Digital predictions for 2017

As this controversial year draws to a close, we’ve been dwelling on the last 12 months in social, from the mass-market obsession with augmented reality to the debates over Twitter’s future. Last year, the team predicted some of the biggest trends of this year; the rise of live-streaming, the growth of digital ad spend and businesses adopting social for internal purposes. What’s in store for 2017?

Live-video will continue to take off:  You’d have to be living under a rock not to notice how much social media giants have been pushing live-video over the last year. Twitter and Facebook have both built the capability into their apps and the latter is pushing it through big above the line advertising campaigns. Instagram is the latest platform to announce its foray into live-streaming whilst Snapchat has been allowing it for some time. There’s a lot of room for innovation from businesses when it comes to live-video, it will be exciting to see what happens!

Virtual and Augmented Reality become… a reality: People have been talking about both for years but in 2016, augmented reality really gained ground through Pokemon Go. Whilst we don’t anticipate both becoming mainstream next year, we do expect to see many more businesses experimenting with these new technologies.

Chatbots take over: Chatbots are computer programs that simulate conversation with people using AI. With Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter and Google Allo all introducing integrated bots to help with bookings and customer service, prepare to start talking to automated machines much more often. The idea is that Chatbots can help users with simple bookings or questions, freeing up customer service teams to answer more complex queries.

Users will demand more immersive experiences:  Previously a brand could put on an event and tweet some photos showing users how great it was. In 2017, that won’t be enough. With live-video, 360 images and video as well as the ongoing popularity of real-time posting, businesses can now show users what it’s like to actually be at an event, whether that’s a sky-diving challenge or Fintech conference. The idea is that users feel they are actually part of the experience so they feel even more connected to a business.

Ephemeral content: The popularity of ephemeral messaging app Snapchat has led to a number of its competitors stealing its core features. Instagram recently introduced ‘Stories’, allowing users to share video and picture content which disappears after 24 hours. Ephemeral content feels less curated and more ‘genuine’ than non-ephemeral content, bringing people closer to the brands and people that post it. There are also obvious privacy benefits.

Social platform refining: Many businesses spread themselves across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube, but often it doesn’t make sense for them to be focussed on all channels when their key audience is only active on one of them. Over the next year, we expect to see businesses focus on one or maybe two platforms that speak directly to their target audience and drive the highest level of engagement.

Written by Harriet Chamberlain, Head of Digital (@HLChamberlain)

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