Social Media’s Crystal Ball

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2016 was an exciting year for social media, wouldn’t you agree?

The highly filtered vacuum created by intelligent social platforms changed the way people consume news. Sixty-two percent of U.S. adults get their news from social media, which often either reinforces their existing beliefs or contributes to important political decisions. Regardless of your political affiliation, Trump’s approach to social media was successful and ultimately played a major role in his victory. It’s moments like these that remind us of the power of social. In order to advance, brands and businesses must invest to figure out how to use it to their strategic advantage – or fear getting left in the dust by competitors.

So what’s to come in 2017?  This year, much will change in the face of social media marketing. Here are five predicted trends for 2017:

1. Influencer marketing investment will rise.

Influencer marketing will have its day in the sun. The way that brands communicate on social, which is currently one-to-many, will change. It will happen gradually and it will take much longer than just 2017 to happen, but this year will be the one where we will notice a shift towards this change.

Today, you can build relationships with influential people on social media, moving them to advocate on behalf of your brands thanks to the emergence of influencer networks. Through finding an overlap in interests between influencers and brands, you can engage people on an authentic level. Brands will look for ways to drive ROI from influencer advertising, which will create a need for savvy agencies to provide measurement that proves its value.

2. Snapchat’s future is bright but not without headwinds.

Snapchat will go public, but how will the market value it? If we look at Facebook and Twitter’s IPOs, can we determine that these were good buys? Was Facebook seen favorably when it went public?  It was hard to think so at its valuation when it went public, but looking back, it would have been a great investment. Snapchat is years behind Facebook, and despite its loyal following, it needs to find a way to garner a larger share of social advertising budgets.

The traditional snap ads product has come under fire recently, and this will drive Snapchat to innovate faster. The introduction and move towards direct response-friendly units will help make this a reality.

3. Video will continue to dominate.

In 2016, the share of Facebook ad spend allocated to video increased by 57%. Over 18 billion video views happen per day on Facebook and Snapchat properties.

This year, live video will continue to change the way people consume video content. People increasingly desire more connected experiences, and social platforms that provide live video experiences provide a great way to collapse multi-casting behavior into one platform.

The race is on to see who wins live video. Facebook, with the largest network, is the obvious candidate, but YouTube is a strong contender given its spot as the top destination for video consumption online.

The connection between TV and social will continue to increase, and brands will find more ways to bridge the connection between them to provide more interactive experiences for its consumers. TV programs will continue to use social call-to-actions (hashtags, follows, etc.) to continue engaging consumers after the show ends. Expect to see more live streaming TV programs on social much like Twitter’s partnership with the NFL.

4. Messenger apps will come into focus for brands.

Time spent on messenger apps has surpassed time spent on social networks. Messaging app services will continue to find ways to make money from this engagement. WeChat is quickly becoming giant in the mobile payments space, and it’s likely that others will follow. This is a clear way for messenger services to make money.

Facebook introduced the ability to link newsfeed ads to messenger chat conversations. Driving the connection between traditional social experiences, messenger will become a major theme in 2017. Not to mention, “traditional social experiences.” Yes, we’re at a point in our evolutionary cycle with social advertising that there is a difference between traditional social advertising platforms like Facebook and younger platforms like Snapchat and Periscope.  The main difference is that the maturity of the ad product on the younger platforms causes a barrier for direct response advertisers who like to track their campaigns with pinpoint accuracy.

With 30,000 active Facebook messenger bots, bots will become a way for brands to provide a range of experiences, from basic customer service to character-based personas. Messenger app services are likely to start taking a fee for facilitating these transactions.

5. Brands will start to demand more visibility into data.

Facebook has taken a lot of heat recently over the discovery that its video duration metrics were not accurate. Additionally, Snapchat was accused of inflating its user base by an ex-employee. This has caused advertisers to ask for more visibility into the social media platforms “walled gardens.”

Facebook publicly announced new partners for its third-party ad viewability verification program in an effort to drive more transparency and further give confidence to clients. In addition to Moat, Nielsen, comScore, and Integral Ad Science, other partners will start to verify ad viewability and attention metrics in the next few months.

But as the old adage reminds us: ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.’ While there are a number of trends foreseen, some things simply won’t progress. Facebook, for instance, will continue to reign supreme, as it is investing heavily in its Facebook Live product and technology to rival Snapchat’s popularity, and continuing to acquire competitors. Paid advertising will dominate organic reach, which continues to decline. On the other hand, CPMs will continue to rise. Social advertising networks will continue to look for ways to increase inventory, and advertising dollars will continue to shift from traditional to digital, with an emphasis towards digital video and social.

There’s certainly a lot to be excited about in the year to come. As we look forward to the advancements ahead, it’s safe to say that 2017 will be yet another year that reminds us all of social’s power.

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