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Crystal Ball Gazing: What's Next For Social Media?

Your business can't afford to fall behind in social media developments. What worked this year might not work next year, as platforms develop and new entrants to the market attract new users. This means an integral part of my role as a social media consultant is to keep a close eye on the future trends. So, what's next in social media?

 

As a recent article on Entrepreneur underlined, social media changes at breakneck speed. It's easy to forget that less than a decade ago, Myspace and Friends Reunited were the main players on the scene. As social media has matured and developed, there are more opportunities than ever for businesses to communicate with a mass audience.

 

1. Facebook to grow fastest among older people

Facebook will remain the leading social networking site in 2016 according to eMarketer research, but the fastest growing demographic will be people over 65. Who would have predicted that five years ago? In contrast, 18-24 year olds are defecting from Facebook as one of their primary networks as they migrate to Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. These two trends may not, of course, be entirely unrelated!

What could this mean for businesses? What is in no doubt is that there are increasing opportunities to use social media to reach older people, both as consumers and as business owners.

2. Messaging apps will continue to grow in significance

This year, the top four messaging apps gained the same number of users as the top four social networking platforms. Apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp not only offer access to low-cost texts, voice calls and video calls; increasingly, users are engaging with their favourite brands too.

New services like Snapchat's Discover function will allow users to follow updates from brands and celebrities, receive special offers and even make bookings. Could your business use the same technology to build a loyal following?

3. Social networks will be used even more as search engines

Although search engines remain a vital route for people to access your business, social media has a growing role. For example, 80% of consumers online say they are influenced by reviews and online comments by other consumers.

Sites like YouTube, Facebook and Yelp are important influencers on consumer decisions. Pinterest is a key site for women in their 30s, a demographic with strong buying power. No surprise then that there has been a substantial increase in brands driving Pinterest traffic seamlessly from product-related posts to company websites.

4. Big data and personalisation

Internet companies are rapidly accruing data about consumers' tastes and preferences, and they are getting much more sophisticated in using this data to personalise services, form relationships and create novel experiences.

Companies do best when they use actionable data insights to deliver experiences for consumers, inviting them to become part of a culture rather than make a transaction. Brands do this when they demonstrate a motivation beyond trade, for example by embracing a particular social cause or fashion subgenre.

Could your B2B business be doing more to capitalise on the opportunities offered by social media? Get in touch via Linked or email - tony@xfactorcomms.co.uk - to find out. You can also find me on Twitter at @xfactorcomms

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