Social Media Marketing Trends 2016: Insights & Predictions From 40 Experts

The main ingre­di­ent of a strong and per­sua­sive social strat­e­gy seems to be the usu­al: qual­i­ty con­tent. The chal­lenge is to find the right for­mat to deliv­er it. In 2015 video con­tent dom­i­nat­ed the social media land­scape, thanks to the launch of live stream­ing...

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The main ingre­di­ent of a strong and per­sua­sive social strat­e­gy seems to be the usu­al: qual­i­ty con­tent. The chal­lenge is to find the right for­mat to deliv­er it.

In 2015 video con­tent dom­i­nat­ed the social media land­scape, thanks to the launch of live stream­ing tools such as Periscope and Face­book’s Livestream. Many indus­try lead­ers believe that video will become one of the most pow­er­ful com­mu­ni­ca­tion medi­um in 2016.

Per­son­al­iza­tion will also be key. In a world where pri­va­cy is becom­ing one of the biggest con­cerns for online con­sumers, mar­keters’ biggest chal­lenge is to track con­sumers’ behav­ior and pref­er­ences, with­out being too intru­sive, in order to deliv­er per­son­al­ized mes­sages. Social media plat­forms pro­vide fer­tile ground for col­lect­ing this data and tar­get­ed social media adver­tis­ing will become the tool to reach your audi­ences.

Influ­encer mar­ket­ing and user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent will also be two suc­cess­ful ways to dri­ve engage­ment and be more impact­ful on social media.

Here’s the full list of social media experts who con­tributed to this post:

Ekaterina Walter, Marketing Innovator & Bestselling Author

Ekaterina WalterTo earn the trust and loy­al­ty of the edu­cat­ed, social­ly-savvy, glob­al, con­nect­ed con­sumer it isn’t enough to dis­tract them with short-term daz­zle cam­paigns any more. To spark cus­tomer advo­ca­cy long-term, com­pa­nies need to show that they care, by repeat­ed­ly enabling and man­ag­ing mean­ing­ful expe­ri­ences at every touch­point.

In the con­sumer-empow­ered world rela­tion­ship cap­i­tal is the only busi­ness met­ric that stands the test of time. Rela­tion­ships dri­ve bot­tom-line.

To build trust, brands need access to a com­plete view of their cus­tomer, on any chan­nel (online and offline), by any depart­ment, in any geog­ra­phy, across any prod­uct line. So that no mat­ter where the cus­tomer comes from, who (s)he reach­es out to, and what the issue is, the com­pa­ny can pro­vide the best expe­ri­ence pos­si­ble.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this won’t hap­pen overnight. It’ll take some com­pa­nies years to accom­plish this lev­el of cus­tomer-cen­tric­i­ty, but we are already see­ing a shift in that direc­tion by some of the most dig­i­tal­ly-savvy brands.

Mel Carson, Digital Marketing Consultant & Strategist

Mel CarsonI’m con­vinced the brands will start cap­i­tal­iz­ing on peo­ple pow­er – name­ly many will final­ly under­stand that per­son­al brand­ing and employ­ee advo­ca­cy needs to be encour­aged with­in their com­pa­nies to have a pos­i­tive effect exter­nal­ly on their rep­u­ta­tion and ampli­fi­ca­tion efforts.

Influ­encer mar­ket­ing is all the rage right now, and quite right­ly so, but com­pa­nies who don’t build influ­encers with­in their own com­pa­ny are miss­ing a mas­sive trick to help their mes­sage be more dis­cov­er­able, share­able and mem­o­rable.

Bas van den Beld, Search & Social Expert, Trainer & Speaker,
State of Digital

Social media used to be sim­ple: con­nect with peo­ple on social chan­nels and you are done. NotBas Van Den Beld any­more.

Social media is evolv­ing – espe­cial­ly the big­ger plat­forms. With an increas­ing amount of con­tent being pushed toward those plat­forms it will be more dif­fi­cult for brands and busi­ness­es to get atten­tion on the plat­forms.

This means there has to be a dif­fer­ent approach. Adver­tis­ing on social plat­forms, espe­cial­ly Face­book and Twit­ter, will become more impor­tant. Next to that brands will need to make sure they under­stand how their audi­ence behaves on the social plat­forms and what it is they want to hear. Based on that they can cre­ate con­tent that actu­al­ly fits the audi­ence, which will get more trac­tion.

One thing is sure: social media the way it was, no longer is.

Geoffrey Colon, Group Product Marketing Manager, Emerging Media,

Geoffrey ColonThree trends to watch:

1. Video Will Make Up A Major­i­ty of Social Net­works

By 2017, 85 per­cent of the Inter­net will be video. This changes how we pro­duce, ampli­fy and dis­trib­ute con­tent.

While most video is unleashed and then mea­sured in terms of reach, impres­sions and views, the new met­ric is how much of that video was viewed? Did you invert your call to action in the first three sec­onds instead of the out­ro and what ulti­mate sto­ry­telling and sto­ry mak­ing (response from the tar­get­ed indi­vid­u­als) do you allow the cus­tomer to par­tic­i­pate in with­in our remix econ­o­my?

Remem­ber, every­one is media now armed with apps and a mobile phone. Even B2B brands, slow to adopt these prac­tices, can gain head­way more here than using tired and tra­di­tion­al meth­ods. Ulti­mate­ly, video that used to be uploaded to YouTube will need to be uploaded to every por­tal as media con­tin­ues to frag­ment.

2. Social is Part of the Entire Mar­ket­ing Fun­nel

It always has been but most man­age­ment has per­ceived it strict­ly for aware­ness. How­ev­er, it also is in the low­er parts of the fun­nel and can help with inter­est, deci­sion, and action.

This means mar­keters must be more holis­tic and use social, search, email, non-dig­i­tal, events, and thought lead­er­ship inter­change­ably to reach and stay dialed in with cus­tomers in an ongo­ing cus­tomer rela­tion­ship mod­el. There are no lin­ear paths to trans­ac­tion or deci­sion any­more.

Our minds oper­ate much like the dig­i­tal web infra­struc­ture where we don’t go from step 1 to step 4 but may make thou­sands of con­nec­tions over a long peri­od of time until we make a deter­mi­na­tion. The best social mar­keters and dig­i­tal mar­keters under­stand this and will use human behav­ior more than sole­ly ana­lyt­ics in their plan­ning.

3. Moods

Spo­ti­fy has used it to help peo­ple dis­cov­er music. Ulti­mate­ly brands will begin using it across social to attract cus­tomers based on their per­ceived mood in the mar­ket­place. This is the begin­ning of a huge future trend to watch that will take place first with­in social media.

Miranda Miller, Founder and Chief Content Strategist,

Miranda MillerVisu­al and video con­tent are going to be key to suc­cess­ful social con­tent strate­gies in 2016.

Under­stand­ing the ways peo­ple learn – the way they take in and retain infor­ma­tion – is tremen­dous­ly impor­tant in online mar­ket­ing. Social has become incred­i­bly noisy and it’s real­ly not enough to just show up any­more.

The organ­ic reach on Face­book is prac­ti­cal­ly noth­ing, but even if you’re pay­ing for ads and boost­ed posts to pro­mote your con­tent, they won’t do well (thanks to the ad rank­ing algo­rithm) if the pro­mot­ed con­tent isn’t engag­ing. Worse yet, you’ll pay more for what­ev­er impres­sions and clicks your crap­py con­tent earns.

