We live in a very exciting time in 2016, but I admit even with my constant desire for change, the social media landscape is one hell of a challenge.
In this post, I’m going to let you know my thoughts on the 2016 social media trends and run through my winners and losers. I’d love to know what you think in the comments at the end.
Snapchat is at the top of the tree for me right now (follow me here please!!). The point of social media platforms is to allow you to tell your story and directly engage in a meaningful way with your community. A great platform let’s you get engagement, build trust and do it with low friction and zero spam. This for me, is where Snapchat is at right now.
Snapchat has really nailed it in the way that they cluster their stories under a username and make it super easy for users to skip a long video or image if they desire. Shorter content is the key to engagement on mobile these days, but it’s easier to build trust and deliver real value with longer content.
My thoughts on social media platforms and what is working often come back to this point. Snapchat makes it very easy to add short content (low friction) unlike say Periscope. But snapchat also make it easy to add longer content (doing multiple videos that are consumed one after the other unlike Twitter).
Add in an effective notification system which has you notified for direct messages (which you want) but not for everything else (which you don’t want), and you have a platform that has you constantly returning and engaging. It’s no surprise that Snapchat has become the second most used social network in the US, far outpacing Instagram and Twitter.
Related: 5 Snapchat statistics that prove it’s power
If you are keen to give Snapchat a go, follow me @thedannorris and send me a snap. I’ll reply and say hi.
I think that Facebook Live is becoming a real game changer for Facebook. I think the live streaming thing is a bit niche. The friction is high and for the most part I don’t think people want to watch stuff live (with some obvious event-based exceptions). However the real win with Facebook Live is how easy it is as a platform for getting video content onto Facebook. Yes it’s cool to be live and engaging directly with your community (like you can do on Periscope), but what about adding on top of that, a video that ranks high in the Facebook algorithm and gains ongoing attention and engagement for days after. The latter is not something periscope can offer, and for that reason, Facebook Live is looming as a Periscope killer.
I had some initial reservations about Facebook Live due to the fact that not everyone has ‘push’ notifications enabled, so how will your audience know when you’re actually going out live with video content? But I missed the second part of the equation. It probably doesn’t matter how many people tune in live. What matters is how many people see it and engage with it, and more people are going to do that on Facebook.
If I’m putting any live video content up on Periscope (@thedannorris) I’m pretty much relying on people seeing it there and then, and because of the notification issue that’s fewer and fewer people.
I will be using Facebook Live on my Facebook page, you can like it here.
Facebook Instant Articles
While Instant Articles aren’t available to me, or the majority of users just yet, when they come online in April they will be a game changer. I’ve noticed online influencers like James Altucher posting their blog posts word for word directly to Facebook in the past, obviously realizing that people don’t want to click away from Facebook when they are in the app.
Instant articles will let you post your content on your own site, but push it to the Instant Articles service using a WordPress plugin. This allays any fears about ‘owning’ your content but gives you the full benefit of people being able to consume your content directly via the Facebook app virtually instantly. There are some big publishers using this already and I can tell you once you get used to consuming content in this way, you will never want to click off Facebook again.
Again once released, I’ll be publishing via my Facebook page.
Long Shot – Anchor
At the bleeding edge range of the spectrum there’s Anchor, a new player in the social media marketplace. Anchor is audio only, and while other people obsess over the big numbers of some of the other networks, I’m going deep on engagement. Whether Anchor is the platform I don’t know, but I do know that the closer you can get to having real conversations with people, the more trust you will build and the better return you will get from your social media content long term. Anchor is exactly that. Having conversations with people.
I also like audio. I’m finding more and more, audio is becoming an important part of my social life.
I’m seeing this in the behaviour of other people right now too. When I’m out and about I see people walking around holding their phones up to their ears and faces while listening to audio on loudspeaker (pizza slice style). I know from personal experience that my own behaviour has changed a lot, and only recently. I would never have done that before, but I’m doing it more and more now, particularly with apps like Whatsapp and iMessage becoming my go-to place for staying in contact with people.
Anchor is very early and there are some obvious limitations, for instance the two-minute audio file limit and the amount of time it takes to consume audio (quick to create, slow to consume), the inability to add longer content (in a snapchat-like way) etc. We’ll mark this one down as one to watch.
I am @thedannorris on Anchor if you are keen to check it out.
Instagram – for now
Good old Instagram (follow me @thedannorris) is still one of the big players in the social media realm without a doubt. There are many examples of people building huge followings and using their audience to build great companies (see Foundr Magazine, and Frank Body). However while it was a young platform, it was relatively easy to hack together a big following, much like Twitter was early on. But as platforms mature, those followers become less valuable and it becomes harder to reach people. Also the early loopholes (like auto following and underground paid posts etc), become harder to exploit. I saw this with Twitter, and Google and now Instagram.
