27 Experts on Which 2016 Social Media Trends to Watch

December 30, 2015

With another year behind us and a new year on the horizon, digital marketers are looking ahead with excitement. As new technology, tools, and trends emerge, we thought it might be useful to ask some of the industry’s brightest thought leaders what they will be watching in the new year ahead. Here’s what they said when we asked them all one question — which 2016 social media trends will you be watching and why?

The expert opinions showed some definite trends. The most common answer? Content marketing! Not just more content but more “meaningful content” as Chris Brogan noted. Likewise Ann Handley predicts that 2016 will be the year that content marketing “grows up.” The next most common theme related to what form of content marketers will be utilizing more in the year ahead — video. Specifically, social video on Periscope, Blab, and Facebook as Jay Baer, Michael Stelzner, and Amy Schmittauer report. Finally, several point to more time and resources being allocated to paid social media amplification.

Enough of the preview. Here’s what the experts had to say about marketing in 2016 …

Jay Baer

President of Convince and Convert, Author of Hug Your Haters
jay baer youtility
“2016 will be the year when video becomes a primary content and social marketing consideration for all companies regardless of size or category. Every time I think consumers have reached maximum video consumption, I am proven wrong. And now, it’s even easier to create and consume video, especially with the rise of video on Facebook as well as Periscope, Meerkat, Blab and more. In 2016, video will take its rightful place as the petri dish of great social media and content marketing, and I want to be at the front of that line.”

David Meerman Scott

david meerman scottSales & Marketing Strategist & Best-Selling Author of 10 Books Including the 5th edition of The New Rules of Marketing and PR and the new Newsjacking online course
“After growing interest for five years, 2016 is the year Newsjacking goes mainstream. For those who don’t yet use the strategy, Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story to generate tons of media coverage, get sales leads, and grow business.”

Ann Handley

ann-handley-headshot-lgChief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, Best-Selling Author of Everybody Writes
“In 2016, content marketing exits its crazy college years. It grows up, gets a real job, and pays its own bills.” More from Ann on the state of content in 2016.

Peter Shankman

peter shankmanAuthor of Zombie Loyalists 
“Definitely the use of customer experience translating from real world to online. As the network learns more about our likes and dislikes, the need to gain ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ will diminish, and be replaced by our customers’ actions in the real world. If they’re happy with us, that will show to their friends — automatically — perhaps when their friends need a recommendation, or Google for the latest restaurant or hotel. It won’t be about liking and fanning anymore. It’ll simply be real-world translating into consumer suggestion. The network will know what we like as we know what we like, and our friends will see that first and foremost.”

scott strattenScott Stratten

President of UnMarketing, Author, Co-Host of the UnPodcast
“I’m looking forward to a year of marketers misusing some great new technology like 3D video and virtual reality.”

chris broganChris Brogan

CEO of Owner Media Group and New York Times Best-Selling Author
“My prediction is that meaningful content marketing will start to overtake content for content’s sake.”

Gini Dietrich

CEO Arment Dietrich, Author of Spin Sucks

Gini Dietrich“It’s no surprise that everyone is inundated with content and exhausted with the options… most of them not good. Because of that, I predict 2016 will be the year the cream rises to the top and the weak will disappear. There will be more creative campaigns. Organizations will get smarter about creation. There will be a more integrated approach with influencers. And they’ll finally begin to show a real return-on-investment against their efforts.”

andrew davisAndrew Davis

Author of Brandscaping and Town, Inc
“Marketers, even content marketers, will once again find value in buying advertisements — yes — to promote everything from their products and services to their content. 2016 will be the year of paid placement.”

Mark W. Schaefer

mark w schaeferCollege Educator, Speaker, Social Media Strategy Consultant and Author of The Content Code
​”With the emergence of Facebook and LinkedIn as powerful publishing platforms the old advice of ‘don’t build your home on rented land’ seems outdated. 2016 is the year we’ll have to submit to the rules of these platforms if we intend to get visibility for our content. Yes, you still need a home base but increasing distribution is the name of the game.”

 Tom Webster

VP of Strategy at Edison Research, Co-Author of The Mobile Commerce Revolution
tom webster“Paid content amplification will continue to increase as brands realize that this is the key to growing both paid and organic reach. As a result, the gap between the ‘haves’ (those who pay for content amplification on Facebook and other platforms) and the ‘have nots’ (those who don’t) will increase. Paid amplifiers will see increases in organic reach, and others will see decreases, which may result in those brands deemphasizing or even abandoning a content strategy.”

