Big Trends in 2016 Social Media

Social media, in all its glory

Check out the terrific ideas from Beth Becker below, then add your own in the comments. What’s the difference between prophetic and crazy? Time will tell…. Also, be sure to sign up for Beth’s extensive social media training series, coming soon to a city near you.

It’s that time of the year again…people write all the time about current trends, but let’s take a few minutes to think about the future. So in no particular order, here are the things I’m thinking pondering for social media strategy in 2016.

1. Social Goes Searching

In recent years, we saw search try to go social a la Google+. In 2016, we’re going to the see the continued expansion of Social Search. Think:

  • More sophisticated search queries,
  • Twitter’s Project Lightning,
  • Snapchat’s recently announced Story Explorer.

What does this mean for us as strategists and practitioners? It’s less about the keywords and more about the quality of the content. Search for “Social Media” on Facebook and you’ll get a huge assortment of pages, groups and the latest news items. What’s driving content to the top of search on Facebook isn’t keywords, it’s a combination of currently trending items, your own history with that search term, and content quality. As they say Content is Queen (and Strategy is King).

2. The Long and Short of Content

Serialized content can be done in several ways. Three examples:

  1. Take a large story or amount of content and turn it into smaller pieces to be delivered over time (like taking a 10-point infographic and turning it into 10 single infographics, or a list of 10 things developed into 10 different tweets)
  2. Use a series of images to the tell the story and then use Facebook’s Ad Carousel to deliver to your chosen audience
  3. Deliver a story in pieces or installments over time (or even over time across a multitude of channels)

How you serialize it isn’t as important as the fact that snackable content is here to stay.

Then there’s long-form content, with the constant conundrum of how to serve snackable content while still providing more information than a soundbite can contain. Many social platforms will continue to experiment with how to deliver longer-form content without having you leave their platform (like Facebook’s Instant Articles).

Look for Twitter to continue to play with allowing more characters per tweet, for instance by not counting mentions and hashtags against your character count. We’ll see if such content will fit in with our society’s much-diminished attention span. I suspect that the real key for long-form content is going to revert back to snackable, serialized content as teasers.

3. The Rise of Now

As in what is happening right this instant, not 5 minutes ago. I.e., Periscope, Live, Snapchat, Blab, and more. We saw many platforms exploring how to steal the “King of Now” title from Twitter in 2015, and that will continue in 2016.

I think that when Facebook’s Live filters out from the celebrities/politicians to the rest of us, the sense of urgency on social media could become overwhelming, so platforms are going to have to balance the enormous number of “now” moments constantly happening without crowding out the number one reason people use social media: to connect with friends and family.

4. Trendjacking as an Art Form

Along with the rise of Now, we’re going to see trendjacking become one of the most overused social media tactics. Taking trendjacking to the next level is going to require quick responses along with a huge dose of creativity to stand out from the crowd. It also means that poor attempts will invite even more ridicule than they already get (I’m talking to you, Kenneth Cole!).

Remember…if you have to think for more than 10 seconds about whether something is relevant enough for you to jump on or not, then it most likely isn’t. Now is the time to revisit your content strategy’s flexibility, decision-making processes and preparation for anything. For more on strategic rapid response, check out my blog post at CQ Connectivity or Allyson Goldsmith’s post.

5. Data and Social Listening Get Married

They’ve always had an intimate relationship, but in 2016 it’s going to soar to levels we only flirted with in the past. It’s not going to be good enough to have a vague sense of what your audience wants, it’s going to be the deal breaker on whether or not your content gets the organic reach it deserves. A recent study by Social CSM Janrain found 74% of online consumers reported being extremely frustrated when their newsfeed/timeline gets clogged up with irrelevant content.

The political/cause space has a natural advantage over generic brands in that our community has opted-in to our content likely because they have a common goal that caused them to join our community to begin with. Yes, there are platforms like SocialMention already in the game, but they are more about search than active listening.

Right now is the leader in this space because it focuses on social listening and following up with segmentation on social media and email (instead of data for data’s sake). The few other platforms I’ve seen devoted to social listening are very one-dimensional in their approach to listening, providing no real path to informing future behavior.

6. Automated Social Finds Its Place

First, social will never replace face-to-face interpersonal communication, nor should it. Likewise, automation will never replace a real human for managing your social media. But as the Now becomes increasingly important, some automation is going to have to happen if we are ever going to give social media managers some work/life balance.

Some of these tools already exist, for instance the ability to schedule posts either on the platforms or via third-party apps. One of the newer automation tools is ActionSprout’s Smart Ads. SmartAds monitors your timeline to create promoted content at the moment a post is at it’s hottest, maximizing the ROI. Look for more tools to come along to help us automate what we can, so that we spend our time wisely on things like strategy, content creation and relationship-building.

7. Audio Comes to Play

The one format not yet fully embraced by the main social platforms is audio, despite the popularity of streaming music and podcasts online. Facebook recently debuted Music Stories, allowing users to embed 30-second sound clips from Apple Music and Spotify. That should be just the beginning. Just as Twitter (and soon Facebook) embrace dockable video, I think dockable audio isn’t far behind. A lot of people think in-house audio won’t come to either platform, but I think the platforms are crazy if they don’t adopt it.

8. Social Media Platforms Want to Be the 2016 Version of the 1990’s AOL

You remember AOL, right? The grand portal to everything internet. It’s obvious that Facebook, and to a lesser degree Twitter and other platforms, want to be the one portal to rule them all. They’re close, but as I mentioned in #1 and #7, a few things like audio and more sophisticated search are still needed. [Ed note: but do we WANT them to be our grand portals? Filter Bubble alert!]

9. SDonations Enter Their Early Years

For a long time, we’ve emphasized that direct fundraising on social media just isn’t a thing. To some extent, that’s still true. Social Media in 2015 is about building the relationships with people so that when you ask them for money in other places, they’re more invested in your long-term success.

However, I’ve predicted that by 2020 we’ll be raising close to — if not the same amount of money — on social as through other digital channels. How? As people become more and more comfortable with SCommerce — buying things through social media platforms — the transition to making donations will be eased.

It won’t just be about landing pages after the donation, it will be about telling the story in a 30-second video and a user clicking a button right on the post to make a donation without leaving the platform. 2016 won’t end with a SDonations standard, but great headway will be made, especially as Facebook gets more and more invested in helping nonprofits do their work.

[Ed note: but if we can’t integrate social fundraising data from the platforms into our overall fundraising work, it’s much less valuable. A single donation opens the door, but it takes a sustained campaign to help a donor reach his or her true potential. The platforms are going to need to learn to play well with others, or we’ll still have every incentive to move a donor OUT of social and onto, say, email as fast as possible.]

10. I’m crazy

Yep…some of these will be on the money and some will be way off the mark…check back next year to see which are which!

Either way, I can guarantee the way we use social media will continue to evolve daily in terms of tactics and mechanics. But if we aren’t using it strategically, we’ve already lost at using social media to help us build the power to make the changes we want in our world.

What do you think is will be hot 2016? Leave your ideas in the comments below!

Social media is nothing without cats

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Beth Becker
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