Social media changes all the time, and if you want to stay relevant and outpace your competition, you’ll need to keep up with those changes as they roll out. Jumping in months after a trend has already begun to settle will make you appear outdated, but if you can get onboard with a strategy just before it catches on, you’ll be able to ride the tide and succeed far better than your competition.
For most marketers, the problem isn’t in the execution phase. It’s all about the timing. It’s difficult (and nearly impossible) to determine what the next phases of technology hold for businesses and consumers, so many entrepreneurs avoid making a change until it’s already too late.
The next few years should be dynamic and exciting as user demand sparks even faster changes to social media platforms. If you want to stay ahead of your competition, keep watch for these potential new shifts in the social media market:
Today, almost all updates are written and made by people—even the ones that sound robotic were probably written and scheduled in advance by human creators. In the near future, publishers and social landscapes in general will rely on more algorithmically generated content. Artificial intelligence algorithms with the ability to create natural-sounding written articles already exist, and will only grow more powerful as the years progress, and Twitter is experimenting with an update called Moments, which would aggregate live user content into small packages based on unfolding events. This means individual content will be emphasized less as the years progress.
Facebook and Pinterest are just two examples of major social media companies introducing new “buy” functionality into their apps. With the click of a button, users can now buy products that they see in advertisements on their newsfeeds. In the next few years, this functionality will likely expand—both in terms of the number of products and contexts where users can buy and the number of platforms that support this functionality. Users may soon become reliant on social apps to make their purchases, and marketers will need to adapt to that new preference.
Social platforms seem to be evolving in a direction that favors in-the-moment updates over retrospective end-of-the-day updates. For example, Snapchat and Periscope thrive on live, immediate updates, and users have grown accustomed to this level of relatability. Images and videos that are even a few hours old don’t seem to carry the same level of power as ones that have been taken just seconds ago. As users and platforms continue to support this shift, eventually pre-scheduled posts will become less and less effective.
Mobile device use has been on the rise for years, and now wearable devices are starting to emerge on the scene. Users are getting used to having 24-7 access to the Internet and all their apps, and they’re starting to get used to the idea that the “digital” world is simply an extension of reality. Eventually, location-based marketing will offer even stronger, more immersive functionality, and local businesses will need to adopt it if they want to stay competitive.
One of Facebook’s latest strategies has been to embed and integrate tons of new apps and functions within its core application to dissuade more users from ever leaving the app. For example, it now boasts a streamlined Messenger platform compatible with many other chat platforms, and an in-page search engine that helps users find information to include in their status updates. This trend will likely grow, giving marketers more opportunities than ever before to communicate and engage with a social audience.
Visual content is all the rage today. Images and videos vastly and universally outperform their written counterparts, though their prohibitive cost of creation still keeps them from being the sole format of choice for content marketers. As platforms and users grow in the next few years, I imagine we’ll see a slow decline in the value and prevalence of written content. If you want to get ahead of the game, start getting used to creating your own visual content—and prepare for even stranger mediums to come.
Today, it seems like new social media platforms creep up daily. The big three—Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn—still dominate the majority of social users’ time, but newer, smaller platforms are constantly vying for that attention. Already, bigger social platforms are trying to boost their own capabilities and limit the competition by gobbling up these smaller competitors. For example, Twitter recently acquired Periscope, a live video streaming service. In the next few years, expect to see the majority of big-time social media channels preventing these smaller companies from ever emerging. That means entrepreneurs will need to invest more time in the major players.
Of course, it’s impossible to say with certainty exactly how and when these trends will manifest themselves. It’s on you to watch the news, keep up with the latest social media updates, and adjust your strategies accordingly. But if you can prepare for these shifts in the back of your mind, and start building in alternatives to your existing plans, you’ll be far ahead of the competition, and you’ll reap more followers and visitors as a result.