Social media is one of the most rapidly changing platforms out there - not just in terms of technology but in how users are choosing to engage.
So what’s in store for 2015 and beyond? What should we be monitoring? What should we read up on? How can we make sure we’re well-informed about what users want?
We met with Paul Armstrong of @Here_Forth to discuss some of the changes occurring within the social media field and the trends we should all be aware of.
‘Traditional’ social media is in decline
Interestingly, engagement numbers are falling and users are migrating away from the ‘big players’. Based on year on year Comscore data for Q3 of 2014 user interactions were down for Facebook: -0.6 million; Youtube: -2.3 million and LinkedIn: -1.2 million.
Most importantly for Facebook it is the teen market who appear to be leaving the platform completely, or accessing it less. This could potentially have a snowball effect; if one teen stops using Facebook, soon their friends could follow to new platforms to maintain their communication.
In Ofcom’s International Communications Market Report (2014), they found that the number of adults in the UK accessing social networks each week fell from 65% in September 2013 to just 56% in October 2014. This marks the biggest decline across the nine countries that were surveyed.
Public vs private
Privacy is one of the possible reasons that bigger social media sites are losing users. Concerns about the control we have over personal information, and how our data is handled may be contributing to the fall in user numbers in recent months.
In response to this migration away from these platforms there has been a raft of new platforms such as Path and Everyme that promote themselves as pro-privacy, the most notable of these has been Ello. Still in a beta, Ello establishes itself as different by telling us they won’t use adverts and won’t sell your data to advertisers or third parties.
It can also be argued that lack of control around privacy could be the reason why users are migrating to social media applications that don’t (seemingly) require much information to set-up.
For example, Snapchat doesn’t require much personal information to open an account. Users are in control of exactly what is posted (there’s no one else tagging photos of them for example). Instagram have soft launched their Snapchat competitor Bolt and there’s even privacy apps for co-workers.
The desire for online privacy is increasing, so much so that Facebook, who notoriously spent a lot of time and money trying to buy Snapchat, decided to invent their own private platform. That’s right, the king of the real name network now has a completely private spin off called Rooms.
A new combination of social media offering
As social media usage (and the business opportunities) have evolved, platforms have had to be quick to adapt; either by acquisition, introducing new revenue streams or, most recently, innovative partnerships that bring social media into every aspect of our lives.
For instance Uber, the app-based taxi ordering company, are a great example of this. Having teamed up with Google Maps and now City Mapper, they just recently announced their partnership with Spotify.
Another example is Snapchat, who managed to turn a few heads with their new venture Snapcash, where they teamed up with the money sending company Squarecash.
These organisations have identified what they perceive as user need for these services (plus, of course, additional ways to increase revenues). Time will of course tell in terms of success, but it does indicate a growing trend in users expectations around hardware, apps, social media platforms and services all being integrated.
So, engagement figures for the big players are falling, users are concerning themselves more and more with privacy, and social media is now becoming part of every aspect of our lives.
Whilst this doesn’t mean we have to go back to the drawing board with our social strategies (not just yet), it does mean that we have to stay on top of what’s happening. Things are changing fast and we need to be ready to adapt. Who knows, maybe in 12 months time we’ll be talking about 2016 trends using Snapchatted gifs created in Instagram.