For social marketers, 2015 was an exciting year. New platforms, software and consumer preferences brought about a host of changes and opportunities. As a result, social media—and subsequently your strategy—has evolved and will continue to do so.
It’s impossible to predict how the social media landscape will change over the course of a year, but here are six social media trends marketers should keep an eye on in 2016:
1. Real Real-Time Engagement
Social media thrives on real-time engagement, but each year the window for response becomes smaller and smaller. According to Search Engine Watch, 70% of Twitter users expect a response from brands they reach out to, and 53% want a response in less than an hour. That number jumps to 72% when they’re issuing a complaint.
One of the key strategies marketers need to implement in 2016 is faster response times. Thanks to advances made to social listening and automation tools, if you’re not quick to respond one of your competitors might be. Social media is moving fast, and if your business has a presence on any of the platforms then you’re expected to keep up.
2. Live Streaming Video
Faster response times aren’t the only thing you’ll want to focus on. Consumers also want faster access to real-time, offline events. Live streaming video is considered to be the next big thing in social media marketing thanks to apps like Periscope and Meerkat, which took the Internet by storm in 2015.
— Shopify (@Shopify) November 27, 2015
— U2 (@U2) November 27, 2015
Social media allows for communication between brands and customers, but live stream goes a step further, revealing a much more authentic side of your business. It’s unedited, unfiltered and shows that you’re not just reading off of a cue card. Both Periscope and Meerkat allow you to broadcast a live stream of the world around you.
- Owned by Twitter
- Available on iOS and Android
- 2 million daily active users
- 40 years worth of live video is watched daily
- Available in 25 languages
- Available on iOS and Android
- 2 million registered users
- More than 100,000 videos streamed
- Available in one language
You can see a more in-depth breakdown of Periscope and Meerkat, including similarities and differences, in one of our previous articles.
Neither video service has completely taken over the live streaming space, so both should be considered when creating your social media strategy. One thing to keep in mind is both apps are expected to play a big role in the 2016 Presidential election, so if you’re affiliated in any way, you’ll want to pay close attention to each apps’ strengths and weaknesses.
3. Social Commerce
The more engaged your customers are, the better your sales. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen social media play a crucial role in this area. In fact, in 2014, total US sales that could be tracked to social media reached $3.3 billion. More recently, research found social influences more shoppers’ buying decisions than retail websites.
Compelling stats like the one above has led to the creation of more commerce-focused features for marketers and advertisers. For example, in 2015:
- Facebook introduced 360 Ads for immersive experiences.
- YouTube added 360 Ads for more impactful visuals.
- Instagram rolled out its action-oriented ad format.
- Pinterest announced the limited rollout of its Buyable Pins.
- Twitter continued testing its Buy button.
In 2016, you’ll want to explore more ways how you can integrate these features into your social media and content strategies. For inspiration, keep an eye out this holiday season to see how businesses use them.
Let’s get one thing clear: content is still king. The mediums might be changing—in 2015 we saw a massive shift from text to media—but the competition for visibility has never been stronger. With more businesses building out their content strategies and the rising advertising costs, optimizing your organic content is at its highest demand.
Although social media doesn’t directly influence your search ranking, greater social signals (such as people sharing your content and sending more traffic to your website) can help you rank higher. Why is this important? Because 33% of traffic from Google’s organic search results go to the first item listed.
Not just that, but social content is becoming increasingly more visible in search results. Google already has deals in place with Facebook and Twitter—you’ve likely already seen a Tweet or two appear in your search results. In 2016 we’ll see more platforms added to the index, further blurring the line between Web and social media.
Your posts on Facebook and YouTube should also be optimized for search. Today 88% of consumers are influenced by reviews and online comments, and they’re turning to these platforms for just that. Searching on Facebook can now turn up public posts, so make sure that yours include relevant keywords and take advantage of character limit and hashtag best practices.
5. Mobile First
What was once considered a bonus is now a necessity. If you’re not thinking mobile first, then you’re already behind. Mobile devices have become the primary (not secondary) screen for most social media users. In 2015, mobile traffic finally overtook desktop traffic in 10 countries, including the US and Japan.
As of January 2015, 80% of Internet users own a smartphone. An estimated 2 billion consumers worldwide are expected to own a smartphone by 2016. Additionally, devices like smart TVs and smartwatches saw a spike in popularity, and we’ll continue to see their adoption rise in the new year.
What does this mean for marketers? Mobile devices—especially smartphones, tablets and smartwatches—should be a big part of your focus. This is crucial if you’re targeting millennials, of which 87% admitted to never being without their smartphone. More importantly, 14% wouldn’t do business with a company that doesn’t have a mobile site or app.
