Every year Social Media evolves. Social networks that are hot one year, might not be relevant the next (i.e. Vine). Other networks might come out of left field and dramatically impact the industry (Periscope). Most often though the social media juggernauts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) continuously update their app to create a better user experience and in 2015, make more money.
There were so many changes throughout the year that it was hard to keep up. Some were bigger (Instagram expands passed the square) and some may have gone unnoticed (Facebook’s Timehop clone, “On This Day” feature). Below you’ll find all the major changes to each platform you may have missed and trends to help build your strategy for 2016.
- Content Remains King: social media continues to be about the soft sell and how to engage with followers through their lifestyle. It’s about telling your company’s story in a unique and relevant way. Some of the best brands in the world do this day in and day out, Nike, Starbucks, and McDonald’s just to name a few.
- Better Analytics & Ads: Social Media, if it wasn’t before, is now a big business. Each major social media network provides brands opportunity to buy ad space to reach target audiences and because of that, each social network has increased the analytics platform for businesses to gauge ROI.
- Influencers: The buzzword of 2015. Because it is increasingly more difficult for brands to reach their audiences, companies are turning towards “Social Media Influencers”. A Social Media Influencer can be a blogger or any John or Jane Doe with a couple of thousand followers on their respective network. The key for businesses is to identify the right influencers for them.
- Spinoff Apps: Throughout the year, we’ve seen Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn develop apps to complement themselves. These include Layout (Instagram), Ads Manager (Facebook) and the. completely redesigned Pulse (LinkedIn).
- Live Video: Periscope (owned by Twitter) burst on the scene in early 2015 bringing with it the new sensation of streaming live video to followers. Now other networks (Facebook) are taking notice and have already started to experiment with offering the same service.
- GIFs: the short videos/animations took over in 2015 especially on Twitter. These often comical segments took off when Twitter and Facebook turned on “autoplay” to videos in newsfeeds.
THE MAJOR NETWORKS
Facebook (FB) continues to dominant Social Media with over 1.5 billion active monthly users. The social media giant had a banner year in 2015 bringing in over 12 billion in revenue in the first 9 months, a 40% increase over same period in 2014. The stock reflected this rise by increasing 32% over the course of the year. The biggest reason for the increase in revenue? Facebook making it more difficult for brands to reach their customers organically, forcing companies to pay for ads.
Because of this the newsfeed continues to evolve. Organic business page reach has decreased, which means more baby and wedding pictures from friends and family. Other improvements include, Instant Articles (articles you can read without leaving the newsfeed), more customization to your newsfeed so you choose who/what is at the top, and more emphasis on video. Facebook is also measuring the amount of time you spend on a photo, article or video. The more time on their content, the higher that person/page will be in your newsfeed.
In the app, Facebook added a slew of new features throughout the year including a Call-to-Action button on business pages, live video feature for celebrities and other select accounts (Periscope anyone?), scrapbook feature for new parents, improvements to its messenger app and many more.
- Instant Articles
- Launched Notify app (receive notifications on virtually anything)
- Ads Manager App
- Messenger App: can send money to your friend & video call
- Launched “Hello” app, an app that connects with Facebook so you can see who’s calling even if you don’t have their number, block unwanted call and search for people and places.
- “Scrapbook” feature for new parents
- “On This Day” feature (think “Timehop”)
- You can now add a “Legacy Contact” in case a person passes
- Facebook now sends out AMBER alerts
- Link posts can have multiple pictures
- Profile Image can be a video
- Call-to-action button on Business pages
- Increased messenger functionality for Business Pages
- Autoplay videos in newsfeed
- Carousel Ads come to Mobile
- Began testing live video with select accounts and celebrities
- Made it easy to share a collage of photos and video
- Changed how you can interact with your ex
- Non-profits can create fundraiser to collect donations to your cause.
- Facebook search got an overhaul
- Rolled out 360 video with select publishers like Star Wars, GoPro & SNL
- Testing “Reactions” in Spain and Ireland. Reactions provides an alternative to interact to a post besides a “Like”.
- Increased newsfeed customization with who you can see first, friends, family or company page.
- Introduced “Moments” a private way to share photos with friends
Out of all the major platforms, Twitter (TWTR) had the roughest year. The 140-character network, saw their stock fall nearly 50%, closing out the year at a low 22.23. If that wasn’t bad enough, Dick Costolo resigned as CEO and Jack Dorsey returned to his former position. New users also slowed compared to other networks, only 19 million during the first nine months, (152 million on Facebook and 49 million on LinkedIn)
2015 wasn’t all bad, companies began using Twitter in unique ways including Domino’s. The Ann Arbor-based pizza chain allows customers to order a pizza just by tweeting the pizza emoji. Twitter also got the stamp of approval from Google, as search engine will now display relevant and popular tweets in search results.
