A lot of changes in social media in 2016 won't be revolutionary - they'll be a continuation and acceleration of what we've seen already. Of course, any revolutionary change will be so different that to even try to guess at what it will look like is near-impossible. That is, after all, what makes it revolutionary change.
So what will the continuing evolution of social media and all its moving parts look like in 2016?
Social At Work
After so many years of trying to keep us out of our social media sites at work - putting Facebook, Gmail and Twitter outside of firewalls - we're going to find social tools connecting us more than ever in the workplace.
Part of this trend has been drive by Slack, a ubiquitous and terrific tool to help co-workers share information, gifs, and whatever else they need to. I belong to Slack groups of journalists, of friends, of collaborators. And now Facebook has launched Facebook for Work, enabling us to sign in once and be connected to a work-facing Facebook and a personal Facebook at the same time, without mixing them.
This and other tools will help businesses harness our desire to be connected, while using some of that connectedness for work purposes and not just to play Candy Crush (does anyone still do that?).
Facebook for Work is extremely new, so how widespread it will become remains to be seen. Make no mistake, though, this will be the year the workplace truly begins to harness the power of social for internal purposes.
It's like 1995 all over again. Remember when we used to have pagers and would send messages using numbers? That evolved into SMS texting, which evolved into Twitter, which evolved into lots of stuff, and now ... we have texting again.
Everything not so old is new again.
One could argue that 2014 or 2015 was the year of the Text. I would argue that 2016 will be the year that companies and marketers actually learned how to make use of text messages and texting platforms in non-spammy ways. In spammy ways, too, of course. That's always gonna happen.
Texting is more personal and immediate than most other forms of social media. And with all the new texting platforms, most of the old technical requirements are a thing of the past. The companies that begin to figure out how to use text without being disruptive or pushy will win the day.
Every year in the past 10 years, someone's declared that video is going to be the Next Big Thing in social media. And, truthfully, it pretty much is each year. But with the launch of so many live video-streaming platforms in 2015 - Meerkat, Periscope, Blab, Facebook Mentions - it's clear that this is ready for primetime.
In fact, Google Hangouts really pioneered in live video streaming being available to just about anyone, but Google's dropped the ball somewhat and has some catching up to do.
Again, Facebook's entry into the live-streaming video revolution ensures that "regular" people - consumers, non-marketers, people who aren't first adopters - will start using it. What completely cemented my belief in livestreaming being bigger than we ever imagined in 2016 was reading up on YouNow, the livestreaming app that teens are using and the rest of us completely missed.
YouNow has actually found a way to make money without advertising. Teens will pay to watch other teens sleep, dance, sing, talk, anything. Yes, sleep. The platform takes a cut. No ads, and no ads are planned.
Video is dead! Long live video!
Oculus Rift was the big VR/AR story a couple years back. But the low, low price point of Google Cardboard and other VR goggles makes this something that anyone can afford. As The New York Times ventured into the space this year, its AR app was downloaded more times in the first 24 hours than any other app the news organization had ever built. People watched videos in the app for an average of 14 minutes.
Fourteen minutes. I'm gonna let that sink in.
Creating the virtual reality worlds may not be incredibly inexpensive yet, but viewing them is.
I wrote about Forevery the other week, and it's the perfect example of how machine learning can be useful to our everyday lives. The app goes into your smartphone's camera roll and organizes it according to place, date, people in the images, topics - almost anything you might want.
There is so much content on social - we're told that all the time. And we've been told that Big Data would help us make sense of it. A big piece of that Big Data picture will be machine learning. We can go through all the photos and individually tag them all, of course. But who has the time? And who wants to spend their time doing that?
Not me. Not you, either. Let a machine do that and teach it so it gets better and better and never makes a mistake?
Sounds great until Skynet, and by that time we're doomed anyway, so we might as well take advantage of it.