Charts, min­i­graph­ics, pho­tos, illus­tra­tions and oth­er types of visu­als give you a chance to trig­ger an emo­tion­al reac­tion. You can inject humor, or high­light impor­tant points – images are incred­i­bly ver­sa­tile and they’re most use­ful not in place of text, but when used to com­ple­ment tight, com­pelling copy.

Video has already explod­ed – it seems like every­one and their broth­er wants to become a YouTube star. The pro­lif­er­a­tion of smart­phones with decent cam­eras has reduced bar­ri­ers for entry into video pro­duc­tion. What we’ll see in 2016 is the same shift back to qual­i­ty over quan­ti­ty that we’ve seen in writ­ten con­tent over the last 3 years or so.

Once upon a time, it was enough just to pro­duce a ton of arti­cles, blog posts, etc., and to slap them up around the web wher­ev­er you could. You just had to pro­duce con­tent and, if you were clever with your key­words and links, it would rank.

But as more pub­lish­ers pro­duced con­tent, it became hyper­com­pet­i­tive. We’ll see this in video this year – con­sumers will expect and demand high­er qual­i­ty from brands and even small busi­ness­es using video for ads and social media mar­ket­ing.

If you’re appear­ing in their Face­book feed in auto­play video ads, you had bet­ter bring your “A” game with an engag­ing, well-pro­duced video. Light­ing, sound, and video qual­i­ty will all become more impor­tant as audi­ence stan­dards rise. Mobile users won’t stand for bad pic­ture, slow load­ing, or data-destroy­ing con­tent expe­ri­ences.

Kelsey Jones, Executive Editor, Search Engine Journal

Kelsey JonesI think paid social is pret­ty much a must-do at this point, espe­cial­ly for Face­book. You won’t get much vis­i­bil­i­ty oth­er­wise.

I think exper­i­ment­ing with what paid social cam­paigns work best for your spe­cif­ic prod­ucts and ser­vices will make all the dif­fer­ence. If you haven’t con­sid­ered Insta­gram and Pin­ter­est in your paid cam­paigns, and you do B2C or ecom­merce, I would strong­ly sug­gest check­ing it out.

Anoth­er thing that I believe will con­tin­ue to grow is live stream­ing. Plat­forms like Blab or Periscope are going to con­tin­ue to flour­ish and sin­gle-owned busi­ness­es or pro­fes­sion­als that are look­ing to set them­selves up as thought lead­ers in their indus­try can uti­lize these plat­forms as ear­ly adopters before every­one else jumps on the train.

Final­ly, exper­i­ment with native video. SEJ did a study that found that native video in Face­book gets more views and engage­ment than sim­ply post­ing a YouTube link. I would exper­i­ment with Face­book video, as well as oth­er video capa­bil­i­ties on Insta­gram, Snapchat, and Twit­ter (Vine) to see if some­thing sticks for your brand.

Kevan Lee, Content Crafter, Buffer

Kevan LeeInter­est­ing to think about: What’s the next iter­a­tion of visu­al con­tent?

We’ve seen pho­tos to GIFs to videos to Vines to live­casts. Will there be some­thing new in 2016? I’ve not seen it yet, though I’m keen to ful­ly explore any new visu­al tech­nol­o­gy that comes out in the new year.

You nev­er know what might take off — though chances are it might very well be some­thing visu­al!

Dennis Yu, Chief Technology Officer, BlitzMetrics

Dennis YuWe all say “social media mar­ket­ing”, but the field has expand­ed into many tan­gen­tial func­tions. For 2016, the pros are look­ing at Learn­ing Man­age­ment Sys­tems and Media Mix Mod­el­ing.

But what’s that got to do with social media?

Social media prac­ti­tion­ers like you and me are now increas­ing­ly account­able for our results. We’re going down-fun­nel from audi­ence and engage­ment into leads, sales, and con­ver­sions of var­i­ous types.

That means we are over­lap­ping with oth­er chan­nels to claim cred­it, whether last click, frac­tion­al, or inferred. And we must have enough con­tent for our major cus­tomer types to be per­son­al­ized enough, plus be author­i­ta­tive enough to dri­ve con­ver­sions along a sophis­ti­cat­ed fun­nel.

Advanced Social Ana­lyt­ics — Media Mix Mod­el­ing

Ana­lyt­ics usu­al­ly scares social media folks, but the smart ones have embraced Face­book’s direc­tion in hold­back audi­ences and tying to POS data (like via Dat­a­logix). The indirect/inferred approach means we can’t track a par­tic­u­lar user’s jour­ney from social touch to con­ver­sion, but we can mea­sure the increase over ran­dom­ized buck­ets – email lists split into test/control and geo­gra­phies ran­dom­ized.

I pre­dict that frac­tion­al attri­bu­tion meth­ods will start to die in 2016, since shar­ing per­cent­age cred­it for a con­ver­sion is an expen­sive shell game.

Advanced Con­tent Mar­ket­ing — Learn­ing Man­age­ment Sys­tems

If you’ve bought into con­tent mar­ket­ing and mar­ket­ing automa­tion, the next stop is a LMS. After all, your con­tent must be author­i­ta­tive to stand out from the noise – so you need a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, quiz, and struc­tured method of deliv­ery.

Email auto-respon­ders are not enough. Go from mere deliv­ery into inter­ac­tiv­i­ty, lev­els, badges, and what “gam­i­fi­ca­tion” has tried to deliv­er for years, but now has made pos­si­ble with social mar­keters that have struc­tured their con­tent into true edu­ca­tion­al sequences.

Look at Learn­Dash, Cours­era, Exceed, and a host of oth­ers. I’ve spend this year explor­ing the dif­fer­ent vari­eties and they’re now robust enough for us social media folks to play with.

Tania Yuki, Founder and CEO, Shareablee

Tania YukiThe three biggest social trends that brand mar­keters need to focus on in 2016 are live video, cross-plat­form mea­sure­ment and con­sis­ten­cy, and data-dri­ven cre­ative strate­gies.

Video has been a key dri­ver of social suc­cess in 2015, grow­ing 115 per­cent com­pared to 2014, and show­ing no signs of slow­ing down. Live video is now a major focus of social net­works, with Face­book recent­ly rolling out its live video fea­ture to users, com­pet­ing with Twit­ter’s Periscope, Meerkat, and Snapchat.

Cross-plat­form mea­sure­ment and con­sis­ten­cy are also cru­cial to brands’ social strate­gies in 2016. By under­stand­ing their cross-plat­form social activ­i­ty, brands can unpack audi­ence behav­iors on social, includ­ing psy­cho­graph­ics, demo­graph­ics, core val­ues, and the path to pur­chase.

Final­ly, brands must imple­ment a data-dri­ven cre­ative strat­e­gy in 2016. More cre­ative teams are look­ing at how they can com­bine deep audi­ence insights gleaned from social, with an under­stand­ing of what con­tent is acti­vat­ing and excit­ing spe­cif­ic audi­ences, to deliv­er the right mes­sage and results.

Kelly Wrather, Senior Manager, Content, Kenshoo

Kelly WratherSocial media is becom­ing more dri­ven by strik­ing visu­als and com­pelling mul­ti­me­dia, and most of this is hap­pen­ing on the go and in the moment. There is no bet­ter exam­ple of this than with video live stream­ing ser­vices like Periscope, Blab. Snapchat, and more.

Video will be the medi­um to watch – whether it’s brand­ed con­tent or ad for­mats — and social is the chan­nel to cre­ate and share these moments. The immer­sive can­vas video offers makes for a sen­so­ry expe­ri­ence for con­sumers, all in a social­ly engag­ing envi­ron­ment.

Andrew Smith, Founder and Managing Director, Escherman

Andrew SmithFor social media in 2016, there are a num­ber of things to keep an eye out for.

