Making predictions for the future is always an inexact science, but it’s possible to speculate about what might happen.
Given recent trends, it might not be a surprise to know that the focus of social media platforms for the year ahead is very likely to be around two main themes: money and privacy.
So here are a few thoughts on social media over the coming year or so.
New ‘private’ networks with fewer ads will continue to gain ground…
Let’s put it simply: in the past few years people got sick of Facebook changing its privacy settings. People also became wary of their data being logged. There was international outcry at the collection by Facebook of unpublished status updates.
People also got sick of the sinister side of advertising on social media. Many really didn’t like the constant bombardment with adverts for sportswear (if you’ve posted about trainers), restaurants (if you’ve posted about going out for a meal) or even dating sites (if you‘ve changed your status to ‘single’).
In response, many social networks offering more privacy sprung up. Others are offering fewer adverts or none at all.
…and the new networks are likely to be actually private
We’ll all have read about the scandal of private Snapchat images, which were supposed to disappear, making their way onto the wider internet. For some people, privacy is a very big deal. The upshot of this is that users who want complete privacy will flock towards networks where it is offered. These networks, though they may remain niche, will gain significant traction among certain strands of the population.
Social media will give you new ways to shop online
Despite the points made above about advertising and privacy, there are still a lot of people who either don’t care or actively embrace the commercialism of social networks. They quite like the idea of convenient offers popping up on their news feed.
Easy-to-use buy buttons have already been tested by the likes of Twitter and Facebook. When rolled out, these will give companies an easy way to access a huge market of people and an convenient way for people to buy things.
Data from smart devices will become more widespread
Things are moving on from your mate’s latest jogging time and distance being published to Facebook and Twitter. The Internet of Things – data collected by everyday devices like mobile phones, wristbands and even household utilities – will be increasingly influential and evermore useful. Imagine organising an event and stating on the Facebook group invite that there will be snacks. Your social media could soon be reminding you it’s time to take a shopping trip, perhaps sponsored by a supermarket.
Social media: the new PayPal?
Facebook already gives you the opportunity to store your bank details, enabling autofill on hundreds of thousands of online shops. This enables you to more easily complete purchases, provided you’re logged into the network. Could the next step be funds transfers to friends? Acting as the middle man could become a future money-spinner for many social media networks. Expect to see more of this in the coming year.