As we lay 2014 to rest, we’re topping our hats to some of the social media crazes that came along with it. Messaging. Anonymity. Ephemerality. Yo (whatever that was). At the same time, we’re stepping into a whole new year, which means a brand new bunch of communication trends. Here’s some of the trends, rising stars, and falling figures you can expect to see:
1) Chat as a platform
Some of the biggest social networking companies are turning their messaging applications into portals for other purposes. They’re following in the wake of China’s hugely successful WeChat app, which people use to flag cabs, manage their mortgage, send gifts, purchase goods, and play games.
Western companies are betting that Americans can be convinced to do the same. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said, “We believe that messaging is one of the few things that people actually do more than social networking.” If that level of engagement can be captured and channeled into other features, there’s money to be made.
Snapchat has already started adding functions powered by other companies, like its new Snapcash payment partnership with Square. Facebook’s head of messaging, David Marcus, said that Messenger will be pursuing a portal play too.
2) Location based feeds and Yik Yak’s moment
Location based feeds will see a resurgence in 2015. Social apps will allow you to see posts made by strangers in your area, adding a place-based element to your networks. In 2014, we saw newcomer Yik Yak, which pioneered this feature, raise $62 million on this premise and introduce a “Peek Anywhere” tool that allows people to drop a pin anywhere in the country to see what people are talking about. In November, Twitter followed suit by previewing a nearly identical feature and reportedly partnering with Foursquare to run it. And last week Secret unrolled a major product shift to do the same.
These developments happened towards the end of 2014, so 2015 will be the year we see such features come to fruition, battle to build audiences, and live or die by their location chops.
3) Foursquare’s finale
Foursquare has been puttering along for years now, trying to turn its array of data and technology into a functioning consumer business. In 2014 it attempted a drastic surgery, cutting off the feature it’s arguably known for — the check in — into a separate app so it could focus its core app on a Yelp-like experience. User data following that surgery didn’t look good.
In 2015, I suspect we’ll see Foursquare’s finale, unless it raises another round. Will it dump a ton of money into marketing and start to succeed with a more mainstream audience? Will it sell to a company like Twitter that might need its extensive location and user data?
4) Deep linking and app constellations
2014 was the year of The Great Unbundling in social. Mark Zuckerberg heralded the shift in an interview with The New York Times, saying, “In mobile there’s a big premium on creating single-purpose first-class experiences. So what we’re doing with Creative Labs is basically unbundling the big blue app.” We saw Facebook in particular pursue this strategy, forcing users to download Facebook Messenger as a separate application. Likewise, Facebook property Instagram released the Hyperlapse app as a separate entity.
But these applications all connect back to one another — you can share a Hyperlapse video on Instagram and access Messenger through your core Facebook app. Such links take you to specific places in another app — like your conversation with another user — not just the app homescreen. As social applications turn into portals for other experiences in 2015, the deep linking trend and constellation of apps that communication with each other will only grow. Snapchat’s Snapcash, Messenger’s new “Stickered” app, and Uber’s API are only the beginning.
5) Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat come of age
If 2014 was the year Pinterest and Snapchat dipped their toes in the pool of potential marketing money (Instagram did so at the tail end of 2013), then 2015 will be the year they dive in. Leaked emails from Snapchat show that Evan Spiegel is eager to build a sustainable business model. Pinterest is valued at $5 billion and the IPO rumors have been swirling for months. And Instagram is growing more powerful by the day. We’ll see them experiment with new ways of making money and ad dollars will flock to these visual properties.