The ever-evolving world of social media keeps marketers on their toes – adaptive, well informed, and creative marketers will ensure efficiency and success. Read the below to ensure an auspicious year ahead.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 8.37.13 AM.png (Image source: Oculus)

 Virtual reality leaps into social media

Over the past few years there has been a great deal of buzz surrounding Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and other virtual reality (VR) headsets. Now as Oculus Rifts begin shipping to their early adopter owners in March 2016, we will finally witness widespread use of VR. Yes, many of its purchasers are primarily interested in the gaming aspect of the headsets, but social media will launch VR into the mainstream. According to Business Insider, “social is, and has always been, the application that drives technologies forward.” The article continues, VR “painting 3D objects in mid-air, visiting an underwater shipwreck and cooking in a virtual kitchen is extremely fun, but it’s nothing if you can’t share in these experiences with others.” UploadVR.com asserts that VR will elevate social media, arguing that social media is in still in its infancy and VR will personalize online social interactions through the addition of expressiveness. In early previews of VR, the journalist found that when using VR, “people are behaving very similarly to how they would offline.” This is something that until now has been impossible. He finishes the article by observing, “the world is becoming a global society, a Global Village, to borrow from Marshall McLuhan and VR is the next big step in taking us there.”

Cementing the notion that VR will introduce new ways to socialize with others online, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acquired Oculus VR in March 2014. He made the announcement on Facebook (naturally) saying that Oculus Rift “is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.”

One-on-one communication expands

Another trend will be the continued rise of messenger apps. eMarketer explains this growing trend, “as more consumers gain mobile internet access worldwide and flock to messaging apps as cheaper alternatives to SMS, MMS and voice calls.” There is no shortage of these apps: WeChat, Facebook’s Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack, Viber, Luka.ai, Line, Snapchat and newly launched Peach are all messaging apps with slightly different features. Personally, I regularly use four of these apps to communicate with friends and co-workers.

Alphabet (Google’s parent company) also sees the value of these apps; they are reportedly developing an app to compete with these platforms. According to International Business Times, “Google will tap its artificial intelligence know-how and incorporate chatbots — which answer questions — to get a slice of the 2-billion user business and help preserve its lead in search.”

2016 will see the continued expansion of these apps: already Facebook partnered with Uber so users can order a ride right from Facebook’s Messenger app; Snapchat partnered with Square to let friends to send each other money; and China’s WeChat is probably the most advanced, allowing users to bank, control home appliances, buy clothes and order food. This integration into our everyday lives will continue to evolve, bringing users convenience, but more importantly for the apps, keeping users on their platforms. The question now is which app will pull ahead of the others.

Live video captivates

Periscope, Meerkat, and soon-to-launch Facebook live video allow users to share real-time experiences with friends and/or strangers alike while interacting with the viewers. Having used Periscope and Meerkat both personally and professionally, I prefer Periscope; it is cleaner, has a larger user-base, and allows users to record the session for later viewing.

According to Entrepreneur, these apps, already popular with the general public, provide great opportunity for brands, celebrities and media outlets. According to the article, these live video apps create an interactive “TV-esque” means of “making that real-time connection that today’s customers seek and value.”

One reporter explains the benefit of sharing news via Periscope in the below interview, “One of the great advantages is just the simple interactions. I was responding to the questions users were asking and things I wouldn’t think to have covered.”

Click the below video to watch.Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 8.23.04 AM(Video source: CNN)

Social media will become an even greater part of our everyday lives. Socializing through Oculus Rift, ordering an Uber through Facebook Messenger, and watching live events unfold before you while being able to interact with the videographer are all testaments to this.

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