2015 was hectic. As most of the world spent the year trying to condense opinions on the Apple Watch, Caitlyn Jenner, and the Syrian refugee crisis into 140 characters or less, social media marketing continued to evolve under the radar.
If you didn't spot them, here are the three biggest game-changers you can't afford to ignore in 2016.
1. The rise of the live stream.
This concept isn't new, but live-streaming apps like Periscope, Meerkat, and Snapchat (more specifically, the app's Live Stories) have succeeded where their predecessors failed. Despite being launched only in March, Periscope already has more than 10 million users, and this success led Apple to name it the App of the Year.
Some brands got in ahead of the curve. Back in October, Doritos ran a 12-hour Periscope stream to celebrate the launch of new Doritos Collisions, which combines two types of potato chip in one bag. Working with videographer Shin Sugino, the company placed two cannons opposite one another and filmed collisions of such objects as laptops, watermelons, rubber chickens, and eggs.
As traditional content marketing reaches its saturation point, this kind of campaign will partner with social influencers to curate organic experiences in real time for users and to drive brand exposure. Early adopters are set to win big in 2016, taking real-time engagement and news reporting off the beaten track and straight into the hands of consumers.
2. Boundless perspectives on social video.
Back in March, YouTube launched #360Video, rewarding users with spectacular interactive experiences. Facebook followed suit in September. This technological development has given users unprecedented control over their own experiences, allowing them to decide when, where, and how to explore visual panoramic dimensions.
Whether it's being licked by a cow, "Waiting for Love" with Avicii, or exploring the latest "Assassin's Creed" with Jack the Ripper, you choose where you look. Looking ahead to 2016, this new format is primed for creative-led integrations, such as curated journeys and scavenger hunts within videos that reveal products and branded experiences.
It won't be long before virtual reality devices are integrated into campaigns too.
3. Brand storytelling redefined.
2015 was the year that digital publishing was reinvented, complete with bright and captivating visuals. Consumers don't like drowning in search hits; with Snapchat Discover, they don't have to.
With fewer than 20 curators and a vertically oriented experience, Snapchat's latest development gives users the kind of curated experience not often associated with social media. In October, Cosmopolitan was averaging three million daily viewers, and those figures will explode in 2016.
The rise of the emoji has also transformed brand storytelling. These little images aren't just a way for people to express how they're feeling--they can now be used for everything from ordering pizzas to creating branded emojis for boosting user engagement. As the range of emojis continues to grow, more companies should get in on the act in 2016.
If you're still skeptical about these developments, look no further than the Facebook empire to see that they're here to stay. Instagram now offers a 24-hour video channel, and it expanded service capabilities with the dawn of carousel ads, too. Over at Facebook's own site, the company began exploring continuous auto play, trapping users in an endless cycle of video with ads interspersed.
While social media users were fixated on the big issues of the world in 2015, social media platforms were transforming the way those same users experienced marketing. Looking ahead to 2016, it's clear that brands need to get to grips with these developments.
This article was co-written by Chloe Lopez, social account manager.