June 19, 2019

The Teen Transition: 4 Growth Spurts Shaping Social Media’s Future

by Ellen Mallernee Barnes in News

by Davitha Ghiassi, EVP of Social & Integration, Red Havas

If social media were a person, they’d be 15 years old today. With the major evolution of this now truly maturing platform comes all you would expect a hormonal adolescent in his or her formative years to experience, including the comingling of intense rebellion and expression, and of self-doubt and discovery.

At the Meltwater Social Summit last week, I shared four themes that will see social through its formative years and shape its adult future.

1. Social commerce comes of age

If social is a teenager, then you better believe you can find it loitering around the social mall and indulging in shopping sprees on platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest in particular. It’s no secret that our product exploration, and indeed purchasing process, is now increasingly occurring online—and more specifically, on mobile. In fact, a full 71 percent of millennials identify their mobile device as their most important shopping tool, with 81 percent using Instagram to find and research products, according to this study commissioned by Facebook earlier in the year. “Instagram wants to be your mall,” proclaimed the New York Times earlier this year, while TechCrunch pondered whether or not Facebook would become the new QVC if the rumors prove to be true that it will introduce a shopping mode for its Live streams.

But while we’ve been browsing and clicking through to our purchases via social for years, we’re now also “trying on” and “checking out” directly within apps. Platforms like Instagram are the new “mobile storefront”—and powered by its most recently released features, there is no stopping this s-commerce leader. Only this past March, it added shoppable stickers to its Stories—and each month, some 130 million Instagrammers tap shoppable tags to reveal product catalogues, a process enhanced further through the new instant checkout feature.

And the next wave of s-commerce success has already arrived, spearheaded by Instagram’s Shopping from Creators feature that sees us convert directly via influencers’ content. Another emerging trend on the horizon is live interactive video Shopping—a feature already adopted by Amazon and being tested by Facebook.

One thing is for certain, social and shopping go together like soap and water.

2. Changing social currency

Gone are the days of likes, comments and shares representing the value exchange in social. Now a more sophisticated space and marketplace increasingly powered by paid, social ICO (initial coin offering) funds are the third fastest-growing cryptocurrency category empowered by blockchain technology.

But let’s put blockchain technology and cryptocurrency in the social context. In a simple analogy, you could say blockchain’s technical infrastructure represents the algorithm empowering the flow of information exchange to different receivers across the platform, and cryptocurrency isn’t unlike the “like,” as it’s the value being exchanged.

This is why it’s worth looking beyond the mainstream social and messaging apps already adopted en masse and toward social blockchain platforms like Block.One and Steemit, which flip the original value exchange between platforms and users on its head, by making the process not only much more secure through decentralized blockchain structures—but monetary, in the form of “coins” earned as a form of reward for users’ action on the platform.

And due to its decentralized nature, blockchain technology has the potential to prevent social data breaches, as it removes control over the data shared and exchanged from one single source, putting the user first.

In a long-awaited major move that will bring this technology to the masses, this week Facebook formally announced its plans to launch its own blockchain system, which includes the founding of the Libra Association, a cryptocurrency called Libra and Facebook’s own Calibra wallet, to be built into WhatsApp, Messenger and its own app.

Where exactly this transformation takes us over the coming years is yet to be seen, but you can be sure that block-change is coming.

3. Multi-logue en masse

When social media was born 15 years ago, it signaled a fundamental shift from traditional one-way engagement between brands and consumers through formats such as TV or radio, toward a two-way-street dialogue that initiated an immediate response between the two.

These days however, we’re seeing the next iteration of this engagement era arise—taking the new engagement norm from dialogue to multilogue. Multilogues are conversations between multiples—taking social shape through rapidly rising formats such as Facebook Messenger, which now has 1.3 billion monthly active users (MAUs) and the Groups format, which is used by 1.4 billion users on a monthly basis and grew by 40 percent in 2018 alone.

For more proof of the multi-logue that social has encouraged, see Spotify’s social Listening Along feature (which lets multiple users add songs to a single queue) or Facebook’s Watch Party feature (which allows folks in Facebook Groups to watch videos together while live chatting) and Instagram’s “co-watch” feature, which it is said to be testing.

As far as we’re concerned, the social landscape has spoken; shared experiences initiated by individuals are a top trend to watch.

4. Social hide-and-seek

Other key areas impacted by social’s continuous growth spurts are voice search as well as command and visual intelligence.

While standard social listening apps pick up on brand handle or keyword mentions, these days up to 80 percent of images online that feature logos don’t mention the brand name in accompanying text.

For instance, have a look at that gorgeous photo of the Instagram influencer holding up her favorite canned beverage, and it’s easy to understand why one of the most prevailing problems around social measurement is that so much of what is said about a brand—both positive and negative—goes unseen unless it’s tracked. The solution? Empower your listening efforts with visual intelligence tools that can help paint your brand’s full picture.

Additionally, we are seeing voice search and command play a major role in the future of social interaction. With over 50 percent of all searches set to take place in voice format by 2020, there is no doubt the major social platforms, too, will look to voice technology to enhance not just the way in which consumers access content or information but also how they act on it.

And with apps like Spotify, which recently launched voice-enabled ads that allow consumers to take action on ads via voice commands—we will be seeing more of this shift take place sooner rather than later.

For more of the social media insights we explored at the 2019 Meltwater Social Summit, read our seven key takeaways.