Social media networks are constantly changing every year, adapting to new themes and trends. Just looking back a few years you’ll notice a huge change in the social media sites that you use today. Social media networks are always looking to improve the user’s experience. Whether it means changing the user interface, colour scheme, layout or logo.
In fact, it was only this year that the social network Instagram decided to change its logo for the first time since being launched. But as we will cover later, this wasn’t the only change Instagram made.
But who cares about what’s already happened, what about the future? What’s likely to change in 2017? Here are 7 major things that are likely to change on social media throughout 2017.
1. New Algorithms
Social media networks revolve around their ability to show relevant content to users. If a user keeps being shown content they don’t want to see or are not interested in it will lower interaction overall. By providing more relevant content that a user wants to see it will encourage them to like, share, comment and use the network more.
This year alone there have already been 2 major changes to social media algorithms which have completely changed the way content is shown to users. Take Instagram for example, ever since the app was first launched the feed has been fairly simple to understand. All content is show in chronological order meaning the latest posts are shown at the top of the app and then older ones are shown as you scroll down.
Recently Instagram announced they have changed the feed algorithm to help show users the content they care about the most. And the reason for the change? Apparently the “average” Instagram user was missing 70% of their feed, and Instagram wanted to change this. Many users have expressed their anger on Twitter with tweets such as “My Instagram feed isn’t chronological anymore and I don’t really get the point of anything.” Despite the negative feedback from many users Instagram went along with the changes and it looks like there’s no going back now.
The changes also mean there’s a chance your Instagram posts won’t actually be shown on your followers feed. The algorithm tries to work out which content you like from the amount of hearts you give to a certain user. That content is then more likely to be shown at the top of your feed. A big difference from before. This is probably to try and stop users from constantly spamming pointless posts just to get at the top of everybody’s feeds. It now encourages users to think about what content they post.
Twitter Updates It’s Tweets
But Instagram isn’t the only social media network that’s given their algorithms a tweak. Similar to Instagram, Twitter used to show the most recent tweets at the top of the feed. But like Instagram, Twitter have decided to change the feed to incorporate new features.
The new “while you were away” feature automatically shows the tweets you are most likely to care about at the top of your feed. The feature picks Tweets from the top users and profiles you interact with the most and puts them right at the top to make sure you see them. Just like the Instagram changes many people have displayed their anger on the new changes. But unlike Instagram the changes are not permanent and can actually be turned off in the settings. Instead of forcing users to make the switch, giving them the option instead has definitely won them a lot of brownie points.
Even though these changes have already happened it’s very likely other social media networks will follow suit. Social media networks spend a lot of time in developing new ways of showing relevant content to users and the process is never ending. Even though the new changes might not be as big or noticeable as the Instagram and Twitter changes it’s very likely there will be some updates in the future.
2. More Ads
Ads on social networks are a big thing as they can provide a lot of revenue for the company. Many companies such as Facebook and LinkedIn have been in on the business for a long time. But not everyone wants to be plagued by ads and a lot of users use plugins. These plugins such as Ad-Block plus and uBlock remove ads them from their feed. Although this has been happening for a long time, Facebook has recently decided they have had enough and have declared war on ad blocking plugins.
Around 9th August this year, Facebook changed its desktop website so that users would see ads on their news feed even if they were running ad block plugins. They did this by changing the way ads were displayed, making them look like legitimate posts. Although they did have a “sponsored” label on the top of them it fooled the plugins and showed the ads to everyone.
A few hours later after the initial release the plugin Ad block Plus responded with a new update that got rid of the new sneaky ads but Facebook was having none of it. A few days later on Thursday night, Facebook updated their website once again to stop the plugin from blocking their ads.
Facebook called out the ad block plugins saying they are punishing people on Facebook as the new ad block update don’t just block ads but also blocks legitimate posts. Since the statement from Facebook, Ad block plus has already updated its scripts to block the new update from Facebook. As you can tell this has quickly become a game of cat and mouse.
Ads for All?
Facebook currently shows no signs of backing down and are continuing to push ads on users. This looks like a new theme that’s starting to take hold of social media networks and something big that’s going to change in the future. Not only will social networks force more ads upon users but will also be looking to personalise ads.
Due to the large amount of data social media networks hold about their users it allows them to specifically target users down to the smallest detail. Just think of all the fan pages and groups you’ve liked and all the hash tags and content you share. Social networks quickly build a profile about your likes and dislikes which can be used to help display the most appropriate ads.
3. Similar Features
If you’re an active users on several social networks then you’ll probably notice how similar certain networks are becoming. Take Twitter for example. As previously mentioned they recently introduced their “what’s new feature” which is very similar to Instagram’s data feed. It shows all the new relevant posts at the top of the feed and steps away from the chronological newsfeed. Now it’s not the exact same but social networks are starting to put their own twist on other networks features.
In addition to this, Instagram has also released a similar feature which is popular on another social network. Instagram recently released its “new” feature Instagram stories which has been hailed as a rip off of Snapchat’s stories feature. The feature allows you to take pictures and share all the moments of your day in a story format for viewers to watch. With the new feature you don’t have to worry about over posting as none of the pictures go on your profile. To make things simple they are automatically deleted after 24 hours.
Although Instagram claim this is a new feature, the exact same thing has been available on Snapchat for at least the past year. The feature on Snapchat allows users to add pictures to their story for their followers to watch, with the stories being deleted after 24 hours.
