The Roaring Twenties: A New Decade of Social Media
This past decade, we have witnessed firsthand what social media is truly capable of – the good, the bad and the incredibly ugly – and it’s been a wild ride from start to finish.
The second decade of the 21st century was the first in which social media became intricately woven into our everyday lives. So, with a new decade upon us, where do we go from here?
Making predictions about the future of social media may be about as reliable as making predictions about the weather. But, here are five things to watch for in the coming years.
Privacy? If they must.
Let’s be honest: absolutely nothing will change in the way social media deals with privacy issues unless it’s legally mandated or it hurts shareholders’ bottom line. I would love to be wrong about this, but history says otherwise.
One way many users are combatting their social media addiction is by detoxing – either completely deleting social media apps from their phones or putting a time limit on their daily usage. This trend will continue – but so will the growth of these companies.
We will continue to see a lot of empty promises and hot air around protection and privacy until someone actually does something about it. Sadly, the people who could do something about it are too busy benefiting from advertising on these platforms, so it’s a vicious cycle.
Social becomes more niche
Facebook is still the dominant force in social media, especially as it also owns Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. But with its growth reaching a plateau, we’re going to start seeing more niche channels grabbing users’ attention.
You may not have heard of companies such as Cocoon – a private group messaging platform – or Houseparty, a group video chat platform. But these are the kinds of companies that will start to make a dent in the social media pie soon.
A big factor in this, other than its litany of PR nightmares, is that Facebook isn’t keeping up with the way younger audiences use social media. Ephemeral content, memes and viral trend videos are more widely shared than a basic, personal Facebook status.
Have something personal to share? Nowadays, you’re much more likely to message people directly or even post in a private group rather than broadcast a status to your newsfeed.
In the same vein, the shift to mobile-and video-first platforms in recent years is going to continue and we’ll start to see more innovative uses of VR and AR technology as a result.
TikTok on the clock
If you haven’t heard of TikTok yet, you’ll likely hear it come up time and time again in the next year.
With more than 500 million active users, this video-first platform’s astronomical growth makes it a viable candidate for taking the crown from Facebook as the most-used social media channel.
Unfortunately, it’s possible that TikTok is just another data-hungry wolf in sheep’s clothing. Though, let’s be honest, it’s a bit funny that we’re all suddenly hesitant about TikTok, considering the fact that we all willingly gave Facebook our data for more than a decade.
Visual channels are inevitable in the digital world. And as TikTok’s popularity increases and more people use channels such as Instagram and YouTube, we’re going to start to see some fascinating developments in the ways AI works in tandem with video content.
With Instagram removing likes, which helps Facebook take back control of how ad revenue is spent, we will have to rethink how we view and evaluate content on social media.
Not that ‘likes’ mattered much in the first place – it’s important to measure success beyond vanity metrics, of course.
However, this shows a shift in overall tastes and preferences of users. Memes, odd humour and ‘unpolished’ content are going to be the things that win out over perfectly curated feeds.
Groups and other online communities are also thriving, and will continue to do so. Finding like-minded people to discuss your interests is at the very foundation of social media, so it’s no wonder these are the features gaining in popularity.
Search and social begin to merge
Google finally pulled the plug on its social media service, Google+, earlier this year. But that doesn’t mean the tech giant is giving up on getting valuable social data anytime soon.
We are likely to see social signals integrated into Google’s search algorithm in the near future. This means popular posts across social channels will start to see higher rankings on search results. And maybe Google will launch a social media management and/or analytics tool, giving itself access to the social data it craves.
But Google isn’t the only one. Facebook recently launched search ads to all advertisers on the platform, mimicking how Google handles its search results. The lines between search and social will certainly continue to blur.
We can’t perfectly predict the future but at the very least, we need to learn from the past and present.
And while social media may evolve from its current form as we begin to flock to new channels and experiences, it definitely isn’t going away anytime soon, if ever. So let’s resolve to use social media as a tool for good in the 2020s, rather than as a vehicle for polarisation and negativity.