What’s new and next in social media #SMWWhatsNext

Like the first cuckoo of Spring, @Battenhall’s Future Trends in Social Media for The Year Ahead event kicked off @smwldn this morning in the sub-basement of the sumptuous and glamorous Ham Yard Hotel. It feels like an established part of the calendar, and this was my third. So it came as something of a surprise for founder @drewb to inform us that his agency isn’t even old enough to go to primary school yet.

The highlight of the annual Battenhall bash is their FTSE 100 Social Media Report, a combination of a distillation of big data and opinions from the coal face for the company’s consultants working at the coal face of social with big brands. A few choice nuggets if you haven’t had time to read the report just yet:

  • 2.6bn people on the planet use one or more social channels each day
  • We have reached “peak Twit” with 96 percent of the FTSE 100 now active in Twitter. Pity poor Chilean mining conglomerate Antofagasta plc, whose corporate account has just 13 followers, despite @Drewb’s attempts to bolster their following this morning
  • More than half of all accounts of the FTSE 100 are verified (boast little blue ticks) and official
  • The Twitter stars (by far) are Burberry, Sky and ITV, and the platform is widely used for customer care, brand engagement, and recruitment. Paddy Power has the most influential account, which Battenhall calculates based on engagement and ratios of followers to friends
  • By contrast, only 13 brands are active on Snapchat
  • Younger, digitally-native users really don’t care about their digital history, and are very happy to delete accounts and complete histories and start again, hence their love of more ephemeral and closed platforms like Snapchat, What’s App, and China’s WeChat

And some headline trends and predictions for 2017:

  • People will prune the number of channels they use. This is being hastened by the blurring of the lines between the platforms, what with Snapchat and Instagram both adopting What’s App-style storifying functionality
  • Behaviours are more important than demographics, and Battenhall’s @StephsBubble heralded the death of the demographic (hence the image of Homer Simpson as the Grim Reaper above)
  • AI will make further inroads into social and news production. Despite the well-publicised failure of Microsoft’s AI bot @TayandYou, predicted by Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk. Witness Buzzfeed’s political news story bot, the LA Times’ bot the writes stories about the magnitude, risk and damage of every earthquake, and the AP’s bot that writes 1,000 stories a month

In a world that Heraclitus would have recognised and applauded – he of the maxim “everything’s always in flux” – social is very much about ephemerality. And contrary to expectations, the temporary and dissolving nature of content on newer social platforms is actually doing the very opposite of deterring creativity in photographic and video content.

There was more – much more – in the 60-minute briefing from @Drewb and his team. On trolls, customer care everywhere, and the spread of augmented reality post-Pokémon Go. But rather the regurgitate more of their report, I strongly commend their report and urge you to download and digest at your leisure. Because it’s worth it.