What will hap­pen to Twit­ter? This will be a make or break year for the plat­form. Will Google final­ly accept that social media isn’t its nat­ur­al forte and just decide to acquire Twit­ter?

The dom­i­nance of mobile in social will clear­ly con­tin­ue. The smart­phone soci­ety is here to stay. Giv­en that the vast major­i­ty of social media activ­i­ty now hap­pens on a phone in an app, get­ting con­tent into user feeds and “stop­ping the swipe” becomes a para­mount neces­si­ty.

As the vol­ume of con­tent con­tin­ues to rise, the abil­i­ty to cut through the noise becomes ever more dif­fi­cult. There seems lit­tle doubt that brands will have to pay ever more atten­tion to upping the qual­i­ty of their con­tent, as well as using data to inform the tim­ing, dis­tri­b­u­tion and ampli­fi­ca­tion of said con­tent.

Final­ly, in spite of the extra effort and work­load involved, social media may well be a ben­e­fI­cia­ry of the con­tin­ued issues sur­round­ing the effi­ca­cy of dig­i­tal dis­play adver­tis­ing.

Tessa Wegert, Communications Director, Enlighten

Tessa WegertThere are a few social mar­ket­ing trends to watch as we move into 2016, and fore­most among them is influ­encer mar­ket­ing. This tac­tic has proven to be incred­i­bly effec­tive at engag­ing mil­len­ni­als and jad­ed con­sumers. It’s the new celebri­ty endorse­ment, but it isn’t with­out its risks.

Brands that can part­ner with a social influ­encer in an authen­tic way, either by spon­sor­ing a YouTube chan­nel or enlist­ing an influ­encer to inte­grate a prod­uct into their feed, stand to gain access to a sig­nif­i­cant audi­ence of loy­al view­ers. Stud­ies have shown it can increase con­ver­sions by a fac­tor of 10.

If the mes­sage comes off as forced or con­trived, though, the back­lash can be bru­tal. The key is to be will­ing to cede con­trol and let the influ­encer shape the mes­sage. Don’t force a con­nec­tion that isn’t there.

On the visu­al mar­ket­ing front, we can’t over­look the explo­sive pop­u­lar­i­ty of unbox­ing videos. This trend has real­ly grown dur­ing the 2015 hol­i­day sea­son, in part because unbox­ing videos are so easy to pro­duce and thus acces­si­ble to busi­ness­es of all kinds.

With YouTube search­es for the term “unbox­ing” now in the tens of mil­lions, these low-tech videos offer an oppor­tu­ni­ty to get your prod­uct in front of scores of cross-chan­nel view­ers. They’re the ide­al way to intro­duce a new prod­uct or gen­er­ate fresh inter­est in an old one. Cou­ple an unbox­ing video with a YouTube influ­encer, and you’ve got an instant social media mar­ket­ing win.

Sean Murricane, Senior Social Media Manager, Twentysix

Sean MurricaneNext year presents some real­ly inter­est­ing chal­lenges for one already-big net­work, Twit­ter, and one whose pop­u­lar­i­ty has explod­ed last year, Snapchat.

Twitter’s tur­bu­lent 2015 has end­ed in increas­ing­ly des­per­ate behav­ior, includ­ing the bizarre test of non-chrono­log­i­cal time­lines. This sug­gests they are just not sure what to do next to keep the plat­form rel­e­vant, and beat the ongo­ing prob­lems with trolling and nas­ti­ness which have plagued them through their recent his­to­ry.

A non-chrono­log­i­cal time­line would no doubt result in paid-place­ments becom­ing more pow­er­ful. Should this be the case, they may be sac­ri­fic­ing their USP for ad place­ments.

Snapchat’s grow­ing into itself – 2016 will be the year they have to main­tain their authen­tic­i­ty and integri­ty against an increas­ing need to mon­e­tize their plat­form and return some of the mas­sive invest­ment against their no doubt spi­ral­ing run­ning costs. Recent exper­i­ments with sell­ing cus­tomized lens­es to the users appear to have fall­en flat, how­ev­er wider spon­sored oppor­tu­ni­ties for brands will no doubt be forth­com­ing.

Con­tent cre­ators are start­ing to be reward­ed, with “ver­i­fied” badges start­ing to appear next to high pro­file plat­form users. This sig­ni­fies Snapchat’s increas­ing com­mit­ment to sup­port their biggest stars, and I wouldn’t be sur­prised if those key con­trib­u­tors were to get access to more in the way of func­tion­al­i­ty and dia­logue with the peo­ple at Snapchat.

The big risk for Snapchat is cre­at­ing a two-tier plat­form and cut­ting off the kind of instant access to celebri­ties which both twit­ter and snapchat are famous for.

Stephanie Lichtenstein, President, Micro Media Marketing

Stephanie Lichtenstein RamosLive stream­ing launched in 2015 as a way for peo­ple to broad­cast their lives in real time. In 2016, live stream­ing will become the trend to watch for mar­keters look­ing to con­nect with their cus­tomers in a real and uncen­sored way.

I’ve worked with sev­er­al clients this year to pro­duce their live stream­ing events and have seen them con­nect with poten­tial con­sumers like nev­er before. Real time prod­uct demos can be con­duct­ed in a one to one man­ner that few oth­er online meth­ods have been pre­vi­ous­ly been able to cap­ture.

Shop­ping online does not give you that human inter­ac­tion where you can ask some­one ques­tions before mak­ing a pur­chase or decid­ing which item is the best for your needs. With Periscope we were able to con­nect with our audi­ence on a deep­er lev­el and received an increase in orders right away.

Even if you have a sim­ple prod­uct see­ing it on video and hav­ing some­one share why it is so great and be able to answer com­ments and ques­tions builds that brand con­nec­tion. Have a brick and mor­tar loca­tion? You can live stream spe­cial events to attract more peo­ple to come into your busi­ness.

Besides Periscope, Face­book just announced a Live Stream­ing ser­vice which is sure to grow in 2016. So don’t wait, get start­ed by con­nect­ing the Livestream app on Face­book it can be linked to any busi­ness page that you have. Be sure to down­load the Periscope app it’s sim­ple to set­up you can con­nect it with your Twit­ter login.

If you are going to plan a live Q&A or a spe­cial event be sure to pro­mote it with fol­low­ers across your social media plat­forms so that you have a good atten­dance. You will find it refresh­ing and even fun to con­nect with peo­ple out­side of behind a key­board.

Lis­ten to what your cus­tomers have to say. Let them ask you ques­tions while you are live. It can make your 2016 pros­per­ous!

Travis Bernard, Social Media & Audience Development, TechCrunch

Travis Bernard2016 is going to be the year of vir­tu­al real­i­ty and 360 video on social media. We’ve already start­ed to see some hints of what to expect, includ­ing Face­book 360 video from Stan­ford foot­ball, new immer­sive ads types from Wendy’s, and the launch of The New York Times’ VR app.

With the con­sumer ver­sion of Ocu­lus Rift expect­ed to ship in Q1 of 2016, you’re going to see an explo­sion of new con­tent forms and cre­ative sto­ry­telling. Every­one from pub­lish­ers to agen­cies and con­sumers will embrace it, and I expect Face­book to look much dif­fer­ent than it looked in 2015.

Remem­ber that $2 bil­lion bet Mark Zucker­berg made on Palmer Luck­ey and Ocu­lus in 2014? Get ready for the next phase of Face­book.

Samuel Scott, Director of Marketing & Communications,

Samuel ScottThe biggest “social media trend” in 2016 will be the grow­ing real­iza­tion that “social media mar­ket­ing” should not real­ly exist as a func­tion unto itself. There will be few­er “social media teams” and “social media jobs.”

