The report – produced in conjunction with agency We Are Social – puts forward a handful of social media and digital trends we can expect for the forthcoming year, as well as examining social media usage around the world.
Firstly, let’s take a look at what the experts behind the report think we’ll all be talking about come the end of the year…
Digital in 2017: Predicted trends
Social catches up with search for discovery: Search is still king for helping consumers research and evaluate products and services, but social is starting to rival search for discovery, especially among younger buyers.
We say: A 2016 report by Global Web Index found that 40 per cent of 16-24 year olds use social media to research products, so there is certainly some evidence to support this.
Meanwhile, Facebook made a significant change to its search function in 2015, enabling users to search for text within posts rather than just for users and brands. This opened up the possibility for using Facebook as a consumer research tool – something that Twitter users have been able to do for years.
Furthermore, data released last year indicated that one in two Instagram users use social media for product research.
Social commerce shows new promise: Social commerce has been hyped before. However, adoption in APAC and new features by Instagram and Pinterest makes this an inevitable evolution in consumer behaviour on social.
We say: Asian consumers are extremely confident online; some are even happy to do their banking entirely on Facebook. However, Western consumers have consistently failed to warm to e-commerce on social media, and we haven’t seen any evidence that this reticence is suddenly going to disappear.
Furthermore, Twitter has just retired its ‘buy button’ function “as a result of the Twitter team pivoting way from their ecommerce focus”. According to a source quoted by BuzzFeed News, “People are not buying on social media right now.”
It’s safe to say the jury is very much out on this one.
Dark social rising: Fuelled by mobile and messaging, dark social is gaining ground. Dark social is critical for marketers to understand, as if you only track social traffic with traditional web analytics, you’re drastically under-reporting the value that social delivers to your business.
We say: Dark social refers to the social sharing of content via private channels such as messaging apps. In mid-2016 it was revealed that 77 per cent of content is actually shared on dark social, versus just 23 per cent on public social networks.
The rise of private messaging and private groups in the past five years has been phenomenal. In 2015 the number of people using messaging apps actually surpassed those using social networks. Identifying ‘dark social’ traffic is an obvious focus for analysts, but certainly not an easy problem to fix.
Video ignites social advertising: Last year we saw the domination of social video. The next evolution is to combine the emotional power of social video with the scale and reach of social advertising.
We say: This is already in full swing. According to Luke Brynley-Jones, managing director of OST Marketing, brands will seek to produce video content that users will engage with, rather than simply advertising at them through video. “We actually see the next evolution being more about creating interactive video formats that go beyond straight visual advertising,” he said. “The social networks thrive off engagement, not passive viewing.”
Facebook has already made a move to cash in on the popularity of video content by giving publishers the opportunity to insert sponsored content mid-way through their videos.
Organisations turn to connected workforces: Organisations are increasingly investing in the online reach and customer influence of their workforces with employee advocacy, social selling and digital skills training.
We say: The rise of staff advocacy programmes is now extending to EGC (Employee Generated Content) programmes, where staff are given the brand and encouraged to create and share content based on their own experiences. In the drive to demonstrate authenticity, the market leaders for EGC – mostly tech startups at the moment – are throwing away their brand bibles. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare.
Global social media stats
As well as making predictions for 2017, the report also examined global social media numbers. We’ve picked out some of the key figures below.
Worldwide social media users: 2.789 billion
With a global population of 7.456bn, this represents a penetration rate of 37 per cent. Though this figure would be much higher when you omit children, as well as adults unable to access the internet.
New social media users: +21% since Jan 2016
More than 482 million people registered a social media account in 2016, a significant increase of more than 20 per cent.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, social media is yet to gain significant traction in Africa. More than 16 per cent of the world’s population live on that continent, yet only 6 per cent of global social media users reside there.
It’s an even bleaker picture in South Asia, with 24 per cent of the global population make up just 9 per cent of the world’s social media user base.
East Asia, on the other hand, has a thriving social media presence. Thirty-three per cent of the world’s social media users live in the region despite only having 22 per cent of the global population.