularity should be a very good indication of where the average user’s desires & intentions lie: visual content. Images & videos have surged in popularity, to the point where written content & written messages are sagging. But it is not enough to merely offer an outlet for visual content; literally each social app does this, and most of them have identical features like live-streaming video & filters to boot. Users will be looking for differentiators, who can offer unique visual content formats & apps will be looking for the best way to give this.
- Newsfeed algorithms will become homogenized.
We are already beginning to see this trend in the 1st half of 2016. Back in February, Twitter +0.48% launched a new update that sorts its previously time-based post listings into an order dictated by perceived relevance. Instagram followed suit just months after with a nearly identical update. Much in the same way that search engines began producing homogenized results based on Google +1.12%’s exceptional results, most social apps are slowly gravitating to the same relevance-based newsfeed algorithm, based loosely on Facebook +0.06%’s model. The downside here, is that many users counted on unique newsfeed algorithms as part of the unique app experience. When apps begin to become too alike, users will not continue using both.
- Live video will catch on.
Most apps have some means of streaming live content, from standalone apps like Periscope to embedded features like FB Live. However, user adoption for these features is not exactly a breakthrough. Though there is enough interest here to keep these features running, it does not sport nearly the popularity of other mainstream features of these apps. I predict we will see a slow build toward the end of the year, with more individual users taking part—but mostly higher adoption rates among companies & organizations as more marketers & entrepreneurs realize the potential here.
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