What Happened in Social in 2015
2015 was easily the most social year yet, but that’s like saying that this year’s was iPhone was Apple’s best ever – that’s not news; it’s how technology works.
The most social year also means the most changes, new platforms and feature updates. We get to work in an industry where everything that we had been planning for the past months could be completely changed any morning that we showed up for work.
That happened a few times this year, and while the changes may not have always been well received in the moment, what we have now is a faster, more media-rich internet that is so much easier to use than it was that we’re starting to blur the lines between where the online world ends and the offline world begins.
Rather than try to cover off all of the BFDs of the past 12 months, here’s a rundown of the biggest shifts and why they mattered:
1. Instagram became everything
Everyone’s favourite filtered-feed moved from Facebook’s kid-brother to full-on grownup status as it became the centre of attention for pretty much every celebrity, brand and regular-joe. This year, Kendall Jenner posted the most liked piece of content ever, Taylor Swift claimed top spot in the most-followed list, and Nike proved that it’s still the king of marketing by amassing a staggering 31 million followers.
Looking back, Instagram may not seem like big news, but let’s remember: @JustinBieber was leading the pack in 2014 with 14 million followers, and now that wouldn’t even make it into the top 10.
The massive shift that the Insta-craze is a symptom of is a much bigger deal than any Kardashian or Jenner (shocking, but true): We are now connected through HD cameras from everyone to everyone. That is a phenomenal event in the history of the world, and one that stands to change everything from the way that we interact with each other, to the way that we learn, work, advertise, and do business.
High definition photographs are the norm, and available to any kid with an iPhone, and we’re just starting to explore the possibilities that they’ll open up.
Cue: Periscope, Livestream.com, Twitch and the thousands more that are on the cusp of breaking through.
2. The Great Consolidation
Like an awkward teenager experimenting with booze and drugs, we just weren’t sure which ones were for us, so we threw ourselves at everything during 2010-2104. This.cm, MySpace(revisited), Google+, Foursquare, GetGlue and Ello each showed promise at one point or another, and almost all earned the title “Facebook Killer” in more than a few media stories.
What we discovered in 2015 is that what makes large scale social media useful is the social part, and we use the small ones for specific needs. In other words: The more people at the party, the better the conversation. That’s why we all flocked to the big 4: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and continued to use Twitter (well, some of us did) and we followed the cool kids to the new hot spot: Snapchat.
We don’t need a Facebook-killer anymore. We have an attention span for a few major networks that satisfy the majority of our needs, a new one here any there, and then niche options for all of the outliers. There’s a reason why we’ve always organized this way: We use TV, Magazines, even Radio the same way. So why would social channels be any different?
What we saw was the death of the mainstream competitor, and the rise of the smaller network that served a specific purpose:
Tinder, Wanelo, Imgur and SlideShare
Each of the four offer one specific feature, and all four grew dramatically in 2015.
3. AdBlocker: The Dagger that’s Killing the Banner Ad
Not one user on the internet will be upset by this news, and that’s a strong signal that they were flawed in the first place. Banner ads are the worst thing on the internet since pop-ups, and you can’t click to close them. They’re awful because they breed laziness, they offer no value to the user, and advertisers waste a ton of cash on the addictive cheap-clicks where they could be putting that money to creating something that people will actually care about.
This year, AdBlocker exploded, and it has finally got media buyers reconsidering their banner budgets. In short, AdBlockers are pieces of software that you can install on your computer that will identify and block any piece of content that’s being served to your from an ad network, rather than from the site that you believe that you’re on. Believe it or not, that’s the vast majority of ads online.
Technically, there is still nearly $11 Billion (yes, that’s a B for Billion) earmarked for banner ads in 2016, but that’s simply because they’re easy to buy and media budgets are tough to change. Imagine being tasked with spending $200 million on cool, local content that would add value to people’s newsfeeds. You’d never make it.
That’s the problem that banner ads solve – they extract the maximum amount of cash in the minimum amount of time. And the irony is: That’s seen as a good thing.
So, where is all that budget going to go? Not TV (here’s hoping).
There is a furious race towards big-budget content production right now, where the bulk of the money is spent on the content, rather than the distribution.
Then, there’s massive stunts (RedBull), stadium sponsorship (Overstock.com Coliseum) and a thousand other big ticket items that can be used to cut through the clutter is a way that a 728×90 leaderboard never could.
And as far as what we talked about on those channels, the year was a real mix:
We joined to change our Facebook profiles for Gay marriage, then returned to our respective corners for the US Presidential Election.
We debated The Dress, then shared our shock during the Paris attacks.
We laughed as the Arizona llamas roamed the streets, and the responded to tragedy with #BlackLivesMatter.
Social media is no longer a place where we go to surf the ‘net. It is an inherent part of how we share, communicate and live. From the ridiculous to
the infuriating, if it happened in the world in 2015, it happened online.