The state of social media in 2016

From a surge in TV-like content to the prevalence of social news both false and credible, platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and others saw their influence significantly expand over the past 12 months. The ramifications of some of these developments are still unclear: Should Facebook censor fake news spread via its site? While Snapchat engagement metrics remain tough to figure out for many marketers, the platform demonstrated in 2016 that it's moved well past an early aversion to marketing tactics like ad targeting, and is further building out its in-app content model with offerings like original shows and Shazam integrations. “We’re past the days when people thought of Snapchat as a toy that only intrigued and appealed to kids,” Kashem Miah, director of social media and content marketing at Shutterstock, told Marketing Dive. One of the big questions for marketers heading into next year is how Snap will sharpen its distinct value proposition and focus in order to keep user attentions from migrating to the growing competition. “It makes some people uncomfortable to think that one platform can possess so much power and influence,” Miah said. Fake followers across platforms continued to plague social media more broadly, setting up another big problem for marketers to address in 2017. “The emergence of fake followers, fake interactions and fake engagement is a huge failure.” In light of how social media platforms directly impacted presidential politics this year, brands need to understand that social media isn’t just an afterthought, per Keim. Social media insights will need to be better aligned with data across departments for success in 2017. Though the technology can still frustrate, it's proving to be a key touch point for customer care and even the facilitation of in-app purchases and transactions.

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While the “social” part of social media has long been an integral aspect of many consumers’ daily lives, 2016 was the year the “media” half of the equation found itself in the spotlight, leading to as many hurdles as opportunities along the way.

From a surge in TV-like content to the prevalence of social news both false and credible, platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and others saw their influence significantly expand over the past 12 months. The ramifications of some of these developments are still unclear: Should Facebook censor fake news spread via its site? Will live streaming truly overtake TV for destination viewing as the trend toward cord-cutting accelerates?

These uncertainties and other growing pains sent the space into a period of self-reflection in the second half of 2016, but through the good and bad, marketers’ commitment to social only grew.

“The overarching theme we see connecting all of these big developments is a renewed focus on the customer and social listening,” Katy Keim, CMO at Lithium, told Marketing Dive. “Social media has of course been utilized by brands since inception, but this year saw more attention and budgets placed in these channels to listen in a more sophisticated fashion and connect with customers.”

There was plenty of news in 2016 that put social media center stage, including the channel’s impact on the presidential election, thesale of LinkedIn to Microsoft, thefailed bid from Twitter to find an acquisition partner and the increasing emergence of social strategy as an integral part of omnichannel marketing.

But perhaps the single most buzzed development was Snapchat breaking out to become a major marketing player, a fact reinforced by partnerships with big brands and parent company’s Snap Inc.’s planned $25 billion-plus initial public offering early next year, which is likely to raise millions of dollars that can be reinvested in further boosting the platform.

Snapchat has shown it’s eager to expand its horizons and creative canvas, rebranding as a camera company in September and introducing hardware like Spectacles that have brands and consumers excited.

While Snapchat engagement metrics remain tough to figure out for many marketers, the platform demonstrated in 2016 that it’s moved well past an early aversion to marketing tactics like ad targeting, and is further building out its in-app content model with offerings like original shows and Shazam integrations.

“We’re past the days when people thought of Snapchat as a toy that only intrigued and appealed to kids,” Kashem Miah, director of social media and content marketing at Shutterstock, told Marketing Dive.

Snapchat has proven so popular, in fact, that it’s inspired a variety of imitators like Instagram Stories, which hit over over 100 million daily active users — nearly as many as Snapchat’s audience — just a few months after its launch in August. One of the big questions for marketers heading into next year is how Snap will sharpen its distinct value proposition and focus in order to keep user attentions from migrating to the growing competition.

Despite Snapchat’s growth, Facebook remained the most considerable force on social in 2016, liberally borrowing ideas from platforms as varied as Snap to the enterprise chat service Slack in order to keep users within its walled garden of products.

Facebook’s…

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