To learn more about the most recent social trends, be sure to check out our five predictions for social media trends in 2017.

As 2016 closes out, marketers across the globe are looking forward to their 2017 planning. Part of that planning should involve taking a look back to 2016: what worked, what didn’t, and where to pivot going into the new year.

Social media should be no different, reviewing the most successful trends for 2016, and how brands did or did not utilize them, can be the key to succeeding in social next year.

At the end of 2015, we published a list of top trends for 2016. They buy-now buttons, video, and channeling the message. The smart marketers and brands revisited those trends later in the year to share updates and recommendations leading into the all-important final four months of the year. Many of those trends held true throughout the entirety of 2016, but some did not. So, what floated to the top in the year-end roundup?

Below are the social media trends that ended up as the biggest of 2016:

Buy Now / Install Now

Purchasing through social media is a trend that held true, and continued to grow, throughout all of 2016. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all created a feature allowing customers to buy straight from the respective social platform, and this added convenience greatly increased the potential efficacy and ROI for using social media marketing.

If a customer is already engaging with the brand, or a brand influencer, through social media, ‘buy now’ buttons made it easier than ever before to interact with the brand, and buy the product in just a few clicks on mobile devices.

Social media algorithms have also adjusted over the last year to ensure user feeds are tailored. That means targeted ads, including the purchase button, are served to those customers most relevant to the brand, and vice versa. While the pay-to-play era of social media marketing is slowing down, 2016 found brands no longer competing for space. Using Big Data and other information from their users, brands targeted specific customers, as opposed to whoever scrolled by at the time.


Video was another area predicted to be big in 2016, and remained strong throughout the year, albeit in an evolved way. What were once carefully curated, edited, and produced brand videos, gave way to live video. Consumers gravitated, and will likely continue to do so, towards the raw, authentic, unscripted, and often unpredictable content that real, if not truly LIVE, video offers.

Many brands looked to their social media influencers to create this genuine content, but they also found new ways to utilize the moment-to-moment, script-free views of life. Facebook’s Facebook-live, Instagram video, as well as the later introduction of Instagram stories and Twitter’s Periscope, offered plenty of opportunities in 2016 for brands to capitalize on video.

Millions of users are visiting these platforms every day to consume this video-specific content. Marketing experts in 2016 understood that there were two key areas to focus on for continued success in video. The first is developing quick and responsive content strategies to deliver quality video content efficiently and with the right marketing messaging.

The other, and perhaps the most important, is to maintain the reality of the medium. If marketers try to ‘trick’ customers by making them think what they are seeing is reality, but in truth isn’t, they will get caught. And the blowback won’t be pretty.

Expiring Content

Whether it was through Snapchat or the new Instagram stories, expiring content grew exponentially in 2016, and will likely continue that growth in 2017. Expiring content creates a sense of urgency for users, inspiring quicker action and more frequent ‘check-ins’.

Take, for example, Snapchat. This platform was built specifically around the concept of expiring content. In a matter of five years, Snapchat has grown to the be the third largest social platform – and it’s still growing. In fact, Snapchat’s U.S. user base jumped by 27.2% to 58.6 million users in 2016, meaning one in five Americans engaged with the platform.

The popularity of Snapchat and expiring content also led to the development of Instagram stories, Instagram’s own version of expiring content with a 24-hour viewing window. Within two months of launch, Instagram stories boasted 100 million daily users.

Consumers clearly had a desire for the raw, temporary, and utterly imperfect nature of content with a short window of availability. Looking at the continued growth of both Snapchat and Instagram Stories, if brands think expiring content is something they can ignore, they’ll be very sorry they did so come mid-2017.

The Strength of Mobile

While mobile usage itself may not be new, the growth of the medium with regards to social media apps and platforms in 2016 cannot be left off this list. There are now more than 2 billion smartphone users in the world. Not only do 80% of internet users have a smartphone, but  nearly 80% of all social media time is spent on mobile, according to comScore’s 2016 U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus.

Take, for example, mobile Facebook users. In 2016, there were 1.57 billion mobile monthly active users on Facebook, showing a 20% rise from 2015. Mobile traffic on social media platforms long ago surpassed desktop traffic, particularly since the advent of mobile-only or mobile-intended apps like Snapchat and Instagram. This year saw an unprecedented growth in mobile, one that shows no sign of slowing down.

Multi-Channel Marketing

Social media marketing encompasses many different channels. Marketers in 2016 saw the increase in the necessity for multi-channel marketing. Not only did multi-channel marketing strategies increase the likelihood of content being viewed by target users, it also allowed marketers to achieve true one-to-one customer communication, with minimal effort.

Marketers were able to reach customers across multiple platforms with a consistent message, all the while strengthening relationships, building momentum, and measuring performance. At the same time, brands could also gather valuable data on what makes customers tick, through the monitoring of channels.

New platforms and channels are popping up all the time, and will likely continue to do so. There are far too many intricacies for marketing teams to keep up.  2016 saw these teams learning to adapt through multi-channel automation and marketing strategies. The future will likely bring continued opportunity to master these methods as much as possible.

Authentic, Personality-Filled Engagement

Be it a customer service channel, or just day-to-day social media interactions, users in 2016 wanted brands to be real. They wanted to feel like they weren’t interacting with just another bot, but a real, flesh and blood person. That desire became a requirement in the last year.

Brands had to find and cultivate their social media ‘voice’, and that voice had to resonate with users, as well as reflect the brand’s personality. If there was even the slightest inkling of insincerity or pandering, users could easily tell and the efforts severely backfired. As was seen in the first half of 2016, there were some disastrous examples.

Treating social media users with the same respect customers receive in a brick-and-mortar store was critical, and that desire will only continue to grow. Brands that succeeded in this area in 2016 allowed employees to act with humor and personality, as well as providing top-tier customer service on social platforms.

Final Thoughts

Social media trends grew, changed, and grew some more throughout 2016. From the rise of brand new platforms, to the expansion and growth of others, marketers had to stay on their toes, adapting as quickly and effectively as possible. It was a challenge, but by adopting new techniques and technologies, many marketers were able to continuously succeed.

While the above trends were key to success this year, they will likely continue to grow and be successful in 2017. By staying up-to-date on the trends of the past year, as well as seeing what will likely grow and evolve next year, marketers will be able to dominate social media in the most effective ways.

To learn how to harness the power of social interactions to better understand your existing customers, visit the Emarsys social engagement page.

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