Michael Stelzner

Founder of Social Media Examiner
michael stelzner“360 Degree Live Video Experiences: The year 2015 started an era of live casting with the introduction of new technology such as Periscope, Facebook Live and Blab. 2016 will take some of these live broadcasts to an entirely new level with the introduction of live 360 degree broadcasts that will allow people to move their mobile phones and experience the action as if they were actually present and moving their heads. In addition we’ll see the wide scale adoption of cost effective virtual reality devices that will enable fully immersive 3D experiences that are live. Much of this will be enabled by low cost 360 cameras like the Ricoh Theta combined with economical devices like Google Cardboard that transform the smart phones everyone already owns into a virtual reality device. This represents an entirely new opportunity for marketers to give factory tours and any other form in-person experience the mind can imagine.”

Joe Pulizzi

Founder of Content Marketing Institute and Author of Content Inc
joe pulizzi“Back to basics is the next big thing. Instead of publishing content in every conceivable channel, marketers will start to focus on telling different stories in one particular channel and content type, working to build an audience. Social media channels are becoming pay to play, and the connections we have there are not under our control. Marketers will begin to move away from rented land and build on owned property.”

Mack Coller

mack-collierSocial Media Consultant, Host of #Blogchat
“Moving into 2016 and beyond, the brands that will win the content game will be the ones that don’t sell a product, but instead sell how that product fits into the lives of its customers. Customer-centric content will win the day, that’s why Red Bull doesn’t sell energy drinks, it sells what happens after you drink it. Patagonia doesn’t sell clothing, it sells what you’ll be doing while wearing its clothing. Focus less on the product and more on how the product fits into your customers’ lives.”

Jason Miller

jason millerSenior Manager Content & Social at LinkedIn and Author of Welcome to the Funnel
“2016 is going to be the year of amplification and personalization. Brands will put much less emphasis on organic and focus heavily on paying to promote their own good content and segmenting their audiences in order to deliver more personalized messaging.”

Scott Monty

Scott Monty Strategies, Host of I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere
scott-monty“With the increased focus on content marketing, we’ll continue to see content shock in play. This means that the more personal forms of communication — particularly messaging and email — will become increasingly important. Think I’m kidding? The Guardian already named 2015 as the year of the email newsletter, which makes incredible sense amid the increasingly speedy and clogged news streams you’re seeing on Facebook and Twitter. This desire for the more intimate and personal connection will also drive more marketers to embrace influencer marketing, relying on the trusted relationships that influencers already have with their audiences. While I wouldn’t call it a full-blown retreat, marketers will be paying more attention to the relationships that drive attention.”

Tim Hayden

tim haydenHead of Marketing Zignal Labs, Co-Author of The Mobile Commerce Revolution
“In 2015, we continued to see traditional media sources dominate conversations and the stories that shape opinions on brands, politics and more. Next year, I am confident we will only see this continue to grow as the case with video and sponsored social and web content dominating newsfeeds. We will all pay to play, and pay more, in 2016.”

Bryan Kramer

President and CEO of purematter
bryan kramer“The marketing world has gone through a massive change, with the explosion of channels, devices, and new formats creating new ways to market and converse with your customer or potential customer. Content and the way we consume it have changed human behavior and will continue to do so in 2016. While this expansion created more complexities, they haven’t even scratched the surface when TV and mobile video starts to combine truly social experiences with video. The arrival of virtual reality with a massive explosion of streaming will unleash a new age on how we digest our content. Even video on demand as we knew it will start to become antiquated. As all this starts to building momentum, using data to create better human responses in more traditional areas still matter such as email, text, and webinars.”

Drew McLellan

Top Dog at both Agency Management Institute and McLellan Marketing Group; Consultant and Speaker
Drew-McLellan-150x145“I think the trend that we all need to be mindful of in 2016 is the risk that content marketing goes the way of QR codes. When QR codes first came out, marketers rushed to use them and man, did we do it badly. Sure, there were some shining examples (like Central Park) of doing it well, but for the most part we disappointed them time and time again. After a awhile, we became the marketers who called wolf and they simply ignored us.

“My fear is that we could do the same thing with content. We have substituted quantity for quality. We crank infographics, ebooks and FAQs out as fast as we can, with no regard to their actual value. We pay some anonymous writer $35 to create a blog post and then we wonder why it earns no engagement. If we don’t get our act together — we will teach our audience that we’re not worth their attention. They will come to sole rely on consumer crowdsourced content/review sites and brands will just be the static in the background.”

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone

Host of MarketingProfs’ Marketing Smarts Podcast, Lawyer, and Speaker
kerry gorgone“If you’re not podcasting, you should be. According to Edison Research, 21 million Americans are listening to 21 million hours of podcasting a day. More and more marketers are getting wise to the fact that podcasts are back in a big way. Whether you do a daily two-minute update, a 10-minute show each week, or a 30-minute interview series, you should add your voice to the mix!

