Social Media: Now and in the Future

October 12, 2018

As diverse as America is, it’s rare to get agreement on anything, much less on what the future holds. However, one thing most agree on is social media—people love it! And, it’s growing. Big time. In fact, who can imagine a world, or a future, without it? It’s no surprise social media’s become a powerful marketing tool.

Social Media Growth: No End in Sight!

Although social media’s been around for just ten years, it’s become ubiquitous. Four of five people in the US, and close to 2.5 billion people globally, have some sort of social media profile. Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and others are now part of everyday life. The question is “where will social media be in the next ten years and how do we use it best?” A few of the trends emerging include the following.

According to a 2018 Forbes report on social media trends shaping 2018, the influx of even more platforms is driving a social media evolution with “no signs of stopping.” At the center of these advancements are developments in new mobile tech, from continuous iPhone upgrades to Google’s upgraded designs, pushing beyond its own “one billion-user” threshold.

Social Influencer Assistance Also on Rise

A related trend showing future growth is the increase in social media influencers. Finding the right tool or platform to use can often be challenging. To assist, people look for help when navigating the techno gauntlet, increasingly seeking recommendations from others they can relate to, i.e. like-minded individuals and/or “real people.”

As an example, nearly 40% of Twitter users report having made a purchase “as a direct result of a social media influencer’s tweet.” Using these, or similar resources, can prove valuable.

Mobile Winning the Platform War

In addition, with close to 2.53 billion people using smartphones worldwide, it’s also no surprise that people have turned to mobile tech as their “go-to” source for access previously limited to desktops. From online shopping and booking flights to getting news and/or sharing the latest greatest social media gossip. In fact, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat report nearly 80% of users accessing social media content via their phones.

Social Media’s Future

Social networks’ true strength lies in housing the relationship data that describe how we all relate to each other. Since these connections are what keep our attention, then the future of social media will be predicated on improving the overall experience of both the producers and consumers of content on the platform. This will be done by designing a better platform and providing better UX.

Design a Better Platform

On the design side, the trends point toward improving content production incentives, be it for a news publication or a small online business, as well as improving content consumption utility, through messenger or search platform functionalities.

  1. Social Media “Buy” Buttons Evolving: Beyond simply facilitating the purchase process, “buy” buttons will become better designed and act more as CTAs, landing pages, etc.
  2. Instant Content Taking Over: Instant articles, available to publishers via Facebook, is mobile publishing enabling news publishers to distribute articles via an app, allowing greater distribution. They help monetize content, load 10X faster, and represent a new wave of content that’s easily accessible, interactive, and user-friendly. Meeting needs of speed and accessibility, these articles are setting a new standard for the near future.
  3. Social Media for Play and Workplace: Until now, mostly banned from the workplace, social media is now an emerging tool, becoming work-friendly, making office settings more productive, allowing instant communication, and more worker collaboration.
  4. Platforms Becoming All-Inclusive: Expanding beyond what they were originally intended to do and streamlining efforts, social media is also evolving to allow you to connect with other people in new and innovative ways. From incorporating smarter, more effective search algorithms to advanced messaging, new solutions are arriving daily.
  5. Niche-Focused Platforms Grow Immensely: Social networks have broad appeal, but advanced targeting necessitates deep knowledge. Niche platforms, available in many forms, provide focused networks that will grow by creating interest-based communities. A big, broad platform like Facebook will have to figure out how to keep these siloed social networks reliant upon Facebook’s functionality potentially through a white labeling service that builds out “proprietary” websites for these niche-interest groups or expanded ad targeting that profit-shares ad revenues with the niche-interest platform.

Provide a Better UX

To provide better UX, social media platforms will need to make content consumption improvements while improving the decision-making process for producers of content. This means better content for users and better data for content creators.

  1. Wearable Tech More Accessible to All: Facilitating experiential marketing to engage consumers and share the experiences with broader audiences anywhere, anytime.
    The Death of Organic Reach: It’s becoming more and more difficult to reach users organically. A page with 500,000 likes could have an organic reach as low as 2%. People must be selective in making content relevant to have it seen. Paid marketing and boosting/sponsoring posts are becoming more prevalent with no alternative but trying different platforms.
  2. Live Streaming Video Becomes Standard: Usage of video has steadily risen in social media with recent acceleration of live streaming on today’s platforms. Options like Facebook Live, Periscope, and Instagram Stories, which facilitate this attractive, authentic delivery mechanism, are making it easy for anyone to stream online and showcase unique experiences/perspectives to the world.
  3. Dedicated Analytics Platforms: Solid analytics have always been in demand. Access, having these available, is improving. Twitter Dashboard provides one example of a deep analytical tool being readily incorporated into standard social media platforms. Multi-use tools are just beginning to gain momentum. Accessible, reliable, and a click away.
  4. Machine Learning Increasing Efficiency: Using software-gathered data to find patterns and make calculated predictions to increase efficiency is becoming more accessible via a variety of machine learning programs—streamlining work and increasing productivity. As this remains an emerging technology, stay tuned.

The growing power of social media, and its use as a marketing tool, will depend on whether or not any one platform continues providing an authentic, transparent, effective means of relating to its communities. By leveraging both engineered functionality and user emotionality, social media can continue being the medium that keeps us social.