Social media, like the tele­phone, is mere­ly a com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nel, and it will be increas­ing­ly under­stood as such. After all, there are no such things as “tele­phone teams” and “tele­phone jobs.”

Rather, peo­ple will use social media net­works in their exist­ing func­tions and roles. Pub­li­cists will use social media to do pub­lic­i­ty. Adver­tis­ers will use social media to do adver­tis­ing. Cus­tomer sup­port rep­re­sen­ta­tives will use social media to do cus­tomer sup­port. And so on.

After all, it’s a lot eas­i­er to teach a pub­li­cist how to use the tools of Face­book and Twit­ter than to teach some­one who knows Face­book and Twit­ter how to exe­cute an effec­tive pub­lic­i­ty cam­paign. If all a per­son knows is “social media,” then he or she will need to learn some­thing else in 2016.

Ross Simmonds, Strategist & Entrepreneur

Ross SimmondsThe biggest trend in social media is going to be the cre­ation of more audio relat­ed con­tent.

We’re already see­ing the tides turn with more brands launch­ing their own pod­casts and in 2016, it’s going to con­tin­ue. The pod­cast is the new blog.

The cost to get start­ed is rel­a­tive­ly low and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate a pow­er­ful rela­tion­ship with your audi­ence is an intrigu­ing one for brands to cap­i­tal­ize on.

Christina Adams, Owner & Strategist, Antenna

Christina AdamsStream­ing video will come into its own. The cream will rise to the top as Periscope goes through its exper­i­men­tal phase. Tal­ent­ed sto­ry­tellers will help this medi­um find its voice, mak­ing it a must-have addi­tion to com­mu­ni­ca­tions kits for event orga­niz­ers and con­sumer brands.

The pow­er of influ­ence gen­er­at­ed from social net­works will com­bine with in-store bea­cons and oth­er real-time mar­ket­ing tac­tics to cre­ate per­son­al­ized con­sumer expe­ri­ences. The gap between mea­sur­ing social media against in-store sales will become much small­er as busi­ness­es inte­grate bea­cons with their social net­works. As real-time-mar­ket­ing becomes more acces­si­ble to small­er busi­ness­es, we’ll begin to see cre­ative ways to mar­ket across time and space.

The pen­du­lum will swing on mar­ket­ing bud­gets where more dol­lars will go to cre­at­ing online con­tent, cre­at­ing unique con­sumer expe­ri­ences, pay­ing for pro­mo­tion on social net­works than on media buys for space on TV, radio, and bill­boards. Tra­di­tion­al media will still be used, but with focus on brand aware­ness, rather than spe­cif­ic calls-to-action.

Kurt Uhlir CEO & Co-founder, Sideqik

Kurt UhlirCom­pa­nies Will Reimag­ine Their Brand­ing on Social

Recent research show that 92 per­cent of peo­ple trust strangers over brands and almost 50 per­cent of U.S. con­sumers are using ad-block tech­nolo­gies. It’s not just that the tools have changed; the entire game has changed.

Con­sumers no longer want to be “sold to” or told what to think about brands. Lead­ing brands are invest­ing in resources to reimag­ine how they tell the sto­ry and expe­ri­ence of their brand.

We’ve moved well past cute memes and inspi­ra­tional quotes. In 2016, we will see more brands shift­ing their social media strat­e­gy to focus on authen­tic­i­ty, build­ing trust, and more high qual­i­ty user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent.

The Influ­ence Econ­o­my Will Dom­i­nate Social

As con­sumers con­tin­ue to shift away from lega­cy media and demand a dif­fer­ent rela­tion­ship with brands, mar­keters must more deeply engage their brand ambas­sadors and influ­encers on all social chan­nels and encour­age them to be part of the brand’s sto­ry.

Con­sumers are spend­ing more time inter­act­ing with influ­encers on social, and word-of-mouth from long tail influ­encers are start­ing to dri­ve huge shifts in con­sumer spend­ing. The brands that embrace influ­encers cor­rect­ly will be able to com­bat the loss of organ­ic reach on social and will see sig­nif­i­cant increas­es their reach and engage­ment, with­out hav­ing to increase ad spend or head­count.

Haroon Ahmad, Director of Public Relations, JotForm

Haroon AhmadSocial media is always express­ing how impor­tant the now is. With the new year around the cor­ner, com­pa­nies need to be in the now.

When post­ing a pic­ture, don’t take a pic­ture and post it lat­er, post it now. With Twit­ter, tweet about what you’re doing now.

Insta­gram and Snapchat are already ahead of the game with being in the now updates. A new social media app that embraces the “being in the now” is Periscope, which allows live broad­cast­ing for indi­vid­u­als or com­pa­nies.

If “being in the now” takes flight, com­pa­nies will need to alter their social media post­ing. No more sched­ul­ing your posts.

Stephen Boidock, Director of Social Media, Drumroll

Stephen BoidockThe biggest trend for social in 2016 is going to be mon­e­ti­za­tion and how suc­cess­ful­ly chan­nels and brands can inte­grate com­merce oppor­tu­ni­ties into their expe­ri­ences.

For the last few years, brands have invest­ed time and mon­ey into cre­at­ing social pres­ences while chan­nels are see­ing a steady drop in organ­ic reach and impact. In order to avoid social plat­forms becom­ing a glo­ri­fied adver­tis­ing media plat­form, they’ll have to find ways for brands to con­vert fans into cus­tomers with­out ever leav­ing their pages.

Many chan­nels are cur­rent­ly test­ing these fea­tures, such as Pin­ter­est’s Buyable Pins and Insta­gram’s Shop Now func­tion­al­i­ty. The chan­nel that suc­cess­ful­ly mas­ters social ecom­merce first could see a sig­nif­i­cant increase in invest­ment from brands and oth­er mar­keters in 2016.

Jessica Riches, Founder, LMW Labs

Jessica RichesLive-stream­ing and in-the-moment updates will be the norm – more behind-the-scenes, nat­ur­al, and exclu­sive con­tent from the team rather than slick prod­uct imagery.

Rather than influ­encer part­ner­ships and paid-for blog con­tent, we’ll see influ­encer takeovers, with ‘report­ing’ live from events and even the office.

Because of this com­pa­nies will need their brand voice to real­ly stretch. Their cul­ture will be shown from all angles and they need to make sure it fits with what their con­sumers will buy into 24–7.

Christopher Martin, Digital Marketing Strategist, FlexMR

Christopher MartinOne of the more inter­est­ing trends that is expect­ed to devel­op through­out 2016 is the con­ver­gence of search and social media mar­ket­ing. The seeds of this change have been plant­ed in the recent months. Inte­gra­tion of tweets direct­ly into Google search results, com­bined with ten­ta­tive steps towards app con­tent index­ing her­ald a new age of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing.

The effect of these changes have yet to be seen, but it is fair to pre­dict that as search and social prac­tices become clos­er that there will be a shift in how mar­keters use social plat­forms. Social com­mu­ni­ca­tions will no longer be designed pure­ly for an audi­ence with brief atten­tion spans among a sea of mes­sages. Instead, they will serve two pur­pos­es: one more tra­di­tion­al, but also a role in improv­ing organ­ic search vis­i­bil­i­ty.

