The state of social in 2017

This week we were asked to present at our annual Marketing and Communications away day. We decided to frame it around the big events of 2016 and end it with a 2017 message. Therefore, I've abridged this for this bumper final blog post of the year!

A lot has been written recently around the social media bubble and how that we are in fact completely insular in our connections. The hypothesis goes that it is human nature to seek out opinions which reinforce our own. This just makes our news feeds an echo chamber of people high-fiving each other for having the same opinions.

Similarly, all the online new aggregators are sculpting what we see online. The algorithms are prioritising content which we are most likely to interact with. Whilst this is in some way an effort to be helpful it is also intended to get us clicking more and these interactions increase our usage of their platforms. By ensuring that certain keywords are given extra heft it also means that interaction is maximised. For example, if you post that you're 'engaged' or 'congratulate' someone you're much more likely to appear on the timelines of your connections. The knock on effect of this can be partly showed in the result of the American election earlier this year:

So, are these systems using us or are we using them? By switching off these algorithms we can at least be more in control of what we see. Having an unfiltered news feed is a step in the right direction of democratising what we see but we must also be able to subject ourselves sometimes to opinions that differ from those of our self created hive mind.

I would certainly rank it as one of the chief issues for a brighter and fairer future. It certainly cannot be a positive thing if we are so insular as to never be subjected to someone with a difference of opinion. The art of debate is essential if we are to progress as a human race and to challenge our own beliefs.

Whilst the media like to paint an entirely negative picture of these constantly evolving forms of communication it's also important to remember that technology can also solve problems. There are some great examples of this out there and of course our business has seen some great success this year.

We have clear objectives which we are exceeding and one of these is to get the right balance of corporate and human news. One thing we are careful of is to not lose credibility as a brand with tenuous links to popular news topics. By being comfortable with who we are we avoid tenuous attempts to be ‘engaging’ and ‘current’ which culminate in brands being laughed at.

But of course, we now need to think about our plans for 2017. Our strategy has served us well but only by putting together some top level predictions we can ensure we are as prepared as possible:

Rise of the chatbots

With many examples already in major use (i.e Siri and Google Assistant) these act as automated messaging services. They can be used to answer common questions and therefore free up the customer service professionals to answer more in depth queries.


The more personal the message the greater it resonates. This has long been utilised in email communications and helps win limited attention in a busy space.

Live streaming video

Facebook and YouTube have made recent inroads in this area and video shows very high levels of engagement. This has a lot of potential to be used for live events or to showcase certain sites or facilities.

Employee advocacy

By using employees as beacons for the brand, getting them to share our content and being passionate social advocates we can really extend our reach.

Expiring content

Platforms such as Snapchat popularised this and are taking it one step further in 2017 with the launch of their 'spectacles'. Other platforms have emulated this feature such as Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook and by making content time relevant it creates that extra demand.

More vicarious experiences

2017 is going to be less about 'tell' and more about 'show'. Photos are being shared as a way on conversing where previously they were primarily a way to record and document a time in history.

Virtual reality and 360 video

As this becomes more convenient and cheaper to use it will be an excellent way to immerse users into the scope of a building project or  service.

Survival of the fittest platforms

Finally, I foresee brands tackling fewer platforms in 2017 with a focus on those that work for their audiences. By narrowing the focus and refining we can ensure good content and engagement where it works best.

It's been quite the year with me and I'm definitely more exhausted than ever! See you in 2017...
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