Simon Heyes is Co-founder and Director of Social at 8 Million Stories (8MS). From interactivity to automation, he tracks the issues shaping social media marketing in 2016
In my opinion social media still has a long way to go in order to stand out as a marketing channel. Many big brands and the social platforms themselves are making good in-roads, but the shift towards paid promotion to generate any kind of reach proves that social media needs an overhaul.
1. Immersive, Interactive Content
I’ve been banging the interactive content drum for the last three years, and brands are slowly starting to take notice. Users want interesting, immersive, interactive content, and the more personalised the content is, the better.
Facebook recently launched Canvas a native platform specifically designed for interactive, multi-media storytelling. Brands should prepare themselves to take advantage of this format, and keep an eye out for other platforms following suit.
2. Virtual Reality Steps Forward
2016 is gearing up to be a big year for virtual reality. You may say that VR isn’t strictly related to social media, but I believe it is. In a big way. The industry is expected to break the $1 billion barrier for the first time this year.
In terms of the major players, Facebook have started taking pre-orders for Oculus Rift, HTC’s Vive product is due for release in April, and Google are making moves to push their Cardboard product. How will this tie in with social? As yet that part is unclear, but it could bring a whole new definition to the term ‘social media.’
3. Analytics And Analysis
This is a big area that brands need to plan for in 2016.
In my opinion the analytics information provided by the social platforms is terrible. Downloadable spreadsheets from Facebook, limited timescales in Twitter Analytics, and for those running a campaign with a hashtag across multiple platforms using multiple influencers, you’ve got a better chance of herding cats than you do pulling together a final campaign report with all the reach and engagement data. There need to be some big improvements in the area of analytics, from better platform provisions, to improved attribution.
4. Video Takes Centre Stage
There are so many video platforms available. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Periscope, Snapchat… But are brands ready to take advantage?
Mobile video content is still in its infancy, with only a few brands taking the plunge. Mobile video creation, live-streaming and viewing figures are set to boom in 2016, so brands need to be ready with some relevant, on-brand, planned campaigns for the right platforms, ensuring they know what their audience wants to see.
5. Social Needs To Become More Human
Social media is all about connections and relationships between users. Many brands are still scared to put faces behind their logo. But why? At the end of the day, people interact with people. The more human a brand is, the easier the connections can be, making social media much more engaging.
Are brands championing internal ambassadors – those who can wave the brand flag proudly across social media? This is an important area to consider in 2016 and beyond.
6. ‘Buy Now’ Buttons
Social platforms have been trying to monetise themselves for the last few years, without much success. Pinterest launched Buyable Pins in June 2015, which is a big step forward, but Facebook and Twitter have tried, toiled and failed thus far.
Will 2016 be the year that social media makes a big breakthrough in ecommerce transactions? Quite possibly – especially since mobile transactions are due to increase by 68 per cent in 2016.
7. Social Ad Revolution: More Formats, More Ad-blocking
The mobile ad blocking revolution is almost here. Ad-blocking software is already present on iOS devices, and Android recently followed suit. That sent shockwaves through the publishing industry, but it presents a huge opportunity for social ads.
Facebook are doing brilliantly, Twitter need to up their game, and expect to see new ad formats – particularly around video and interactive content – in 2016.
8. Speed Up The Web
There has been a big push by Facebook and Google to speed up the web over the last 18 months. Facebook introduced Instant Articles in May 2015, and Google isn’t far behind, pushing their AMP pages heavily at the tail end of 2015 and rolling out in 2016. Both these styles of page are designed to load immediately on mobile devices, regardless of device type or signal strength.
Combined with mobile ad-blocking (Samsung found that pages load an overage of 51 per cent faster with ads blocked on mobile devices), brands should be prepared to see a big push towards speeding up the web across social media platforms in 2016.
9. More Automation
There are more and more tools appearing on the market that help to automate your social activities. The basic tools schedule posts, but tools such as Narrow help find your audience on Twitter, follow them, favourite their tweets and engage with them. Creepy? Some might say so. Efficient? Definitely.
Crowdfire is another favourite tool that lets users schedule posts across most platforms, and optimise the timing of scheduling based on previous post engagement data. Expect more types of automation to head to social media management in 2016.
10. Influencer Collaborations Boom
Many brands use bloggers, celebrities and influencers to help reach more of their target audience. This brand/influencer relationship is still in its infancy, but it shows the power of having a face behind a profile. Some influencers now charge anything from several hundred pounds to several thousand for product and service coverage, as brands scramble to find ways of reaching more of their target audience.
Expect this to boom in 2016, but hopefully with some sensible regulations and industry pricing standards eventually introduced. Bloggers and influencers are here to stay, and they are a great benefit to brands. But they are also a form of advertising, and should be taken seriously as their social reach and engagement levels continue to grow.