What’s Ahead for Social? Believe in Yourself(ie) for 2014

No matter where you looked in 2013, there was always someone within a few feet of you with his or her arm outstretched, snapping a photo or shooting a video. In fact, Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year for 2013 was “selfie.” Yes, that’s actually a thing. On the bright side, at least it wasn’t “twerk.”

In 2013, we saw the rise of photo and video sharing social networks such as Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat, while other social networks (ahem, Facebook) tried to scoop them up. It’s clear that the future, or at least 2014, will be about images and short-form video. Mobile is becoming increasingly important when it comes to social media habits, which is going to place even more emphasis on images and video on-the-go. Yes, the selfie isn’t going anywhere. So, let’s take a deep dive into the three visual players in the social media game; Instagram, Vine and Snapchat, and their outlooks for 2014.

“Are you on Instagram?”

Levis Instagram Sponsored Ad

Instagram proved itself to be a major player in 2013. Acquired by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion (or $715 million, if we’re looking at the final price after Facebook’s stock took a hit), Instagram was Facebook’s first big purchase. When Facebook purchased the photo sharing app, there were 30 million users. Today, Instagram has 150 million active users, and 55 million shares per day. To date, there have been 16 billion photos shared. Additionally, user growth on Instagram between Q1 and Q3 of 2013 was up 130%.

Not only did Instagram become increasingly popular in 2013, it also made some major changes. In February 2013, Instagram launched its feed for the web, so that users could view Instagram images from their desktop. In May, they added the “Photos of You” feature, so that you could tag other users in your photos, and all photos that you were tagged in would show up in your profile (“OMG, why didn’t you tag me!?”). In June, in order to compete with Vine (more on that later), Instagram introduced short-form video sharing. Fun fact: since the launch of Instagram video, they have seen a 37 percent increase in shares on Twitter.

Okay, this is all fine and dandy for users, but how is Instagram making that paper? Well, not to fear, in October, Instagram announced sponsored photos and videos. This meant that brands could now pay for their images or videos to appear on users’ photo feeds (even if a user doesn’t follow that particular brand).

The final addition in 2013, in order to compete with Snapchat (more on that later), Instagram introduced direct messages, where users could interact via photos and messages with another user. You may be wondering how this helps the actually brands, since clicks aren’t necessarily the focus. Instagram helps support brand awareness and identity by helping the particular brand create a story through their photos. If your brand is successful enough on Instagram that users actually remember your name (or product), that could then lead to off-platform clicks (or online searches).

WHEW! While not all of Instagram’s additions were particularly successful (I have never once used the direct message function), they have made it clear that they aren’t going anywhere in 2014. With 17% of online adults saying that they use Instagram (not counting those under the age of 18), and 57% of those users saying that they use Instagram on a daily basis, Instagram is catching up to other social networks such as Twitter and Pinterest.

“Did you see that Vine?”

Perhaps the biggest social media success story of 2013 was the Twitter-owned Vine. Twitter introduced Vine in January of 2013 as an app for creating animated GIF-like, looping videos. Between Q1 and Q3 of 2013, Vine grew by a whopping 403% (!!!!!). It seems that users have gotten used to the 6-second videos, and are starting to produce some amazing (and often hilarious) videos that are getting huge amounts of shares on other social sites. Without a doubt, Vine is poised to grow even more in 2014.

With major brands, such as Lowe’s and Nike, heading over to Vine to produce quick clips, short videos are becoming increasingly popular. Not only are they more efficient to make than longer-form produced videos, but they are more likely to go viral due to their short 6-second running time. They are easy to watch from start to finish, leaving more time to share that video on other social media outlets. In an age where we don’t have the time (or more accurately, the attention span) for 30-second ads, brands are taking advantage of Vine’s format. Quite simply, these videos provide instant gratification to users on the go.

One of Vine’s newest additions arrived earlier this month–web profiles and full screen video play. Like Instagram, Vine has taken their app to the web, but it only allows minimal interaction. When you go to a Vine web profile, you can view the video and the user’s other videos, but you cannot upload a video or search for users–placing further emphasis on having the app on your mobile device. The web profiles, in short, make it easier for people to share Vine videos via desktop (MARKETING!!!).

“Have you added me on Snapchat?”

HBO Girls Snapchat

When looking at 2014, all eyes are on Snapchat. Snapchat, for those who don’t know, is a mobile application where you can send and receive photos and videos that appear for seconds at a time. After the designated amount of time, the image or video disappears forever. Essentially, it’s an app for sharing real time, real life moments with your friends.

Recently, Snapchat declined a $3 billion dollar offer from Facebook. Snapchat’s CEO told Forbes “There are very few people in the world who get to build a business like this…I think trading that for some short-term gain isn’t very interesting.” The Snapchat website claims that there are currently about 350 million Snaps sent every day. What the rest of us want to know is: What does Snapchat have up its sleeve?

Snapchat has yet to monetize its platform, but brands are already starting to use it for their marketing strategies. One of the most popular examples is the hit HBO show, Girls. The Girls team has been using Snapchat at their premieres, as well as to tease upcoming episodes. Shortly after joining, Snapchat’s team reached out to compliment them on their success with the platform. In fact, Snapchat provided them with their total friend count and compared them to other brands who are currently using the service.

This all seems normal on the outside, but us social media marketers see that this is Snapchat showing that it’s willing embrace brands who use their service, possibly paving the way for native advertising in the future (perhaps in 2014?). I mean, they have to start making money sometime…right?

Further hints of future advertising can be seen in Snapchat’s most recent update: Snapchat Stories. Stories was launched in October, and when you post images or videos to your “Stories,” users can view them for 24 hours. This is the first feature from Snapchat that slightly resembles a native ad, and where they may be going in the future in terms of advertising. As of now, Snapchat is staying quiet about its future, but we think it’s setting itself up to make quite a splash in 2014.

No matter what social platform you’re on, it’s clear that visual content is going to be crucial for a successful social media campaign in 2014. In our fast-paced world, images and short-form videos are keeping people on social media engaged, if only for seconds at a time. Even other social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are making their images larger, or automatically playing videos (FACEBOOK!!), to catch the interest of their users. So while “selfie” may be the word of the year for 2013, it’s certainly here to stay…at least for another year.

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