How social media is morphing our lives

There is an incredible shift around us. We are now more connected than ever and the landscape of business is transforming every day with the advent of newer and better technology. Given such rapid movements to make the world more connected and interactive, how is social media, our one-stop for all the information, changing our lives?

Social media is no longer just a medium to connect and communicate. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are increasingly investing their financial resources to become a more service-oriented platform. Today, people don’t just use social media to communicate. They also use it to shop – 93 per cent of shoppers’ decisions is influenced by social media – share and recommend. There’s a high chance that you are reading this article because someone recommended it via social media.

But what impact does social media have on businesses? It’s huge. With its advent, the conversation flow is no longer unidirectional. People aren’t just listening but “interacting” with brands and businesses across various domains of customer service, rewards and services. And this isn’t just true for B2Cs. Even B2Bs aren’t behind as 54 per cent of B2B marketers said they have generated leads from the social media.

Given that social media has become an integral driver of our lives both personal and professional, it’s imperative to have a look at what’s next in store. Video is here to stay. Consumption of videos is at its highest these days. With sophisticated technologies, videos now find themselves at the top of any social media strategy. They are becoming the native platform of choice.

Puppyhood, an advertisement from Purina garnered 81.3 million views becoming one of the most-viewed videos on Facebook. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook are rapidly upping their game when it comes to videos. Twitter’s acquisition of Vine and Facebook’s 360 degree videos are signs of a bigger strategy.

Considering the fact that videos average 62 per cent more engagement than photos, it is vital to have a look at how creatively businesses can make use of them.

Virtual reality is catching up. One of the most noteworthy pieces of news in the past was Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus. It created a lot of buzz but failed to excite people as they didn’t really know what to expect from the technology.

Google’s Cardboard was a device that changed this a little by providing a low price point and hands-on experience into virtual reality, but all that still restricted the technology’s understanding to a few.

In 2016, all this is supposed to change. This year, mobile-driven virtual reality will introduce more people to the technology. This has already started as The New York Times, Outside Magazine, and others delivered free Google Cardboard headsets to subscribers — who simply insert their smartphones to turn Cardboard into a head-mounted display. There will also be a rise in more virtual reality content by big players. A good example is “Star Wars” that created immersive virtual reality experiences for the general audience.

Going mobile

Mobile has become an integral part of our lives. Given that a large part of our communication happens from mobile devices that are around us 24/7, businesses and users are expected to leverage this technology even more in 2016.

Consider this: At present, there are 2.6 billion smartphone users worldwide. Sharing on mobile grew 2.6 times faster than desktop and now accounts for the majority of social actions. According to Pew Research Centre, 81 per cent of cell phone owners use their phones for text messaging. Recently, Facebook Messenger reached 800 million active users, more than 30 per cent of users were added in 2015 alone.

“Our early tests in 2015 with brands are showing that interactions will happen more and more in your messenger threads, so we’ll continue making it easy for you to engage with businesses, and we’ll also do more to enable additional businesses and services to build the right experience in conversations,” said David Marcus, Head of Messenger at Facebook.

Take Uber, which made headlines a few weeks ago with its newly-announced partnership with Facebook Messenger, which allows customers to hail a ride through the mobile app. WhatsApp, another biggie in the mobile space, recently went free and is expected to open up its platform for users to interact with businesses.

With messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger finding new ways to delight and engage, mobile marketing and advertising will get even more exciting in 2016 and will top the list of important items in every marketer’s social media strategy.

Live broadcast is the new child in the space of social media. It’s growing rapidly with platforms like Meerkat and Periscope. Social media giants are taking live broadcasts seriously, which can be seen in what they are investing in. Facebook rolled out a feature called Facebook Live which lets people (initially, just celebrities) live stream their lives to the public. This has increasingly evolved and the technology is being adopted by people and businesses across the globe.

Twitter is not far behind as its acquisition of Periscope speaks of its bigger strategy. Initially, the platform only had people share that they are live on Periscope through a tweet and a link to the live streaming. But now, Twitter has embedded the live streaming from Periscope directly into its environment, making the live streaming experience a delight to watch.

The trends in the digital media industry give us a promising insight into how the world and our lives will transform this year. Established social media platforms will explore newer technologies, newer platforms like Snapchat and Vine will become even more sophisticated and businesses across industries like finance, retail etc will see a new light.

(Chamaria is the author of You Are The Key & Digital Marketing Influencer, and VP & Head – Strategic Marketing, HCL Technologies)

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