It’s been a busy old year in social media.

Snapchat has gone from being a novelty messaging app to a valid means of marketing to youths.

Twitter has tried to reinvigorate itself by slightly changing the shape of one of its buttons.

Facebook has remained a force to be reckoned with, forcing publishers to live like barnacles on the bottom of its massive traffic ship.

And apparently Google+ still exists.

To try and make sense of it all from a marketing perspective, I spoke to a number of experts to get their views on the biggest trends in social media from the past 12 months.

Here’s a summary of what they had to say...

Video killed the text-based update

Henry Elliss, managing director of Tamar

This year seems to have seen video creep into every part of social media, very quietly and without much fuss.

From streaming (and often auto-playing) ads in Facebook and Twitter, to Instagram video really taking off, to Snapchat etc. 

The perfect storm of great connection speeds and easy-to-create videos seems to have really hit big in 2015.

Matthew Marley, senior social strategist at PSONA Social

Undeniably, video content on social media has become the preferred medium for many brands over the past 12 months. 

A report released earlier in the year from Business Insider showed that online video ads are now generating three times more clicks compared to other ad formats such as mobile, display and rich media. 

YouTube’s supremacy at the top is beginning to crack with the most obvious threat coming from Facebook. 

With over 4bn views daily, video content on Facebook continues to grow significantly, which has led many industry experts to predict that it will eventually outgrow YouTube to become the #1 video sharing platform.

Social is for B2B too

Davina Rapaport, Pulse & social media manager at Maersk Line

I’m tired of the notion that social media is only for “cool” brands. I’m extremely buoyed by the number of B2B companies embracing social media and exploring it’s potential. 

I love seeing unlikely candidates excel on social media.

(For more on this topic, read: Five more examples of interesting content from ‘boring’ businesses.)

Merinda Peppard, EMEA Marketing Director at Hootsuite

Social has also become an increasingly relevant for B2B communications and should no longer be mistaken for a pure consumer play. 

Today, 92% of B2B marketers use social media, and LinkedIn has been dubbed the most effective B2B tool for social engagement.

A shift away from follower counts

Davina Rapaport, Pulse & social media manager at Maersk Line

Another aspect that I’m particularly pleased with is the shift away from measuring success in follower numbers. 

We’re seeing less focus on collecting ‘followers’ and more focus on having conversations with the right audience.

Instagram

Matthew Marley, senior social strategist at PSONA Social

With over 400m users, Instagram has seen explosive growth in 2015.

It surpassed Twitter to become the second most popular social network globally and is soon to become one of Facebook's biggest growth drivers, with many key industry analysts predicting that Instagram might be generating more from mobile display revenue than Google and Twitter by 2017. 

To achieve this growth Instagram rolled out its self-serve ad platform in September and has quickly become the hottest new advertising platform for some of the world’s biggest brands such as John Lewis, Michael Kors and Mercedes-Benz. 

A study conducted by Forrester has also shown that top brands on Instagram are seeing engagement rates as high as 4.2% making it the undisputed king of engagement for 2015 which we expect to continue in 2016.

Social networks as a tool for news discovery

Merinda Peppard, EMEA Marketing Director at Hootsuite

The role of social networks as a primary source of news has also been a significant trend this year. 

While traditional newspapers have cut more than a third of their workforce in the last 25 years, readers aren’t abandoning the news; instead, they’re switching to social media and other online sources in droves. 

The number of people who consume news via major social networks has significantly spiked in just two years, with the majority of Twitter and Facebook users (both 63%) now saying they get their news from the platforms.

Can brands crack private messaging?

Matthew Marley, senior social strategist at PSONA Social

2015 has seen messaging and chat apps continue their rise in popularity, especially among millennials. 

Apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Snapchat are some of the most used apps globally and continue to dominate the App Store charts.

Mobile messaging is changing the way consumers communicate, and the personal nature of these apps will create many new challenges which brands will have to overcome. 

However, we have already seen several innovative brands successfully tap into one of the biggest messaging apps, Snapchat, including Taco Bell, General Electric and Heineken. 

These apps create a massive opportunity for brands and we expect to see more join the messaging revolution in 2016. 

Buy buttons

Merinda Peppard, EMEA Marketing Director at Hootsuite

The rise of “buy buttons” was really important for social platforms in 2015 and has marked a significant shift in the role social media plays in the ecommerce space. 

With Pinterest’s new Buyable Pins, Facebook’s Buy Button and retailers on Shopify, social networks have evolved from referral channels to purchasing platforms, giving consumers a compelling reason to buy directly from their feeds.

David Moth

Published 10 December, 2015 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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