Inside the app, Twitter introduce “Moments”, its answer to Snapchat’s story feature. Twitter also began allowing anyone to DM anyone else. Previously only those who you followed and followed you back could DM each other. This allows any fan to message their favorite celebrity, athlete or crush. In November, Twitter also changed the “Favorite” (star icon) to a “Like” (heart) which increased the button’s usage 6%. With 2015 now behind them, Twitter is taking a hard look in the mirror and continues to test the reverse-chronical order of the timeline as well as the 140-character limit. . The Twitter team and their investors are hoping 2016 will better than the last.
- CEO Changes, Dick Costolo to Jack Dorsey
- “Moments” feature
- “Favorite turns into a “Like”
- Twitter Polls
- No more 140 character limit for Direct Messages (DM)
- Autoplay for videos
- Group Direct Messages
- “While you were away….” feature in timeline
- Conversations are now easier to follow
- Google displays tweets in search results
- Twitter unveiled Periscope
- @Caitlyn_Jenner (1 million followers in 4 hours and 3 minutes)
While Twitter might have had a rough year, Instagram had the opposite. In September Instagram passed the 400 million user mark. In December 2014, the Citigroup raised its valuation of Instagram from $19 billion to $35 billion and that was when Instagram only had 300 million users. It’s easy to anticipate that that number has increased significantly. Instagram also began experimenting this year with ads starting with only select group of companies before rolling out the platform in September. The ad platform is now open to all businesses and operates through Facebook (who owns picture app)
Inside the app, Instagram completely overhauled their “Explore” tab. Now users can more easily see trending tags as well as trending places. Within the explore tab, the search feature become more powerful allowing users to search and discover new places anywhere in the world. The biggest change as the size of the photos. Gone is the square photo restriction, now users can post both landscape and portrait photos. Instagram also updated its Instagram Direct and messaging feature. If that wasn’t enough, rolled photo sharing app released to complementary apps, Layout and Boomerang.
- Expands to portrait and landscape photos
- Adds 3 new filters (Lark, Juno, Reyes)
- Instagram Direct gets easier to use
- Increased photo editing capabilities
- Expansion of locations
- Big changes in the Search tab
- Layout app (collage app)
- Boomerang app (super short mini videos similar to GIFs)
- Instagram Ads
- Use Emoji’s in hashtags
THE SECONDARY NETWORKS
The professional social network continues to hold strong with over 200 million monthly users even though the user-base only grew by 3% over the last quarter. During 2015, Inside the website, LinkedIn revamped its home page, newsfeed and messaging feature. It also introduced LinkedIn Lookup app and completely overhauled LinkedIn Pulse and its main app.
2015 was a big year for Pinterest as it turned more into a business. Back in 2014, Pinterest slowly began experimenting with “Promoted Pins”. Now Promoted Pins are everywhere including your home feed, but that was just the start. The biggest addition is the “Buyable Pins”. Users can purchase an item whether it’s a sofa, outfit, or anything else, right inside the app. These changes likely contributed to its updated valuation of $11 billion earlier this year. To continue its momentum, the social media network crossed the 100 million user milestone in September.
Other additions include a smarter search bar, real life Pinterest ambassadors, and more in-depth analytics. Pinterest continues its attempt to become a digital hub similar to Facebook, where you can log-in to other sites with your Pinterest account, or save articles to read later utilizing the app.
Owned by Twitter, Periscope was named Apple App Store’s 2015 App of the Year and grew to 10 million users in only four months after launching. The live-streaming app immediately began to make waves by allowing easier access to stream news conferences, pay per view events or anything a user deems worthy. Facebook took notice of the popular app and began testing live stream status updates. Periscope, by far, was the newcomer of the year and one to watch in 2016.
Some analyst called Snapchat CEO, Evan Spiegel crazy for turning down a 3 billion cash offer from Facebook in 2013, but the photo-staring app is now worth $12 billion (down from $16 billion valuation earlier in this year). Snapchat introduced several new features including Story Explorer, the ability to purchase extra replays (3 for $0.99), Tap to Play (so you don’t have to hold your finger down), and the biggest addition, “Discover”. Big brands like ESPN and the Food Network have begun to master Snapchat, but still smaller to medium sized businesses continue to experiment how to best use the platform.
With so many changes in 2015, it’s safe to say that Social Media will continue to evolve over 2016. New apps we don’t even know about could make a substantial impact while new dynamic features could be added to existing platforms. For what’s upcoming this year, be on the look out for my Digital Marketing Trends of 2016 later on in the month.