Five things to expect from social media in 2016

2015 was a big year for social media - there were a host of new websites launched, as well as a lot of drama across some of the big brands. With so much going on it was easy to get distracted by the sparkly innovations, but 2016 is the year we can expect brands to take a step back and realise what it really means for them. Here are my predictions for the five biggest trends in 2016. 

1. Social media will get better at selling

All the major social media players are putting 'Buy' buttons onto their channels, and Facebook is going one step further by looking to replace store websites with just a Facebook page. It is safe to say that others such as Instagram will soon follow suit.

This could be an enticing prospect for some local businesses and smaller stores - using an already huge audience and cutting down the number of steps needed to make a purchase. Of course, it also means giving that social network a cut of the profit. It will be an interesting start to a long battle as to whether social networks should become better at being stores, or whether stores should become better at being social. 

2. Hey, big spenders

As the Guardian pointed out: 

"Last year was great for social but it’s always good to have some perspective. Facebook’s recent $4.5bn (£3.1bn) earnings are hugely impressive but also suggest that overall social investment is still only around 1% of total media spends ($611bn globally). If there’s any doubt of the continual appeal of traditional media then look no further than the US Super Bowl – any advertiser could have shifted their budget from a single 30 second commercial and instead driven around 80m views on YouTube, enough to make them the most viewed video of the year. Clearly many advertisers were happy to keep their budgets on TV."

In 2015 though, social media started to deliver on traditional media and marketing objectives. For businesses that have long struggled to justify metrics such as engagement and reach, this will be a god-send. Providing this continues, brands and marketing teams should (and will) be dedicating a larger portion of their budgets to social media. This will enable more interesting content and the budget behind it to ensure that it is seen by its audience. 

3. Content and curated based services

Social media platforms are starting to play a larger role in the curation of their own content. As users are starting to seek quality over quantity Facebook and Twitter have felt the need to step in. This has been achieved in a number of ways but the vast majority relates to story related content. Currently Facebook is testing its ‘Instant Articles’ which will allow publishers to post content without other users having to leave the website to read it. 

Twitter has also taken large steps into this field. They recently launched "Moments"  - curated content that described events happening now. It allows users to see the best content without having to follow certain users to discover it. 

With this continued evolution of how content is being managed by social media platforms, brands and publishers will be rethinking how they reach their audience. Publishers should be making sure their content is taking advantage of these new features, and brands should be looking to ensure their content is relevant and topical enough to be noticed.

4. Less is more

We've been saying it for years but this will continue - quality over quantity. Users are tired of sifting through content and brands are reacting to this. Many brands still feel the need to put content out very regularly, irrespective of their relevance. 2016 will be the year that brands should be making a choice: commit to regular engaging content, or instead focus all effort on just a few engaging posts a month. 

Many of those fewer engaging posts will be videos, and as described in a previous post - it's time to take them seriously

5. Send a message

Currently four of the world’s six largest social platforms are messaging apps and their growth is only increasing. To date most brands have resorted to branded stickers and promoted conversations. By the end of 2016 the capabilities of messaging apps and in turn the opportunities they present to marketers, should have completely transformed.