Social Media Is Evolving: Here’s What You Need To Know To Get Ready For 2016

Shelly Dutton

Every business wants increased exposure – and what’s better than social media to make that happen? But before you jump in head-first, there’s one thing every marketer must always remember: Technology changes fast, especially social media. Does anyone remember MySpace and Friendster?

According to Pew Research Center, use of social media is on the rise. In the United States alone, a ten-fold jump (from 7% to 65%) among adults has occurred over the last ten years. Plus, Business Insider recently revealed that even less-developed tech markets are experiencing rapid growth in social media use – thanks to the exponential adoption of smartphones.

While this may sound like good news, increased social adoption, the proliferation of social channels, and “mobile-first” engagement behaviors are creating a complicated landscape for marketers. As new social technologies emerge and others shut down, it’s easy to get mixed up in the hype and misjudge the true value of these channels.

Does your social media strategy reach the right audience? Or are you tweeting, sharing, and posting to deaf ears?

3 insights that can positively change your 2016 social marketing game plan

For most businesses, it’s not uncommon to have a social strategy based on tweets, shares, and posts alone. However, this approach may be soon outdated as social channels no longer claim a stronghold over all demographics – even Facebook. This evolution in the social landscape will require marketers to gain a better understanding of their customers’ social interactions.

To help you plan your 2016 social marketing strategy, here are some insights from Business Insider’s report “The Social Media Demographics Report 2015.”

1. Social users are leaning towards visual content.

YouTube. Snapchat. Instagram. Pinterest. If the growth of these platforms proves anything, it’s that people love visual content. This finding is especially true for women, African-Americans, millennials, and Gen Z.

In the past year, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest have experienced a rise in users between the ages of 12 and 24. More than half of this demographic cites Instagram (59%) and Snapchat (57%) as the most popular. At the same time, YouTube continues to be a favorite medium among 31% of users aged 16 to 24, which is a higher proportion of users seen on Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

Plus, it appears that Instagram is picking up African-American who are leaving Facebook – as shown by the 40% who are on Instagram. And women who are diversifying their social networking are also jumping aboard this trend with Snapchat, where 70% of its users are female.

Your social opportunity: If you have been playing with the idea of video and image-driven campaigns, this may be the time to try them out. Just be mindful of whom you are targeting. Although these platforms tend to entertain younger, female, and African-American users, men may be a user base that is largely untapped. Even the NFL and Red Bull have a follower base of more than 75% male on Instagram. Take a look at who is following whom and find a way to make your brand appear relevant to those popular accounts.

2. The tried-and-true of social networking is skewing older and more female.

It seems like everyone is on Facebook; however, this may soon change. Although 10% more people aged 50 and older are adopting Facebook since last year, the social behemoth is starting to show signs of waning use among teenagers and millennials. In fact, only 38% of Facebook’s adult user base in the United States is aged 18 to 34, which is the lowest rate seen by any other major social networking site. However, Facebook is not alone: even the user base on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are trending older as well.

More notable is the widening gap between female and male participation. In September 2014, 77% of adult Facebook users were women, but only 66% were men. And it appears that this gap is widening when you consider that the gap was only 10 percentage points in 2013, versus the 11% gap seen in 2014. Even Snapchat, Instagram, and Pinterest are experiencing similar changes in their user base.

Your social opportunity: Keep an eye on the changing demographics of your current social outlets. Do not forget seniors and women when posting content. If you constantly skew younger and male in your Facebook and Twitter posts, you may be missing out on two important demographics – especially women who account for the majority of household spending decisions.

3. Messaging apps are gaining popularity, but the demographic may not be what you expect

Global adoption of mobile messaging apps has grown 103% in 2014, as stated by Flurry, a mobile analytics firm. Yet, Americans are not adopting this technology as widely as consumers in other countries.

Like most new technology, these apps are catering to a younger base. When compared to other age demographics worldwide, teens (ages 12 – 24) are more likely to use Snapchat, Kik, Hike messenger, LINE, and Telegram.

Your social opportunity: Adopting new technology in your marketing plans may seem like fun and cutting-edge. However, it will not work if your demographic is not a teenager in Asia. The key is not to get lost in the hype and what’s cool at the moment and to be realistic at where your real opportunities for engagement are.

For more insight on social marketing, see Can You Really Trust Social Media Influencers?