What We’re Expecting, Hoping For And Dreading From Instagram And Snapchat In 2016
And the Digital Media Team award for Social Network of the Year goes to… Instagram! Cue studio applause. The image sharing network had a breakthrough year, overtaking Twitter as its monthly active users figure grew to 400 million. Around half of them are using Instagram daily, with 16-20 year olds using the service far more than Facebook.
Snapchat was Instagram’s main competition for Digital Media Team’s Social Network of the Year award. From its birth in 2011, Snapchat has filled a niche for teens and young adults wanting to send pictures to their friends, though smart features have developed the network and broadened its appeal. The most impressive is Discover, a set of selected publishers that provide a fresh set of stories every 24 hours.
As images and video become more and more important for marketers, Instagram and Snapchat look to be the two most important networks, moving into 2016. So what can we expect from these young upstarts? And what should we be scared of?
What we’re expecting
Instagram and Twitter share a common concern. They are built on user posts. On Twitter, users engage through 140 character posts, on Instagram it’s pictures. Think of your Facebook News Feed for a second. How often do you see photographs posted, compared to status updates? Statuses dropped off, while picture posting continues to thrive. It’s for this reason that Twitter’s growth plateaued in 2015, while Instagram surged ahead.
Social media growth tends to follow a similar narrative. Hip twenty-somethings first log on, teenagers and young adults are the catalyst. A pandemic of “what am I missing out on?” break out and the world and his wife give it a try. Depending on the world and his wife’s reaction, the network either becomes Facebook or it becomes Twitter. If the service is liked and useful, everyone joins, that’s Facebook.
It’s why your 80 year old relative has joined Facebook and likes any photo you appear in. Twitter didn’t appeal to the world and his wife in the same way. It suited the hip crowd and the young crowd, but didn’t offer the same social uses that appeal to older generations.
Instagram does appeal to other generations. It’s more friend focused than Twitter, you follow and post pictures with friends and family. It also plays to a number of human urges. We like showing off (how hot we looked today, our expensive new coat, how cute our kids are), we like receiving praise, and we like to pretend we’re photographers. With a similar style to Facebook, through Zuckerberg’s ownership of both, Instagram is familiar and useful enough to appeal to everybody. If you’re yet to start a business Instagram account, log on now. Growth like Instagram’s means advertising opportunities.
What we’re hoping for
Innovative marketing campaigns
Posting pictures isn’t enough. It’s time to get creative with Instagram, campaigns that capture the imagination of their mammoth user base. Seeing as every major brand will be giving it a go, your strategy needs to stand out. Encouraging user generated content can create impressive viral results, making customers want to post about your product.
The long sought after sponsored filter seems a likely change in 2016, particularly as Snapchat debuted a similar feature, sponsored lenses. Facebook already offer similar features, with profile picture frames allowing users to show support for their favourite sports team. Considering the potential advertising revenue this feature could generate for Instagram, it seems a (useful) no-brainer.
What we’re dreading
The early user base jumps ship
A huge influx of new users can change the face of a network. Trendy sites can lose their appeal when they become mainstream. Depending on the activity of Instagram’s new users, we could see younger users avoid the network. It just isn’t cool to use the app that your mum loves.
It doesn’t seem too likely that current users will leave, Instagram has too strong a set of communities to haemorrhage users. It does seem fairly possible that people starting out on social media, aged 14-19, will avoid Instagram and find another app to base their social life around. Instagram did it to Facebook, could Snapchat do it to Instagram?
What we’re expecting
Competition for Snapchat Discover channels
The 18 channels on Discover are killing it. In a strangely backward looking way, Discover has turned back the clock, creating a similar feel to television before the invention of the video recorder. There are 18 channels to choose from, including BuzzFeed, Vice, Mashable and Cosmopolitan, with each publisher creating stories that last for 24 hours. If you miss them, you miss them. They’re gone.
Snapchat have proved ruthless in their curation of Discover. Yahoo did have a Discover channel, but a lack of interest and the resolution of a contract between Snapchat and BuzzFeed led to Yahoo’s replacement by the clickbait news site. Channels with small success could be dropped for publishers that appeal more to Snapchat’s young user base.
Every major media player wants a Discover channel. There is little competition for channel owners, only 18 to choose from, leading to a high level of daily brand engagement. Snapchat may expand the number a little more, though it seems unlikely that they would provide too many more.
Brands will need to make up for Snapchat’s reluctance to budge. The My Story feature can offer a similar experience to Discover, with some tweaks. To see My Story, you need to add the specific Snapchat username. This means we’ll start to see usernames appear everywhere, as we do for Twitter.
What we’re hoping for
Businesses and brands spot all of Snapchat’s uses
Snapchat is more than goofy pictures you send to friends and collections of photos covering a particular event. Smart social media strategy involves the acknowledgement of the various uses a platform has. Anecdote time. At a recent charity event, I noticed a friend using Snapchat to talk to her 15 year old daughter. Instead of spending a minute writing a text message, she could take a video selfie, telling her the name of the pizza delivery company to call or which cupboard the plates are in.
Don’t ignore the communication aspect of Snapchat. If you’re a business, encourage interaction, get snaps from followers, screenshot them and include them in your story. Problem is, managing and messaging your Snapchat friends can be difficult, depending on the size of your business, which leads us to…
Snapchat messaging lists
What we really want for Christmas is a mailing list style system. One that allows users with a large amount of Snapchat friends to send the same snap to everyone they place on a particular list. With this feature, businesses could easily manage their followers, using Snapchat to connect with followers on a mass scale.
What we’re dreading
The wrong companies give Snapchat a go
Remember we mentioned the growth process of social media networks? Snapchat is still on the hip twenty somethings, teenagers and young adults stage. Businesses that appeal to Gen Xers should avoid Snapchat marketing for the time being. It’s yet to truly reach that market and could potentially make your business seem out of touch with younger generations.
If your business targets millennials, whatever your size, get involved with Snapchat. Build your following now, ready for each of the improvements that will make Snapchat more accommodating for businesses. Publicise your Snapchat username alongside your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
This post is a part of our series or 2016 previews for the major social media networks. You can find our Facebook preview here and our Twitter preview here. To stay up to date with all the latest changes in social media strategy and content marketing, subscribe to our email list, follow us on Twitter or like our Facebook page.