2016 was quite a year. It saw one of the most contentious American presidential elections of all time, video exploded on social media, Pokemon Go seemed to have the world in its inescapable grasp, there were too many celebrity scandals to count, and too many celebrity deaths to mention. Social media played a big part in each and every one of these events.
Here at MoreNiche, we don’t doubt for a second that social media will continue to grow at an astonishing rate throughout 2017. So we’ve put together a list of six social media trends to look out for in the coming year, and included a few points about how these might affect you as an affiliate, and how you might be able to use these trends to your advantage.
Take a look at the list below and let us know what you think in the comments section at the end.
LESS FAKE NEWS (HOPEFULLY)
Fake news made a big impact in 2016, maybe bigger than any of us ever though it could. During the American presidential election Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton went head-to-head while the internet, and specifically social media, became an open battlefield. There was a time for a few months (and even now!) that you couldn’t scroll down Twitter or Facebook without seeing a story, comment or video about the election or one of the nominees.
Each of the candidates respective fan bases took to the social media airwaves to voice their opinions, post memes, discuss, insult and argue over controversial issues such as gun control, leaked emails, business interests, alliances and weirdly enough, the size of Donald Trump’s hands.
But fake news soon began to rear its ugly head, particularly on Facebook. And it spread like wildfire. In fact, it spread so rapidly and effectively that fake election news actually outperformed real news on the Facebook platform. Which is indeed worrying, as it could prove to have massive global ramifications for years to come.
Despite initially downplaying the role fake news had on the election result, Facebook had to do something, so it announced four key measures that it says will help it and Facebook users battle fake news together:
- Easier reporting of suspected fake news
- Flagging stories as disputed by a reputable source
- Informed sharing
- Disrupting financial incentives for spammers
All in all, this can only be a good thing; less fake news all round is always a good thing. But as marketers and affiliates, these new measures should also make us very wary indeed. Let’s take a closer look at the ones that are more likely to affect us.
Facebook says: “We’re testing several ways to make it easier to report a hoax if you see one on Facebook, which you can do by clicking the upper right hand corner of a post. We’ve relied heavily on our community for help on this issue, and this can help us detect more fake news.”
While the content or article you post may not actually be fake news, it’s likely to be an opinion-based piece, since many affiliate articles are. Affiliate content tends to be sales focused and in turn, might express a certain desired point of view. Some Facebook users could regard this as ‘fake’.
And since the reporting function has recently gained more press coverage, it has essentially become easier for Facebook users to find it. This means that users reporting content in general may be on the rise. So make sure you’re closely monitoring your negative feedback metrics to see what people do and don’t like when it comes to engaging with your content. Facebook is now more likely than ever to take a second look at the content and adverts you are publishing.
Facebook says: “We’re always looking to improve News Feed by listening to what the community is telling us. We’ve found that if reading an article makes people significantly less likely to share it, that may be a sign that a story has misled people in some way. We’re going to test incorporating this signal into ranking, specifically for articles that are outliers, where people who read the article are significantly less likely to share it.”
Ok, this is a big one. So what does this mean for marketers? Well, it means that even if you’re not posting about Hillary Clinton, if your Facebook posts aren’t generating shares then Facebook could strangle the reach of your content. Now if this happens to be your affiliate marketing content, then it’s obviously not a good thing, and it could even have long-term effects on the status of your Facebook account. So keep an eye on your Facebook reach as it develops, because if you’re reaching a lot of people but not getting a lot of likes and shares, it could definitely be bad news for your affiliate content and Facebook account.
Disrupting Financial Incentives for Spammers
Facebook says: “We’ve found that a lot of fake news is financially motivated. Spammers make money by masquerading as well-known news organizations, and posting hoaxes that get people to visit to their sites, which are often mostly ads. So we’re doing several things to reduce the financial incentives. On the buying side we’ve eliminated the ability to spoof domains, which will reduce the prevalence of sites that pretend to be real publications. On the publisher’s side, we are analyzing publisher sites to detect where policy enforcement actions might be necessary.”
Now, in no way am I trying to suggest you are a spammer, that’s why I highlighted the last part of the statement from Facebook. This is part of a general move by Facebook to look more closely at all landing pages, whether they are reported or not. And it partly explains why it has become so hard to promote some weight loss products on the platform.
