You might not have given it much thought before, sensibly concentrating on the here and now, but it might be useful to try and second-guess where social media is headed, if only to future-proof your social media strategy somewhat.
Social media strategies tend to be fairly flexible, of course, so don’t need to be too long-sighted. However, if Mark Zuckerberg called you up and said “I just wanted to let you know what the future holds for social media”, you’re not going to reply with “You’re alright, cheers”, are you?
While Jayson DeMers is not the head of the world’s biggest social network, he is known for being something of a prophet when it comes to social media marketing.
Writing for Marketing Land, he has come up with six predictions for the future of social media marketing, which he says “is just now stepping into its teen or adolescent years and is about to find itself for the first time”.
1. One platform to reign supreme
When it comes to the world of online search, there’s only one search engine that we think of: Google. I mean, you don’t say “I’m just going to Yahoo that”, do you? You say “Let me Google it”.
DeMers speculates that Facebook could slowly begin to monopolise the social media world in a similar way. The signs are there already: Facebook has purchased Instagram, while Twitter struggles to attract new users.
While it would take years for it to come to fruition, should we prepare ourselves for a single all-in-one social experience?
2. Pay to play
Some might argue that you already need to pay for visibility, but at the moment, there are still ways and means of getting in front of eyes without having to pay Facebook and the like.
However, we wouldn’t put it past the social networks making it even harder for brands to achieve some decent organic visibility. All it takes is further tweaks to the news feed algorithms in the name of ‘making it better for the average user’…
3. Users given more control
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have recognised that their users are demanding the ability to customise and personalise their news feeds, handing them more control over what appears in front of their eyes.
A good example of this is Twitter introducing a new timeline feature that “helps you catch up on the best Tweets from people you follow”. However, to an extent, users can turn this feature on and off in their settings.
In the not-too-distant future, we could see users given “the power to create their own systems of content provision”, DeMers suggests.
4. Niche segmentation
Instead of one social network conquering all, we might instead be on course for niche platforms coming into their own. Snapchat, for example, serves its users in a way that Facebook, Twitter & Instagram can’t, with the disappearing or ephemeral nature of “snaps” acting as the difference maker.
In terms of social media marketing, it makes sense to hope that these niche specialists increase in desirability. It would give brands a better chance of finding the platform that was the best fit for their industry, knowing that there is a large enough user base for it to be worth their time.
5. Virtual reality to revolutionise social media
It seems it’s only a matter of time before we’re hanging out with our friends and family in an artificial environment, thanks to virtual reality (VR). In fact, the possibility of chatting and interacting with friends in virtual locations is already possible, in the shape of “sociable network” vTime.
What this would mean for brands we’re not too sure, but at the very least, we can see it working a bit like YouTube, whereby you have to sit through an advert every once in a while, before you can see what you want to see.
Before VR social networks enter the mainstream, though, the success of Pokemon Go suggests that augmented reality “will be able to take social media to a place with even more immediacy and real-world benefits”, according to DeMers.
6. Networks becoming one-stop shops
In an ideal world for social networks, users wouldn’t have to ever leave confines of social media – it would be a one-stop shop for everything you’d want on the internet.
Facebook has made some valiant attempts so far to keep users from switching between apps/tabs, integrating features like Instant Articles, digital assistants, and even search into its app. In time, will they be able to stop users from switching to, say, YouTube?
How do you see social media changing over the next ten years? Will any of your predictions influence your social media strategy in the near future?