With the recent Algorithm change, Instagram marketers have been put on notice. Long term, Instagram will go the way of Facebook. The number of followers won’t be as valuable, the growth hacking techniques won’t work and we will be back to creating great content or “pay to play” or both.
I think there’s still time to build a following on Instagram and I’m still pushing pretty hard there, but I think the window is closing.
Moving on now to those platforms that I tend to give a wide berth.
LinkedIn has become an epic spam fest. The platform is buggy and ugly, hard to use and 90% of every message or friend request I get on there is spam. Unless you are looking for a job, I can’t see why you would use it. I worry long term for LinkedIn, their share price has taken a beating and I think if Facebook wanted to, they could replace what they do fairly easily.
I won’t put my LinkedIn URL in here, because I don’t want any more friend requests. I’m not sure what to do with the current 300.
Seriously look at this website. What year is it?
Google+ is a poor attempt at copying an existing network, by a company that seems to have no clue how to build modern social applications (thank god for email hey Google?). There are a few good lessons learned from Google+. Firstly Google+’s core innovation was the ability for people to group people in Circles. Turns out people don’t want to ‘work’ and they expect the network to do this for them. That’s why we don’t group search results, and we don’t group Facebook posts. Timelines don’t work and user generated content delivery is very hard (not impossible, see Reddit but very very difficult). Algorithms work which is why I think every social network will eventually have one (Instagram just announced one, Twitter will be next, then Snapchat).
The other lesson is not to pay attention to big numbers and focus more on engagement. Google+ never really felt right, but people kept using it because Google boasted how many people were ‘using’ it. In reality no one ‘uses it’, they just have an account. So focus where you are actually getting engagement from real people, not the place that has the big numbers.
Not putting my G+ in here cause I do not care.
I’ve touched a bit on Periscope already. It was purchased by Twitter in 2015, which is big in my book, as I think it does need to be part of a bigger platform and not function as a standalone live streaming app where you’re constantly getting spammed with notification updates. Perhaps Twitter will finally move towards becoming a bit more like Facebook by incorporating Periscope into their primary platform and introducing an algorithm. As a stand alone app it’s hard for me seeing Periscope winning the live streaming war. I think Facebook beats periscope and Snapchat will too when they release live streaming (can already do it via DM).
I’m @thedannorris on Periscope, but I’m really not sure if I will use it again.
While not a dead set loss, I’m putting Twitter in the ‘no cigar’ category due to their rigidness and lack of progress up until now. A timeline of auto-fed posts does not a good social network make and I’m not one for boosting my profile via auto follow. I find myself using Twitter less and less and engagement across the board has evaporated.
I think they should (and will) remove the 140 character limit (read more buttons work guys), and introduce an algorithm so people don’t have to wade through a chronological timeline filled with auto-fed shite. However they are well behind on video, images, filters, messaging and audio and I think the ship might have sailed.
The only thing that is saving them right now is a huge history of being “The” platform that people use in the mainstream media to identify themselves. But guess what. Snapchat has @handles too, and they have snapcodes which are 10X better. Facebook didn’t do a good job of copying this “identity” feature from Twitter nor its relevance for live events, but Snapchat will (handles, snap codes, geo filters and local stories).
My gut feel is that the platform as a whole is starting to feel a lot less relevant in the year 2016, and it might be the beginning of the end.
I’m @thedannorris on Twitter, follow me if you like, I don’t mind either way.
The rise…and rise…of messaging apps
Whilst not strictly social networks in their own right, messaging apps are also a great way to push out content and engage with influencers and your community. To my mind there have been some recent groundbreaking developments within this space. Take Facebook Messenger for instance. Pulling it out of Facebook and aggressively pushing it out into it’s own standalone app was a pretty ballsy move as far as I’m concerned! As usual Mark Zuckerberg had his finger on the pulse…messaging is a crucial and ever growing part of the social media experience and it needs to be in a separate app with a different notification regime or else it doesn’t get used in the same way. Facebook Messenger gets a definite thumbs up from me!
And just in case it doesn’t, we have Whatsapp, also owned by Facebook! I find that I’m sending a lot of audio files now simply for the ease and convenience factor. I’m using Whatsapp now for personal messages as well as for my team in business (until Slack gets better at managing multiple teams and supports audio messages).
There are plenty of other messaging apps that are either well established or on the rise (WeChat, Kik, Viber, Line to name a few) and as we’ve seen with Snapchat, all these guys need to do is add a timeline and you have a social network! I wouldn’t be surprised if the next big social network comes from one of these messaging apps. Here’s an idea for Apple. Rather than turning iTunes into a social network (Ping), why not do it with iMessage?
Again a gigantic missed opportunity by the major tech companies. Skype should be #1 in mobile messaging, instead they are miles behind the big players like Whatsapp. Hangouts (or whatever Google could have released) should be second with the staggering growth of Android but they aren’t even close.
So there you have it, this is my social media truth as it stands. Let me know what you think in the comments below.