Social media is an incredible space to be in. Its use in the UK has tripled since 2007. It has integrated into all aspects of our lives, both personal and professional. For many people social media essentially is the internet.
With so much attention there, its value as a marketing channel is massive. Because of its rise, the marketing industry has changed dramatically over the last few years - more in the last five than in the previous fifty. Keeping on top of its constant changes as a business or marketer is difficult, but vital to make sure you don't get left behind.
Now that 2015 is over, it's past time to look at the year ahead. Here's our take on some of the trends you need to be aware of in 2016 if you're going to set yourself up for success.
1. Facebook continues to swallow the internet whole
When it comes to Facebook, the power it has as a company comes from the data it holds on its users. The more time users spend on Facebook, the more data they provide it. The more data they provide, the more value Facebook holds for businesses as an advertising platform. The more value it holds means the more money they spend, which means more money for Facebook.
Because of this, Facebook is hell-bent on keeping its users on Facebook for as long as possible every day - more time on platform means more data, more value and more money. And it's doing this by replicating everything else on the internet and simply dropping it on Facebook, so that you never need to leave Facebook. EVER.
Don't believe me? First it took on YouTube head first and succeeded, with Facebook video now a huge part of the platform. It took on eBay by allowing users to sell second-hand goods online. It re-booted its Notes feature in a bid to take on Medium and other written content providers.
Ambitious it may be, but Facebook's vast user base (1.5 billion people) means that more often than not these attempts succeed. Facebook's already in the process of opening up live video streaming to take on the likes of Meerkat and Periscope, which will be rolled out more widely this year. And expect more attempts by Facebook to develop more of these copycat features in 2016.
Facebook gets a lot of hate, but if you're a business or marketer, it still holds massive value as a platform. As scary as that may be, it means the targeting options available will continue to outstrip any other advertising out there, digital or otherwise. You just have to be willing to pay.
2. Snapchat no longer considered an upstart
As of May 2014, Snapchat users were posting 700 million photos and videos per day. A year and a half later, that figure stands at 6 billion, nearly 10 times that amount.
Where there is attention there is marketing potential and Snapchat has A LOT of attention. Its safe to say that as of 2016 Snapchat is no longer an upstart but one of the biggest and most fascinating social media platforms out there.
There's still a lot of confusion among smaller brands as to how exactly to use Snapchat to engage their customers. Because of its younger user demographics, big brands marketing to 'millenials' are queueing up to advertise on it, with Snapchat obliging through its Discoveries and Lenses features. However, so far there hasn't been much direct functionality offered to small businesses. But at the rate Snapchat is iterating (with major changes happening to the platform on a monthly basis) and the huge pressure the company is under to monetise, don't be surprised to see more business-friendly advertising features 2016. It's going to be another very interesting year to see what happens with Snapchat.
3. Video is crowned king
A few months ago, Facebook's Head of Ad Product, said publicly that “a year or two from now, we think Facebook will be mostly video.” Its algorithms already prioritise videos, which now make up to 30% of our News Feeds.
Live video streaming on apps like Periscope, Meerkat and Blab are continuing to grow in popularity. And obviously as mentioned above, Facebook is rolling out live streaming on platform this year. By 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic. It's been a long time coming, but in 2016 video will finally be crowned king.
Small businesses need to take note and seriously start working out how they're going to build this into their digital strategies. Don't be scared of not having the skills or resources to execute - when it comes to video authenticity is as important as a big budget and Hollywood production values.
For example, just before Christmas our co-founders Nikki and Kathryn filmed a video message off a simple laptop webcam for all of our students and graduates wishing them a Merry Christmas. Lo-fi? Certainly. But the well-wishes they received in return speaks volumes as to the impact it made.
Video offers a way of connecting with your audience in a deep way that writing doesn't match. And because of that, video should be a priority for you in 2016.
4. But it doesn't kill the written word
With all the hype around it, it seems like video is set to crush written content in 2016. However, despite the rise of video, original written content is still an incredibly important part of the marketing mix, particularly when it comes to B2B.
Unlike with video, however, authenticity is not enough. Quality is key. The internet is drowning in written content and quality will become an ever increasingly important way of distinguishing yourself.
5. Email marketing and social will further integrate
Email marketing is still core to many businesses' marketing (including ours!). Many experts have proclaimed its death over the last ten years and although open rates may have declined, email is still a vital marketing channel in 2016. It's pretty obvious why - instead of relying on algorithms to decide who sees what, email gives businesses control over how they get in front of their customers and when.
This year Facebook rolled out Lead Ads, allowing businesses to start collecting emails directly from Facebook (another step in their plans to stop anyone potentially leaving Facebook ever). In 2016, social networks will continue making it easier to integrate email so they can keep users from having to leave their platforms. Savvy businesses will take note and use this to their advantage by further combining their social and email marketing capabilities.