“Audio’s big, but so is video. In fact, video streaming is kind of the new black. Periscope, Blab, Facebook video…whatever your channel of choice is, explore whether your audience is consuming video content there. If they are, you should consider experimenting yourself!

“Finally, get back to basics. Social media and content marketing are great, but stay focused on what really matters: the customer experience. According to Gartner, “by 2016, 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus 36% four years ago.”

“What does this mean for your brand? That relevant, entertaining content is mere table stakes now: you have to up the ante with outstanding social customer care and enhanced customer experience. Blogging or posting on social channels without tending to your customers’ overall experience with your brand is a losing proposition. They’ll quickly figure out that there’s no “there” there and move on to a brand that demonstrates a real commitment to CX.”

Jim Tobin

President, Ignite Social Media
jim-tobin“Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are going to build tools to allow consumers to chat with brands, but they’ll do so faster than brands will be able to use them coherently. As a result, consumer expectation for rapid response through social will outpace reality. Smart brands will further integrate community managers and customer support, without losing the marketing touch that those channels still require.”

Christopher Penn

VP Marketing Technology at Shift Communications, Co-Host of Marketing Over Coffee
christopher s penn“Content marketers should be keeping their eyes on AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages. This is a project spearheaded by Google to convince content marketers to make pages load in under 3 seconds on mobile devices. There’s an open source specification, and anyone wanting to get a jump on it can download the AMP plugin for WordPress from Automattic in the WP Codex. Google has said they will start showing AMP-optimized pages in search as early as Q1 of 2016, and it’s not a stretch of the imagination to say that the algorithm may give preference to AMP-ready sites.”

John Wall

john wallCo-Host of Marketing Over Coffee
“For 2016 theres ‘s astounding spread of media technology that was last decade’s sci-fi. My bet is on virtual reality changing the world of content and entertainment from wearable VR headsets all the way up to Barco Escape Panoramic Cinema.”

Kristen Craft

kristen craftDirector of New Business at Wistia
“Here’s my prediction: I think we’re going to see smart brands using video in more strategic ways. Gone are the days when companies just slap a video on their site or on YouTube and hope for the best. Instead, we’ll see companies using videos to collect leads, using viewing data to segment their audience, and nurturing people differently, based on the videos they view.”

Christoph Trappe

christoph trappeThe Authentic Storytelling Project, Author of Get Real: Telling Authentic Stories for Long-term Success
“Everyone is now creating content and lots of it isn’t worth consuming at all. In 2016, the brands that are determined to be real, authentic and less-promotional than others will rise to the top. The brands that will share uniquely original content and get real through their stories with their audiences will prevail and set themselves up for long-term success. Fingers crossed.”

Nathan Wright

nathan t wrightDigital and Marketing Innovation at Hy-Vee
“Video, video, video!
We’ve seen the evidence that video content outperforms everything else in Facebook News Feeds. Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter have all made heavy investments in the video space. So marketers absolutely must be storytelling with video in 2016. Mobile ad blockers aren’t going away. Marketers should double down on their earned media efforts and organic social content.”

Amy Schmittauer

President of Vlog Boss Studios and Founder of Savvy Sexy Social
Amy“Year over year video continues to be a hot topic for marketers and yet the percentage of businesses actually executing on a video content plan is low relative to how accessible it is. With 6 billion daily video views on Snapchat and the uprise of live streaming, 2016 is the year of brands finally diving into video no matter where. And the smart ones will look at YouTube and see how relevant it still is and how valuable an archive of search results would be to attract new eyeballs.”

Andy Crestodina

Co-Founder and Strategic Director of Orbit Media Studios
andy crestodina
“This trend has been building for years and it’s going to be even bigger in 2016: live marketing events. Conferences of all kinds (including SBV) are offering more value than ever and breaking attendance records. The combination of in-person networking and learning puts live events in their own category of social content.

“The data shows that live events are getting results for brands. They are consistently at the top of the effectiveness scale on the annual Marketing Profs/Content Marketing Institute B2B Survey.

“So get a regular event into you marketing mix! Even if it’s a quarterly event with just a few dozen people. Here at Orbit, we’ve done a monthly event called Wine & Web for the past five years and it has rabid fans. Some people have come 20+ times. If you need help getting attendees, try these event marketing tips.

No space for an event? No problem. Consider doing something live online. Webinars and Twitter Chats are still very effective. And 2016 is going to be a great year to launch a new show on Blab.”

Now That the Experts Have Weighed In …

What about you? The great thing about social media and digital marketing tools is that we can all dig in, try things out, and learn from our experiences. What have you learned? What social media trends are you keeping an eye on in 2016?

Happy New Year!

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.