I remember being shocked when I heard that Facebook had purchased Instagram for $1 billion. After that, I wasn't as surprised when Facebook offered $3 billion for Snapchat, I figured this must be how these guys play with numbers and money. But I almost lost it when Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion. $19 billion?
The WhatsApp acquisition, in particular made me realize that social media is not what it was a few years ago. It's changed and will always be changing.
In this post, I'll highlight some of the ways in which social media is changing, and how the latest trends will transform the way we use social media, in both our personal and professional lives.
Social Media Is Becoming Mobile
That headline's no surprise to anyone - social media has become increasingly mobile in recent times. A study published by We Are Social shows that the year-on-year growth of active mobile social accounts was 23%. That trend's unlikely to be slowing down anytime soon, with significant room for growth still present in the market.
The increasing use of mobile phones fuels mobile ad revenue - Facebook's Mobile revenue reached $2.5 billion in the last year.
Social media apps are dominating the eyeballs of customers, especially among young users.
Take Snapchat, for example. The majority of Snapchat's users are aged between 13 and 25. The younger generation is highly active on social media apps and therefore, these apps are increasingly valuable. If you want to engage with the younger generation, now or in the coming years, businesses need to adapt to their sharing habits.
Many Different Social Platforms = A Fragmented Audience
People tend to share social media content more via mobile apps. What's really interesting is that people are spread across many different platforms, providing countless opportunities to communicate and share content with each other. Just look at the rising number of social media apps and sites: Twitter, Vine, Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, WhatsApp, Snapchat. A few years ago, half of these platforms didn't even exist.
Facebook is still the biggest social network, but new platforms, such as Snapchat and Instagram are growing at a much faster pace.
New social media platforms and apps emerge every day, satisfying ever more specific user needs.
Privacy, for example, is a major concern as is the influx of advertising, and in 2014, a new ad-free social network called Ello was launched in response to this, promising to maintain user privacy and never sell ads. The network was so popular that they had to close the invitation system.
In the past few years, Pinterest has emerged from nothing and become the number one platform of visual content.
Social media is becoming more fragmented; users are concentrated in many different groups within each network. A good example of this is Facebook - Facebook made Messenger a stand-alone application, forcing users to use it separately from the main Facebook app.
There's good reason why Facebook bought WhatsApp and transformed it's Messenger app into a more complex platform. It was a smart move for Facebook, because private messaging is the next big thing in social. Now Facebook has one of the most popular messaging apps (WhatsApp) and a Messenger platform, which allows third parties to get in touch with their customers in a more private way.
Sharing Is Becoming More Private
As sharing via mobile grows, there are also countless new apps and social media sites that make sharing more fragmented. People tend to share more via private channels, such as instant messaging (IM) apps. The reason is simple: people don't want to share everything publicly, and it's a good way to avoid the noise of open social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
Private sharing has several advantages compared to open platforms:
- It's a more trusted source of communication, because people added to the contact lists are friends, family members, or people they already know
- Less noise and distractions
- Due to the higher trust and more targeted content (we know what our friends like), engagement and CTR is much higher
Private messaging holds incredible business opportunity for brands, though brands haven't yet taken full advantage of private communication. In future, private messaging will provide increased opportunities to boost engagement and conversion.
What makes this challenge even more difficult, however, is that sharing via private channels is not visible through most web analytics platforms. This phenomenon is called dark social, and due to rising mobile activity and IM app usage, it's going to become an even bigger issue as time progesses.
In future, distraction-based ads will be less effective. The new generation (millennials) simply ignore these ads, they'd rather rely on the recommendations of friends and family members. Private messaging is the place where the younger generation is communicating and where many word-of-mouth recommendations take place. This is the Holy Grail for marketers.
The good news is that some platforms will help you capitalize on private messaging (like Messenger), and you can use your creativity to get in touch with your fans. Here is an example how Absolut Vodka used WhatsApp for marketing.
Sharing Is Becoming More Complex
What we know so far:
- People use social media via mobile and it's increasing
- There are many different open and private social platforms where people can share content and communicate - this means that social media is going to become even more fragmented
- People tend to share more via private channels. Traffic from these private channels is often incorrectly attributed as direct traffic - this phenomenon is called dark social
The problem is that many web analytics tools can't handle the increasing complexity of sharing. Cross-platform sharing is fueled by copy-paste sharing, which is still very popular - according to a study 82% of all online content sharing is done by copy and paste.
Unfortunately, these tools can't always interpret the nature of content sharing via new social channels. They can count how many shares you got and how many visitors you had from different, open, networks, but they're unable to track private social sharing and how your content was shared across different private mediums. This element poses a significant challenge for social marketers moving forward.
What kind of trends do you see? How will social media change in the future? Let me know what you think in the comments.