September 28th, 2016

At the start of the year we honed our best crystal ball skills and shared our social media marketing predictions for 2016. Nine months later we thought it was time to see how we did. Despite many industries and markets facing a period of stagnation following various political and economic upheavals, social media is still at the forefront of growth. Accordingly, Snapchat continues to expand its user base, as do the likes of Instagram and Pinterest. Meanwhile, Twitter appears to be straggling behind as it continues to grapple against heavy competition and a feeble growth rate. Let’s take a look at our predictions and assess where we are now.

“Social will be one of the highest growth/adoption areas in digital marketing”

Okay, so we started with a sure thing! Digital marketing continues to grow rapidly and is soon expected to generate more revenue than television advertising for the first time. Within the digital marketing mix, social media is the fastest growing category, as more and more people recognise its value and integrate it into their marketing output. This is no doubt helped by the fact that social advertising tools continue to grow in complexity and provide easy to access data in regards to measuring ROI. In a close second place is video. As we predicted, social platforms have been updated to better facilitate video, with both Facebook and Twitter offering live broadcasts. In addition, the boom in social commerce has further fuelled the growth of these digital advertising platforms. Video has opened up exciting new marketing opportunities and social media is now a go-to source for advertising.

“Pinterest and Instagram will be real contenders”

With both Pinterest and Instagram openly monetising their content, these visual platforms have become a staple part of social media marketing strategies. With over 500 million monthly active users, Instagram is leading the growth race at an unprecedented rate. Pinterest still has a long way to go in terms of users and revenue but its move into social commerce will certainly be beneficial. The introduction of Buyable Pins has added a new e-commerce dimension to the platform, opening up opportunities for retailers and providing a more interactive experience for users.

liketoknow.it instagram

Instagram has also made a concerted effort to leverage the earning potential of social commerce. Over the past year, there has been a noticeable rise in monetised content on the platform. Tools such as LiketoKnow.it allow users to buy items they have seen in photos with the tap of a button. Given that Instagram boasts an impressive number of influencers, this is a particularly powerful advertising tool. A user is far more likely to purchase a handbag if they have seen their favourite style blogger using it. In fact, as a side point to Instagram’s growth a more accurate prediction would have been in regards to the growth of influencer marketing. Maybe one for 2017…

What we failed to mention in our predictions post was the potential of Snapchat to shake up the digital marketing arena. With Instagram copying Snapchat’s popular Stories feature, it is clear that Snapchat poses a threat. Following the integration of adverts, Snapchat is expecting to generate six times the revenue of last year’s $59 million. These figures should be enough to keep Facebook and Instagram CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg and Kevin Systrom, up at night! However, could Instagram’s blatant plagiarism of Snapchat Stories have an impact on Snapchat’s ambitious forecasts? Afterall, Instagram boasts the wider user base and more popular clean interface.

“It is make or break for Twitter”

Broken Twitter

After nine years of impressive growth, Q4 of 2015 was their first quarter with a reducing user base. This resulted in the Twitter stock price being cut by 50% at the end of 2015. Nevertheless, after reporting growth in the first half of 2016, Twitter seems to be back on track. However, with speculation over the change to character limits and a persistent struggle to gain more users, Twitter’s identity crisis seems to be the ongoing narrative. Given that other social media platforms are getting better and better at adapting to the needs of users, Twitter is facing an increasing level of competition. Having said that, the Twitter share price has very recently risen over speculation of a new purchaser. Currently the bidding war is between Disney and Google: watch this space!

“Pocket will be purchased”

Unfortunately this has not been realised quite yet, but it could still be on the cards. Back in the early days of Pocket, Evernote offered to acquire the app that allows users to collect and consume article-based content, but the offer was declined. Nearly four years after launching, creator Nate Weiner raised his first funds and built a team. After four more years, Weiner decided to launch a premium version with a $5 monthly subscriptions fee, and two years after that he integrated ads into the app. With less than 30 employees and more than 20 million people using the app, it looks like a tempting investment opportunity. It will likely take quite a generous offer for Weiner to accept but watch this space, we still have 3 months for someone to stump up the cash.

“Businesses will focus on what works”

We see the way businesses integrate social media and how essential this type of marketing is becoming. For a large number of businesses, social media now forms a considerable part of the marketing output. As a direct result, companies are getting better and better at social media and are becoming more tuned in to what works. Of course organisations are at different stages of integrating it into their marketing strategies but we are certainly seeing this on the rise and more investment being placed in social. Furthermore, we are also noticing an increased focus on fewer platforms for a more targeted approach. This allows companies to leverage the social platforms which best suit the goals and personality of their brand. For example, a law firm with an active presence on Pinterest would be a complete waste of time and resources!

“Social Advertising will increase in price”

There is no definitive evidence to suggest that the price of social advertising has increased as there is no effective way of measuring it and the platforms, like most businesses do not exactly shout about increased prices. However, given that the global expenditure on social advertising has risen more than 30% in the last year, it seems likely that the price will have increased along with the surge in demand. There is only so much quality advertising space on social media, so it is likely that bids will continue to rise as businesses fight for the prime spot. However, with the growing competition between social media platforms, prices will nevertheless need to remain competitive.

Conclusion

It is clear that social media marketing is only set to continue growing, as more businesses realise the incomparable return on investment it offers when executed correctly. We look forward to seeing how the platforms will continue to evolve their advertising spaces and offer an array of exciting new possibilities. Although we were mostly correct in our predictions, we may not give up the day job for a career in clairvoyance quite yet. We’ll stick to digital marketing, thanks – apparently that’s where the growth and opportunities are at…

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