by Denise Whitmore, Social Media Department

Let’s be honest, social media can feel like the same old song and dance and even a little tiresome at the best of times. It’s true, for many people it’s a love-hate relationship with lots of noise, plenty of drama and even more adverts. At the same time, it’s fantastic, riveting, entertaining and a beacon of inspiration.

You see, if you’re like me, you appreciate the good and bad things about social media and as the number of users continues to rise, it’s clear that these platforms are hitting their stride as the year-end closes in.

But how can we sum up this wild and wonderful year?

Social Media in 2018: the year of everything and more

You know, at this stage, I can usually say it was the year of “something” but so much has happened in social media over the past twelve months that picking any one thing is impossible.

In other words, it wasn’t just the year of influencers or the year of live streaming or even the year when Snapchat became the equivalent of a ghost town. It was all of these things…and more.

At the same time, there are some things that definitely deserve a mention so let’s take a look back over the past year and see what happened in the world of social media:

Live Streaming exploded in 2018

Live streaming really took off this year with immense growth statistics and hordes of online users taking their first steps into the live arena. In fact, while the live streaming industry has grown since a $30 billion valuation just two years ago, this figure is fully expected to double by the end of 2019.

It also makes perfect sense that people were so quick to adopt live streaming. After all, at the mere click of a button, streaming has the potential to reach thousands of new viewers. What’s more, live streaming is a great way to connect with an audience and has a certain transparency that can feel to be missing with any other form of content including imagery.

Example – Some popular live streaming sites include Youtube, Vimeo and Twitch.

Fact – is now one of the largest streaming sites in the world with 10 million daily viewers.

The Year of Facebook Ads…Yaaaaawn
Unfortunately for users, the presence of ads continued throughout the year in spite of assurance from CEO Mark Zuckerberg that Facebook would show users “more content from family and friends and less from publishers”. However, these ads appeared in rather unexpected places.

Now, this was quite an interesting development as Facebook had less and less wiggle room for ad inventory coming into the year. That is to say, Facebook was running out of space in which to show advertisements. Two years ago, Facebook even announced that it had prioritised long videos to improve user experience and cater for this diminishing inventory.

Anyway, instead of leaving ad numbers as they were, Facebook went on to introduce ads in the middle of videos before implementing more ads to Messenger and opening a new marketplace for advertisers.

Advertising controversy on YouTube
Speaking of adverts, YouTube is another culprit when it comes to interrupting the masses with incessant ads. What’s more, their algorithms were also shown to be placing advertisements beside extremist and hateful content without the advertiser’s knowledge which left them red faced and scrambling to re-categorize these videos.

Afterward, YouTube began to implement policies and crack down on what was deemed inappropriate content. As a result, many major channels were restricted, suspended or even shut down including accounts used Logan Paul and PewDiePie who both faced censure for sharing inappropriate or offensive content and have the highest number of subscribers on the entire platform.

The continued rise of influencer marketing

It’s no secret that influencer marketing has been out of control over the past couple of years but 2018 was the year when money began to flow. In other words, it was widely accepted this year that social media influencers will only promote when a certain fee is involved.

But why was this year so different to before?

Well, it’s thought that both generation Z and millennials, who make up most of the world’s population, are heavily influenced by influencer marketing. For this reason, they also account for a huge amount of the purchasing power in the world and digital marketing specialists are willing to pay to reach them.

In case you might be asking yourself, generation Z refers to those who were born between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s.

Marketers scrambling for influencers

As already mentioned, it was the year of everything and influencers were right at the centre of some serious trends in social media this year. More specifically, studies by Rakuten Digital Marketing revealed that most professional marketers were willing to pay for influencers to promote their brand.

Interestingly, the figures for sponsored posts varied from $200 to a staggering $150,000. As it turns out, these same studies showed that more than 85% of marketers were still unsure how to calculate the figures that these influencers should be paid in the first place!

Thousands of emails Entitled “GDPR”

It seemed as though every second email in my inbox last year was entitled GDPR. To be honest, I had no desire to find out what they meant at the time but it would seem that GDPR was a very big deal.

As it turns out, the EU created unique data protection laws and regulations that would have an impact on every brand that does business within its member states. As you know, these laws indicate that sufficient planning is required from every business to protect and maintain personal data within the organisation.

It’s at least good to know that so many businesses were actually paying attention.

