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2016: The year when social media hit maturity

Digital Account Director at Lansons, Michael White, writes about one of the big digital themes of 2016.

Mainstream social media sites have reached maturity, they have come of age; either hitting the precipice of user registrations or continuing to climb further into the millions. They should definitely not be considered ‘new channels’ anymore as more than seven in ten internet users have a social media profile. They are even commissioning journalists and companies to create stories, and public relations teams must be more experimental with sharing stories to be heard among the online noise.

This means there is a pressure for us to create immersive content, such as using 360 video or broadcasting live. It’s no longer about creating a community around stories/campaigns/products, but being noticed by a mature social media audience who expect you to speak their language.

If 2007 was the year of technological innovation when Apple entered the mobile market with the iPhone, Facebook and Twitter began to really gain registrations, and the Amazon Kindle was launched – among many others; then 2017 will see the continuing maturity of the same social sites and a growing field of experimental marketing led by products such as augmented reality headset Microsoft HoloLens.

Aside from the maturity of social media, internet usage as a whole has matured with people consistently spending the same amount of time online, and accessing familiar apps and websites. Ofcom’s “Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes” report reveals that almost nine in ten UK adults use the internet, on any device, in any location and are spending an average of 21.6 hours online each week, which is unchanged since 2014.

Maturity has also spurred some big business deals and content developments. To name a few:

  • Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for a whopping $26.2 billion in an all-cash transaction, a move that is likely to see better LinkedIn integrations across Microsoft products.
  • Live video is now the hot content marketing opportunity. More Facebook Pages are live streaming, 529,000 in total in June 2016, now expected to be nearer a million[i]. 10 million people are using Periscope, with over 200 broadcasts to date[ii].
  • It’s been the year of messaging apps. Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat have all seen huge user growth, giving public relations practitioners the challenge of knowing the conversations that are taking place in private and often encrypted parts of the internet.
  • Never has the internet, social media, and any other online touchpoint been so crucial for all industries across the UK. Especially highly regulated industries such as financial services and health, many of whom have developed social media compliance procedures to meet the expectations of their stakeholders – whether business-to-business or direct to consumer.

In 2016 we’ve seen social media come of age, witnessed continued growth of digital services, and many companies have become comfortable producing immersive video content. 2017 will be about building on these developments to reach their audiences in more creative ways.

[i] http://uk.businessinsider.com/facebook-live-video-stats-from-tubular-2016-7

[ii] http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/periscope-statistics/

This article featured in the December 2016 issue of the Lansons newsletter. You can sign up to our quarterly newsletter here.