What’s next for the biggest social media platforms? Only time will tell, but here are my 7 social media trends for 2017 to watch out for. In addition, I include a number of notable considerations for your social planning efforts.

Social Messaging and the Growth of Dark Social

General sharing of content isn’t being “shared” as much as it used to be. Consumers are tending to use WhatsApp, Snapchat and other messaging applications to share content. This has meant that almost 70% of online shares are taking place within “dark social” mobile messaging. Dark social is difficult to measure because the tools don’t yet exist.

With the growth in messaging apps, it is becoming increasingly popular for people to turn to private social messaging, rather than engaging with social media. So much so, in February 2016 WhatsApp announced it hit the 1 billion user mark. Combined, the four most popular messaging apps, Facebook Messenger, WhatApp, QQ Chat and WeChat, have a wider conversation pool than the top four main social networks.

Brands can attempt to reduce the amount of traffic that comes from dark social by adding share buttons to their sites. The key problem is to track where the traffic is coming from, and this problem is likely to continue in 2017.

Live Video Streaming

In 2016, Meerkat, Periscope and Facebook Live brought streaming to the masses. In 2017, YouTube is readying the launch of YouTube Live. Video has seen the major growth in Facebook this past year, and consistently shows higher engagement that other forms of posts. As social networks fight to keep people online, a big focus on video makes sense.

It is worth keeping an open mind on how to use live video effectively. For example, through the release of live video of a marketing event, or even paid influencer product promotion. With the priority that Facebook is giving to video, coupled with the reduced reach of organic reach. You need to be experimenting with live video in 2017.

Using Video to Gain Share of Voice

On the topic of live video, 2017 is going to be the year when established big brands are going to start feeling the pressure from their smaller and more agile competitors. Particularly, in the execution of their video content strategies.

If it isn’t already obvious, Facebook is rapidly becoming full of video content. The simple reason is that people watch the content, particularly if they know the person, or are interested in the brand. For most brands, just 10% of their budget is allocated towards creating content, with 90% used for boosting content through advertising.

To gain the majority share of voice in 2017, brands will need to focus on using 90% of their budget on creating unique and useful content, that resonates with their audience. 10% boosting it or turning it into an ad. To get the best results from video, brands are going to need to understand their audience and what resonates with them. Start to experiment and develop content for Snapchat and Instagram stories, it will pay off later in 2017, as your audience develops.

Paid Social Advertising

In 2017, if you want your content to be visible by consumers, you will have to resort to paid social advertising. Despite increased competition from brands, it is forecasted that by 2017, marketers will spend up to US$35.98 billion on social advertising. As such, expect the price of ad inventory to increase as brands step up their advertising efforts.

Facebook continues to update its algorithm, which caused less traffic to be sent to content sites. Rather, the platform now prioritizes posts shared by friends and families, rather than those from publishers and brands. The challenge for companies will be to produce much more interesting ads that will result in conversions. Companies need to focus on communicating their brand message to customers, while also being able to stand out from the crowd.

My advice is that unless you are a trained PPC expert, get help from a fully trained practitioner that can deliver ads that drive traffic to your site. With social, the wonderful days of free content distribution are over. The algorithm changes brought about by the social networks mean that organic reach is greatly reduced, in Facebook’s case from 15% to as low as 2%.

Brands have two choices, spend more on advertising, or have a true understanding of the content your audience wants to see and provide it to them. Even then, you would need to think about how you can maximize sharing, and engage influencers to increase reach. In the end, a successful strategy will most likely have to include both understanding and segmenting your audience and boosting the right content to those segments.

Plan for Mobile 

Very much a given for 2017, but worth repeating. Mobile traffic has overtaken desktop on the web this year. Google is also now working on a new, mobile-first web index. These changes mean that it is more important than ever to make the mobile experience as great as possible. Increasingly, this means putting mobile first, rather than simply optimizing for mobile devices. If you are not already optimizing for mobile devices, then you have failed before you have even begun.

Co-collaboration with Super Fans, Influencers and Brands

In 2017, collaborating with others should become an important part of your overall content strategy. Collaboration is the fastest way to grow your fan base and attract new audiences. Focus on finding ways to co-create content together. Also, consider publishing some of your content on LinkedIn and Medium. Both have established audiences and networks and will give your content a fresh pair of new eyes.

Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots

Artificial intelligence is now reaching a level where it is becoming useful to many people’s daily lives. The rise of digital assistants, such as Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and the new Google Assistant have kicked off a trend of getting people to talk to their devices, rather than use their fingers. This is one area to watch closely in 2017.

Chatbots are also going to have profound effects on how customers interact with brands on social. Chatbots will deliver human-like conversational interactive experiences and provide capable customer support. Linking a purposeful chatbot to website content, will mean consumers will be able to ask and pull information more quickly and deeply than visiting a product landing page. Chatbots make sense for brands, allowing common questions to be answered and simple bookings to be made. This can free up customer support agents to answer more in-depth queries.