Social media companies are far from short on ideas for how to make social media more engaging. To summarize the year and what to look for in 2017 and beyond, these projections from social media CEOs reflect what will be seen in the coming years and decades for the industry based on areas they are investing in and current trends with no signs of stopping anytime soon.
VR helmet / Augmented Reality
Arguably the biggest sci-fi trend of the decade, VR and AR have been a part of the scientific imagination for decades. Like in Black Mirror’s “Playtest” VR and AR are mostly visualized as a trend surrounding video games. Some smartphone games may also incorporate AR. This year, the most notable and popular example was Pokemon Go. However, virtual and augmented reality don’t have to just be for entertainment, but can also be used to help you in your daily life. Google Glasses are an example of this in action. Imagine wearing eye contacts that helped give context digitally to a neighborhood you’re in, such as text that displays over strangers explaining if you have any mutual friends, or maybe a little arrow appears that points you to the nearest subway or bus station. Virtual reality can also create virtual conference rooms for businesses, or virtual classrooms for students.
A.I. transforms how brands can interact with costumers. The services of automated phone services would be paired with the intelligence and particularly the problem-solving capabilities of a human representative. A machine smart enough to handle problems it hasn’t previously dealt with is key to developing quick costumer service that doesn’t make you wait on the phone for a human to be able to assist you. The downside, which is part of a growing 21st century trend, is that means less jobs for humans. The global “robots are taking our jobs” movement is probably not too far away.
This is a good one. EGaming and eSports are a general trend that’s been growing over the last few years. EGaming Tournaments have been invested in by the biggest third-party video game developers in the world. We could see in the not-so-distant future VR technology, social media companies, and the video-game industry merge in a way that makes social gaming in a virtual world with your friends an even more immersive experience.
Social storytelling on social media is almost as old as social media itself. Over the years there have been trends like the “Draw my Life” trend on YouTube and now there’s Instagram and Snapchat stories, along with Twitter’s “moments.” People are drawn to the idea of making the mundane reality of life into a coherent path with meaning. Social storytelling is also helpful in brand marketing. It’s a powerful advertising tool because it combines a business idea with human emotion. You give meaning to information that would otherwise be featureless. People buy the idea that the product represents and the world the product creates.
Timelines were popular in the ’00s, now the trend is ephemeral content. The day-to-day records that were once appealing because they were so different from real life are being replaced by something that more reflects the reality of fleeting moments. Disappearing content gives people the courage to share more often, knowing servers don’t keep the video. In 2016 Instagram tried to follow Snapchat’s model by developing Instagram stories. This later included a live-video option that would only be available for the length of the broadcast.
Speaking of live-streaming, social media like Twitter has also been investing more into this idea, partnering with big name companies to live-stream big events like the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and sports performances.
Facebook has been testing a buy button for a few years now. Mobile / digital commerce has been a thing for years but the social media industry hasn’t picked up on it as strongly as may have been expected by 2016. Regardless it’s something we’ll be seeing more of in the years to come.
Wearables and Integration
Wearable technology is a growing trend that will be a major element of the 21st century. As things become more integrated, clothing will be part of the “Internet of Things” trend. Buildings, vehicles, home products, and more will be integrated into an intelligent network. Your house can adjust to your preferences (room temperature, music playlist) simply by detecting you in a room. Front doors can automatically lock if it detects that you have your key as you exit. Your fridge can alert you on items you may need as you browse in the supermarket.
Like electricity or plumbing, social media will be less about laptops, phones, tablets, and more like the unseen infrastructure of society. Social media will be the invisible hand woven into your daily life. The fabric of your clothes, the glasses you wear, can be used to monitor habits and body status. The data across platforms will be easier to manage and transfer.
Fake News and Echo Chambers
Among the positive trends, there is an elephant in the room. Fake news became a huge focus of 2016 as theories that fake news affected the election results became more prominent. Mark Zuckerberg addressed these theories, claiming that most of the info on Facebook is factual. Regardless, fake news continues to seep its way into social media news feeds. One reason why fake news is so powerful is that it travels quickly among your echo chamber, which are the friends you most like listening to on your social media feed. Facebook and other social media companies have been making it so your timeline shows you who you are most interested in seeing. Your views on the world are reflected in the echo chamber of the people you agree with and like most often. For people who voted Hillary, this meant you probably saw news that reflected the downsides of a Trump presidency, whereas with Trump voters, you most likely saw a lot of articles in your news feed regarding why Hillary would be a bad choice. Sprinkled in these feeds were many articles that were blatantly false from websites that produce fake news.