- Snapchat: Will get its act together.
Snapchat has had, let’s call it, an experimental 2015. It launched sponsored lenses, sponsored discover channels, a lens store, and other forms of advertisements. These experiments come fast and hard, with some coming and going before we ever really got to know them (the lens store only lasted 2 months… we hardly knew ye).
So 2016 will be the year Snapchat gets its act together. Sponsored lenses will come down in price once they become more of a daily occurrence, and the novelty wears off. What will take off are the geo-targeted lenses, the McDonalds lens you can only use while you’re at a restaurant location, and other gimmicks like that. Ads in the middle of Snapchat Live stories will continue to exist; having a channel in Snapchat Discover will become more and more desirable; and with celebrities, politicians, and even The White House joining Snapchat, 2016 is destined to be a good year for the app.
- Facebook: Will make a competitor obsolete.
If there’s one thing Facebook does really well, it’s copying other people’s ideas, and integrating them into the network. Facebook Moments performs the tasks of Timehop more or less (minus any of the charm) and Facebook Live seeks to dethrone Periscope at the king of live streaming. So what’s next for Facebook? It may target some of Snapchat’s abilities, still bitter about Snapchat having turned down their buyout offer, though it’s hard to see them succeed there. In any case, some up-and-coming app or service is going to be replaced or bought out by Facebook in 2017, and it might not be pretty.
- Twitter: Will become unrecognizable.
Things are not great for Twitter. Right now they’re both criticized for not doing enough to block and ban bullies and verbal abusers, and for doing too much to “police language.” Their stock is down, the general reaction to Twitter Moments has been negative, users are complaining about too many ads and suggested followers, and their television ads seem a little bit desperate.
In 2015 we said goodbye to the Twitter Favorite, and hello to the Twitter Like. 2016 might be the year we say goodbye to the 140-character count. If that happens, it really is game over for Twitter. The brevity of 140 characters, the speed at which information and opinions travel, creative shortcuts to meet the character limit, all that is gone if they make the switch to 10,000 characters. Maybe Twitter is better off reinventing itself, it’s hard to say, but on paper Twitter without the character count sounds like a weak version of Facebook.
- Instagram: Will add features, but largely stay the same.
In 2015 Instagram added non-square photos, GIFs via Boomerang, Layouts, and advertising features via Facebook Ads; and yet most Instagram feeds mostly consist of square photos and videos. Instagram users are a people set in their ways and traditions. No matter how much things change on the perimeter (Instagram might mimic Snapchat Live and Twitter Moments) the core Instagram experience will go untouched, and that’s good. Social media audiences mostly hate change, and all Instragram has done over the years is add options, never take them away.
- Virtual Reality: Early adopters will spread the word, but 2017 will be the year for mainstream purchases.
The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset releases this year. Owned by Facebook, this headset is the one people have been waiting for since its Kickstarter launched in 2012. Its $599 price point (over $1500 with a computer that can run it) is going to be a tough pill to swallow for virtual reality enthusiasts, but this is only the first generation of VR. The first iPhone was overpriced, lacked key features, and wasn’t an immediate success the way we think of the iPhone today. 2016 Will be an exciting but rough time for VR; the cost of the equipment, and the questionable amount of VR content will keep it from going main-stream. Look to 2017 for cheaper models, improved iterations, and more uses for virtual reality headsets.
- Facebook: Will rollout Reactions worldwide.
This prediction is formed more in hopeful optimism rather than fact, but it’d be very exciting to see Facebook rollout Reactions worldwide. For those who haven’t heard of it, Reactions is Facebook’s emoji-based replacement of the Like Button, and their answer to the call for a Dislike Button. Users in Ireland and Spain have been Beta-Testing the feature for a while, Loving things that they really like, adding Crying Emoji to posts that make them sad, and Angry Emoji to posts they dislike, or make them feel anger.
For day-to-day users, this might freshen up Facebook, and clear up some awkward things about how the service functions today. For instance, if someone posts about a family member who passed away, a user has to “Like” it to convey support; but with Reactions, they can add their Sad Reaction instead.
For the advertising/social-media world, Reactions is both exciting and scary. Splitting Likes into Likes, Loves, Haha, Yay, and Wow Reactions, does give us more information about how we’re impacting people positively. Sad and Angry Reactions could also serve as feedback, letting us know when we’re connecting emotionally in the right way, or just making people angry.
In any case, it’s an exciting year to be in social media and digital marketing, and we look forward to tackling any changes that come to these platforms in 2016.