It’s hard to believe, but social media technology advanced more quickly over the past 10 years than alternative energy, quantum mechanics, heck, even space exploration. Up until very recently, we were still going up in space using the same spacecraft we used when the Soviet Union was still a thing. Meanwhile, it seems like social media platform releases a new meta-defining feature that’s designed to improve customer experience every year or so. It’s crazy!
In fact, it has changed so much that I bet a majority of you reading this right now will have a hard time remembering what Facebook was like in 2010, and how vastly different it is compared to the Facebook of right now (good riddance to Mafia Wars!).
With new features and redesigns happening so fast, what else could they do to social media to change or improve it? Here’s a look at what social media is going to be like over the next few years.
Privacy Laws are Gonna Make Things…Different
In case you’ve forgotten, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica dun goof’d a couple of years ago when it was revealed that the social media platform had allowed the data brokerage to access the profiles of millions of users in order to harvest data for political purposes. The data breach had major real-life implications that, until now, analysts and experts are still sifting through.
While America sat there twiddling its thumbs, afraid to go after the culprits, our neighbors on the other side of the Atlantic had a different approach: they enacted the General Data Protection Regulation law, or GDPR. Not to bore you with the details, but the GDPR basically overhauled the entire data protection process and gave private users more control over how much personal data websites and social media platforms can collect. (Here’s an interesting tidbit: if the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal came out AFTER the GDPR, the fine would have been well over €1 billion. Whew!)
The GDPR drastically changed how advertisers on Facebook and other social media platforms could use the personal data of users. This means that targeted ads, or even unwanted ads that were targeted for you because of data they collected, could very well be a thing of the past.
The future of data protection means that even basic information like occupation, gender, even age, could very well be protected under the GDPR, and thus, means less annoying ads from game companies trying to get you to play their weird fantasy-themed strategy game.
It doesn’t necessarily mean the end of online advertisement; instead, think of it as the rise of organic online marketing , which means relevant ads that are less annoying and less intrusive.
Ads are Going to Get More Interesting
Now that advertisers will no longer be able to access as much personal information as they used to, we predict that the next round of advertising campaigns will be much more personalized, much more interesting, and much more, for lack of a better term, human.
Not only is this an effect of the GDRP, it also reflects the zeitgeist of the consumer market today. Because of the internet’s awesome power of democratizing everything, industries have shifted from a brand-centric model of marketing to a customer-centric one. This means that advertisers are now encouraged to sell products and services that add value to their customer’s lives, not just for the sake of selling a brand.
We’re already seeing this shift: in 2018, marketers are relying on storytelling as their core marketing technique. Normally, this was relegated to blogs and niche websites then shared on social media. However, we predict that, in the future, numerous technologies that are already available (i.e, AR and VR) will be leveraged to tell more stories in a more interesting manner, and will be shared on social media platforms directly. Facebook tried this out with 3D posts, and while it’s still in its infancy, we think it’s going to get even better over the next few years.
And it’s not just in how they tell a story, it will be what stories they tell. Studies show that an overwhelming majority of consumers are more inclined to patronize a brand that supports some form of social or environmental issue. In fact, almost 2/3rds of Gen Z and Millennial consumers have mentioned that they actively pursue brands and companies that are ethical and are willing to stand for an issue that is close to their hearts.
What does this mean overall? It means more interesting social media posts that feel real, something that not only informs, but also entertains and goes to promoting a cause that will elevate the human experience. Of course, there won’t be a shortage of memes, but it’s nice to see a heartwarming ad every now and again!
Live Streaming is Going to Get Even Bigger
2017 was a banner year for live streaming services: Facebook launched Facebook Live, and apps like Periscope gave birth to the whole “lifestreaming” lifestyle. Already, live streaming is an integral part of our social media life, but we predict that it’s about to get even bigger.
In a recent study, it was found that 80% of people online prefer to watch a live video stream rather than visit a website and read content. Makes sense, considering that most of our data processing is visual. Live streaming has changed the way we absorb information and has redefined how we live our life online and how we share content on social media.
As a $30 billion industry, many experts predict that, because of its popularity, live streaming is going to double in growth over the next couple of years. Not a hard prediction, to be honest: live game streams alone make up a third of the industry already, and with more and more tech available to the common person, as well as improvements in social media platforms, live streaming is going to become even more integrated into our daily lives.
In my opinion, live streaming is exactly what the internet was built for: connectivity, but connectivity in a different way. Live streaming shows us a glimpse of how another person lives, how they interact with the world around them, and how they react to live messages and comments. It shows us that, no matter where you are in the world, what culture you were brought up in, what language we speak, we will always find something in common. And of course, we’ll all rage when we get sniped on FortNite!
The Future is Made of Virtual (and Augmented) Insanity
Virtual reality isn’t exactly new; in fact, it’s been around for at least a couple of decades. However, it’s only now that we’re seeing advancements in both improving the current tech and creating a new branch of VR: Augmented Reality.
Unlike Virtual Reality, which puts the user in a purely digital world, Augmented reality adds a layer of digital interaction on top of the real world. The best example of this would be Pokemon Go! which used AR to make capturing Pikachu even more fun.
As for its applications on social media, we’re already seeing it: Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat already have face filters: you know that annoying dog filter people use? Yeah, that took a lot of scientists a lot of years to perfect. But the possibilities don’t stop there: with advancements in smart phone technology making AR even more accessible, we predict that social media platforms are going to integrate this seamlessly into their platforms. Perhaps a face filter that isn’t annoying?
All in all, it’s an exciting time to be on social media. With social media platforms looking for ways to up the ante on one another, we expect better features that lead to a better user experience.
Although, if I’m being honest, I do kind of miss Mafia Wars.