News & Views

Opinion / Predictions for Social

by Contagious Contributor
Much of what will keep social media busy in 2017 can already be predicted. MediaCom’s EMEA head of social Nick Burcher reveals his top hits for next year



When making predictions it’s always tempting to seek out the most out-there ideas and suggest that they might take over the world. However, if the purpose of predictions is to actually identify what will happen then a different approach is needed.

What will occupy much of our time in 2017 will be stuff that we have started testing or reaching a tipping point, becoming seriously mainstream. Essentially this means predicting what will become part of the new normal.

In 2017, social will continue to be the connective tissue for marketing communications systems. Data derived from social will become ever more important for insights and targeting, both within the social realm and beyond, and Facebook’s attempts to use WhatsApp data for ad targeting will be an important development.

There will also be more attempts to ‘close the loop’ to link online exposure to offline conversions and measurement of effectiveness and sales in social will continue to improve.

In execution, brands should expect to work more closely and more often with social influencers. This will be particularly important on video and Live content and in markets outside China – where it is already mainstream – marketers will also need to grips with in-stream virtual gifting in 2017. Platforms such as Live.ly and Twitch already allow virtual gifts and currency to be given to creators and there are opportunities for brands to create in this space too.

Brands should also seek to develop their experience with near-live content. This is ‘perishable’ content that is fixed in a moment rather than curated by search engines and is based around the ‘Stories’ features on platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram.
Curating such areas is the new community management, (re-)elevating the role of organic social and offering new spaces for competitions, announcements and offers, as well as creating interesting opportunities for second-screen experiences.

Expect Instagram to offer ad products around Stories soon and as Snapchat rolls its ad products into more and more markets it will increase in importance in 2017 too.
Indeed, as paid social continues to grow then it will continue to fragment and brands will need to make fundamental decisions about how they allocate resources to ensure messages are optimized to suit the many different platforms and feeds now available. ‘Thumb stopping creative’ and ‘feed-ready content’ will be important for ad performance in 2017.

Finally, there are the new, new things, things that we might know a little about but can’t quite place just yet.

Social will come to work in a more comprehensive way at work as the Microsoft acquisition of LinkedIn starts to bear fruit and Facebook launches products to battle with Slack for ownership of offices around the world. B2B Social increases opportunities for brands to foster deeper connections within their own organisations and across the B2B world.

The move from desktop to mobile was significant for social and we may be about to see it shift again as new devices like Snapchat’s Spectacles introduce circular video to the social vernacular and VR gets a serious boost after appearing on 2016 Christmas lists around the world.

As if this wasn’t enough to deal with, we also have to work out what to do with bots and automation/artificial intelligence. Bots were over-hyped in 2016, but an ecosystem has been established and these will surely develop further in 2017 – expect more announcements at CES and MWC in Q1.

At the heart of all these new opportunities, as ever, is the need to invest in both content and distribution, ensuring that the people get the right message in the right place at the right time. My final prediction for 2017 is that connected social systems will rule, but they will need to be fuelled by content in a variety of new forms and formats during the coming year.