What’s next in the world of social media?

With the rise of distributed content, chatbots and influencer programmes, Gaelle Bertrand, Head of Brand Insight and Social Media Intelligence at Kantar Media, looks at what we can expect to be the biggest social media trends over the coming year.

Have you live-streamed recently? Perhaps you’ve updated your Instagram story or used Snapchat Memories? Social platforms have rolled out a plethora of new features over the last twelve months in their battle for consumer attention, giving brands new and exciting ways to connect with users in the process.

But as technology becomes ever more advanced it can be a struggle for brands to keep up. You could even say the pace of change in social media innovation makes the platforms something akin to a living, evolving organism.

At Kantar Media we have used our insight to give marketers a forward look at what we believe will be the biggest social media trends in the months to come: the continued reign of quality content; the leveraging of new technology to increase focus on content and the use of the social sphere to empathise and engage their consumers in a more meaningful way.

So, let’s have a look at what’s in store for us over the next year.

Influencer Programmes

Influencer marketing has been a key strategy for brands since the advent of social media. Brands are increasingly employing people of influence to connect to their audiences on a personal level. Once a hobby, Influencer is now a bona fide occupation. With “influence schools” popping up around the world to help professionalise the role of influencers, this trend is set to continue.

But with trust at an all time low, peers’ opinions matter ever more. Today’s audiences rely heavily on reviews and ratings when figuring out what to believe. No surprise then, that the Oxford English Dictionary chose “post-truth” as their word of the year.

The next likely evolution will be the introduction of ROI measures for influencers, based on established metrics such as audience engagement but also influencers’ credibility. Advertisers are getting savvier in the way they select potential influencers and brand ambassadors to ensure that are actually going to impact consumer decisions.

Social Commerce

The integration of social media into brands’ advertising strategy has become commonplace, but recently we’ve seen them start to use social in other ways. Many brands have dipped their toe into the waters of social commerce, and this year we expect to see even more experimenting with what works and what doesn’t when converting social media users to social media shoppers.

This is where Pinterest could come into its own and differentiate itself from Facebook and Instagram. Tapping into a niche section of social media, this platform has been working hard to enrich its shopping experience, offering its customers a smooth way to convert their discoveries and desires into real purchases. Pinterest may be understated, but it is full of potential for social commerce.

Facebook Workplace

Social media in the workplace is not a new idea and is, in fact, a highly competitive field with platforms such as Slack, Yammer and HipChat contending for the field of employee communication. But Facebook has spotted a gap in the market: until now there has been a lack of overall compatibility between communication tools.

At the end of 2016, the world’s largest social network announced its plan to introduce a comprehensive solution to business communication: Workplace. By combining various Facebook components, such as voice and video calling, instant messaging, groups, walls and profiles, Workplace aims to use all the social communication tools at its disposal to revolutionise the way people work together. Over the coming year, we’re likely to see competitors offer us an alternative to Facebook’s new platform, whether by building new products from scratch or evolving existing properties.

Personal Assistants

More people than ever are using virtual personal assistants for voice search queries and these intelligent search engines are getting smarter, better understanding the context and intent of their search users to be more helpful.

What’s more, voice search queries are 30 times more likely to be action-oriented than typed queries, meaning businesses have an ideal opening to recommend their services to the search user. After all, you’re much more likely to ask Siri where the nearest pizza restaurant is than ponder out loud when pizza was invented.

We can expect even more businesses to start harnessing the opportunities these actions present, in particular by integrating search engine marketing into voice search systems. This is where Facebook could fulfil its ambition of extending its usability through search, maybe even giving Google a run for its money.

The future’s bright

Brands are learning that to be successful they need to establish meaningful connections with their customers, centred around engaging content and digital trust. And, meanwhile, social networks are exploring different ways to encourage social commerce, converting users into consumers. By this time next year, there’s no doubt that social networks will have expanded into even more elements of consumers’ lives and businesses. Stay tuned.

Article originally posted on Netimperative

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