Status Of The Big Social Networks At The Start Of 2017

By @TheMarkDalton

Social networks evolved across the board in 2016. Snapchat made big strides in growth, Facebook went in hard on live video, Instagram launched stories and Twitter, well Twitter tried a bit of everything with little success.

Digital marketers should be casting their eye over everything they can. Its not our job to put clients everywhere you can get them but to put them in the right place. However you should be watching as much as possible – Peach, Anchor, Houseparty. Unfamiliar with those kinds of networks? You shouldn’t be.

However for the purposes of this piece we are going to look at the big players, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. Briefly what they did in 2016 and what 2017 may have in store for them.

 

Facebook

 

Facebook is still top of the heap, they have the largest user base and they are the network that many people still head to and check on a daily basis despite growing reports of users getting “tired” of Facebook. Plenty of people who I spoke to in 2016 felt a bit fed up with Facebook but they still go to it everyday because they are afraid of potentially missing something that gets posted there.

Facebook has the best ad model on the planet at the moment so if you are in business I plead with you to start running Facebook ads because when the big brands start calibrating and understanding how much attention is on Facebook they are going to pour $$ into Facebook ads. When that eventually happens, the price of Facebook ads are going to go through the roof and sadly, many people will miss the golden era of Facebook marketing.

Facebook went in hard on live video and it has been a success with several users finding themselves to be viral hits. In 2017 we can expect to see Facebook growing the live platform, they have also introduced a Snapchat like camera and story mode but the problem is they are trying to be something they are not. After failing to buy Snapchat they are trying to replicate Snapchat in the same way Instagram have replicated Snapchat. The problem is that on Facebook it just feels wrong.

I want to see Facebook focus on what they are good at, grow the ad network further and work on their live product which is pretty solid.

 

Instagram

 

Marketers who look down on Instagram and scoff because they ‘copied Snapchat’ are idiots who shouldn’t be let loose on your business. Instagram is popping for brands right now and they are growing the product fast.

They have grown stories with their own little twists such as their own stickers, handsfree video recording, live streams and all round the stories product feels a lot slicker and polished in comparison to Snapchat.

Instagram’s ad model is also fantastic which you would expect since they are owned by Facebook and organic reach is incredibly high. There is also an Instagram boom going on right now and they have added 100 million users over the past three months bringing them to over 600 million active users.

If you are a visual brand looking to improve your storytelling game and looking to pump out fantastic visual content in 2017 then Instagram is a must, forget about the people who are still crying about ‘what they did to Snapchat.’

It is not about which platform does it first but which platform does it best. Instagram has been solid for me the past few months and I can see it being big in 2017, potentially my number 1 social network for branding reach.

I expect to see Instagram continue to develop the app in 2017, particularly the stories feature which I can see getting new features added through the year. I can also see the current boom in Instagram users continuing which is great news for current Insta users looking for new audiences to tap in to.

Again, getting into Instagram marketing before the golden era of it ends is important, so start running Instagram ads too.

 

Snapchat

 

I got loud about Snapchat at the start of the year, and I would still be loud about it if Instagram had not come in and stole some of their thunder. While brands and business could probably and will probably find more success on Instagram for reach, Snapchat is still important.

Snapchat is also important if your demographic is anywhere between 15-30 because there are plenty of them over there. Something Snapchat has also been credited for is how fast they evolve their product, I think that some of that element has been missing over the past number of months. Changes don’t seem to be coming overnight on the fly as they once were in the year.

The only thing that caused me to step back from Snapchat somewhat is the fact that I have had more success on Instagram stories, but I still pop in to Snapchat and still continue to update my stories from time to time because the platform is important for branding.

Anyone who tells you that they don’t see the point of Snapchat for business or Snapchat for brands is someone who is basically telling you that they don’t understand basic branding. If you are still wondering how Snapchat could help your business then you are basic thinking and only looking at sales which is completely different from branding.

In 2017 I expect Snapchat to continue their growth and evolve, Spectacles have been a great hit and it will be interesting to see if Snapchat makes them more readily available and what other new pieces of hardware they may be working on.

The battle between Instagram and Snapchat will continue in 2017, right now it is too close to call who will come out on top.

 

Twitter

 

Ah Twitter, one of my first social network loves. I really do like Twitter despite the rant I am about to go on and the miserable prediction I am about to give. I get so angry when I look at Twitter because I am so passionate about the platform and for people who have made a living from Twitter and who have built businesses from Twitter – I don’t know how some of them don’t get angry too.

Twitter is a mess, plain and simple. Executives have walked or “parted ways” in their droves this year. Jack Dorsey was meant to be Twitter’s saviour and I said myself that if I could see anyone getting it right at Twitter then Jack would be the man to do it.

A year later and harassment is running rampant on the platform, there is an overwhelming noise problem, the app and the website are still too confusing for newcomers despite Twitter’s attempts to simplify it.

Twitter did try in 2016, they released several product updates and incorporated live elements from Periscope directly into the platform which is neat but had zero effect on their bigger problem – becoming a mainstream social platform. Because they are no longer a mainstream social platform, not when you compare them to how the other three have grown and evolved. Twitter is now the outsider to that group.

When you sum up Twitter’s year in bullet points it makes for pretty harsh reading.

– Adam Bain gone
– Adam Messinger gone
– Josh McFarland gone
– Multiple execs leave
– No significant user growth
– Harassment an overriding issue in 2016
– Unable to find a buyer due to harassment problems
– Vine platform killed off by Twitter
– 9% of staff laid off

Then there is the current ongoing debate over whether Twitter should ban president-elect Donald Trump who continues to insult people, businesses and other countries through the social media service.

Wall Street has had enough and I think we can all say with some level of confidence that Twitter has maybe around a year to sort themselves out. Turning around a struggling company is no easy task and it won’t be easy when you look at what some of the investors are saying.

People who keep telling me that Twitter has something up their sleeve are clearly not listening to the investors circle. Chris Sacca has gone on record and said already that there is no news of anything coming, there is no news of product developments or a Twitter 2.0 in the pipeline.

Twitter can only take so much more bashing and while there are some promising new execs coming in to work with Jack, there is one thing that has kept them afloat recently. The core user base who have stuck it out with Twitter no matter how poorly the company has been managed or how ridiculous the product evolvement has been.

I want Twitter to win, I rant about Twitter so much now because I want them to prove me and everyone else writing about them wrong. I want them to pull off something spectacular in 2017 to save their asses and grow the platform before they become the next MySpace.

The problem is that they failed to evolve while in their prime, Wall Street and their investors are losing faith fast. I’m pulling for Twitter to win and my heart says they win but my head says I am just making the most of a platform on limited time.

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