2016 saw social media platforms continue to grow massively with over 2.3 billion active users and nearly 2 billion active mobile social users worldwide. These users present a large number of potential customers for businesses, leading to 83% of marketers taking advantage of social media marketing in an attempt to increase sales, interact with potential customers, promote their brand, and much more.

In late January, I attended a Hootsuite webinar outlining some of the key social media trends of the next 12 months. Here are 5 things that really caught my eye.

1. Social usage is accelerating as a discovery and research tool

It’s not surprising to learn that the total number of people using social media is rising, however, one statistic that really stood out is that 98% of online consumers are using social networks, and on average, digital consumers have 8 different social accounts. Due to this, social channels are becoming the top way for customers to discover new products and brands. Social media is developing so there is less need for user to leave the network or app when shopping, all the information a customer is looking for can being found on various social platforms.

2. Social commerce shows new promise

Social commerce has seen a significant growth over the past few years with a number of marketers highlighting it as a key strategy they will look to implement in the coming months. 42% of North American marketers and 32% of European marketers are outlining social commerce as one of their top five social strategies in attempt to increase direct sales.

The growth in social commerce has been acknowledged by various social channels, for example Instagram trialled buy now tags in the US late last year. These tags allow users to find additional details on products displayed in an image and they also direct them straight to the checkout page to purchase the product. This once again supports the idea that consumers will be able to complete a purchase without having to leave social media.

3. Rise in dark social

Dark social media is a the term for any content shared on social channels that cannot be measured by web analytic programs, an example of this is sharing a link via instant messaging apps instead of through social media. RadiumOne found that 84% of consumers’ sharing takes place through private or dark social channels such as email and instant messaging. Dark social can however offer potential benefits if it is embraced by an organisation. Social channels such as Snapchat offer massive opportunities for brands to reach new potential customers while falling under the dark social umbrella.

4. Videos ignites social advertising

2017 looks to be the year when video advertising on social media takes a huge step forward with 70% of marketers planning to use social video advertising in the next 12 months. Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are the channels that offer the best opportunity to embrace video advertising, with a large percentage of marketers focusing on these platforms in 2017.

Live videos also provide a great opportunity for marketers to engage with their audience, this is something we have discussed in a previous blog post. Social video advertising can be tested relatively easily, producing lots of short clips will allow you to quickly work out what works and what social channels are the best for engagement.

5. Organisations turn to connected workforces

A connected workforce that embraces social media can provide further benefits to the overall success of an organisation’s social marketing efforts. Altimeter’s 2016 Social Media Employee Advocacy report, for example, found that employee posts can often receive a higher number of likes in comparison to traditional brand posts. This displays a need to ensure all employees are embracing the use of social media with employee advocacy strategies expected to make a big impact in 2017.

The future of social media

Social media advertising is not a new trend by any means, however, in recent times it has taken a real step towards being a truly critical part of any marketing campaign and it will be interesting to see how it evolves throughout 2017. Will we see these trends shine through or will new trends develop as the year goes on?