As the dust finally settles on the interesting year of 2016, it’s the perfect time to look back and review the year that was. But putting aside the obvious celebrity deaths, the tense international relations and the political talking points, what did 2016 look like from a social media standpoint?
Let’s look at how each of the major social networks fared in 2016.
The social kingpin continued on its merry way in 2016, continuing to dominate the social landscape as it has for almost a decade now. Just to put the sheer omnipresence of Facebook into focus, 79 percentof US adult internet users have an account; the next best social network is Instagram, with 32 percent of online US adults. But by no means is Facebook resting on its laurels.
2016 saw Facebook introduce its live streaming service, creatively called Facebook Live, in an effort to capitalise on the ‘life broadcast’ model that Snapchat seems to have made so popular. When Chewbacca Mask Lady took the world by storm with her Facebook Live video in May the function got an incredible amount of publicity, with other live streaming focussed start-ups like Periscope finding themselves instantly overtaken.
Facebook wasn’t the only major player to introduce a big new feature in 2016. Instagram also made waves with its Stories function. Initially these waves were of a “you guys are just straight up ripping off Snapchat” flavour, but the fact that Stories so blatantly emulated Snapchat seemed to matter not – within four months of the new feature coming out, it already had 100 million users; around 2/3 of what Snapchat’s Stories enjoyed.
Instagram, it could be argued, has made an improvement on Snapchat’s feature – at least in a commercial sense. The “explore” function is far easier to use on Instagram than it is on Snapchat, allowing advertisers to get in front of new eyes far more easily.
Of the big social networks it’s fair to say that Twitter probably had the toughest time of it in 2016. The growth of the platform has been flat-lining for a couple of years now, and 2016 continued that trend. The switch to broadcasting video, rather than text and image, has been seen by many as the reason for Twitter’s decline.
Just to add another nail to the coffin, 2016 saw social media’s first big death – that of the Twitter-owned Vine. With usership and uploads stagnating in a big way, Twitter saw fit to discontinue the Vine experiment. It’s fair to say that Twitter has a big task in front of it to stop the leaking in 2017.
While perhaps not to the same degree as Twitter, Pinterest was another major social player to experience a less than outstanding 2016. After (perhaps surprisingly) becoming the second most popular platform in 2015, growth stagnated a little in 2016. The very specific mission of the site may make it difficult to add a game-changing feature or get the masses joining at the drop of a hat, so Pinterest have instead spent the year focussing on improving the user experience, making it as smooth and comfortable as possible.
The professional social network experienced steady growth in 2016, and is still the only real option for career-savvy individuals looking to network and head hunt. One area that LinkedIn is doing its best to improve on is time spent on site – as this graph shows, while plenty of people use the platform, they don’t use it often, nor for very long. In order for LinkedIn to retain its position as a social powerhouse into 2017, it’ll need to find ways to better engage with its users.
Perhaps the biggest success story of the last few years, and certainly in 2016, Snapchat (now simply called Snap) has experienced growth in a way that no other social platform can match. Despite Instagram essentially ripping off its core feature, Snapchat continued to rack up new users for fun, reaching 150 million daily active users by the end of 2016, and double that amount in monthly active users.
And the even more exciting thing for Snapchat is the demographics in which these gains are being made; of the 60 million users of Snap in the US, a quarter are aged 12-17, over a third are 18-24, and the platform’s fastest growing demographic is the under 12 age group, which experienced a rise of over 40 percent in the last year.
What does 2017 hold for social media? Only a fool would guess. But one thing’s for sure – the industry as a whole is not going to go backwards.