Can anyone imagine a world without social media? Just a handful of years ago it didn't exist. No one was in danger of being run over as they crossed the street hunched over their smartphones. No one was spending their downtime scouring Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat feed for the latest news from friends, celebrities and businesses. And brands didn't have a suite of powerful channels for engagement and amplification of their products, services and messages. But that was then.
Now, we're all glued to our social channels and brands are getting smarter and smarter at targeting content and messages to drive us to take action. So what's next? What have the various players got in store for us? Here's my look ahead to 2018 and what to keep an eye out for.
The last couple of years all we've heard about is that attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. So as marketers we've been trying to say more with less, and that's been no bad thing overall. But that's about to change. Video is reaching maturity as a marketing medium. As series like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad have shown, we love episodic content and binge watching great content. So I think we'll see more video marketing content produced in long-form format in 2018, triumphing over 30 second clips. Facebook Watch will be a the forefront of this.
Facebook Watch will reward content creators that produce great series. Content can be live or pre-recorded, which gives a huge amount of scope. Brands will be able to build huge communities via Facebook Watch, it's going to be really fascinating to watch its progress. And don't forget that Watch will likely start to compete with Netflix and Amazon in terms of broadcasting original TV shows and film content too. Interesting times.
There's also been a surge of activity with Facebook Live in 2017, and this shows no sign of slowing up in 2018. The format will continue to develop, and I think we'll soon be used to seeing live 360 video and multi-source streams.
I think we'll see Facebook Live images become available for more devices than just iPhone. If you haven't seen this in action it's very cool. iPhone live photos are actually comprised of two files, one is an image, the other a movie file. These can be split and edited before being rearranged and uploading to Facebook to create hidden movies that only play when the user presses the image viewed on Facebook using an iPhone. In refreshing my business's website recently we gave this a try as part of our promotional push, to great effect.
Have you "shopped the feed" yet? We'll see lots more of this in 2018. Victoria's Secret is doing this really well; everything they share in their Instagram feed can be bought online with a couple of clicks, thanks to Shopify integration. It makes impulse purchasing, last minute gift purchasing and browsing for the latest thing incredibly easy.
Will we see more 360 video and VR content coming to Instagram in 2018? Definitely. Instagram won't want to let Snapchat claw back any ground, and with Facebook likely to raise the bar with its use of video it's certain Instagram will feel the benefit. It's going to be a huge year for 360 video and virtual reality. VR technology is tumbling in price and ramping up in usage. Live streaming 360 videos, time-lapse 360 and 360 journalism are all increasingly interesting brands for marketing impact.
While there's nothing new about Instagram Stories, 2018 will definitely see the platform build on an already popular format. Snapchat is struggling and the high engagement levels that Instagram Stories are delivering will continue to make it the preferred platform for this kind of content.
But don't write off Snapchat just yet. I think we'll see Snapchat open up more for employer brand and personal branding. I predict Snapchat will introduce an incentivised feature for vloggers and content creators similar to what we see over on YouTube. Plus, Snapchat has just announced Lens Studio, making it easier for creatives to build their own lenses from scratch. Available to download globally, developers and advertisers and keen amateurs will be able to create their own augmented reality lenses. An initial look at this suggests it's a powerful application, with templates and guidance notes and the ability to create and save projects.
Also well worth mentioning is chatbots, direct messaging and AR. We're engaging with chatbots for news and weather reports, booking event tickets and sorting out our schedules. We're only just warming up to them, and there's plenty of room for growth. We'll also see direct messaging used more for marketing campaigns, with Facebook Messenger and What's App the dominant platforms. AR has already started to show its potential to bring together the physical and the digital world in terms of retail and services, and this is likely to spill over into other areas of digital.
It's going to be a fascinating year. I can't wait!