After predicting changes for Facebook and Twitter, we’ve decided to combine a few of the visual based social networks together.

Looking at Instagram, Pinterest and Youtube, they all seem poised for an important year of growth and change.


Increased user and brand growth

When Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, there were just 40 million users.

Today that number has increased ten-fold to 400 million. It’s undoubtedly popular with millennials, a key demographic for marketers, with 32% of American teens rating it as their most important social network, ahead of Facebook on 14%.

This rise in the user base, combined with Instagram’s development of advertising features, will see continued growth of brands using the platform.

In 2015 33.2% of US brands with 100+ employees use Instagram for marketing activities. An eMarketer report predicts that number to rise to 48.8% in 2016, and 70.7% by 2017.


Search and Explore – keeping users in app

Echoing similar changes on Facebook, Instagram has recently updated its search function to provide a richer set of search results. The new Search and Explore aims to keep users in the app for longer by finding more content without leaving the app.

The updated Explore aims to make ‘discovery’ easier, highlighting trending stories and events in real-time. Search is now broken down by people, tags and places.

The fact that users can now follow trending stories as told through instagramers or explore food at a restaurant they haven’t visited yet opens up more opportunities for brands to communicate with customers.

Instagram influencers may become even more sought after as these trending images are pushed to the top of search results.

Updated Instagram Direct

It was over two years ago that Instagram first introduced direct messaging, but the service had limited features and was somewhat buried in the app. Now Instagram has updated the feature to allow threaded conversations, text conversations, group messaging and sending content from your feed.

Instagram says that nearly 40% of all comments on in the app are @mentions, demonstrating the desire for people to be able to send an image direct to a particular friend or group. So perhaps that’s all there is to it, and Instagram are just improving its functionality.


However, looking at Facebook’s strategy for Messenger, they made sure it became a vital and well used part of the service before introducing Messenger for Business, which as we saw in our Facebook trends post is a potential revenue stream going forward.

2016 may be too early for a similar introduction of messenger for business on Instagram, but we expect that to be the long term goal.

Instagram will want the service to become well used first, so expect these changes to increase usage, and further updates to improve functionality and popularity.

Buy Now button and updated advert formats

Recent changes to Instagram adverts have seen the video length double to 30 seconds, the introduction of landscape photos and videos, and a premium product called Marquee which gives brands mass awareness and reach for a short amount of time.

The Buy Now button has recently been rolled out in the US, following in the footsteps of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. It allows people to buy without leaving the app, opening a new channel for retailers.

This rise of selling in social will create a new marketplace with a large audience, similar to amazon or ebay.

These features should drive an Instagram trend for 2016; a large increase in brands advertising and selling through the platform.

The growth in brands and users, the higher brand engagement on Instagram, and the almost inevitable restriction of organic reach (remember Facebook’s algorithm changes) should lead to much heavier brand presence and ad revenue for Instagram.

Fast user growth

Like Instagram, Pinterest has been enjoying fast user growth of late.

In May, Global Web Index reported that Pinterest is the fastest growing social network. While not as big as some of the older social sites, Pinterest surpassed 100 million monthly active users in September.

Pinterest user numbers should continue to rise, and revenue will start to pick up too.

A leaked document seen by TechCrunch shows that Pinterest is forecasting active user numbers to grow from 151 million to 329 million, and revenue to increase from $169 million this year to $2.8 billion by 2018.


Visual search tool

Last month saw Pinterest announce a visual search tool that allows users to find information about objects and items simply selecting within an image.

While it’s a fun tool to use, its primary purpose of finding a specific item from within a larger pin lends itself to driving sales.

If you see an item you like within a pin, it would have been difficult to find out the name of that item or where you could buy it. Now you have a simple way to do just that.

This should help grow brand presence on the platform, and if successful may see Pinterest developing further features to assist in product search and discovery.

Buy Button Rollout

As stated above, this year has seen many sites introduce a ‘buy button’. Pinterest has recently followed, initially rolling out the feature only in the US. At first Pinterest won’t make money from the buy button; the idea is to get users familiar with the button and with Pinterest as a place to shop.


At first, no buy button pins will be promoted.

We predict this soft rollout will be ramped up over the coming year, so expect more markets to feature the buy button. Promoted pins, Pinterest’s only source of revenue at present, will start to feature buy buttons to test the reception and familiarize users with the sight.

The user growth and revenue growth predicted rely on Pinterest getting this right.

Monetize too fast or aggressively and the network could start to lose users.

The potential is huge though: despite its smaller size, Pinterest drives more traffic to brand websites than any other site bar Facebook. It holds valuable purchase intent data, more commonly held by Google’s search rather than social networks. The trend for 2016 will be slowly inching us closer to making purchases direct from the site, gradually releasing Pinterest’s revenue potential.


Youtube Red – Streaming service to rival Netflix?

While the amount of videos uploaded to Youtube continues to grow, it is not the dominant player it once was.

8 billion videos are viewed on Facebook everyday. Snapchat, Vine, Instagram and others are continuing to eat into Youtube’s historic dominance.


Youtube’s response is Youtube Red, an ad-free, high quality streaming service which also allows videos to be downloaded to watch later.

The recently announced Google Play Music Family Plan comes with Youtube Red included, helping to launch the service. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Youtube is investigating deals for streaming rights to TV shows and movies, in addition to creating it’s own content.

We are therefore predicting that in addition to the traditional Youtube video usage (there are still 400 hours of video uploaded every minute), the site will begin to look for other ways to grow the platform in the face of increased competition.

It will start to diversify by positioning itself as a rival to Netflix and Hulu, offering high quality TV and movie streaming.

What do you think of our predictions for 2016? Have we missed something you’re sure will happen?

Let us know your predicted trends for Instagram, Pinterest and Youtube in the comments below, and don’t forget to check back for more in the series of what to expect from social media in 2016.