Snapchat tripped and never got back up

Snapchat’s decline is nothing short of legendary and a stark warning to brands who want to stay relevant. Just a couple of years back, Snapchat was moving and growing at a frantic pace with hordes of teens in particular captivated by the “stories-driven” social media app.

However, in one swift blow, Instagram Stories was introduced and as Snapchat stumbled in disbelief, Instagram started to grow even faster, in spite of being a “duplication”.

As social media users began praising and reveling in this new feature on Instagram, Snapchat looked on in wonder and slowly declined to the point of **non existence.

**Social media moves incredibly fast and I would not be surprised if Snapchat were to rise from the ashes or re-invent itself.

Instagram stole Snapchat’s taxi to the airport

As Snapchat lingered at the taxi rank in the middle of ghost town, Instagram raced off to the airport with a ticket to the promised land and more than 100 million daily users.

It was an immense moment in social media history and to be honest, probably the most significant milestone that took place in 2018. For a little context, the 100 million daily users mentioned above was achieved with just two months of launching Instagram Stories. For even MORE context, this figure has already exceeded 300 million daily users which is now twice the entire user base of Snapchat.

The truth is, most brands prefer Instagram Stories to what was available on Snapchat and in the year that Snapchat went away, one study showed that 45 per cent of digital marketing professionals were using Instagram Stories compared to a measely 9 per cent on Snapchat.

The appeal of Instagram Stories

While it’s hard to pinpoint any one factor for the success or appeal of Instagram Stories, there are clear reasons as to why it worked.

For example, for influencers or brands with more than 10k followers, they can now include a URL link within the video. Until now, the only links allowed on Instagram were hidden at the bottom of the users profile. Needless to say, this was a dream for digital marketing as these links enabled them to direct traffic to websites and sales funnels etc.

On the other hand, Instagram Stories came with some fantastic metrics and these were highly trackable compared to any other video platform.

Generation Z called most of the shots

As already mentioned, millennials and generation Z account for most of the world’s population. With this in mind, these demographics also constitute the largest buying power on the planet. It’s no wonder social media has relied on these generations for direction in every sense.

In fact, reports from Fluent showed that individuals in these generations were consuming more than one hour of video every day. When you realise the significance, you should see that millenials and generation Z have called all the shots for social media in 2018.

What happened with the biggest movers and shakers

Many social media platforms have jumped into the mix over the past couple of years with mainstays like Reddit or Pintrest being joined by Twitch and promising platforms such as Steemit. But the truth is, there is only room for so much social media and the major brands are still the main focus:

Facebook – Facebook still has the largest audience of any social media network with more than 2.05 billion monthly active users. Amazingly, that’s one third of the population in the world. What’s more, 100 million hours of video are consumed daily but the platform continues to have a diverse audience which is extremely hard to categorize. This is seriously impressive considering the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other questions about their business practices that they have had to deal with this year.

Youtube – More than 1 billion hours of video was consumed this year on the number one video social network. Youtube is watched every day in more than 80 countries and in more than 70 languages. As you know, this platform is owned by Google so it’s interesting to know that YouTube is now the second biggest search engine. In short, marketers also love YouTube and 90% of marketers say that video content marketing on this platform is highly effective.

Instagram – It just could be the year that Instagram won and with the focus on images, it must be said that Insta makes a nice break from the overload of content online. Forbes said that Instagram was the top social media platform for engagement and with 800 monthly users, 250 million daily stories and the undying love of every marketer out there – who could argue?

Twitter – I almost forgot about Twitter but with 330 million active users, the platform is showing slow yet certain signs of continued growth. Twitter also supports 40 languages nowadays and management says that up to 80% of Twitter users are affluent millennials with college degrees. I have no idea how accurate this figure might be but Twitter continues to stay relevant with no signs of slowing down.

And finally, the silent bull in the china shop

While most of the above have been rolling out their new algorithms and advertising strategies, one platform has been growing at a silent yet deadly rate – Linkedin.

In case you might not know, Linkedin is no longer just a resume and job opportunity website. On the contrary, the platform now has a thriving network of influencers and users with an unmatched demographic across all platforms. That is to say, 13% of Linkedin users are millennials but 44% of users earn more than $75k per year and a whopping 41% of millionaires have profiles on the platform.

Linkedin has inched past 500 million members in recent months and with these impressive demographics and such a fast growing network, many digital marketing gurus believe that Linkedin is the next target for huge growth on social media.

As you can see, this was not the year of anything but rather the year of everything and with so much competition in the space, next year should be the most interesting one yet.

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