In the latest instalment of our yearly roundups, we’re looking back at the biggest trends in social media from 2016.

From the demise of Vine to the introduction of Instagram Stories - there’s been lots going on. But what were the most important developments?

Here’s some insight from several social media experts, and for more, be sure to get involved with the following resources from Econsultancy:

Live video taking off

Will Francis, founder of Vandal London:

It felt like Facebook Live really took off in 2016, and this will become more important as more viewers tune into important streams.

Like many things, mainstream adoption has been and will continue to be driven by major world events such as the US Election and who knows what else in 2017.

Kirsty Price, senior community manager at PSONA Social:

From Buzzfeed’s Tasty to 360° tourism videos and celebrity livestreams - video has undeniably become the most scroll-stopping social media content format.

Facebook reports that by 2020, 75% of all mobile data will be video. In 2016, we’re already seeing that brands that don’t create and publish video content are trailing behind competitors that have invested heavily in this captivating medium. 

Alice Reeves, associate director of social and outreach at Jellyfish:

Live video really took off this year. Since Facebook Live launched in April, we’ve seen a wide variety of uses – from TheLADbible gaining almost 800,000 viewers by stacking biscuits live and seeing which tower would fall over first, to CNN live-broadcasting a man scaling the Trump Tower in NYC which attracted over 8m views.

It is such an exciting development. What I found particularly interesting when watching the CNN Broadcast was how people were interacting with the news story, telling the person filming to move the shot back to the man when they panned over the crowd.

It was intriguing watching the live reactions changing from amused to angry as soon as viewers weren’t seeing what they wanted. This opens up a whole new dimension to how we engage with news, brands, and organisations.

Jordan Stone, deputy head of strategy at We Are Social:

Live video has taken off in a big way both among consumers and brands, and with Facebook, Periscope, and Twitter all introducing new ways for brands to livestream more professional-looking content - streaming shows no sign of slowing down as we move into the new year.

The rise of chatbots

Kirsty Price, PSONA Social:

Back in April, Facebook announced that bots could be developed for Facebook Messenger. So far, the applications have been incredibly innovative.

Over 11,000 bots have been built for customer service delivery, concierge-style services, ordering products and more. While they’re definitely still a work in progress, we’ve seen some promising early efforts from brands such as KLM, Estee Lauder and Domino’s.

Jordan Stone, We Are Social:

2016 has definitely been the year of the chatbot. We’ve seen bots cropping up for the likes of Domino’s, Skyscanner, British Airways and even Miss Piggy. 

Chatbots are a fantastic way for brands to relieve the pressure on customer service teams and drive deeper engagement with brands; they are quick and simple to use, and as AI capabilities develop, they should become far more sophisticated and ever more indispensable.  

Joanna Halton, Head of Client Strategy at MyClever:

Brands have been launching more and more sophisticated bots and with Messenger’s new payment functionality, it’s been a non-brainer for the likes of Dominos.

As a trend, it’s raised awareness of automation and I don’t see take-up slowing down any time soon.

Disappearing content

Alice Reeves, Jellyfish:

The trend for disappearing content has boomed this year. I love how it allows a more personal connection with people, mimicking a conversation more closely than one on Facebook or Twitter. Knowing the content won’t stick around and pop back up in Timehop a year later encourages users to share more freely.

Plus, there’s a sense with Facebook that the more you invest the more history you rack up with the platform – so you end up being committed to it. With Snapchat it’s gone almost immediately. There’s something liberating about that.

Politics and fake news

Will Francis, Vandal London:

The politicisation of social media has been extraordinary during the Brexit referendum and US election. The two events generated huge engagement spikes for the big two platforms - Facebook and Twitter - but left them both cast in a negative light. 

News coverage of how the platforms fostered mono-cultural echo chambers and disseminated fake or heavily biased news has eroded trust. But growth seems to be holding for both so far.

From a brand perspective, vociferous commentary and political rants further crowd out their messages and smarter brands are looking to other platforms for more authentic organic engagement.

Jordan Stone, We Are Social:

Politics has dominated social media throughout 2016, with pictures of cats and babies being replaced by political posts on Facebook feeds in the UK, US and around the world. 

Social media played a huge part in influencing voters in the EU Referendum and the US presidential election and, crucially, social media data correctly predicted their outcomes, while the vast majority of traditional polls were wildly inaccurate.

But what this has brought sharply into focus is the fact we are all existing in social media ‘bubbles’ with algorithms on platforms like Facebook only showing us the news we want to see. 

This may have been going on for some time but it’s only now that these two seismic events in history have taken place that the pressure has really increased for social platforms to address the issue.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 12 December, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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