Looking Back // Looking Forward – State of Social Media 2016

Posted on: 01/11/16

As 2015 comes to a close, we reflect on the past 12 months and set our sights on what to expect from our favorite social platforms in 2016.


1. Instagram is Changing

Instagram turned 5 this year and (finally) freed us of the confines of ‘square-only’ format. While rumors circulate that Instagram, like Facebook, will soon be a pay-to-play ad platform for brands, that time is not here…yet. We’re taking advantage of the platform while we cantesting new formats, playing with post frequency, and shifting our strategies in favor of consistency (look/feel/voice/tone/posting schedule, etc.) There are ripe opportunities for brands on Instagram, and we encourage you to build up your audience, play with content, and test new targeted advertising formats on the platform in early 2016.

2. Paid Social = Very Powerful

While the power of paid Instagram is still ‘under-development’ (in terms of key case studies, best practices, etc.,) we’ve seen tremendous paid placement opportunities across the major social platforms. While we posted about this in our predictions post last year (Social Media: 4 Factors to Focus On in 2015), we’re still amazed by the progress that’s been made over the past year. From running our first set of Facebook Lead Ads this fall, to building Local Awareness Ads into our offering for brick-and-mortar clients, to making the leap from custom audience and conversion tracking pixels to The Facebook Pixel (prime for retargeting opportunities), we’ve seen the platforms do a lot of ‘growing up’ this year, and we anxiously await the ad platform announcements and updates in 2016. We’d be willing to bet they’ll make you reconsider how your ad budget is spent!

To prepare, set yourself up for success on these platforms by taking advantage of Facebook Blueprint Training and Twitter Flight School – two online education portals that train on the basics of campaign setup, management, reporting and budgeting best practices.

3. Targeting Opportunities are Improving

Why are we so excited for #2 again? In large part, it comes down to targeting opportunities. The ability to be more efficient with ad dollars and effective with conversions. We’re entering a new era of targeting, and the ability to layer consumer info (demographics + psychographics + othergraphics) along with purchase intent and other factors, provides a much clearer picture of who we want to reach.

Social-Media-Marketing-Target-Audiencesvia Think With Google.

If you’re not utilizing Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences, now’s the time!

4. Ad Blocking Is Here – So what does it mean for brands?
How are brands beating ad blockers? 1:1 social, aka hyper-targeted messages geared toward specific, individual audiences, for one. Others have played with Sponsored Content (i.e. #ad #sponsored), although L2 warns, “Engagement metrics suggest that the real power of celebrity comes from the brand being featured on the celebrity’s account and not the other way around.”

Ad blocking is [likely] here to stay, so take the time to cater your content to be ‘hyper-relevant,’ or risk losing access to your audience. And remember, there’s a lot more to social than paid advertising,
Social-Media-And-Ad-Blocking-for-Brandsvia Sparkloftmedia. We couldn’t agree more.

5. Visual Content Strategy Gains Importance

Chances are, three years ago your social media strategy was largely focused on editorial and short-form content—coming up with a continuous stream of content across an increasing number of social platforms. In 2015, many brands shifted their strategy to include an emphasis on quality visual content—photography, graphics, multimedia video, etc. The need for specific assets made for each native social platform is essential.

The amount of prep time put into creating your next series of Instagram content or the visual assets to accompany your next Facebook or Pinterest ad set is growing in complexity (and importance)! Brands that nail their visual strategy and account for the nuances of the various social platforms are winning, and this trend is bound to continue in 2016. After all, if your visuals don’t catch attention and communicate the right message, users will quickly scroll through to the next piece of content.


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