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Social Media in 2016: 5 Big Brand Takeaways

This year, some buzzed about social platforms saw their demise, and everyone started copying a little yellow ghost. Through all the ups and downs, we found five big things brands should take away from social media in 2016…

We looked back at a year when once promising apps fell flat, a former underdog became a big player,  and social media content (and marketing) changed significantly to uncover five things brands can learn from social media in 2016, and take into the next year…

1. Snapchat is Winning the Battle for Young Consumers

There is no question that this was Snapchat’s big year, and month after month brought evidence that the platform is winning the battle for young consumers’ attention. According to Piper Jaffray’s annual survey of 14-19-year-olds, 28% consider Snapchat the “most important social network,” compared to 27% who chose Instagram, which had held the top position for teens for the past two years. Although the variance is minor, Snapchat’s rise to prominence is anything but: last fall Instagram was chosen as the most important by 33%, and Snapchat by only 19%—and in our list of the top apps young consumers can’t live without, Instagram and Snapchat were neck and neck. Snapchat scores have become an integral piece of teen friendships, and they’re reportedly swapping iMessage for Snapchat’s “new revamped messaging system,” not just because they’re already spending so much time on the app. Ypulse’s most recent social media tracker found that 58% of 13-17-year-olds are using Snapchat daily—more than any other app—so it makes sense that they are using many of the app’s functions to communicate with friends every day. Meanwhile, other platforms continue to try to replicate Snapchat’s success, with Facebook adding Snapchat-like features to WhatsApp and Instagram.

2. Social Media Is as Much About Consuming Content as Communicating

In our upcoming quarterly trend report, we’re doing a deep dive on video content in the post-TV era, a time where entertainment is found everywhere and social media is as much about consuming content as communicating with friends. In that survey, we found 55% of young consumers say they’re watching video content on Facebook weekly, making it their third biggest content source after YouTube and Netflix. Four in ten say they’re watching video content weekly on Snapchat and Instagram. As we predicted at the end of 2015, this year live streaming was a space to watch, with Facebook prioritizing live video, Twitter adding livestreams (and snatching up independent livestreaming apps) and most recently Instagram joining in on the trend. Our recent media consumption tracker revealed that 21% of 13-33-year-olds are watching live streaming content weekly. But that’s just a part of social media’s entertainment content landscape. Facebook and Instagram videos are reportedly making a mark on TV and sports, and recent statistics have revealed that Facebook videos are increasing conversations on the platform by 13.2 times the amount year over year, and users are “sharing and creating three times the number of videos this year compared to 2015.” In particular, clips of TV content like Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show are rating highly—signifying a shift from television sets to social media. Sports videos have also ranked highly on Instagram, and professional basketball players are using the platform to grow their personal brands. Another example of social video’s power is BuzzFeed’s Tasty: In just 15 months, Tasty has not only become the driving force behind BuzzFeed video, it has also become one of top three publishing brands on Facebook. According to an analysis by Tubular Labs, Tasty’s Facebook videos averaged 22.8 million video views in just 30 days, while BuzzFeed’s main Facebook page only averaged 4.7 million in the same timespan. While communicating with friends will continue to be a social media focus, increasingly, brands need to figure out what their social entertainment plan will be, because consuming that content on social media is the new norm.

3. Instagrammability is Impacting industries

This year, Black Tap, a burger restaurant that serves elaborately decorated, Instagram-worthy milkshakes, has a line that sometimes goes down several blocks—they are officially part of the viral food trend. Cases have been sweeping the U.S., from “rainbow bagels” in Williamsburg, NY to mouthwatering brisket in Austin, TX—which has wait line up to six and half hours long. Foods’ Instagrammability can make it a social media star, and the restaurant it come from a success as a result. Now, having customers Instagram your food is the goal—so much so that new restaurants are being designed to be Instagram-able. Laureen Moyal, founder of branding agency Paperwhite Studio, reports that restaurants now see their brand as existing beyond the restaurant, being shared indefinitely online, and her firm has begun “to design restaurants with that Instagram moment in mind.” Their work includes Insta-popular NYC spots Jack’s Wife Freda and By Chloe, the latter of which was founded by two Millennials, “aiming to make vegan food more accessible and Instagram-friendly.” According to Moyal, “Now when we’re in design reviews, talking about typography and colors and logos, one comment is always “this will make a great photo” or “people will photograph this.” But it’s not just the restaurant industry. Creative agency Blitz revealed that 84% of Millennial travelers would plan trips based on someone else’s social media pictures and updates, and that these younger travelers are more likely to follow travel brands on social media, and will choose hotels for their “Instagram-worthy” décor. We explored how brands are creating Instagrammable events to draw in young consumers, and 2016 was the year that Instagrammability became a measurement that industries need to pay attention to.

4. “Small” Apps Can have a Big Impact

Many people still haven’t heard of— but in two years, the app has attracted about 50 million users under 21-years-old. That’s “roughly half of the teens and preteens in America,” and it’s transforming the music industry. The app allows users to record 15-second music videos, and one of its first stars, Baby Ariel, was just signed to an agency deal with CAA. The app may be “small,” but it has become the ideal platform for giving up-and-coming artists a leg up in the industry by exposing them to a massive young audience who are hungry for the next hit and are willing to do all the promotion work. Part of what makes the app so successful is that it’s a gateway to social media. Young “musers” who aren’t old enough for Facebook and Instagram are getting the opportunity to showcase their talents, and accumulate likes and followers. This year, created a spin-off app,, to help its creators communicate directly with their fans. Now Vine stars are finding a new home on the live stream app, which generated half a million downloads in its first week by creating a platform where broadcasters can engage with viewers and stream as long as they like—and then there’s the money. According to, the top 10 broadcasters on the platform have made an average of $46,000 in the span of two weeks with a monetization model that lets users make contributions during streams. In other words, keep your eye on those “small” apps—they sometimes make a big impact on young consumers.

5. Positivity Can Make or Break Platforms

On, viewers are encouraged to “say something nice” in comments. Those efforts to create a positive community are essential for platforms, where negativity can break you. Once buzzed-about anonymous social platform Yik Yak may be on its way out—because of negative content. The app was originally a big hit on college campuses back in 2014, but hasn’t successfully retained user interest. Criticism for hosting offensive content has plagued the app, despite their best efforts to rid the platform of negativity. “Significant” layoffs are being explained as “strategic changes,” but download statistics don’t look good, and according to our social media tracker, 12% of 18-24-year-olds are currently using the app, compared to 20% the same time in 2015. Clearly, negativity on social media can bring down a rising star, and fostering a positive environment needs to be a priority on platforms. Last year, Pew found that 21% of teens feel worse about themselves after using social media, and our Play Nice trend revealed that 90% of 13-33-year-olds wish that people were more positive on social media. The fight for positivity in social media is continuing, and larger networks are realizing that social media must remain a positive part of Millennials and teens’ lives in order to keep them posting and interacting within a community. They’re facing the daunting task of creating safe spaces to promote healthy discussion, encourage users to keep visiting, and retain their advertisers. One software engineer who moderates comment platforms says it is all about making people “think about it” before they post. Brands might want to consider how positive a platform is before jumping on board with a new campaign.

To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here.