Predicting the future of social media is always fun.
Emerging platforms, secured patents, new tactics and demographic shifts are just a few things to consider when making a prediction.
So, what’s next with social media as we look ahead to 2020? Here are four big predictions on the future of social media in 2020.
1. Instagram officially removes likes.
Instagram has tested the removal of likes in several countries. Most headlines you’ll read will state that the social network is doing this in the spirit of mental health.
I think “mental health” is a PR spin and the real reason is that Instagram wants to make more money by getting a cut of influencer ad dollars.
Think about it. Instagram can’t be happy when Kylie Jenner gets paid a million dollars per paid post or even when micro-influencers get paid $100 per post. This activity is happening on their platform, and they aren’t seeing these direct-to-influencer dollars go toward their bottom line.
Hiding likes shifts the power back to Instagram. Advertisers who want to measure the impact of a campaign will be left with a couple of choices: run Instagram ads and/or pay an influencer.
Instagram ads have metrics. Influencers will have metrics taken away. This means the risk of overpaying an influencer increases while running Instagram ads becomes a safer (and more analytical) choice.
Influencer marketing isn’t going away anytime soon. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Instagram removed likes so they could shift ad dollars from influencers to their ad platform.
2. Google incorporates social into search.
Google+ was shut down in April 2019, marking another failed entry into social.
With G+ retired, what’s next for Google in regard to social?
I think Google gives up on creating a social network and openly incorporates existing social networks into their search algorithm.
For 10 years Google has gone back and forth on whether social signals influence search. SEO experts have speculated on how SEO and social media marketing services work together. In 2020, I think we’ll see the “social index” start to personalize search engine result pages.
What supports this? Well, Google was granted patent 9632972, which outlines a process for identifying an influential user in a social community. The patent describes how an influencer score would be determined for a particular topic and their reach.
Google has never yet gotten social right. By incorporating social into search, 2020 will be the year that search engine result pages become even stronger.
3. Niche social platforms expand.
In 2008, Facebook and Twitter were essentially the only social platforms that mattered for brands.
In 2019, the number of “platforms that matter” has increased. Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and more now call for a brand’s time and attention.
In 2020, niche social platforms will grow. There are a couple things that will drive more adoption of new niche platforms:
• International internet accessibility. More people will get internet access. More localized social networks will pop up as a result.
• User-generated content in search. More user-generated content from social sites like Reddit, Quora, Stack Exchange and Twitter will appear in Google search results. Appearing in search results gives brands, marketers and users incentive to participate more in these niche sites because of greater visibility.
More people having access to internet and more visibility for niche networks will fuel the expansion of little-known and yet-to-be-created social sites.
4. Social sharing tools become free or more valuable.
Google may eventually offer a free social media scheduling tool. It makes sense. They would get the thing they covet: more social media data and sharing activity.
If they offer a free scheduling tool, and if other social media platforms improve their scheduling tools, then existing scheduling tools will need to become more valuable to justify their expense.
One opportunity where scheduling tools could add more value? Recommendations.
Given the rise of niche platforms, a social media marketer’s job becomes increasingly complex. They are faced with the question of, “How and where to promote?”
A scheduling tool with some built-in artificial intelligence would help make a marketer’s job easier by recommending specific platforms and groups for sharing content. For example, a piece of content about entertainment options in San Diego may suggest sharing in the sandiego subreddit.
I think we’ll see this evolution from scheduling tools as more free tools from major companies pop up.
What else is in store for social media?
There are several other trends happening with social that could surface in 2020:
• Standing up for privacy and reducing the sharing of information with third parties (paywall) that resell data
• The reduction of organic social reach for businesses to increase ad revenue for publicly traded social media companies
• Payments, gaming and the integration of social media into our daily lives
What is next for social? What are the actions of companies like Facebook and Google telling us? What trends are social media users setting?
Although predictions are unknown, one thing is for sure: 2020 will be an interesting year to see how social media evolves.