Marketing: Top 10 Social Media Trends to Watch in 2016


The last in our series looking ahead at what 2016 has to offer focuses on changes in social media in general, and how those trends are likely to impact brands’ digital marketing strategies.

1. Teenagers ditch Facebook

It started at the end of 2013, when Facebook CFO David Ebersman admitted a ‘slight decrease’ in daily use among younger teens.

By 2014, a study by digital consultancy iStrategy Labs showed that 25% of teens had left the site.


Even those who still have an account increasingly prefer other social networks. A biannual Piper Jaffray survey has revealed some worrying numbers for Facebook.

In 2012, 42% of teens polled chose Facebook as their preferred social network; by 2015, that number had dropped to 15%.

The majority of teens will keep their account active, but no longer use it as their primary social network. 2016 will see this trend continue, with Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat all rated higher as preferred social networks.

2. Single customer view

Brands will start to tie together the different information they hold about their customers, no longer viewing Twitter Ads, email subscriptions, LinkedIn profiles and so on as separate beasts.

Understanding who customers are across different media will become critical.

Customers communicate via their own preferred channel, not the brands.

The ability to track customers and prospects across different forms of communication will be increasingly important, as customers begin to seamlessly communicate with a brand by whichever avenue they choose.

As this change begins to take hold, brands will need to ensure they are not left behind by their competitors.

Customers will quickly see this as the norm. Brands that can better track prospects across multiple channels will be able to leverage that knowledge, making them more likely to win their business.

3. Social as a discovery engine

As we have covered earlier in this series, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook have all recently introduced new search functions.

The changes look like an opportunity for savvy brands to exploit, so expect to see companies experimenting with ways to benefit from these updates.


We may start to see agencies offering social search optimization as a service that sits alongside traditional SEO.

There will be a period of trial and error while best practice is developed, but brands will be trying to gain an edge in this new marketing arena.

4. Increased social ad spend

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn have all invested heavily in their advertising platforms in 2015, with new features offering more ways for brands connect with audiences.

The sophistication of these ad platforms will see social media take up a larger chunk of advertising spend.

Social media advertising is projected to generate $11 billion in revenue by 2017, up from just $6.1 billion in 2013.

The continued rise of ad blocking software will also be a factor in driving this change. With many ad formats becoming less visible, social media and native advertising will offer an attractive alternative for brands.


5. Social media as a marketplace

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube and Google.

All have introduced a ‘buy button’ recently, hoping to turn browsing into buying.


The attraction for these sites is obvious; in addition to the extra revenue generated from social commerce, brand engagement is likely to rise and more valuable user data collected.

For brands, it will open up new sales channels and make the experience of buying from a brand’s social page much easier.

The increase in sites being accessed on mobile has not been reflected in the rise in mobile e-commerce, but this should start to change if and when consumers embrace the ‘buy now’ buttons.

6. CMOs will overtake CIOs for technology spend in 2016

Marketing is becoming increasingly technology based, which has led to the prediction that CMOs will soon overtake CIOs as the biggest budget holder for technology spend in organizations.


Gartner has reported that IT budgets stand at around 3.6% of revenue, compared to marketing at 10%.

As mastering big data grows in importance, helping companies gain an advantage over competitors, this spend is likely to increase.

7. Social media throughout organizations

We are beginning to see social media spreading throughout organizations, beyond the traditional departments of marketing and PR.

The value of social data to research and product departments should be obvious, but sectors such as legal and security are beginning to see how social data sets can enhance and inform their daily practices too.

This trend is likely to increase in 2016, embedding social analytics into a variety of departments.

industry insider

8. Sophistication of influencer marketing

The effectiveness of influencer marketing has been recognized by many brands for some time.

Reported big wins have driven enthusiasm for influencer marketing, but this has led to some over-excited brands thinking it is a panacea for online marketing.

There is a cautionary tale about a company who paid Kim Kardashian to tweet about its products.

Kardashian has 15 million followers, so analyzing impressions and reach indicated the campaign had worked well.

A closer look at the numbers revealed a different story however; the 15 million followers became 1,200 website visits, which in turn became 30 orders averaging $30 each.

Brands will need to focus on the ROI of influencer marketing, becoming more sophisticated in their approach. Undertaking detailed research to establish the relevancy of an influencer is critically important if you want to reap the big returns it can generate.

9. The deflating tech bubble

There are signs that the bubble surrounding Silicon Valley will begin to burst.


Not as catastrophically as in 2000, but recent events indicate more realistic valuations are beginning to become commonplace.

The hype is calming down, as Square, Dropbox and Snapchat have all had their valuations lowered in the last couple of months.

10. New players entering the social space

Finally, we’re predicting two other big things will come onto the social scene this year.

Taking a look at the frequency with which new services and platforms have sprung up from nowhere in the past shows us that it’s likely two new players will join the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in 2016 and grab some market share in an already competitive space.

What do you think?

Have we missed something you’re sure will happen? Let us know of any changes you foresee in the comments below.