2016 Social Media Trends: Which Ones Measured Up?


At the end of every year, you'll see headlines that push next year's industry trends. You know the ones: "16 Marketing Automation Trends for 2017" or "Five Crazy Hair Trends for the New Year". With the rise of fake news and raw, disappearing content, I found 2016 to be overwhelmingly hungry for authenticity.  This meant reshaping content around the customer. Because, obviously.

People craved the real stuff from companies, the stuff that makes their lives easier and more enriched. Companies started to show personality in their content and empathy towards their customers. Marketing became less B2B or B2C and more H2H (human to human). This was evident in some of the sweeping trends that defined the social media marketing industry in 2016.

Let's talk about those big trends. What were they? And did they measure up?

What were the biggest social media trends in 2016?

Twitter went through a rough patch. Vine shut down. Snapchat exploded. Facebook continued to be king. And Instagram simply blew me away. This year was all about customer experience and authenticity. Some of the biggest trends I saw this year included live video, a rise in influencer marketing, an even greater focus on mobile optimization, a surge in disappearing content, and growing importance to use data to build strategies. As many of us business owners are looking to set some goals for next year, I wanted to recap these trends and curate some of the stuff we can expect in 2017.

It's happening, like, right now.

Live video became the cool thing this year. Let's talk about some statistics. People watch live video three times longer than non-live video (Social Media Today, 2016). Imagine you're a brand: how much more story can you tell in 3 minutes of live video compared to 1 minute of regular video? Imagine how much more can you connect with your audience or humanize your company.

And video is only going to be more important over the next year, especially as Facebook continues to develop its video and virtual reality strategies.

She said this was cool.

Influencer marketing became a huge trend this year. Here's why: if you are looking to try out a new restaurant, you turn to your friends or online reviews. If I'm looking for a new recipe, I hop on Instagram and check what my favorite food bloggers are posting. According to AdWeek, 92% of customers trust peer recommendations over brand content. This means higher conversion rates, better-targeted brand awareness, higher sales - just to name a few.

Take it to-go.

Where do you get your information? Probably your phone. As this technology gets more sophisticated, our marketing strategies must adapt. Here are some impressive stats to prove mobile is here to stay:

  • Over 80% of internet users own a smartphone. (Smart Insights)
  • Over 50% of internet users of media time is spent on mobile devices. (Smart Insights)
  • Mobile conversion rates are up 64% compared to desktop conversion rates. (CMS Report)

Given this customer behavior, Google updated its algorithm in April 2015 to ensure the most relevant content shows up in searches. Over the year, marketers have increased their focus on creating mobile-friendly websites and complementary marketing strategies. Simply because consumers are demanding a content experience that matches their lifestyle.

Obey the 24-hour rule.

I was late to the Snapchat train. I was early to Instagram Stories. I remember testing Instagram Stories and thinking, "So, like, this is Snapchat Lite." Despite these similarities, Snapchat and Instagram Stories changed the game. These networks defined disappearing content. They made it possible for brands to showcase another side of themselves, give audiences a behind-the-scenes look and invite them to be a part of the company as more than simply a customer. This ephemeral content allowed brands to be real, honest, real-time and not overly produced. The result: killer engagement and fantastic relationships.

It's all about that data.

I'm excited that this was a big trend this year. I still get people who think that my job is to "Facebook" or pin fun recipes. And while that IS part of my business, every post, pin, tweet, 'gram is tied to a goal and is evaluated by a set of strategic metrics. That means every recipe I pin or every Instagram post I develop drives brand awareness, traffic, lead generation and ultimately sales. I've seen a lot of emphasis this year on developing formulas, processes and even technologies to help define how social media helps companies make money.

What's happening in 2017?

In the coming year, companies will spend more on digital advertising, targeted email marketing, and better social experiences. Here are some trends I think might shape social media and content marketing in 2017.

  • More video. Facebook will continue to focus on video as part of its marketing and development, and I suspect this might have an effect on algorithms and priority content. So let's make sure that video is an even more critical component of our strategies. Bonus points if your video is optimized for mobile.
  • Dark social exploration. This isn't some weird, sinister trend. This is simply users sharing messages through private apps (text message, email, etc.). The referral traffic from dark social is lumped in with the rest of "direct traffic," and there's no way for marketers to tell where the referrals are truly coming from. This matters because 70% of website referrals come from dark social. And without a clear way to track these, it's hard to develop content that consumers really want.
  • More ROI. Businesses want to know how social media or even content marketing contributes to a positive return on investment. This has been a growing trend over the past few years, and I think it's only going to grow in importance as content marketing and social media marketing continue to earn a seat at the decision-making table.
  • Virtual reality. If the hubbub over Snapchat Spectacles taught us anything, it's that people want experience. Just this year, Facebook released 360 for Facebook Live, Pokemon Go became a sensation, and Snapchat released its Spectacles. All these were highly anticipated and used, and I think we are only going to see more of this next year.
  • Chatbots. This is not about the annoying accounts that leave "Best one so far!" comments on your Instagram content. Chatbots are really handy tools to help automate certain aspects of your company's customer service. Best example this year: Facebook. Be aware that this doesn't replace real, human engagement.

What I think is going to define marketing strategies in 2017: it's all about the customer. From website design to social media content to follow up sales emails, everything is about the customer experience. Build your story around your customer, and you'll be winning in 2017.