2015 has been another exciting year for social media with all kinds of fascinating new developments and milestones. We’ve seen the rise of live streaming on social with platforms like Periscope coming to the fore, Facebook hitting the 1 billion mark for users in one day and even Google making changes to its search to reflect the importance of social posts.

It’s a constantly changing field, but as we head into the last days of 2015 the big question is: What does next year hold in store?

Here at Talkwalker, with the help of some of the world’s most knowledgeable social media influencers, we peered into our crystal ball to try and predict the social media trends that every business will need to track in 2016. Before we take a closer look at the trends, here’s a short video summing up the highlights.

The Rise of Long Form Social Content

Social media has often favoured short messages over long but things are beginning to change. LinkedIn has been ramping up its option for long form content publishing, social blogging platform Medium is increasing its influence, and perhaps most importantly, Facebook, still the king of social platforms, is revamping Notes to improve long form publishing on social.

lee odden“LinkedIn publishing opened the door to others like Facebook, which recently brought back their Notes long form content functionality. At the same time, the spirit of using Flickr for blogging is now emerging on Instagram. I’m no fan of homesteading on rented land, but having a presence on social networks with long form content keeps readers where they want to be instead sending them away with a click, only to close the window anyway.”

Lee Odden (@leeodden), CEO of TopRankMarketing.com

aaron lee

“There will be a shift in content marketing, especially for blogs. In 2016, more blogs will shift towards long form content that will allow readers to find answers to their struggles faster.
We’ve even seen Facebook rewarding these types of content. Facebook determines the amount of time readers spend on an article. The longer people stay on a particular piece of content, the more likely that post will be shown on their newsfeed.”

Aaron Lee (@AskAaronLee), Grand Master of Customer Delight at PostPlanner

The Wearable Revolution will be Social

Wearables have been making headlines in 2015 with the most recent predictions estimating that the market will triple in size over the next five years. This year saw the launch of the much anticipated Apple Watch and rumours abound that Google Glass will make a comeback next year. The internet of things will impact all industries but social is particularly well placed to take advantage of this data explosion.

zahara jade“In 2016 there will be even more wearable tech available, at reasonable prices, that tech-savvy consumers will have a difficult time keeping their hands off these advanced new toys. Whether it’s an Apple Watch, a new highly anticipated version of Google Glass, fitness wearable tech, or something else, expect wearables to play an increasingly larger role in social media and content market strategies in 2016. Social media will be at our fingertips, and people will be more connected than ever. Gemio, a wearable bracelet being delivered to market in spring, 2016, aims to connect tweens and teens both in person by locating other friends wearing the tech, and on the related social app.”

Zahara Jade (@HireInfluence), entrepreneur, writer, and Community Manager for HireInfluence.

More Personalized Content Every Step of the Way

Powerful marketing and analytics tools are giving digital marketing professionals more information than ever about their customer and clients. Through smart use of social and online data, companies can create content that matches every step of the customer journey. Companies will also need to start thinking about making messages more personalized and human as social customers expect a personal touch when they interact on social platforms.

jeff sheehan

“Unlike the past when there was a relatively finite number of content producers, everyone now is a content generator or curator and it shows. Consumers are simply drowning in content and it’s being perceived by many as just noise with little attention being paid. In order to overcome the apathy towards content, marketers are going to have to ensure that the content they produce in 2016 is clearly targeted and personalized to address not only the overall customer experience, but each one of the points along the buyer’s journey up to the purchase and beyond to realize life-time customer value.”

Jeff Sheehan (@JeffSheehan) is the founder of Sheehan Marketing Strategies and an experienced speaker on marketing and social media topics.

neal schaffer“Companies will play catch up on technological advances in social media tools over the last few years as well as the greater need to better humanize the brand with the growing importance of Leveraging the Other: employee advocacy, advocate marketing, and influencer marketing. For these reasons, companies in 2016 will become more dependent on seemingly opposite ends of the spectrum: Becoming more dependable on social media tools like Talkwalker in order to streamline processes and scale to get social media management tasks done more effectively and efficiently while at the same time becoming more human, authentic and transparent with their engagement with other users in social media communities.”