Facebook particularly doesn’t like false claims, specific goals such as “lose 30 lbs!” or before and after images. So it’s definitely worth thinking about your landing pages before sending traffic from Facebook or you might end up completely banned. Make sure your articles, landing page, and other pages aren’t making false promises.
VIRTUAL AND AUGMENTED REALITY
Hands up if you wanted a VR headset for Christmas. If you raised your hand, you weren’t the only one. They were seriously hot property for Christmas 2016 and sales are likely to grow in 2017. As manufacturing and sales competition grows they’ll inevitably become more and more affordable for people like you and me.
You might remember when Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014. Well, in 2016 it made another huge move into virtual and augmented reality circles by purchasing a virtual reality audio company called Two Big Ears. Facebook plans to use the technology it’s acquired to continue development of its ‘Spatial Workstation’ Facebook360, which it describes as “a free software suite for designing spatial audio for 360 video and cinematic VR”, which sounds pretty awesome in itself!
You might think this stuff all seems pretty bulky and techy, and not that ‘social’ right now. And we would agree with you. But in 2017 we anticipate that this will start to change. Mark Zuckerberg predicts that within a few years, later generations of headsets like the Oculus Rift will be no bigger than a pair of everyday glasses.
When this development is coupled with newer Facebook functions such as live video streaming and 360-degree photography making their debuts on the platform, you can see how social virtual reality, both visual and audio, could start to rocket. It won’t be very long before you can dive into a virtual reality concert, sporting event or social gathering and poke your nose around the environment in front of you.
But Facebook wasn’t the only one making strides in augmented reality last year. The Pokemon Go craze gripped the globe during the summer months and did something unexpected with social media and augmented reality that no one saw coming. It got people outside into nature and interacting with each other in a real world environment! Something social media isn’t exactly famous for.
This unexpected turn of events is sure to have planted a seed in the minds of talented developers the world over, and in 2017 we expect to see augmented reality games (and gamification in general) receive a boost because of it.
With the popularity of fitness trackers also steadily increasing throughout 2016 and into 2017, expect to see fitness gamification through social media and augmented reality making a real splash this year. The manner in which fitness and wellness has exploded into the world of social media should excite every MoreNiche affiliate currently promoting in the fitness vertical.
So we feel affiliates would do well to keep a close eye on developments in fitness tracking, gamification and augmented reality, as we think it’s going to be huge! We may only see the first signs of it this year, but it’s definitely going to be exciting. Keep your eyes peeled!
Virtual and augmented reality will begin to change social media from not just something we do to kill a few minutes on the bus, rather it will become more invisible, more ingrained in our daily lives than ever before.
VIDEO AND LIVE STREAMING
The importance of video content on social media is something we’ve talked about before here at MoreNiche, a lot. But here we go again! By the year 2020, it is expected to account for up to 82% of all internet usage, and 2016 saw all the major social media platforms make huge developments when it came to video, including prioritising video content in algorithms.
Instagram embraced a Snapchat-esque vanishing video feature, as well as live video, while Facebook launched live video streaming on the platform in April. Twitter wasn’t to be outdone either, extending its character limit on all media Tweets, including video-based posts. So don’t expect any of the larger platforms to slow down and stop there.
2017 will see Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram all continuing to prioritise video content. And this is great news for affiliates on the MoreNiche network, because as I mentioned in a recent article, making video content is becoming easier, cheaper and more accessible to people of all budgets and levels of experience. So the time to start really is now when it comes to creating video content. Because if you don’t, you’re about to be left behind.
Live streaming could also be an interesting avenue to explore in relation to affiliate marketing. Running live competitions or question and answer sessions could definitely be worth trying out if you have a sizeable social media following. And if you haven’t, there are always options to explore alongside influencer marketing.
I’ve actually touched on Microsoft’s naughty chatbot before, so hopefully 2017 will see an improvement in that. This year should also see a big increase in automation when it comes to customer interaction on Facebook. Sometime ago, Facebook introduced a facility that allows you to set an autoresponder message on your page, and it’s now being rolled out by some retailers. It’s useful because it never leaves a customer hanging and has the added bonus of helping to improve your message response times and percentages.
