What’s Next? Social Media Strategies to Reach Out to the Next Generation of Consumers
The day will come when Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and the current collection of Social Media platforms will be regarded as yesterday’s news…as the archaic ways people communicated and shared experiences “back in the day.” What will augment or supplant the universe of Social Media we are familiar with today? What will be the next-gen social sharing sites? What will one-time Facebook fans “like” in the future?
According to some trend-watching experts (sources 1, 2, 3) whose perspectives inform our stretch to divine the convergence of consumer trends and new technologies, the future of Social Media will encompass:
- Ever increasing usage of visual information – infographics, memes, symbols, and GIFs – as predominantly text forms of communication fall from favor
- The widespread adoption of live streaming, the foundation of which is occurring now with the advent of Facebook Live
- The evolution of predictive marketing, using data mining and artificial intelligence to push consumers up the buying and brand engagement curve
- The ongoing tension represented by the public/private nature of sharing information for the world to see
A picture is said to be worth a thousand words, and that may never be truer than when promoting brands in the future digital market-place. The ubiquity of smartphones that feature excellent photo and video-taking capabilities – coupled with faster digital data transmission speeds – has helped transform many Social Media sites into visual galleries. Users of these sites can see what is going on in their world before they read about it. According to Kissmetrics, Facebook posts with photos generated 53% more likes, 84% more link clicks, and 104% more comments than updates that consisted of text only. A study by Socialbakers found that three-quarters of all Facebook posts published by brands contained photos. GIFs have become such a critical element of Twitter’s culture that the platform added a GIF button for ease of use.
Marketers are monitoring how their brands are being portrayed through user-generated images; computer vision and artificial intelligence help companies navigate this visual information explosion. The volume of visual content is constantly increasing, and is changing faster as users demand more tools to create and share pictures, videos, and their digital offspring. According to Buffer’s “State of Social Media 2016 Report,” 83% of marketers said they would create more video content if time and resources were available. Forty-two percent of marketers chose live video as their preferred option, behind blog posts (57%).
Facebook’s launch of live streaming video will push the format into the mainstream and normalize its use, spurring growth of the format across multiple channels. Individuals will use the platform to share their experiences, and brands will use live streaming to provide “exclusive” access to events and personalities. Blab is an emerging live streaming service that makes live, public video chats with up to four people easy to do.
To date, marketers have traditionally tried to serve offers to people who have taken an action, like visiting a website. In the future, brands using artificial intelligence based on mountains of data will be able to discern what decision-making stage the buyer is in, predict the next stage they are willing to go to, and promote ads that will push them to the next stage of the buying cycle. Social media especially lends itself to application of “predictive marketing” tools.
“Immersion” enables users to integrate social media more deeply into their daily lives. The explosion of mobile devices, apps that encourage “checking in,” geographic tags, and the development of virtual reality technology all promote immersive experiences. New and more seamless ways of interacting with consumers will continue to blur the line between social media and the “real world.”
We’ll see more niche platforms gain popularity (this year saw the rise of Snapchat and Periscope) and the field of mainstream social media platforms will widen even further. Businesses will experiment with niche platforms like WhatsApp, YikYak and Kik, especially if they hope to reach the under-30 market. Users are choosing their platforms based on what is interesting to them (for example, photographers prefer VSCO to Instagram). Brands will follow suit, choosing where to place their efforts based on where their target customer spends her time on social media, rather than trying to have a presence on every platform.
The next-gen social platforms can’t just replicate the success formula of others. The world of Social Media confers competitive advantage to size, number of members. The big get bigger and the second tier go out of business. Who uses Myspace anymore? A new entry must deliver something distinctly new and different and better for it to have any chance of commercial success. And the established business models need to continually improve. Facebook is continually improving and growing its base and reinforcing its dominance. Alternatively, Twitter, a company that seemed unstoppable a few years ago, appears to be on a negative trend because it doesn’t offer anything that other platforms don’t offer as well.
Carter says the social media platforms of the future will have to walk the precariously fine line between public information sharing and the need for user privacy. This has been an issue since the advent of social media, but it has become increasingly problematic for users who do not want to expose private information to individuals and organizations with bad intentions. Tomorrow’s social media platforms will have to find a new way to marry these two ideas together in a way that keeps users happy.
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