Not too long ago, observers on the Internet were witnessing Twitter’s revolutionary early days and the cautious caveat emptor notice about Facebook disguised as Academy Award-winning The Social Network. Now there’s Pinterest for the DIY-inclined, LinkedIn for the professional, Tumblr for teenage thinkers, Instagram for millennials exploring their FOMO, and even dating services doubling as social networking sites.
It’s been a few years since it’s been just social networking, now it’s social media. It’s our media landscape. It’s mass communication. And here’s where it’s heading and what it means for businesses.
1. Facebook is moving towards an older demographic.
According to an infographic produced by Adweek using data from eMarketer detailing the demographic trends in social media for 2016, Facebook is still leading the market among social networking, but it’s there’s a projected 7.6 percent share increase among users 65 years old and older, the largest share increase among all demographics. The eMarketer data suggests that shares among the younger millennial demographic (18 - 24 year-olds) will decrease.
It’s predicted that in 2016, marketers going to amp up their advertising efforts to include even more targeted ads on Facebook using the information freely shared on their services. As for other social networks, the 25-to-35 year-old age group still maintains a stronghold across the board, although Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr are trending younger. There seems be little to no senior engagement with Tumblr and Instagram.
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2. The future is handheld.
This past March marked the first time the four leading messaging apps in the world has amassed the same amount of users as the top four social networking platforms. These mobile apps not only allow users to text and call long distance connections without paying long-distance fees, but it lets them construct a world where their favorite brands, publications and services are consolidated into one personalized package that can be accessed anywhere.
New services have discovered the impact of bringing their products directly to their customers via messaging apps: Snapchat’s Discover function launched with 11 major international publications to great acclaim and is planning for expansion. In China, the popular free text and call app, WeChat, has integrated profiles of celebrities and major brands to its subscription list. This allows users to follow updates from their friends and favorite celebrities, get special mobile-only VIP “cards” to large department stores, book reservations at trendy restaurants with a text message and even donate to UNICEF on one integrated app.
3. Social networks are becoming search engines.
While Google isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, the way that users search for services and products has expanded outside simple SEO. Eighty-eight percent of consumers online are influenced by reviews and online comments by other consumers. They are looking directly to sites like YouTube and Facebook (where every company has a presence), or in apps like Yelp. Pinterest, in particular, has a beneficial role in this shift: its market is largely dominated by women in their 30s with young families, a demographic known to do most of the shopping. The service is also shopping focused, bouncing users from their tiles straight to company websites at an exponentially increasing rate.
4. Politics will play out on social media.
As more and more social media users turn to Twitter and Facebook to keep up with the news (about 63 percent of users), it has never been more important for political candidates and key global figures to engage online. To announce their respective candidacies in the upcoming presidential race, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tweeted “I’m in.”, Senator Ted Cruz tweeted a video, while Hillary Clinton opted for YouTube with a two-minute video. Whereas in earlier years, a social media presence was a novelty move, it is now necessary to be active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
5. Big data is used to personalize, and culture is king.
Internet marketers have never had this much access to information about consumer preferences, and data is gleaned with every click. With big data comes an opportunity to personalize their services to suit each consumer, form relationships and create unique experiences. Delivering an “experience” has always been a key part of marketing, and this has never been more true. Products that do well are the ones that deliver not just a commodity, but a culture: either an incentive towards social justice, a mood, or inclusion into a club.