Social media week: What we learnt at Battenhall's social media trends briefing
On Monday the 12th of September, downstairs at a Soho hotel, those attending Battenhall’s annual social media breakfast briefing were treated to canapés, tea and coffee. The general atmosphere was one of anticipation, friendly networking and frantic tweeting. Luckily the edgy neon signage and brightly lit bar made for quirky photographs quickly snapped on iPhones.
Battenhall are an award-winning communications agency that specialise in social media for brand engagement. Since April 2013 they have collected data on the use of social media by the FTSE 100. This information is presented at a briefing every year to look at best practice and determine trends expected to happen thereafter. Working with the FTSE 100 they have been able to build up a wealth of qualitative and quantitative data through case studies.
To mark the beginning of social media week, marketing enthusiasts and social media lovers sat down together to hear about this year’s social network data analysis from Battenhall. In true testament to the theme the audience were immediately invited to take part in an online Twitter poll and make use of the custom Snapchat filter.
The briefing opened with the FTSE 100 report, focused on Twitter, but the concluding statement seemed to be that there had been no dramatic change in usage over the past year. The most common themes on the network were recruitment and customer engagement, with a grand total of 1m new tweets posted. Top Twitter users included Burberry, whose 6.8m followers increased by 2.3m, Sky, and PaddyPower, while the brands at the bottom of the table appeared to be mostly mining and pharmaceutical companies. In trending types of Twitter engagement, Tesco led the way with customer service tweets at the forefront. On the other hand, Paddy Power were at the top of the table as the most influential Twitter account due to their entertaining style – less about advertising or customer service and more focused on being funny and personable.
Following on from this, the speakers (Drew Benvie, Ste Davies, Steph Bennett and Joe Cant) looked at coming trends in social media. It was suggested that a process of natural selection will begin to happen as social channels become more and more alike – users may start to drop off certain platforms to concentrate on a few choice accounts. A quick round up of the status so far: Facebook still leads the pack as the first of its kind in utilizing a multipurpose platform, while Twitter has turned into a news network and veered away from the social media aspect. Snapchat and Instagram have clashed over Instagram’s self-destructing stories feature and its rumoured introduction of filters later this year. This last point is one of the most obvious examples of the way that social media networks are beginning to blur into one – as they become less defined the question arises of who will survive?
The briefing went on to discuss the rise of A.I. in social media. The predictions are that robots are set to enter into social and news production in a big way. Companies have been steadily investing in robots for everything from customer service to journalism. But some experiments have gone awry, leaving high profile leaders in the science and tech space to caution against allowing A.I. to surpass human intelligence; overcautious sci-fi nonsense or real life worry for the future? Watch this space.
One of the most obvious trends has been the rise of ephemerality (difficult to pronounce, but fortunately not a complicated concept). This year appears to be the year of the story – Snapchat leads the way with content that is created and destroyed almost instantly. This format has worked so well that Instagram has jumped on the bandwagon and it was intimated that Facebook might go the same way. As Ste Davies said: “The newsfeed is dead - long live the story”.
Alongside the rise of Snapchat is the rise of influencers. Use of social influencers on Snapchat is a different ballgame to any other social network. Finding users with an audience that matches a brand’s needs takes careful research rather than a quick google – you must be immersed in the platform to discover those that use it to its best advantage.
On the other side of the spectrum, social channels are coming down on trolls harder than ever. Across the board networks have made it their mission to stop trolling at its core. Instagram will be introducing the ability to turn comments off, while on Twitter one person has been handed a lifetime ban for the first time ever.
As mentioned before Twitter has seen a rise in accounts that focus on customer care. Consumers often take to social to voice their complaints rather than search for specific contact details online, and this has led to a focus on responding quickly and efficiently on messaging apps and social networks. If consumers prefer to spend their time in these spaces, then businesses should be poised to follow them there.
The final point that Battenhall picked up on in their address was the latest explosion of augmented reality – most notably made popular by the Pokémon Go craze. Within two weeks this game surpassed the active user count of popular apps such as Instagram and Tinder, although it has dipped since then. The predictions for augmented reality center on immersive brand experiences and a connection between virtual worlds and the real world – imagine your Pokémon being able to detect the surfaces it jumps onto. Finally, the development on social networks in this space introduces the question of social media and virtual reality and how they will begin to interact.
As the breakfast briefing was wrapped up, and its audience members filed out, the original atmosphere of anticipation felt heightened. Only a year to go until the next Battenhall briefing, in which time we shall see what will happen in the next steps for social media development, and whether these predictions hold true.