Neal Schaffer (@NealSchaffer), Forbes Top 50 Social Media Influencer and Founder of Maximize Your Social

It’s Time to Sell on Social

“Can social media actually drive sales?” It’s the question always levelled at social media professionals and even the social platforms themselves. Social networks are now generating several billion dollars of revenue for online retailers each year but companies want more, especially C-suite. The likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are listening, and efforts to increase social revenues through buy buttons and better paid ad options are set to take social by storm next year.

Ian Cleary

“There will be a massive increase in enabling and tracking social selling as next year, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms will have a ‘buy’ button. Internet marketers know how to build online sales funnels. Traditional social media and content marketers don’t. You create the conversation, you create the opportunity for the sale, and you close the sale. There will be more selling on social media.“

Ian Cleary (@IanCleary), Tech Blogger on RazorSocial, Contributor, Social Media Examiner, VentureBeat

dave chaffey“For me the biggest trend in 2016 will be viewing the main social networks more holistically on a commercial basis used to drive awareness, preference and sale. Advertisers have found that, today with the social networks providing so many more new ad options to target audiences more closely than before they have become a serious competitor for ad spend on other display networks or in Google AdWords.”

Dave Chaffey (@DaveChaffey), Editor of @SmartInsights, author of Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice

Think Hyperlocal for More Effective Marketing

The increasing use of mobile to access social networks – 78% of US Facebook users access the site by mobile at least once per month – is having a big impact localized marketing. Social media users are posting on the go and are often happy to share their location publicly. This kind of real-time hyperlocal data gives marketers previously unthinkable opportunities to provide extremely localized offers and understand customer behaviour at a very precise level.

paul chaney

“A rising trend, one that I expect will continue, is the development of hyperlocal private social networks, such as NextDoor, Alignable, and Townsquared. The latter two enable businesses within a local community to connect to one another for collaboration, idea sharing, and neighborhood updates while NextDoor fosters connections between residents in a given neighborhood. Expect to see more of the same in 2016.”

Paul Chaney (@pchaney), Editor of Web Marketing Today

martin shervington“Google in particular has got Local in its sites. With Google Maps becoming a much more ‘social app’ – you can add photos, create reviews, and even add new business listings right from the app e.g. when you are ‘in a location’. I really think this online eco-system is going to get built out socially through these changes, especially when you connect up the new Google+ as the Stream, where people will share ‘locations’ as well as images. It is as if Google wants us to be more mobile, more in the world, exploring and mapping one location at a time.”

Martin Shervington (@MartinSherv), Consultant, Speaker, Coach and Plus Your Business founder

Influencers the Key to Social Success

With thousands of fans and followers that are eager to read and hear their every word, influencers are the celebrities of social media. The power of word-of-mouth recommendations has been known for many years but the vast global reach of influencers makes their praise create a supercharged word of mouth effect. A study by McKinsey found that “marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.” And as the aforementioned “content shock” dilutes the value of some social content, the influencer’s voice only gets more powerful.

lee odden

“We’re going to start seeing an influencer optimized filter bubble. To explain, using the behaviors of a closed network as the primary source for filtering social content feeds as Facebook does, runs contrary to the idea of open discovery of new information on the web. That “filter bubble” creates challenges for brand content visibility in social feeds, so it will be important for social media and content marketers to work with influencers to co-create and promote content on social networks. Influencers have the signals social networks rely upon to prioritize their stories and brands can benefit by being a part of that content, front and center in the social feed.”

Lee Odden (@leeodden), CEO of TopRankMarketing.com

Thanks to all our experts for their insights and for all their contributions to our blogs throughout the year. What trends do you think we’ll see in the coming year? Let us know in the comments below!

Read about the top social media trends in 2016 for Germany and France.