By Matthew Cole
First, let me caveat this blog, with the reality that while you’ll find a queue of people willing to tell you what the social media landscape is going to look like in the next 12 months, nobody actually knows. Social trends are hard to predict, and analysing the past only paints half the picture.
Google has the right idea with Circles (just without the consumer user base) – no longer do we want to share our content with anyone and everyone. We want to have tight control over who sees our content, and tailor our updates based upon our audience.
It is this desire to segment our social media audiences that caused Facebook to introduce Instagram Direct into the popular photo-based network and has fuelled the increase in popularity of apps such as Whatsapp and iMessage, which allow you to send photos and videos to a group of people. SnapChat, the $3billion-valued lovechild of two Stanford University students, has taken the social landscape by storm automatically destroying images & videos 10 seconds after being viewed. Dear Pinterest: you’re heading in the wrong direction!
This is a stark contrast to the course social was heading in five years ago, with Twitter and Facebook leading the social media race. What we’re seeing now is an atavistic regression back to “dark social” – the years when email chains ruled and daily communication never left your inner circle of friends. Slowly fading is the timeline, the broadcasting of every minor thought and text-based updates. Now is the time for controlled audiences, multimedia content and privacy.
Nobody knows where social will be in 12 months, but an educated guess states that social will move to being just that, social. Closer interaction between only your closest friends, on private platforms and out of sight of every Tom, Dick and Harry. What does this mean for brands? Well, it’ll mean that penetrating people’s newsfeeds and timelines will be will be two things: harder and more expensive. Social networks hold the power here – they own the walls in which we communicate. For a price, they will let a brand inside, and that price won’t come cheap. Are the days of broadcasting to huge audiences on behalf of a brand numbered? I couldn’t possibly say….