Social media is changing. After repeated scandals around the impact of things like fake news, cybersecurity, and even technology addiction, major social platforms are making changes to the way they sort and display content. And that has impacts for business owners large and small.

Many of these changes come from an increasing recognition of the harm caused by technologies that have been relentlessly optimized to capture our attention. In fact, the Center for Humane Technology was formed by a group of ex-Google and Facebook employees alarmed by the harmful impact of the technologies they spearheaded. Their goal is to preserve privacy and human relationships through humane technological design.

Facebook is responding by introducing algorithm changes to display fewer business posts and give priority to content from friends and family. We can probably expect this trend to continue -- which means business owners will need to watch these changes closely and adjust their social media strategies to accommodate a changing platform.

Privacy issues are a continued theme when it comes to social networks. Some 60 percent of Gen-Z are concerned about their privacy online, and a German court recently ruled Facebook's privacy settings and usage of personal data illegal. After a slew of news on privacy breaches like the Equifax hack, consumers are more concerned about data privacy and security than ever.

"We're seeing a shift in adoption and engagement on social media profiles that is related to our aversion to our tech addiction and our increasing awareness on the negative impact of tech," says Jeanne Lewis, CEO of Capsure, a social media platform committed to humane design.

So what does this shift mean for business owners?

Adopt influencer marketing, immediately.

Consumers are 88 percent more likely to trust a peer review online than a company product review or advert. Add that to the shift in the way Facebook displays content, and influencer marketing will take center stage. Because influencer marketing mimics the content created by family and friends, the high engagement insures that their posts make it into users' news feeds. And this shift doesn't apply only to large corporations - with micro and mid-level influencers increasingly available for campaigns, influencer marketing is more available and necessary than ever.

Brands need to embrace this change and focus less on pushing their products through advertising and more on aligning with the right influencer. With millennials craving authenticity, it's essential to select influencers that are truly genuine advocates of your brand. Consumers aren't naive to the fact that influencers make money promoting products, but if the fit isn't genuine, viewers can tell.  

More privacy and niche platforms will gain popularity.

Headline after headline about privacy violations have left consumers wary of corporate data collection. This means that not only will the big platforms have to step up their games to comply with legislation, but platforms that focus on privacy, such as Capsure, Life Cake, and Path, will gain in popularity.

The message here for businesses? Make sure your consumers feel safe about what you do with their data. Don't be invasive on any marketing channel and make sure your customers don't feel like their personal details are being used against them.

Live streaming is on the rise.

The shift to visuals is undeniable. According to a New York Magazine survey, 80 percent of consumers would rather watch a live video than read a blog, and Cisco reports that 80 percent of all web traffic set to be video by 2019. That means that when you work with influencers, get them to speak on Facebook or Twitter Live and you'll see a much higher engagement. The emphasis is on visual content now, so scrap the lengthy blog posts and corporate videos and start letting your consumers interact in real-time.

Adapt now.

Social networks make up one of the largest components of all online interaction -- and they'll only grow in importance for businesses. That means that as social networks change their platforms to conform to consumer demands, businesses need to adapt alongside them.

As a business owner, the best thing you can do is get ahead of these changes. Start altering your social strategy now. Find influencers that align with your brand and that you can afford, and start making influencer marketing campaigns a regular part of your marketing spend. Prioritize live streaming -- even with low production value -- over text-based communications. And be cautious with how you use customer data.

There's a new decade just around the corner. It belongs to the businesses who can adapt to a changing, evolving online landscape.

Published on: Mar 5, 2018