Social media has come a long way since the inception of Facebook and Myspace, and each year seems to bring along more developments it’s hard to keep on top of.
2016 saw more features develop that may not have found a strong footing yet, but 2017 has seen a lot of new features and developments already, alongside more features that have found a home on many people’s mobile devices.
We’ve gone through some of the major features and updates to social media of late, and what’s set to grow in popularity throughout 2017 and beyond.
Chatbots are here
Why talk to a human when you can talk to a machine pretending to be human?
While this is still a new thing, chatbots are now seen as fairly useful for customers, allowing for instant responses that can reply to basic queries and give results fast.
More and more businesses have been making the most of chatbots to answer simple customer questions, or simple commands that provides more information to customers. Chatbots can even place orders.
For instance, Dominos offers a chatbot for ordering pizza. So, if you don’t want to ring up, or place an order on the website, you can message a robot on Facebook.
Messenger is a core part of Facebook going forward, to expect to see the platform invest more money into what the Messenger app can achieve, as well as the robots who live there. This is potentially likely to expand to the Facebook-owned WhatsApp, too.
Video has become a very important way to engage customers, as now data is fast wherever you are and mobile phones have screens better than a regular TV, you can experience video anywhere, anytime.
But 360 degree videos take this one step further. You can pretty much be in a particular place, and have a look around by swiping on your phone.
This is likely to continue as a trend, giving customers a more immersive feel to the videos brands have to offer.
Videos have always been popular, and some would say (VOD) video-on-demand has tolled the death knell of live video on TV.
But while the internet birthed VOD, it’s also given rise to live streaming online. Which may as well be live television or adverts, but through the internet. You can watch live streams of individuals from around the world on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and in many other more niche environments such as Twitch.
Facebook even offers Live 360 moments, where you can experience a place in a 360-degree environment that is streaming, live. Technology has come a long way.
Periscope helped give rise to live streaming as a powerful tool, but it also offers a way to see live videos based on locations. So, you can click on your hometown, and see what people are up to right now in it.
It’s the location bit that is becoming more and more popular. Apple allows iPhone users to share location data with friends, which is essentially an app for the nosey, but it has its uses. Such as knowing your family is okay when they’re roaming on holiday.
The most recent example is the Snap Map update, which allows you to see Snapchat videos or images from particular locations from strangers. While this opens up a whole new ballgame for Snapchat and stalking, it’s a very interesting concept that turns an app that was always seen as a private, one-to-one system into a much more socially open and shared community.
LinkedIn allows for sponsored InMails for all advertisers, which can be helpful for B2B businesses looking to make new contacts.
But Facebook is also developing ways for brands to directly message customers.
Whether this works in a B2C space is debatable, as once customers cotton on to the fact that brands are paying money simply to message customers could sour them on the brand.
Business Profiles Evolve
Instagram rolled out business profiles, and continues to develop new ways to make the platform more viable for businesses. As it’s traditionally considered as a place for pretty pictures and nothing else (as the fact you can’t link on pictures was always notorious for), it’s looking to move away from this image. Mostly due to the behemoth of Facebook buying it.
As for Twitter, accounts can mark themselves as giving support, with particular support hours. Automated welcome messages are also available.
Snapchat used to be a one-to-one image messaging app. But then stories opened this up to new audiences, allowing any of your friends to see what you’re up to. Like a Facebook post or update, but in an image or video format.
Since that, Instagram has adopted a similar concept, as well as Facebook. So now you can share your stories on three different platforms. Picking the right place can be difficult for brands, but it’s likely you know where your audience is.
It’s likely that the story features of social media platforms will expand with new features for businesses in the near future.
Trolls Be Gone
Trolling has become a major downside of the online social space, and online culture in general. It always seems to be in the news every month or so due to the latest scandal, and it’s down to the social networks to combat.
Twitter for instance, is now looking to combat trolls much more vigorously. For instance, Twitter now lets you screen any common phrases or terms you don’t want to turn up in your feed. Good start.
Facebook has also stepped up its game thanks to a few controversies, and will be bringing on new team members in order to scrutinise posts and censor anything bad.
Social media platforms becoming eerily similar
Facebook is still the behemoth to beat. And it seems the latest motto of the company is if you can’t beat them, join them. Or buy them.
While Facebook has acquired WhatsApp and Instagram, it could not acquire Snapchat. So it essentially copied every single element it had, including stories, image filters, disappearing image messages through the Messenger app, and much more.
Periscope won over Meerkat in the live-streaming battle, but now Facebook offers live streaming as well. As does Instagram. You get the picture.
More streamlined social media platforms are becoming less common, as it used to be you would use Facebook for family photos, Twitter to get news and updates or post your thoughts to the world, and Instagram to share a portfolio of pretty images you’ve taken.
Nowadays you can stream live video, share numerous images, use amusing image filters, get news or content updates, watch stories from friends, message your friends or brands, on any of the major platforms.
Whether this will all come tumbling down for the major players is another debate completely, as millennials essentially decide which apps are popular in the future. There doesn’t seem to be any social media platforms or apps on the rise currently, but that doesn’t mean to say there won’t be one soon. And inevitably, this will get copied or bought out by one of the competitors. Probably Facebook.