6. Data-Driven Decisions
By now much of the guesswork is disappearing from social media. You know who the key players are in the industry. If you’re a highly visual brand, then Instagram and Pinterest are already on your radar. You’re familiar with character limits and image specs. The basics are taken care of, and now you’re ready to refine your strategy so you can really hone in on quality connections. That’s where social media analytics come in.
Data is already a big part of how you measure social media success, but it’ll play an even bigger role in your 2016 strategy. Marketers have never had this much access to information about consumer preferences before. This data can help you personalize your message and focus on building stronger loyalty and long-term engagement—rather than short-term acquisitions and individual sales.
Using Social Media Analytics
The mass-target approach is on its way out, and personalized, data-driven marketing plans are in. Sprout’s robust suite of social media analytics and reporting tools will help you dig deeper into your strategy and get the most out of your efforts. Gain valuable insights around platform-specific strategies, what’s trending or your team’s performance as a whole. Then you can use that information to craft unique, personalized experiences for your customers.
But let’s be clear about something. Making data-driven decisions doesn’t mean you should let things like follower counts and the number of Likes your posts receive drive all of your business decisions. More importantly, numbers shouldn’t replace creativity. Relationship building is fluid and unique to the individual, whereas number crunching is purely analytical. You need to create a balance between these two approaches in order to be successful.
As 2016 begins, it’s important that you and your team take some time to reflect on the past year and all of the changes that it brought. We expect a lot of great changes to come in 2016, but it’s helpful to know what has worked and what hasn’t so you can carry those lessons with you in the new year.
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Jennifer Beese: Jennifer Beese has worked as a community manager and social media strategist. When she’s not writing, you can find her studying anatomy and physiology—she literally has a skeleton in her closet—or under the stars with her telescope.
The great thing is to take the time to draw your top ends. We'll be sure you rest a step above the competition, time after time. You both left the same place at the exact same time, turned up once and for all whose way is the superior, and went your separate routes. Here is the great training on to respond to twitter leads. http://www.webfire.com/free-training
Great Post ! i have read your other posts which are really informative i'll use it for my blog thanks for sharing. Thanks
Great article Jennifer,
Awesome insights, Today most of the web traffic is access with the help of mobile devices and as you say soon it will overtake the desktop. So the mobile responsive website has become the necessity of every online business.
Keep the great work and thank you for sharing the awesome piece of content.
@gloriajohn Thanks for reading, Gloria!
I think I'll bet heavily on real-time marketing, but it will not be easy ... a nice challenge ... ;-)
@David Marketing It definitely puts more demands on your team, but the reward is well worth it. Good luck, David!
Awesome insights, can you please guide us with the best route to reach you? We're working on a product and would love to share more details about it :D
Great article Jennifer, I'm glad that social media is moving towards live interactions between businesses and consumers. I find that if a relationship can be developed between a consumer and a brand, they are more likely to be loyal and potentially become an advocate.
@MarketingSweet You've hit the nail on the head! It's important that consumers see the human side of brands. Real-time interactions strengthen that connection. Thanks for reading!
@DeidreSullivan Thanks, Deidre. I'm glad you enjoyed the article!
Thank you Molly for this great and relevant article. Showing the human face of a business and expressing virtual empathy are the 2 keys to social media success today and in 2016.
This information on Facebook/Google reviews influencing consumer's decision to purchase a product/service from social media clients is something that I've really been pushing hard over the past 3-4 months. Unfortunately some of my clients (predominately small business owners) have been hesitant with reviews for fear of negative feedback, despite my best arguments that these reviews are the best way to essentially get free qualitative research and positively influence the buying process.
Has anyone else come up against such issues, and if so how did you get your clients to see reason?
@MarketingSweet Fear of negative comments is one of the biggest reasons businesses hesitate to adopt social media. Remind your clients that if customers are unhappy, they're voicing that whether or not the company is listening. By not being active on social media, those complaints live on as unresolved, possibly resulting in the loss of a customer. Social media enables your clients to engage customers in two-way dialogue and quickly resolve issues as they arise. Doing so publicly shows other customers who might be searching for similar issues that the company is responsive and caring. More times than not, customers with complaints will go on to reverse the complaint (http://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-response-time/).
@jennifer beese Thanks for the advice. I'll further to push this sentiment to my clients...hopefully they will see the light soon!
@MarketingSweet My pleasure! Good luck :)
More often than not, especially for the big brands, there is little concern for the one or two negative feedbacks as long as the majority is positive. If you think real time engagement will really be a trend this year, well, we certainly hope so. All companies need to realise how important it is to value their fans and provide solutions, even to their smallest concerns. At the end of the day, they are still their customers.
@Grow Digital Services Absolutely! You make a great point. And just because a concern might seem small, that might not be how a customer views it. A little effort goes a long way!
Social media landscape has changed after the arrival of periscope. I would love to see how big companies take advantage of live streaming.
@Jay More and more brands are adopting live streaming apps, so 2016 will be an interesting year for case studies for sure!