The past few months were not favorable for Facebook reputation-wise, ever - hyped app Snapchat saw its slowest growth rate ever in Q1 2018, and reports of Twitter’s death have been going around for a while. However, despite all the security breach scandals and popularity swings, social media is definitely here to stay. Here are five ways social media are likely to evolve in the next five years.
1. Share of video content will continue to grow.
Last January, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled his ‘video first’ strategy. Two months later, the company published a research on media consumption on Facebook and Instagram, which stated that people looked at videos 5 times longer than static content. After that reports ensued saying that the corporation was ready to spend some $1 billion on original content for its Facebook TV, meaning Facebook truly walks the talk.
According to Hubspot, marketers were also eager to jump in on that video craze, leaving a greater share of their campaign budgets to Youtube and Facebook videos. So no one was particularly surprised when all-visual network Instagram launched its own TV and made vertical videos officially a thing, going far beyond Instagram and Snapchat stories.
As soon as 2019, videos are expected to make up a whopping 80% of all internet traffic and we can expect this trend to continue in various shapes and forms: from the rise of square video content due to the mobile ubiquity to consumer-lead live streaming, and VR-enhanced videos.
2. Blockchain-based social networks will transform content monetization.
Decentralized social networks sound like a logical response to data breach threats. Even though blockchain-based social media have not taken off yet, the young technology has the ambition to disrupt Facebook.
Leveraging the metaphor of ‘likes’ being the currency of social media, blockchain-based Monoreto literary offers to cash-in on them: each like here costs at least 5 cents in platform’s own tokens. Equipped with mechanisms to motivate liking, Monoreto allows users to promote their accounts in a newsfeed by giving and receiving likes. Offering zero transaction costs, Monoreto expects professional bloggers to flock to the platform for additional money and content creators for monetary reward.
Another decentralized social network offering rewards for quality content, Steemit, a kind of Reddit on a blockchain, is at its root a points system - rewards earned by people here can be traded on markets as tokens. One of Steemit users, David Kadavy, told Bloomberg that Facebook and Twitter are in the ‘Stone Age’ compared to Steemit, as they “have no value without what you’re contributing to them,” adding that “if Facebook doesn’t respond to this, things can change very quickly. They should be very concerned.”
3. New content types will continue to emerge.
In her 2018 report, internet soothsayer Mary Meeker mentioned social service Twitch, which streams live gameplay videos, as an example of the many original content types popping up on digital platforms. According to Meeker, since such streams are getting a lot of traction, we’ll gradually have to redefine our notion of what content is.
The video content explosion is likely to drive virtual reality adoption. In a continuous battle for users’ attention, more platforms will gravitate toward AR and VR - based content. Thus Facebook now allows shooting 360 degree-photos and videos inside its app, while the company’s dedicated VR application Facebook 360 is now acting as a hub for all 360 videos and photos that get posted to the platform. We’ll see other new formats emerge, as social platforms invest heavily into developing their own hardware like Oculus or Snapchat’s Spectacles. Tech-savvy Snapchat has also been exploring AR integrations for a while now: after the launching of Lens Studio in 2017, users of the platform have been able to develop their own AR lens.
4. Niche social networks to address communication woes.
Even though the big six — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat — are not going anywhere, the rise of niche social networks of all sorts, which began in 2017, is still a trend set to continue.
For those looking to veer away from Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica personal data misuse scandal, there are Diaspora and Mastodon, decentralized networks with their instances hosted on an individual's ‘node’, so that users can quickly download all of their data from the networks at any time. Beside various privacy and sharing settings, the networks support all features of a regular social network. If you are a designer, typographer or illustrator searching for a place to showcase your portfolio and mingle around like-minded professionals, there is Dribbble, a community for creative minds with nearly half a million users.
You can even start your own closed social network with Mighty Networks: for free if there are up to 1,000 people on it while a premium subscription allows you to turn it into a standalone mobile app. So maybe in five years time owning a closed personal network will be as normal as having an Instagram account.
5. Messaging apps to become business-oriented.
Messaging apps are still growing in popularity: in the United States, only total monthly active user count for the top 4 messengers has grown to 4.1 billion in 2018. By 2019, eMarketer expects 65% of the global population to use messaging apps. Since it’s a very competitive market, successful messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, leverage AI to enhance conversational communication and reduce response times, offer chatbot automation and integration with other platforms. Some 100,000 bots are used daily on Facebook Messenger.
According to Humanity in the Machine reports, most people would prefer talking to a chatbot when communicating with brands and business, so the rise of conversational commerce is a natural way to move forward. So leading messaging platforms are likely to continue developing tools for businesses to automate and improve customer relationship management.