On-board the 2017 Social Express - What the Year Brought for Social Media and What's Next
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Less than a decade ago, not many would have predicted that social media platforms would emerge as a multi-billion-dollar industry that would dominate our collective waking hours. The past year saw a number of Internet users realizing the full potential of social media. While the year was quite eventful, two words became a rallying cry for users across the world, and went on to become Time Magazine's Person of the Year, under the name 'The Silence Breakers.' As millions posted #MeToo stories, trying to get bad memories of sexual harassment encounters off their chests with their battleground being social media, it further validated the virtual world's position as the modern epicentre of any social revolution.
The popularity of the ever-versatile social media continued to rise and lived up to its potential of being the world's most preferred communication medium during 2017. The past 365 days were proof enough of the growing influence of social media in our lives. While the world over, Facebook became much bigger than China, India topped the charts of having the highest number of users on the platform, overtaking the US with 241 million users and counting. Its compatriots such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc. too grew at breakneck speeds.
In India, social media became the go-to medium to raise issues of national concern, with a hashtag in tow. It emerged as a platform for many people to bring forth desired changes, while for businesses, it became the most preferred medium to connect with end users. A variety of social media trends strengthened and accelerated in 2017.
Let's take a look at what the social media calendar of the year that went by looked like and what factors shall shape it in 2018-
Of 'Virushka', Michael 'Jack Ma'son and many more...
The year ended with probably the most popular portmanteau of the year, Virat+ Anushka= Virushka. The wedding of arguably two of the biggest Indian stars in their respective fields kept the social media pot stirring and users and advertisers worldwide hooked. Alibaba Chief Jack Ma's phenomenal Michael Jackson moonwalk routine also got an overwhelming response, with many fans proclaiming that his moves, like him, were worth more than a million bucks! 2017 also saw Ashley Judd and other Hollywood celebrities come together to speak about the inappropriate, and in some cases, illegal behavior they had faced with the distressing hashtag #MeToo, which broke the internet.
These events proved social media's ability to reduce the gap between our lives and the celebrities we look up to.
In 2017, social media got smarter and the platforms were employing technology to optimize user experience.
The emergence of Generation Z
In 2017, social media platforms witnessed an evident shift in their user base. Organizations are now essentially catering to Generation Z or the iGeneration- social media natives who thrive in the newly developing high-tech and highly networked world. These are a more valuable resource than millennials. Hence, greater investments are now being made in services preferred and social media platforms frequented by Gen-Z like Instagram and Snapchat. Consequently, analytics is getting better and more brands are now investing in personalized content over social media to connect with audiences, create and distribute better content and grow their brand along with a loyal user-base.
The past year also witnessed an increasingly positive transition in the influencer- marketing paradigm. Most of the big players of the industry shifted to social media-based influencer marketing strategies to tap into new user-base and improve engagement with existing audiences.
Democratization of content space
2017 also marked the year which saw various social media platforms becoming far more open and accessible to users not only as content consumers but also as content creators. In India, for instance, Roposo has done a great job of identifying itself as a purely desi platform that seeks to present and represent what the young Indian of today thinks about. From fashion to adventure, travel to spirituality, young Indian social influencers have become the rage today, with many of them actually becoming celebrities overnight. The line between content creator and the consumer has been blurred, leading to increasing options for each user to identify like-minded content providers and collaborate with them, making internet content creation a two-way journey.
As we move into 2018, chatbots are ready to take off and with Augmented Reality as well as Virtual reality making an entry into the social media world, a significant change in user engagement is imminent, further changing the way we live and interact with one another. This year alone, 35.6 million Americans were reported of using a voice-activated virtual assistance device at least once a month. As the generation born into a tech-savvy world continues to grow, marketers and advertisers are increasingly incorporating these technologies in their communication strategies, and gradually zeroing in on social media platforms as their #1 choice for consumer engagement.
Extensive penetration of smartphones in the rural regions of India combined with a strengthening telecommunications infrastructure, and the convergence of mobile internet, particularly 4G, complimented by a dip in the cost of data consumption, is expected to open up a huge untapped market of potential users in the country. Video and interactive content will continue to enjoy a lion's share of an average user's data share and sustained focus on user-generated content will prevail. With social media platforms aiming to incorporate each other's features to emerge as one-stop complete engagement providers, and enabling free application building services for marketers and developers to reach out to customers in a better manner, 2018 will definitely emerge as the year that will see some lasting changes in the social media world, influencing, and altering the ways of user engagement permanently.