But it is for pub­lish­ers that these changes will be most dra­mat­ic. Through­out 2015 we have seen the steady rise of social pub­lish­ing, ini­tial­ly through LinkedIn Pulse, and more recent­ly through Face­book Instant Arti­cles. Host­ed on social media, make no mis­take – these are still long-form com­mu­ni­ca­tions that belong firm­ly in the realm of con­tent mar­ket­ing. But improved search vis­i­bil­i­ty, com­bined with social pro­mo­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties, will cement social pub­lish­ing as a viable option for brands and pub­lish­ers alike.

If 2015 has been the year of diver­gence and new social chan­nels, 2016 will be the year of con­ver­gence as search, social, and con­tent become more firm­ly con­nect­ed than ever before.

Sarah Hardwick, CEO, Zenzi Communications

Sarah HardwickCom­pa­nies focused on val­ues and authen­tic­i­ty will win on social. More than 50 per­cent of peo­ple say their trust in big busi­ness has declined over the past few years, accord­ing to a 2014 Har­ris Inter­ac­tive and Nielsen study.

Con­sumers are demand­ing greater trans­paren­cy all around from brands. We want to know about every­thing from the ingre­di­ents used in prod­ucts, to a company’s busi­ness ethics and impact on human rights, health and the envi­ron­ment, says The Cen­ter for Food Integri­ty.

As part of this grow­ing trend, we want to hear from the peo­ple – the exec­u­tives behind the brand – and not just their “com­pa­nies” on social. Research sug­gests 81 per­cent of exec­u­tives want their CEO to be social online and cus­tomers and employ­ees trust them more if they are.

Small­er, pas­sion­ate, more nim­ble brands so far have been first to get it, with emerg­ing star­tups in CPG like Enjoy Life Foods and Tessemae’s All Nat­ur­al, just two exam­ples. These small­er brands are gain­ing trac­tion, loy­al­ty and sales, sur­pass­ing engage­ment rates from CPG behe­moths, by mak­ing a point to lis­ten and tru­ly under­stand their cus­tomers.

As con­sumers demand greater trans­paren­cy and fil­ter out com­mu­ni­ca­tions that they deem irrel­e­vant, brands increas­ing­ly need to lis­ten more than they talk. Beyond cus­tomer age, demo­graph­ics, and prod­uct needs, brands need to take a step back and ask: what do our cus­tomers val­ue most? What moti­vates them to take action?

The most effec­tive social mar­ket­ing prac­tices in the New Year, will instinc­tive­ly tap into this mag­ic place: where the company’s and customer’s val­ues inter­sect.

Increas­ing­ly con­sumers will demand this more focused com­mu­ni­ca­tion on social, ver­sus ran­dom posts and canned respons­es. With dis­trust in big busi­ness, they will also expect com­mu­ni­ca­tions and direct feed­back from real peo­ple and exec­u­tives on social to offer greater trans­paren­cy into how brands oper­ate.

Rebeca Perren, Ph.D. Assistant Professor – Social Media Marketing, Cal State University San Marcos

Rebeca PerrenI expect that grow­ing con­cerns over pri­va­cy and track­ing of online behav­ior will lead to wide­spread adop­tion of “ephemer­al” social plat­forms and boom­ing of social com­merce.

Ephemer­al” Social Media Goes Main­stream

Con­sumers are becom­ing increas­ing­ly aware of marketer’s abil­i­ty to track their online behav­ior as doc­u­men­taries such as “Terms and Con­di­tions May Apply” gain pop­u­lar­i­ty. This year’s award win­ning inter­ac­tive doc­u­men­tary “Do not Track” and the Ash­ley Madi­son hack scan­dal have placed con­sumers of all ages on high alert and will push mass­es toward new ephemer­al social plat­forms where con­tent is only acces­si­ble live and/or dis­ap­pears after a brief inter­ac­tions.

We have already seen expo­nen­tial growth of social plat­forms like Snapchat and Per­si­cope with young mil­len­ni­als, but 2016 will see wide­spread adop­tion of these plat­forms for all ages. Self-destruc­t­ing mes­sages are not just for sex­ting (as a recent study shows); con­sumers want to share all kinds of con­tent with­out wor­ry­ing that it will come back to hunt them next time they apply for a job and take out a loan.

The Boom­ing Busi­ness of Social Com­merce

As web browsers like Mozil­la Fire­fox respond to con­sumer demand for more choice and con­trol over their online expe­ri­ences by offer­ing track­ing pro­tec­tions, the nat­ur­al con­se­quence for social plat­forms will be decreased adver­tis­ing rev­enue. So, where will social net­works turn for rev­enues? My guess is social com­merce.

The last five years have seen the rise of giants like Uber and Airbnb that con­nect “buy­ers” and “sell­ers” in real time. Social media plat­forms are unique­ly posi­tioned to lever­age their vast dis­trib­uted net­works of indi­vid­u­als to match and facil­i­tate social trans­ac­tions through their sites and apps.

Social buy but­tons are already show­ing up in net­works like Pin­ter­est, Twit­ter, Face­book, and YouTube. By this time next year I think the so-called “shar­ing econ­o­my” will be thriv­ing through social media net­works.

Neta Yoffe, PR & Communications Director, Digimind

Neta YoffeDeliv­er the Human Expe­ri­ence in Social Media

The more we con­nect on social media, the more cus­tomers expect a stronger emo­tion­al con­nec­tion with brands. Cus­tomer loy­al­ty is every­thing for brand mar­keters, so deliv­er­ing the human expe­ri­ence on social media will take a front seat in 2016.

The most inter­est­ing chal­lenge that mar­keters now face is not how to best tack­le spe­cif­ic social media plat­forms or how best to lever­age the tech­nolo­gies we have, but how best to be as human as pos­si­ble on the web. Over the past year, we have heard the impor­tance of EQ and how con­nect­ing to peo­ple pro­vides a more mean­ing­ful impact in all sit­u­a­tions.

In 2016, mar­keters will focus on adding EQ deliv­er­ables to their social media strate­gies by lis­ten­ing to their audi­ence and under­stand­ing what cus­tomers want. In order to estab­lish strong human expe­ri­ences on social media next year, mar­keters must spend time lis­ten­ing to build those mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions.

Data is Key

Accord­ing to Gartner’s CMO Spend Sur­vey: 2015 saw mar­ket­ing bud­gets increase 10 per­cent to 11 per­cent of rev­enue, and two-thirds of mar­keters expect their bud­gets will grow in 2016. Areas of focus are social mar­ket­ing, ana­lyt­ics, cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, and dig­i­tal com­merce.

Social media has trans­formed the way mar­keters con­nect with con­sumers and how brands pro­mote their prod­ucts or ser­vices. Besides only speak­ing direct­ly to audi­ences, mar­keters are lis­ten­ing to social media
con­ver­sa­tions and ana­lyz­ing the social data to make strate­gic deci­sions.

By ana­lyz­ing data, mar­keters can track trends, mon­i­tor con­ver­sa­tions, bench­mark against com­peti­tors, under­stand sen­ti­ment, and mea­sure tons of oth­er data to learn more about your audi­ence and mar­ket­ing to them based on their needs and wants.

Amir Zonozi, Chief Strategy Officer, Zoomph

Amir ZonoziInflu­encer mar­ket­ing will become a stan­dard method­ol­o­gy with­in mar­ket­ing cam­paigns with co-mar­ket­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties between influ­encers and brand across mul­ti­ple plat­forms. Brands will find influ­encers based off their audi­ences’ inter­ests and have more focus on track­ing these con­tex­tu­al influ­encers. Brands will look to ways of pulling social media data into CRM sys­tems to bet­ter under­stand how to engage with their audi­ence through rel­e­van­cy.