But this was just the first step for Facebook. In September of 2016 it released Messenger Platform v1.2. Facebook says that it is “actively building capabilities for brands and businesses to be discovered on Messenger”, which is great news for you and me!
Facebook’s Messenger Platform v1.2 offers businesses the opportunity to sell products to consumers directly through the messenger app, allowing a messenger thread to be the landing destination from in-feed adverts. It also features automated bots that can provide order updates, shipping notices and answer FAQs.
Some businesses in the United States already have access to a BETA function that also allows their customers to pay through the messenger platform. This will be rolled out more broadly in 2017. Cool stuff!
It will also be a more friendly environment for customers to start a conversation with a business or brand thanks to a feature that allows you to create a welcome screen for people interacting with your accounts on messenger. This is great news for brands everywhere.
All this should interest affiliates, because this one of those instances where investing in time and planning initially can pay off substantially in the long run. By using chatbots to automate your customer messaging interactions on Facebook, you will save a lot of time going forward. Time that can be spent improving your site, learning something new or even just relaxing – if you’re into that!
AN EVEN BIGGER SHIFT AWAY FROM ORGANIC REACH
It’s no secret that organic reach on Facebook has been in decline for some time now. And it looks as though it will continue to decline in 2017. This is because there’s just too much content on the platform to simply let it all go free at once, as Facebook itself said in 2014. (Facebook is also a business that happens to like making money, so there’s that too.)
What we effectively have is a supply and demand situation; there’s too much content and not enough relevant people to show it to within each niche. If Facebook opened the organic floodgates like it did in ‘the good ol’ days’ – on average, there would be over 1,500 new stories in a user’s news feed every time they opened their phone. This is in addition to the ‘Happy Birthdays’, selfies and status updates of their friends.
I think we can all agree that it’s just too much information to consume.
So, as more and more (particularly smaller) businesses move into social media and the quantity of posts and content increases, organic reach will continue to decline, because there’s simply not enough space for it all. Inevitably you are going to have to start paying for your content to be seen. So how can you ensure that your adverts get noticed in this sea of content? Here are a few tips.
Make sure your advert is relevant. Keep an eye on the relevance scores of your Facebook ads. In the competitive world of Facebook advertising, an advert with a high relevance score can outperform an advert with a higher bid price. Facebook wants to keep its users happy, remember. Does your advertising and content make people happy? If the answer is no, then it’s probably not going to get a great relevance score. This boils down to knowing your audience (and spying on your competitors), so make sure you’ve done your research too.
Work with the pros. Do you write your own content? Maybe you outsource because someone with expert knowledge can do a better job? The same applies to ad copy and creatives. Try working with an outsourced copywriter or designer on your adverts.
Speak to them about the concept and more importantly, give them as much information about your desired audience as possible. Facebook Audience Insights is a great way to share in-depth demographic knowledge about your audience with an outsourcer who might not be as familiar with them as you are.
If you have no background in design, try working with a graphic designer on some advert concepts. Just remember to make them aware of Facebook’s advertising policies before they get to work, or you might end up wasting some money! By working with professional designers and copywriters, you can stand out from the crowd.
Test, Test, and Test again. Always make sure you’re testing audiences, creatives, ad copy, budgets and placements of adverts, since no two pieces of content are the same, and equally, no two audiences are the same. You might discover some surprising results after changing various elements around. Facebook Power Editor has a split testing function that is often very useful.
I covered influencer marketing in detail in my last article, so I won’t drone on about it again. Although I will say it’s about to become a lot more insular, a lot more creative and a lot more targeted. Gone are the days of paying a reality TV star to stand in front of a mirror with a bottle of pills and hoping for the best.
2017 will be a year that standardises collaboration between marketers and influencers; it will be much more personal, within smaller spheres of interest and can only continue to grow.
Hopefully you’ll now have a clearer idea of what lies ahead of us in 2017 in the social media sphere. There are some really exciting things in the pipeline that all affiliates who have a social media presence should be able to benefit from. We hope that some of the information and tips here will help you take advantage of them. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.