It’s that time of year when we say goodbye to the past and start looking ahead and trying to guess what will be fresh and new in the coming months. For marketers, especially digital marketers, staying ahead of trends is critically important in planning where to go for 2016, and there are few places where that is more true than in the fast-moving world of social media marketing.

We’ve done the research, we’ve read the polls, we’ve listened to the prognosticators, and we’ve put together the following list of 8 predictions for the big social media trends of 2016.

1. Steady Increase in Rise of Audio-Visual Content

The ongoing proliferation of apps and tools along with smartphone cameras that make the camcorders of yesteryear downright laughable has made it easy and cheap for everyone to produce compelling, educational, short video and audio content. From animated GIFs to live-streaming point-of-view video feeds, it seems like everyone is jumping on that moving pictures bandwagon. We already know that attaching an image to a social media post boosts its performance; this year, expect to see those images start moving and speaking as well.

2. New Emphasis on User Security and Privacy

With massive data breaches almost a matter of routine, the question of Internet privacy is split sharply between two camps. There are those who insist on radical transparency; the idea that the only protection against losing your private information is to share it, at least as far as names and email addresses go. In this camp are Facebook and LinkedIn, which insist on the use of real identifying information. Opposing them are those who insist on total anonymity, such as Snapchat. Look for these divides to grow deeper and for worries about data security to grow stronger.

3. Businesses Expanding to New Platforms

We all know that Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are worthwhile marketing platforms, but what about the other guys? Pinterest has gained credit in the marketing world over the last few years, especially for B2C applications, but there’s still more to come. It’s time for businesses to start reaching out into the newer and more experimental or less-traditional platforms such as SnapChat, which is ideal for reaching the under-35 crowd, and Reddit, whose community is daunting to the uninitiated but also offers great opportunities to develop relationships with passionate brand advocates.

4. Growth of Real-Time Broadcasting

With the advent of cheap and easy real-time audio-visual streaming functions like Meerkat and Periscope, businesses have a more amazing opportunity than ever before for dynamic engagement with their audience. This can be so much more than live-streaming events and product demos, although those are both great opportunities. This year, we expect to see companies using live video and audio to build up-close and personal relationships between brand and audience, no matter how much distance may separate them.

5. “Aging” of Established Platforms

Facebook got its start as a social networking site for college students. Since then, it has grown and changed into the worldwide behemoth we know and love today. With that growth it was, perhaps, inevitable that Facebook would eventually join LinkedIn among the ranks of social media platforms whose primary audiences trend 35 years old or above. Twitter is also beginning to move in this direction, leaving the younger audiences to the newer and younger-feeling platforms.

6. Growth of Social Media as a Content Platform

LinkedIn is already well-established as a platform that combines social media and a host for blog posts and articles. Now, Facebook is testing a similar function with its new Instant Articles feature and appears to be angling to establish itself as the new platform of record for dynamic and beautiful long-form published content.

7. The Death of Formality

Companies that insist on a tightly-controlled, extremely professional tone for their social media often miss out on opportunities to establish personality in a way that can set them apart from their peers. Allowing an opportunity for social media and marketing teams to express themselves and build personal relationships can be a real asset, especially as Facebook continues to grow its business messaging capacity. Strict formality is on its way out, to be replaced by warmer, friendlier communication and genuine relationship-building.

8. More “Snackable” Content

Snackable content provides high educational or other value in manageable, bite-sized pieces. Very short videos, GIFs, audio clips, and even memes can fall into this category. By breaking down a large piece of information into small chunks, businesses are finding it easier to distribute on social media, where “short and sweet” remains the name of the game.

What do you think of these predictions? Did we miss anything? Leave a comment and let us know!