Real-time mar­ket­ing will be high­er in demand as brands max­i­mize trend­ing con­ver­sa­tions across plat­forms. Brands will build larg­er social media and dig­i­tal teams to keep up with the social lis­ten­ing demands. Mul­ti­me­dia sto­ry­telling, and live stream­ing will become more preva­lent in real-time mar­ket­ing cam­paigns across plat­forms. Plat­forms like Face­book, Twit­ter, Insta­gram, Periscope, and Snapchat will increas­ing­ly be focus on sur­fac­ing these real-time con­ver­sa­tions and sto­ries.

Paid social media adver­tis­ing and spend will increase for brands. Social media usage has steadi­ly increased across busi­ness­es and mar­keters are tak­ing advan­tage to ben­e­fits of social adver­tis­ing and tar­get­ing their audi­ence.

Bet­ter empha­sis will be put on social media lis­ten­ing and analy­sis. This data will be used to focus on tar­get­ing and per­sonas. Brands will invest into bet­ter tech­nol­o­gy and soft­ware to pro­vide deep­er audi­ence insights and report­ing. Mar­ket­ing teams will focus more demo­graph­ic, sen­ti­ment, and geolo­ca­tion data to con­nect bet­ter with their audi­ences.

User-gen­er­at­ed cam­paigns will become more preva­lent in social media mar­ket­ing cam­paigns. As the demands of con­tent rise for mar­keters, brands will scale by rely­ing on their audi­ence con­tent gen­er­a­tion to play a big­ger role into their mar­ket­ing cam­paigns, brands will lever­age influ­encers to help guide their larg­er audi­ences on the types of con­tent they want gen­er­at­ed and mon­i­tor this close­ly with social lis­ten­ing soft­ware.

Empow­ered dig­i­tal teams. Demands for sophis­ti­cat­ed mar­ket­ing automa­tion will increase as mar­keters will look to scale cus­tomized work flows on leads and social media con­ver­sa­tion, as dig­i­tal teams and roles with­in the team will expand com­mu­ni­ty man­agers, con­tent writ­ers, design­ers, video and media edi­tors, SEO and adver­tis­ers will all work togeth­er. Brands will cre­ate com­mand cen­ters to mon­i­tor all web and social traf­fic in real-time for smarter mar­ket­ing deci­sions.

Nicole Bandklayder, Founder, NB Talent Services

Nicole BandklayderSocial media has always been mea­sured by num­ber of fol­low­ers. In 2016, social media will be mea­sured more around the company’s ROI based on actu­al sales return, not so much num­bers of fol­low­ers.

We have seen first hand how social media and social com­merce work togeth­er to grow direct sales for our clients and they pre­fer to be able to mea­sure social media val­ue based on how Face­book (for exam­ple) brought 4,000 views to their web­site, and 100 of those peo­ple made a pur­chase, equat­ing to $2,000 in 30 days.

By cre­at­ing a strat­e­gy to max­i­mize the company’s social media posts and social adver­tis­ing efforts, we are able to mea­sure sales more accu­rate­ly and help our clients real­ly grow their brand.

These are the nec­es­sary pieces to this puz­zle:

  1. Active Social Media Pages with dai­ly con­tent.
  2. Adver­tis­ing Bud­get and Strat­e­gy.
  3. Work­ing Web­site with Prod­ucts or Ser­vice Offer­ing.
  4. Exter­nal Sell­ing Plat­forms. (e.g., Ama­zon, Open Sky, Etsy, Face­book Store)

Darryl Villacorta, Social Media Manager, Sprout Social

Darryl VillacortaLook­ing toward 2016, brands should pri­or­i­tize increased engage­ment with their audi­ences on social media to estab­lish and main­tain cus­tomer loy­al­ty. Here are three areas where pay­ing astute atten­tion is key:

  • Social plat­forms are rapid­ly evolv­ing. Face­book and Twit­ter are still rel­e­vant, but con­sumers are increas­ing­ly drawn to chan­nels like Insta­gram and Pin­ter­est, which serve appeal­ing visu­al con­tent and now offer “Buy It” and “Shop Now” but­tons to seam­less­ly enable sales through social. Brands must pay atten­tion to these new­er social plat­forms. In 2016, it will mat­ter less how long con­sumers have been using the chan­nel and more about con­tent qual­i­ty.
  • It’s impor­tant for mar­keters to gauge not just where to reach con­sumers, but under­stand what they want to see. User-gen­er­at­ed con­tent is a great way to mean­ing­ful­ly engage with con­sumers. Con­sumers tend to trust their friends and oth­er con­sumers more than they do brands, so one of the biggest trends we see hap­pen­ing for 2016 is that indi­vid­u­als will be doing most of the talk­ing, with brands curat­ing and dis­pers­ing that con­tent across their chan­nels.
  • Whether for bet­ter or worse, cus­tomers use social to engage with brands by ask­ing ques­tions or express­ing con­cerns. Many times, these queries fall on deaf ears. Accord­ing to the Q4 2015 Sprout Social Indexbrands respond­ed to few­er than 17 per­cent of social mes­sages this time last year. It’s increas­ing­ly nec­es­sary for brands to be respon­sive to cus­tomer con­cerns. Social com­mu­ni­ca­tion between brands and con­sumers will only increase mov­ing for­ward, so brands must pri­or­i­tize engage­ment in 2016.
  • You’ve prob­a­bly noticed the rise of emo­jis in every­thing from pro­mot­ed Tweets to email sub­ject lines. In 2016, brand­ed emo­jis will be on the upswing as busi­ness­es cap­i­tal­ize on this trend to bet­ter engage and visu­al­ly stay top of mind. Whether it’s curat­ing user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent, being respon­sive to con­cerns or strate­gi­cal­ly explor­ing new plat­forms, brands must con­stant­ly mon­i­tor the chang­ing social land­scape as cus­tomers express them­selves via social.

Dave Surgan, Director, Social Media, R/GA

Dave Surgan2015 saw all sorts of new ways to com­mu­ni­cate, cre­ate, and expe­ri­ence. Face­book Mes­sen­ger Apps, Snapchat Dis­cov­er, Periscope, Twit­ter Moments, all sorts of new ways to con­nect with friends, com­mu­ni­ties, and some­times brands.

2016 is going to be even messier and the cre­ative oppor­tu­ni­ties are going to be amaz­ing.

Brands and agen­cies are going to get smarter build­ing sys­tems and nar­ra­tives across all of these touch points. Cre­at­ing con­tent that pro­vides impact requires a deep­er under­stand­ing of behav­iors, cul­ture, and com­mu­ni­ties.

Cre­atives are going to get even bet­ter tran­si­tion­ing from video shoots of the past to video/photo/Livestream/GIF/Vine/Snap shoots. We’re cre­at­ing with­in squares, rec­tan­gles, loops and lin­ear for­mats. What a mess.

It’s going to get even messier and more beau­ti­ful in 2016. We love it.

Chris Bowler, GVP and Head of Social Media, Razorfish

Chris BowlerMes­sag­ing Apps are the new social net­works and their adop­tion will accel­er­ate in 2016. In the Unit­ed States, mes­sag­ing apps like What­sApp, WeChat and Kik will incor­po­rate more fea­tures than ever before and will start to mim­ic what we already see in Chi­na. Users will con­nect their finan­cial infor­ma­tion in these apps to allow for easy shop­ping and quick access to con­ve­nience appli­ca­tions like Uber and Fan­dan­go.

Social media will also dis­place con­tent mar­ket­ing as the pri­ma­ry means which brands com­mu­ni­cate with their cus­tomers. In 2016, social media con­tent will more ful­ly inte­grate into paid dig­i­tal adver­tis­ing, web­site and mobile expe­ri­ences and email. And the major­i­ty of con­tent mar­ket­ing will come from users, cus­tomers and media pub­lish­ers, rather than cus­tom pro­duced from the brand and their agen­cies.

