The future of social media: 4 trends to watch in 2017

Predicting the future is a crap shoot at best. But the folks behind this years State of Social Media 2016 study have been at it for a while, and so far their track record has been pretty good, when viewed in hindsight. This year they surveyed 1,200 B2B and B2C businesses in the fall of 2016 for the results I’m going to note. You can get a full copy of the STATE OF SOCIAL MEDIA 2016 report here.

I’ve read through the full report and data, and have made a summary of my take on the four big overall trends that are worthy of attention going into 2017. And no, doing more cat videos is NOT the answer to social media success…


1. You’ve got to have visuals and video: While the use of visuals across all platforms has certainly increased in 2016, it’s likely to become even more so in 2017. And video in particular will be a way to stand out – at least until everyone actually gets on board! 83% of those surveyed said if there were no obstacles like time, resources or money, they would do more video, and 42% said they would do live video. Additionally 30% of marketers want to invest in Facebook video, 28% said they want to invest in Youtube, and 26% said they want to invest in Instagram. These are all visual platforms that focus on video. But it’s also evident that video has yet to hit mass adaptation. Only 27% of businesses have done live video, and of that it was primarily on Facebook Live (73%) followed by Periscope (44%) and Youtube (20%). Those surveyed also saw potential in Instagram and Snapchat, with 26% and 22% saying they intended to add the platform. What this all adds up to is a growth in visuals, and video in particular, with a gap still remaining in the field to stand out.

2. Facebook for business will dominate. Facebook is the dominant broadcast social network. I’ve long referred to Facebook as the NBC, or CTV of online. The reach is wide and deep across all demographic and geographic groups. It’s no surprise then that 93% of businesses saw Facebook as their lead platform. And 72% reported using Facebook the same or more then the previous year. When used for business, Facebook can be a pretty powerful tool. It goes way beyond having just a page and sharing good content, and possibly boosting a few posts. With Facebook ads and Power Editor businesses are strategically targeting audiences and lookalike audiences based on metrics like website visits and email databases and many more micro targeting profiles are available. Clearly the pay to play model has been accepted as organic reach has gone down. 91% of companies reported having invested in paid ads or sponsored posts over the last year. The next in line for paid content was Twitter at 34% and Instagram at 27%. Perhaps also worth noting is that 27% of respondents said they would use Google Plus less in 2017. It seems many will likely abandon that platform over time as Facebook assumes the dominant broad based social network.

The take away here? You have to understand Facebook beyond just sharing content on your personal account with family and friends. Learn to use Facebook for business and have a business page. Mari Smith is a leader in this area. She offers several training programs and has a book about Facebook tactics for business. Jon Loomer also runs some awesome online training programs to learn the basics. Intro stuff is free. The 4 week webinar based course is worth your time if you are serious about learning. Or shoot me an email, and we could set up some consulting time to get you started.


3. You’ll need a social media budget. While there is a ton of stuff you can do for free through social, increasingly there is room to justify the pay to play model in your budget to stand out.  51% of those surveyed said they planned to spend the same on social as last year, and 42% said they planned to increase their budget.

The key here is to know how to spend your money wisely so you don’t waste it. My suggestion is to pick one platform that matches well with your audience to focus on, and after mastering it using free posting options and gaining an audience and engagement, then step into using the paid functions there to target. Check out Mari Smith for Facebook expertise, Sue Zimmerman for Instagram, Madalyn Sklar for Twitter, Carlos Gil for Snapchat, and Viveka von Rosen for LinkedIn. Viveka’s Youtube videos with LinkedIn tips are free and awesome. If you’re not sure which channel to focus on initially, go with Facebook first since it’s so broad reaching.

4. Content will continue to be king. In 2017 content production remains important because good content will always be a way to stand out. 84% of social media marketers also work on content marketing production. The main obstacle appears to be time and resources. And if there were no obstacles, 83% said they would produce more video content, 57% more blog post content, and 42% would do more live video. There’s that video theme again, but note the strength of blog content. Also worth noting is that blog and enews content are owned media, rather then rented media hosted on another social platform. For that reason, I believe they are further a way to dominate the content game.

Of course social media is just one of the tools in your kit, but these trends are worth noting for overall planning. Good marketing demands a strategic approach across media and platforms. As always, let me know what you think. How does you plan for 2017 line up with these trends? Where are you going to focus next year?



Mary Charleson

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