Three Social Trends; Three Valuable Lessons

An image of a crystal ball.

OK, we are officially in 2017 now, but it still feels right to look back on the 2016 that was and continue our review of the past year -- and the lessons we can learn from it.

Technology changes at an incredibly rapid pace (in fact, this post will probably be out of date just seconds after it's published!), so it's good to focus less on the "whats" and more on the "whys" and "hows."

Consolidation and Focus

Have you seen an app that offered something really innovative? Chances are those innovations have been conscripted by the big boys and girls. Yesterday's Vine mobile app is now merely a standalone feeder to Twitter; Periscope, also acquired by Twitter, has been emulated by Facebook Live.

If you've been on the fence about mobile-first development, you may want to hop off and join the crowd. Quickly. There are a number of mobile-only applications that have reached a critical mass; social networks are optimizing for a mobile experience, and we know the statistics regarding mobile usage are only increasing (results form a January 2015 comScore survey found that 51 per cent of Canadian Internet traffic was linked to a phone or tablet).

For business, it can be challenging. There's always the desire to be at the vanguard of the industry and jump on what's new and hot. And while you should be aware of what's out there, your best bet is to focus your efforts.

Pick one or two social networks that make sense to your business. Find out where your customers are, where they're having their conversations, and prioritize them. You can't be all things to all people, chances are you don't have the resources to do an adequate job of covering every possible base, so instead focus your efforts on the areas that offer the greatest value to your customers (or, focus 90 per cent of your effort on the networks that provide you with 90 per cent of your business!)

Instant Streaming Content

In 2016 Facebook launched Facebook Live, which made it easy for users to live stream content. Whether it was a concert, an AGM, or any other event. Like Periscope, it's designed to provide wider access to the world through your eyes.

Now, you may be annoyed by the videos appearing in your feed, but photo and video-based content works. It garners far more attention than just text-based content.

Again, from a business perspective, it has to make sense. Don't just do video for the sake of doing video. Don't force it (i.e., don't insinuate your brand where it doesn't belong). But if there's a way to highlight what you're doing through live-streamed content, then go for it. It's a great way to interact with your customer base and show of what sets you apart.

Bursting Bubbles?

Some of us have seen the echo chambers forming for a number of years and have warned against false assumptions based on interactions limited to only like-minded people. Though some have marked 2016 as the year where the echo chamber was realized, I have my doubts that -- in the broader spectrum -- it will change.

But from a business perspective, it's important to understand that you may not be hearing the whole story and that there are solid lessons to be learned.

The U.S. election results, showing that there were great swaths of people who thought differently, seemed to shock the 'engaged' people on-line. And while some are holding onto the idea that the other side is just "deplorable," there's a comforting hope that some have seen the need to have actual conversations, bridge barriers, and listen to others' desires and needs.

Some of this echo chamber creation is self-created. People choosing to follow those with whom they agree (and block those with whom they don't). And algorithms add to the challenge -- delivering content that social sites expect you'll like only serves to create a snowball-down-a-mountain effect that only serves to create the appearance that all views mirror your own.

Look, we've talked ad nauseam about the importance of listening to different views over the past few years (like here and here and here and here... oh, and here..), and the reason is simple: there's a world of different perspectives, motivations, desires, and needs out there that may or may not mirror your own. And you may have solutions to meet those needs, but if you're not listening to them, you may be stunting your own growth.

You don't have to agree with everything that everyone says, but you should try to understand where they're coming from. And finding that common ground is where true progressive behaviour -- whether that be political, social, or business-related -- takes place.

Questions Answered

What social trends did we see in 2016



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