There was no shortage of changes to the social media industry in 2016, which included several new features, consumer preferences and brand opportunities. Looking toward 2017, social media trends will continue to evolve and surprise us.
While it’s impossible to predict how the social media marketing landscape will change over the course of a year, we’re here to provide six social media trends marketers should keep an eye on in 2017:
1. AI Lenses for Facebook & Instagram
The rise in popularity of Snapchat’s facial filters (artificial intelligence lenses) makes the network interactive, engaging and unique compared to others. However, social media marketers shouldn’t have to wait long until competitors start to catch up with their own facial lenses.
— High Castle (@HighCastleTV) December 17, 2016
In fact, Facebook already tested facial lenses for its mobile interface in 2016. This could be a major sign of budding social media trends. With the launch of Instagram Stories, expect the popular social media feature to move across channels.
According to TechCrunch, there were 100 million active users on Instagram Stories within two months after its release. Additionally, Instagram Stories are watched by 18% of the network’s 600 million active users each day.
After her record-setting performance at the 2016 Olympic Games, American gymnast Simone Biles (@simonebiles) found herself in the spotlight. “I haven’t paid any attention to the limelight, since I’ve been so busy,” says 19-year-old Simone, who grew up in Houston. “But it’s definitely a different feeling knowing that so many people watch what I do.” Many may have gotten caught up in the hype — but Simone has stayed grounded, with lots of support from her family and friends. “I just try to enjoy it and still be me, because the most important thing is to always be yourself.” Today, we’re rolling out new tools to maintain the positivity and safety of our community. We are committed to keeping Instagram a welcoming place for everyone.
This puts all the pressure on Snapchat to maintain in the social media space. The competition is only likely to increase with Snapchat possibly going public as early as March 2017. Snapchat certainly has their own slice of the pie with 150 million active users in 2016 and 41% of US adults between the ages 18-34 use the network daily.
Younger generations continue to spend large amounts of time on these features and the battle for facial lenses could heat up in 2017.
2. More Customer Service Chatbots
Customer care should be on the minds of most businesses entering 2017. According to the Sprout Social Q2 2016 Index, in Q1 2016, the average number of social messages needing a response grew 18% year over year. This has many brands looking for ways to increase their customer service resources and more are turning to chatbots.
Platforms like Facebook Messenger and Slack use chatbots to communicate with customers, answer frequently-asked questions or to provide immediate information on a product or service. These chatbots can increase communication and reduce response times to social messages in need of an answer.
Here’s how both Slack and Facebook Messenger are preparing for the increase in automated customer service:
- Slack grew to 4 million daily active users in 2016. (VentureBeat)
- Slack owns roughly 1.25 million paid accounts.
- BotList shows 484 Slack Bots currently available. (BotList)
- There are 11,000 active Facebook Messenger Bots. (The Verge)
- 300 million people actively use voice and audio calling features on Facebook Messenger. (Forbes)
- Facebook Bots now accept major vendors such as MasterCard, Visa and American Express.
The same Sprout Q2 Index also noted 34.5% of respondents prefer social media as the best avenue for customer care. Slack’s growth and Facebook’s new Messenger features make customer service chatbots one of the most interesting social media trends to watch for in 2017.
3. Paid Content Continues to Reign
There’s no doubt social media algorithms make it harder for businesses to promote organic content. With the introduction of the Instagram algorithm in 2016, nearly every major social network uses some sort of content preferential treatment.
The majority of these algorithms have one simple purpose–to make its users happy with the content they see in their feeds. But this is making it difficult for brands to be seen if they strictly publish organic social content.
On the other hand, paid content is growing faster each quarter. According to Adobe, social media ad spend is estimated to surpass $41 billion in 2017. And it’s not limited to just one channel or network.
Even though Twitter’s possible sale in 2016 worried some marketers, VentureBeat showed Q3 advertising revenue grew from $513 in 2015 to $545 million in 2016. Along with Instagram’s newest algorithm, more emphasis was put on paid content.
The visual social network’s mobile ad revenue drew $1.53 billion across the globe in 2016. In fact, a Content Marketing Institute report discovered paid advertising on search (76%), social media ads (74%) and promoted posts (76%) increased dramatically year-over-year into 2016.
The need for quality and engaging content has never been higher. To ensure brands get their money’s worth whether it’s paid or organic, content has to have a purpose and be engaging.
Do you know how well your content is performing in terms of social media engagement? By using Sprout Social, you can be certain about your engagement rates with all your social content in 2017.
4. Priority on Business Features & Analytics
In 2016 Instagram launched its Business Tools feature, which works in the same vein as Twitter Analytics and Facebook Insights. This could mean social media trends point toward native tool enhancements to meet business needs.
Analytics and reporting features are nothing new to the industry. According to a KPMG survey, 92% of C-level executives already use data and analytics for marketing insights. And it’s very likely marketers and business owners don’t stop at measuring social media efforts as well.
In fact, a Simplify360 report found 36% of businesses use social media analytics for more than competitor analysis. The competition is only getting stronger in the social landscape, which results in more analytical thinking and marketing.
Using Social Media Analytics
The problem is understanding the data to make better decisions about your social. Roughly 34% of small businesses use social media to engage and converse with customers. That means businesses have to find their audience and engage with them more effectively.
If your customers are reaching out, you have to respond. Having analytical data to back up things like engagement or response rates helps you make smarter decisions.
5. Move Away from Automation
Another social media trend for 2017 will be with less automation and more effective management tools. Year after year, we witness a social media blunder from a brand using automated social tools.
There’s a point when businesses start to realize the difference between efficiency and autopilot.
That’s why social media automation is more likely than ever to simply turn into social media management. Automation feels robotic, while consumers want real, humanistic interactions.
With the exception of chatbots, brands should avoid automating social engagement. Instead of automated responses and risking a PR disaster, try these tactics:
- Social Campaigns that Interact with Consumers
- Listen to Your Customers–Don’t Just Promote
- Build an Organic Following With Better Relationships
- Avoid Untimely Messages Around Current Events
- Be Personal and Give Humanistic Responses
6. Social Shopping & Instant Purchases
Social commerce isn’t slowing down and more networks are providing brands with easier ways to sell to customers. Instant purchases are available on Instagram, but social media trends point to faster sales across the board.
The Sprout Social Index discovered 57% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand they follow. Additionally, 75% have made a purchase because they saw it on social media.
The power of social media can truly impact a buyer’s impression and more brands are moving toward social commerce. Brands are now focusing on buyer’s emotions for purchases.
But brands just can’t promote without engaging. Social selling still needs interaction. According to an Epsilon report, 28% of consumers said a brand’s social presence was the biggest reason to try new products or services.
Cutting out the fat between clicking “buy” and receiving “order complete” will continue to evolve. Throughout the year, expect retailers to find faster ways to make sales and limit purchasing decisions.
As 2017 kicks off, it’s important that you and your team take some time to reflect on the past year and all of the changes to social landscape. We expect a lot of great changes to come in 2017, 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.