Social CRM final­ly takes its place as the ide­al state of social mar­ket­ing mea­sure­ment. Long con­sid­ered too dif­fi­cult and expen­sive, mar­keters in 2016 will increas­ing­ly be armed with Face­book and Twit­ter data that can be matched back to cus­tomer data, allow­ing mea­sure­ment to shift from engage­ment-only met­rics to back-end brand lift and sales met­rics, attrib­uted back to social mar­ket­ing specif­i­cal­ly.

Carmen Sutter, Product Manager for Adobe Social

Carmen SutterVideo

We expect that more TV ad spend will migrate to social media, as we see video real­ly start to take off on these plat­forms. This is cou­pled with strong tar­get­ing options, avail­abil­i­ty of pub­lish­er tools and an estab­lished audi­ence. Brands will con­sid­er upload­ing their back cat­a­logs as well.

Face­book in par­tic­u­lar is poised to have a big year with video, as we saw them get seri­ous with the medi­um in 2015; in Novem­ber for instance, Face­book report­ed 8 bil­lion video views a day, buffered with fea­tures like auto­play and video pri­or­i­ti­za­tion in the feed.

YouTube still has an exten­sive audi­ence, so it’ll remain an impor­tant play­er as it looks to grow its base and expand its offer­ing.

In 2016, we expect to see brands embrac­ing 360 video as well for the first time and seek­ing out uses for it.

Social Com­merce

We saw big move­ments in 2015 for social com­merce and next year is the best shot of this becom­ing a real­i­ty.

  • Pin­ter­est has proven to be one of the more promis­ing plat­forms with buyable pins; they’ve been an obvi­ous play­er in this space, as their audi­ence was built around peo­ple look­ing to uncov­er cool things to own.
  • Insta­gram ads now also have direct response, while Face­book recent­ly launched (through the abil­i­ty for non­prof­its to receive dona­tions.
  • Twit­ter is con­tin­u­ing to exper­i­ment with dif­fer­ent pur­chas­ing capa­bil­i­ties via ‘Buy Now’.

By 2016, we can expect that con­sumers won’t think twice about buy­ing some­thing (or exchang­ing cur­ren­cy) from social net­works.

Live Stream­ing

Brands are still fig­ur­ing out the best means to inte­grate live stream­ing, and in 2016 we can expect scal­ing to be a chal­lenge. How­ev­er, there are key events next year such as the elec­tions that could put live-stream­ing in the front seat.

For the first time, live-streamed video can have a role in how can­di­dates con­vey their mes­sage and how vot­ers learn about them. The elec­tions could expose the via­bil­i­ty of the medi­um.

In look­ing at the ongo­ing bat­tle between Periscope and Meerkat, Twit­ter’s Periscope has def­i­nite­ly made leaps over Meerkat with recent Adobe ADI data show­ing more social men­tions. Face­book could play a notable role as well, as long as the live-stream is hap­pen­ing with­in the Face­book news feed.

Brandon Heagle, CEO, Flying Point Digital

Brandon HeagleSocial media con­tin­ues to reshape the way the world, and the brands that live in it, com­mu­ni­cate. In 2016 I pre­dict four trends to con­tin­ue.

1. Paid Media

I believe that 2016 will bring in a num­ber of excit­ing new fea­tures in addi­tion to the buy but­tons we’re famil­iar with today. Shop­ping carts and wish lists with­in social media plat­forms could be stan­dard forms of com­merce, dra­mat­i­cal­ly increas­ing the cur­rent aver­age order val­ue from a social plat­form from the cur­rent range of $50-$60.

2. Inter­ac­tive Con­tent

With the intro­duc­tion of Cin­e­mat­ic Pins and Insta­gram Posts that fea­ture music by touch­ing the screen, I expect that social media graph­ics will move beyond video and GIFs. Social posts will become inter­ac­tive por­tals that allow cus­tomer’s and fans to touch cer­tain ele­ments of the image (fea­tured in a post) to unlock spe­cif­ic infor­ma­tion. Tag­ging out­fits with brand and prod­uct names or where to buy will become more com­mon­place.

3. Visu­al Con­tent

From a con­tent stand­point, I think social will become even more visu­al. Hope­ful­ly, we’ll see a tran­si­tion from stock pho­tos and gener­ic images to more ani­ma­tions, GIFs, and videos. With con­sumers see­ing 86 spon­sored posts every month, it’s a nat­ur­al pro­gres­sion for social media mar­keters to work hard­er to stand out visu­al­ly.

4. Safe­ty & Secu­ri­ty

Due to the nature of the world that we live in, social net­works will place an empha­sis on safe­ty and secu­ri­ty in 2016. In the Paris attacks, Face­book acti­vat­ed a safe­ty check fea­ture that allowed Face­book users to con­vey to their net­works that they were safe. As the fre­quen­cy of mass-shoot­ings and ter­ror­ist activ­i­ty con­tin­ues to esca­late, I pre­dict the Big Three Net­works to devel­op per­ma­nent safe­ty check fea­tures that reside on user pro­files at all times.

Jenn Deering Davis, Editor-in-Chief of Union Metrics

Jenn Deering Davis2015 was def­i­nite­ly the year of social video. In 2016, we’ll see a cool­ing off peri­od for video.

Video will still be impor­tant to an over­all social con­tent strat­e­gy, but the video land grab we saw in 2015 will slow in 2016. It’s incred­i­bly time-con­sum­ing to cre­ate cus­tomized video for each indi­vid­ual social chan­nel, espe­cial­ly as chan­nels like Face­book and Tum­blr encour­age native­ly uploaded video sep­a­rate from the video con­tent brands are already post­ing on YouTube or Vimeo.

Relat­ed, stream­ing video won’t take off in a wider way in 2016. It’s sim­ply too dif­fi­cult for most mar­keters to find rel­e­vant con­tent to stream on a reg­u­lar basis. We’ll see some brands – celebri­ties, sports and enter­tain­ment fig­ures, and a few oth­ers – who do live stream­ing well, but it won’t go much fur­ther than that. Even with Face­book’s recent push in live video, this just won’t take off in 2016.

At social media and mar­ket­ing con­fer­ences this year, a lot of peo­ple were buzzing about vir­tu­al and aug­ment­ed real­i­ty. While there have been a num­bers of advances in both AR and VR in 2015, I don’t think 2016 will be the year of vir­tu­al real­i­ty. That’s going to take a lit­tle longer and will like­ly hap­pen in 2017 when the hard­ware is more afford­able and preva­lent and more brands can par­tic­i­pate.

But in 2016, we’ll start the tran­si­tion to more VR-ish con­tent. For exam­ple, Face­book has been rolling out 360-degree videos from brands like GoPro and Dis­ney. These videos are eas­i­ly con­sumed on reg­u­lar smart­phones and don’t require a spe­cial VR head­set or device, but start to mim­ic some of the func­tion­al­i­ty we see in vir­tu­al real­i­ty spaces. We’ll see more of this kind of tran­si­tion­al VR con­tent in 2016.

Justin Garrity, President, Postano

Justin GarritySto­ry­telling Takes Over Social

Whether it’s Snapchat’s Sto­ries or Twitter’s Moments, sto­ry­telling on social media will become even more impor­tant in 2016. Sin­gle pieces of con­tent don’t have the same impact as lin­ear sto­ries on social that are woven togeth­er with dif­fer­ent types of con­tent from mul­ti­ple con­trib­u­tors. Look for more social net­works to enable their users to tell sto­ries on their plat­form.

