From augmented reality to chatbots and artificial intelligence, we’re faced with many astounding changes that are transforming the way we communicate — and the way we do business. To get future-focused, I explored the top social trends of 2017 and zeroed in on forecasts for the year ahead.
Trend 1: Enhancements to Video
Video still reigns as king. Its most popular uses in 2017 on social were in the form of stories, disappearing videos and live streams.
While quality high-resolution videos bode well for businesses, a growing number of people are responding more favourably to authentic in-the-moment videos.
Snapchat’s usership did see some growth this year, but surprisingly, Instagram became the dominant stories tool in August of this year. YouTube also announced improvements, including the ability for iPhone users to live stream their screen’s content.
Trend 2: Virtual Reality (VR)
VR is surfacing in social media — and it’s no longer just for gamers. Facebook announced its new Spaces app at the F8 developer conference in April.
The app, which is in beta, can be used to hang out with friends using personalized cartoon avatars. You can be live at a concert or vacationing in another country and bring everyone along with you, virtually.
Spaces could become a great business tool for remote team collaboration, but it still faces some technical challenges before it’s widely adopted in the workforce.
Trend 3: Augmented Reality (AR)
AR is becoming increasingly popular on social media. We’ve had a taste of it with the Pokémon Go craze and on Snapchat (remember the dancing hot dog?).
It’s now grown from flower crowns in selfies, to enhancing the way we communicate and do business. This year we saw a growing number of companies take advantage of AR for advertising through sponsored filters on Snapchat.
Google Lens could be one of the most groundbreaking technologies announced in 2017 for AR. This intelligent camera technology will allow you to hold your phone up to a restaurant, for instance, and its reviews will appear as an augmented layer over the storefront, in real time.
AR will soon have far greater influence than just live restaurant reviews, and its integration into social is something to watch closely.
Trend 4: Chatbots
Do you remember the mass rebellion when Facebook announced it would require you to download a separate app for Messenger? Since then, it’s grown immensely. According to Facebook, more than two billion messages are exchanged on Messenger between people and businesses each month.
Messenger’s growth has led to an acceleration of the adoption of chatbots, first with the introduction of auto responses for businesses in 2016. They have now made their way into group chats by recognizing when people are making plans and providing suggestions.
Chatbots help companies manage inquiries on their websites or help patients check in at clinics, for instance. They use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to analyze human conversations and sentiments to generate responses.
Chatbots are being more widely adopted and are expected to become more robust in 2018 as email becomes increasingly obsolete.
Trend 5: Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Yes, there have been a few alarming news headlines about AI. Remember the one about the AI assistants who learned to talk to each other in a language they created all on their own? And then there’s the oh-too-common fear about robots taking over the world. Despite the nervousness about AI, we are beginning to recognize the major efficiencies that can be realized in business through AI.
I’m hoping to see an increased use of AI to flag fake news, especially on Twitter, which could help the platform rebound. Twitter’s usership levelled out this year and it saw declining revenues. While its real-time news cycle capabilities are brilliant, it’s more important than ever for people to know what information to trust.
Google announced a larger focus on AI this year with its Google Assistant. Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri compete in this same space. I also believe we’ll see growth in the use of AI home devices, including Google Home, Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s HomePod.
Who’s in Charge Here?
There’s a dominant theme to all of the above trends: Facebook is the trailblazer.
I still get asked whether the social-media giant is dying, but Mark Zuckerberg and his team aren’t going anywhere. Facebook knocks any other social-media platform out of the park with its 2017 milestone of hitting more than two billion active monthly users.
I’ll be keeping a close eye on Facebook’s developments as well as the integration of chatbots, AI, VR and AR in business across all social platforms.
Then, who knows? By this time next year I could be sitting down with my coffee, debating with my AI assistant about what the social media trends of 2019 will be. Let’s hope she’s nice.
This article is from the December 2017/January 2018 issue