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  • Writer's pictureJaime González Gasque

Social Media in 2030 (and how it will affect YOU)

Ahhh 2030, a year which in and of itself looks numerically futuristic and so, unsurprisingly, tends to attract all kinds of space-age musings.

Not wishing to be left out, I’m going to briefly go into how Social Media is expected to evolve in the coming years.

In this post, I’ll touch broadly on different changes we can expect to see and I’ll try to link to external wherever possible.

1. More Growth

Hootsuite and We Are Social recently published an annual study of the adoption of the Internet, Social Media and Mobile adoption across 239 Countries.

From the analysis, Social Media is projected to grow, with up to 1 million new people joining Social Networks daily from in 2017. Also in 2017, roughly 250 million people came online for the first time. A lot of these people came from rapidly developing regions in the world (think of places such as Indian, and various countries in Africa, etc).

By 2020 at least, we’ll continue to see increased popularity of Instagram, especially among the older age groups. Hootsuite CEO Simon Kemp mentions “There are more 45–54-year old using Instagram than there are 13–17-year old’s”.

2. Change in Product Discovery

Almost half of the Internets users follow brands they are actively considering buying from time to time. Online reviews, Search Engines, and PR are the more old fashioned means of product discovery, however by 2030 expect to see sweeping changes in the following areas.

Social Media for Product Research

Search still leads the way when it comes to product research but don’t expect it to stay this way for long. In a study of 178,421 global internet users aged 16–64, GlobalWebIndex found that 28 per cent of users turned to social networks during their online product research. And yes, this number has been growing year on year.

In fast-growth markets such as Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, social media dramatically beats search engines for product research. As GlobalWebIndex also found, social media eclipses search engines as a research channel in the Philippines, Kenya and Morocco. By 2030, we’ll see search’s grip slip further on product research and social media’s influence grow, especially among mobile-first consumers and emerging markets.

Messaging Apps

Facebook predicts that by 2020, 80% of smartphone users are projected to be using a mobile messaging app. Customer service is one of the most obvious use cases. But many local businesses are using messaging apps as their primary customer communication outreach.

This opens the door for conversational commerce to extend far beyond messaging, with messaging apps becoming the centre of mobile commerce, customer relationship management workflows, and product discovery.

Visual Searches

Andrew Ng, the Chief Scientist at Baidu, predicts that at least 50% of searches by 2020 are going to be through images or speech.

Products like Pinterest Lens use machine learning to aid in brand and product discovery. As Pinterest’s founder and CEO Ben Silbermann put it, “a lot of the future of search is going to be about pictures instead of keywords.”

3. Social Video Saturation (and Evolution too)

“Over the next few years, the much bigger driver of the business and determinant of how we do is going to be video, not Messenger,” says Mark Zuckerberg.

It’s easy to see the growth potential of video. According to GlobalWebIndex’s latest data on social video adoption, audience demand continues to grow.

• 56% of internet users watch videos on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram each month.

• 81% of 55 to 64-year-olds are watching videos online each month.

• One in three social video viewers watch videos made by brands every month.

As more mobile-first consumers in emerging markets come online, we’ll see even more growth in this area. For countries with low literacy rates, video is a much easier medium than text to learn about products and communicate online.

And with the rise of messaging — a medium where people type less and increasingly use audio snippets, live video messages, and augmented reality filters — the opportunity of social video has only begun.

But by 2020, marketers will face video saturation. As we found in our 2018 Social Trends survey, 46 per cent of respondents said they’re already implementing social videos, with another 26 per cent planning to implement in 2018. This means that social video is quickly moving from being an algorithmic advantage to a table-stakes tactic.

While most brands use social videos to boost traffic and reclaim a bit of organic reach, the impact of social video will be broad. Here are a few areas to expect to see a radical transformation with social video content.

Social eCommerce

Nearly every consumer is primarily using a mobile device and video is a much easier medium for learning about products. Companies like MikMak are working to figure out what native commerce experiences look like for “the social video generation”.

With fun, short-form product videos, they help brands directly convert viewers on social channels. Expect to see more companies shorten the path between awareness videos and direct purchases on social platforms.

One-to-one communication

Whether chatting with an investment advisor or getting a sales agent to walk you through cell phone plans, there’s a lot of opportunity for one-to-one videos between businesses and consumers.

For example, teens are typing less in messaging apps and using videos and audio snippets more. Over 100 million people use WhatsApp’s in-app video calling to connect with friends and family. Over 200 million people use the video messaging and augmented reality app Snow.

Marketers will need to adapt to these new highly personal uses of video. In other words, social media video’s will need to become social — an experience that builds a customer community rather than broadcast-style content and product teasers.

Passive networking

Globally, online consumers spend one-third of their time on social media. But as people spend more time on social, we’re seeing new behaviours emerge. People are sharing less personal information on major networks. Instead, they’re watching videos, killing time, and sharing things to connect with friends. Video’s impact will be broad here.

As GlobalWebIndex puts it in their latest social video report, “video positions social media as the go-to destination for anything from music consumption to online shopping and live sports broadcast and commentary.”

What you can do to prepare: Social videos can boost traffic. But chasing traffic and adapting to the whims of social algorithms isn’t a winning strategy.

“Only two firms can monetize traffic at scale — Facebook and Google,” says Stern School of Business professor Scott Galloway. “Everyone else needs to build a group of loyal followers.”

If you’d like practical tips for using video in 2018, I analysed the state of social video in Hootsuite’s 2018 Social Trends report.

4. Social commerce makes a new push

Social commerce adoption in Europe and North America has been slow. But the next phase of innovation in social won’t come from advanced economies. It’s the emerging economies — consumers that have skipped desktop and traditional search engines — that will lead the way.

From micro-businesses to major retailers, social’s role in eCommerce will grow. For example, Instagram already allows businesses to build digital storefronts with visual and video content.

As the analyst firm GlobalWebIndex predicts, “shopping via social channels may be an APAC-based phenomenon for now, but a culmination of trends are laying the groundwork for social commerce to gain traction in the West.”

What you can do to prepare: Make sure your social video and social commerce strategy are working in lock-step. Mobile-first shoppers look for fun, short-form product videos.

I also found this report by the consulting firm PWC to be valuable. It shows how mobile-first consumers are using social across the complete customer journey in China, a glimpse of the trends that will soon sweep Europe and North America.

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