Live Wins

Live-stream­ing con­tent will take off as view­ers are more able to par­tic­i­pate in the broad­cast than net­work TV and give view­ers the imme­di­ate, unfil­tered access that a tweet or pho­to just can’t do. With mil­lions of peo­ple broad­cast­ing con­tent, dis­cov­ery of tru­ly great con­tent will be the chal­lenge for view­ers to solve.

The Hash­tag Becomes the Call-to-Action

Super Bowl 49 had 28 hash­tags in 56 com­mer­cials and this year near­ly every com­mer­cial will adopt the hash­tag as their call-to-action. Bet­ter hash­tag ana­lyt­ics and demo­graph­ics of par­tic­i­pants in hash­tag cam­paigns will give mar­keters greater insight into the per­for­mance of their ad cam­paigns.

Lifestyle Cam­paigns Thrive

Lifestyle cam­paigns will become even more pop­u­lar as brands get their fans to cre­ate user-gen­er­at­ed around what the prod­uct enables you to do. With great pho­tog­ra­phy on social media, brands can have their fans help them cre­ate emo­tion­al con­nec­tions between peo­ple and the expe­ri­ences that their prod­ucts enable.

High Qual­i­ty Pho­tos Will Live On

Gone are the days on social where brands didn’t think twice about the qual­i­ty or longevi­ty of their social pho­tos. In 2016 brands will invest just as much into the pro­duc­tion and process of cre­at­ing high-qual­i­ty social pho­tos as their ad cam­paigns for mag­a­zines and print.

Russell Zack, SVP, Products and Solutions, HelloWorld

Russell ZackAs if it the mar­ket hasn’t expand­ed enough already, we’ll see social media net­works and usage con­tin­ue to explode in 2016. Com­pe­ti­tion and trends will focus around three main themes:

1. Real Time Expe­ri­ences

The bat­tle with­in real time data is not only to show­case social media net­works’ abil­i­ties to curate and pro­mote a sense of “being there”, but it also has an extreme­ly high CPM.

My guess, in 2016, is that we’ll see SnapChat dive deep­er, allow­ing secret broad­casts that allow brands to offer and spon­sor these live events. Per­haps we’ll also see a Meerkat acqui­si­tion.

Social media net­works will also look to lever­age per­son­al­ized ad deliv­ery capa­bil­i­ties to mon­e­tize their pow­er­ful real time data aggre­ga­tion, part­ner­ing with com­pa­nies like TayKey or Dat­a­m­inr.

2. Com­merce

The race to be a key part of the com­merce land­scape will con­tin­ue to accel­er­ate with the social media net­works all attempt­ing to make it eas­i­er for con­sumers to pur­chase with­out ever leav­ing the social media chan­nel.

For exam­ple, we’ll see cred­it card com­pa­nies get­ting involved and offer 4X points for pur­chas­es made via social media chan­nels like Pin­ter­est and more and more easy pay­ment inte­gra­tions by the likes of Square, Pay­Pal, MasterCard/AMEX/Visa into social media net­works’ iden­ti­ty sys­tems.

3. Local­iza­tion

Local­iza­tion will become even more impor­tant, with spe­cif­ic tweets and posts sur­fac­ing as con­sumers browse while on the move. Net­works will inte­grate data from Foursquare, Google and Yelp mak­ing the instan­ta­neous and impul­sive the new nor­mal. Bea­cons will be used here to cre­ate a clos­er tie with the con­sumer.


With glob­al reach being so impor­tant for social net­works to com­pete with Face­book, we’ll see some tie ups this year either loose­ly allow­ing con­sumers to log into mul­ti­ple social media net­works at once, or merg­ers such as Line + Kik or Tumblr/WeChat etc.

What we won’t see? 3D as the next engag­ing method with con­sumers won’t be a big deal in 2016, as the tech­nol­o­gy is still too ear­ly. Some exper­i­ments will abound, espe­cial­ly ones from Facebook/Oculus and Sam­sung but main­stream adop­tion is still a ways off.

Chris Graham, VP of Product and Advertising, HYFN

Chris Graham2016 will be the year of agile adver­tis­ing.

As an increas­ing num­ber of social chan­nels entry the fray, and as their offer­ings grow, adver­tis­ers have an expo­nen­tial­ly greater num­ber of options than they did even a short time ago. The com­pa­nies that will win in the new social land­scape will be those that can effec­tive­ly dis­trib­ute their dol­lars across social net­works, busi­ness ini­tia­tives, and user seg­ments at all lev­els of the mar­ket­ing fun­nel, and in a rapid­ly chang­ing ecosys­tem the neces­si­ty for flu­id bud­gets dri­ven by adver­tis­ing per­for­mance is high­er than ever.

Know­ing which seg­ments you can reach on which chan­nels, how they respond, where they go next, and when they’ll con­vert isn’t reac­tionary infor­ma­tion any­more: it’s pre­dic­tive, and it should dri­ve every action.

Matthew Scott, SVP of Business Development & Strategy, Crowdtap

Matthew ScottThe biggest mar­ket­ing theme of 2016 will be “peo­ple.” In 2016, brands will adjust their mind­sets from spend­ing mon­ey on impres­sions to invest­ing in peo­ple.

We saw the begin­nings of this trend in 2015 with cam­paigns like REI’s anti-Black Fri­day play, #OptOut­side, and Whirlpool’s “Every Day, Care” effort, which put user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent at the heart of an inte­grat­ed pro­gram designed to cel­e­brate the small, mun­dane acts of care that take place in the home every­day.

These pro­grams prove that by invit­ing peo­ple into the mar­ket­ing process, brands can evolve beyond the world of impres­sions to cre­ate mean­ing­ful, long-last­ing con­nec­tions with their cus­tomers.

Tim Ahlenius Director of Experience Marketing,

Tim AhleniusA con­tin­ued increase in live-stream­ing. With social media plat­forms such as Snapchat, Periscope, Face­book, all hav­ing live-stream­ing fea­tures, its the new method of com­mu­ni­cat­ing vs writ­ten word and still pho­to.

Social shop­ping is an area that has been slow­ing grow­ing, and is now even more preva­lent. With the abil­i­ty to shop from Insta­gram pic­tures, Houzz tagged pho­tos, Pin­ter­est, it is now a con­ver­sion point for retail­ers to look to achieve addi­tion­al prod­uct orders in a brand new chan­nel.

Joseph Anthony, Founder and CEOHERO Group

Joseph AnthonyIf you are not there in the moment, some­one else will be. That’s been the take­away les­son across social media over the past few years.

We live in a “blink or you miss it” type of world, where the pub­lic’s atten­tion is laser focused but only for a brief moment before mov­ing on. Real time mar­ket­ing isn’t about luck, but about build­ing a team and strat­e­gy that are flex­i­ble to meet the needs of cus­tomers in a min­ute’s pace.

There is no pre­dict­ing memes like “Alex from Tar­get,” or Katy Per­ry’s left shark. These are moments in time that you either cap­i­tal­ize on imme­di­ate­ly, or lose them for­ev­er.

Again, what bet­ter mod­el for cre­at­ing con­tent in real time than tra­di­tion­al media com­pa­nies?

Valbona Gjini

Written by Valbona Gjini

EMEA Marketing Manager, Rocket Fuel Inc.

Valbona was formerly Digital Communications Manager at Linkdex, and now works for Rocket Fuel. She grew up in a beautiful but very rainy region in the north of Italy, so the London weather makes her feel right at home.

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