Social media: 2016 the year in review

2016 has been a year of intense innovation in social. Key themes: Investment by advertisers grew substantially, political events blew up, emojis blew up - and ‘stories’ became the hot new media format. Suzie Shaw, MD at We Are Social, looks back at 2016...

In year two of my social year in review, I’d say 2016 has been even more exciting than the year before. Here are my top picks…


Social Campaign of The Year
What’s not to love about Scandinavia? Especially this year’s brilliant tourism campaign for Sweden, The Swedish Number. The people-powered idea offered aspiring tourists a phone number to dial that would be answered by a random Swede, who could tell them anything they wanted to know about the country.

Their Prime Minister even took to the phones to do his bit. The campaign generated nearly 200,000 calls (3% of which were from Australia) and more than 9 billion media impressions.

Hashtag of the Year
Once again, #Auspol topped the AU charts for most frequently-used hashtag, closely followed by #ausvotes. #BlackLivesMatter continued to trend into this year, but the one that caught my eye was the campaign hashtag for dear Hillary Clinton, #ImWithHer. While it didn’t get her over the threshold of The White House, it was a successfully galvanising campaign line, amassing tens of millions of engagements.


Emerging Trend of the Year
No question – Pokemon Go was the biggest trend to emerge in the year. Sadly, it ended up being merely a flash in the pan – arguably, even a tsunami in the pan – but nonetheless, a passing fad. However, I think it foreshadows the rise of AR, whose time has now surely come.

AR is not new and it has reared its head every few years, but Pokemon Go showed its potential to drive mass engagement, because of its power to bring immersive gamification to everyday life. And mass engagement it did achieve, with 20 million daily active users in the US alone and more than 500 million downloads, making it the biggest mobile game in history.

pokemon go water

Platform of the Year
It can be none other than Snapchat, not just because it’s gone from 2 billion to 10 billion daily video views in a year, or because it’s recruited 4 million daily active users in Australia alone, but because behemoths like Facebook and Instagram are now imitating Snapchat’s functionality, which is a clear indication they’re scared.

Its major innovation for the year, Snaptacles, has been far more warmly received than Google’s Glass product, which was similar in functionality, but couldn’t be more different in positioning.

Its LA origins could be an advantage in helping drive greater success for Snapchat, as the platform seeks to develop quality content to retain and grow its audience. They’re of tinsel-town stock, and this could have more cachet with Gen Z than the chino-wearing tech-kings of Silicon Valley.snapchat-glasses

Social Media Fail of the Year
Hard to beat the gold-plated fail which saw an agency staffer let loose at Kanye, presumably under the impression they were tweeting from their own account, only to find – oops – it was actually their client’s account, and a major corporate brand to boot: Virgin Australia. #Fail. kany-ead-douche-tweet

Meme of the Year
The Mannequin Challenge is on the rise, and I have to admit it may go on to top my chosen nomination – Harambe. But for now, my money is on the monkey. Let’s face it, the Mannequin Challenge is kind of stupid. As a friend’s mum pointed out, previous memes like the Ice Bucket Challenge and 22 Pushups were raising awareness (and money) for important causes, but the Mannequin Challenge… pointless. So Harambe gets my vote. RIP, hairy buddy.


Influencer of the Year
Some influencers are embarrassingly untalented (looking at you, family whose names begin with ‘K’) and yet still seem to find huge success. Others do have talent, but flame out. Only a few have both talent and longevity, and a great example is Casey Neistat. He recently brought his incredibly popular vlog to a close (having amassed 5.8m subscribers and a billion views in one year), a testament to the depth of his talent and his confidence in it.

Having already had successful stints as a filmmaker and Youtuber, he will surely go on to do other successful things in his next evolution. This looks like taking the form of Beme, Neistat’s video sharing app aimed at millennials, which has just been bought by CNN.

Innovation of the Year
Not the removal of the headphone jack in the iPhone 7, that’s for sure. I’m voting for Musical.ly, the new social platform for creating and sharing 15 second music videos that’s taken kids by storm and is now valued at more than $500 million. Musical.ly is the first major platform to be headquartered in China, designed in China, but popular globally – amassing more than 90 million registered users to date.

Interestingly, the music industry has pounced on the platform, as it’s proved an incredibly effective channel for reaching kids with new music; iTunes has even integrated natively into the platform.musical-ly-logo

They’ve been sharp with ongoing innovation, offering challenges and competitions in-app and even launching live functionality with Live.ly. Like other popular social platforms, it’s already spawning a whole new generation of lip synching influencers like 16-year old Baby Ariel, who has 15 million followers, and 14-year-old Loren Beech who has 11 million.

My 10-year old often spends entire days making Musical.lys and couldn’t imagine life without it. Unlike the IOS 10 update, which I wish had never been born!

Crystal Ball Section … most significant development for next year
The issue of fake news has been all over the real news recently. The question is, has social media become so dominant, that it must now be held accountable for the power of its algorithm to cause harmful societal shifts?

In a word, yes. Dear Mark Zuckerberg, with great power comes great responsibility – it’s time to start taking some.

Suzie Shaw is the managing director of We Are Social


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