This shows that if a social network have a good feature, it’s likely others will follow suit and make their own versions. In the future it’s likely that social networks will become so similar they’ll all have the same features and technology. Choosing one will just be down to which network you prefer and which you have the most friends on!
4. New Layouts
During the short history of social networks, many of them have gone through huge rebrandings. These rebrands have left them with new logos, styles and layouts. If you’ve been keeping up to date with your networks then you probably noticed a change on Instagram. Not only a new logo but a new layout as well.
The change was made to reflect how the network has changed over time since its purchase by Facebook in April 2012. The change is very dramatic and many people were not happy with the change. Many people say the logo is too plain, with a few joking that it was made by a 10 year old.
Not only did Instagram change the style and colour of the logo but they also changed the app. In fact, the colours were removed altogether from the app. Apparently Instagram thought the traditional blue colour scheme was too distracting. Instead they decided to tone it down so the users only focus on the thing that is the most important, the content.
Facebook Business Pages
But Instagram isn’t the only social network that has recently altered their layout. Facebook is currently testing a cleaner new business page layout specifically for business pages. The layout has a smaller profile picture but a larger call to action button. In addition to this the profile picture has been shrunk and moved below the cover image. This means it doesn’t cover up a part of the cover image as it used to.
Although these changes have just been introduced it looks like Facebook is constantly changing them from user’s feedback. This shows that social networks are always looking to improve their websites and change the way content is shown to users. In the future it’s highly likely there will be more changes to profiles and group pages to make them easier to navigate and use.
5. Real Time Updates
When social networks were first released they were very slow and required a manual refresh to load new data. Nowadays many social media networks have real time push updates that automatically appear on your phone. All without having to constantly refresh. This makes the website more engaging and interactive, which is exactly what social media websites are all about.
Although some social networks do it fairly well at the moment such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Other networks such as Instagram and Facebook haven’t completely integrated real-time updates and still require a manual refresh.
Many networks nowadays have also introduced more real time content for users such as Twitter’s Moments. Twitter’s moments is similar to Twitter’s trends and organises all the top and trending tweets in real time for users to glimpse through. The feature allows you to easily see what’s popular and what everyone is talking about with the click of a button.
Facebook also have a similar feature that has a trending list of the top news events. This list is divided into each category from around the world which is updated constantly. This provides users with the latest trending content in real time.
Looking to the future it’s very possible that all social media networks will adopt real time updates. This means users will be constantly fed the latest real time updates and not miss a thing. After all getting new real time updates to users as fast as possible will be a priority for many social network sites.
6. Categorise Content
Categorising content on social networks is important as it helps users find what they want to see. Twitter was really the first network to tackle this problem with their hashtags. Since then pretty much every other network including Facebook and Instagram have piggybacked on the success of the hashtag.
By posting a hashtag it allows you to categorise that post into a specific category that can be easily found. Although the problem has pretty much been solved with the hashtag it won’t stop people from trying to reinvent the wheel.
Facebook is currently trialling a new topic feature that allows users to post and comment on certain topics or themes. This makes it easier to sort certain posts and content into the correct category or topic. Although it’s very similar to hashtags it still shows the social media networks are looking to categorise relevant content.
By grouping relevant posts and content together it allows Facebook to show users more of what they want. This hopefully increasing the user experience and interaction. It’s very likely Facebook will continue to experiment with this feature in the future and make some possible changes. But if it doesn’t work they could always go back to hashtags!
7. Live Streaming
Social media websites are always looking for new ways to show real-time content to their users. The next big thing is live streaming. Copying the success of streaming from websites such as YouTube and Twitch.tv. Many social networks have incorporated their own streaming features into their platforms.
Take Twitter for example, they have recently launched their Periscope feature. Periscope allows users to live stream content to all of their follows. Users simply download the app on their phone and can live stream any content of their choice using their mobile phone. The feed is linked to the user’s Twitter profile and is displayed in real time to all their followers.
Although Twitter probably got their first, Facebook has recently launched its competitor Facebook live. As the title suggests it allows you to live stream any type of content to people from all over the world. Many people have been taking advantage of the new feature with groups broadcasting streams every day to their audience. The great thing is many of these streamers already have large audiences from being on Facebook for a while. This new live streaming feature give them another way to communicate with their followers and audience.
Not only is live streaming for big companies and journalists. Many regular ordinary users can live stream to their followers as well. Simply use your mobile phone to start a live stream and get real-time feedback from your audience via the comment feature.
Although the feature is still fairly new, it’s already been a huge success. Many users have tried out the feature and have launched their own streams. Since Twitter and Facebook already have live streaming features it seems the ball is in the court for other social media networks.
What’s Next For Social Media?
We all know that social media websites are constantly changing. From the changes that have happened in 2016 its likely that new features will continue to be added throughout 2017. Facebook have already teased us with several changes to their website this year. These include things such as the new business page layouts and new ads, but could this be a more regular thing?
Instagram has also had a major update this year with their new logo, colour scheme and new moments feature. But surely that’s just a one off? Unfortunately, we don’t have any inside knowledge so we can’t give a definitive answer. However, what we can say is it’s clear Instagram are moving in a different direction compared to before. If you’re a big social network fan then you’ll probably notice all the new changes when they happen so be sure to keep an eye out!