It is surprising how easy it is to underestimate how are lives are going to change in the future. Most of us go about our daily lives without thinking about the impact social media has had and continues to have on the way we do things today. The way we socialise, and how we are increasingly using it to promote our businesses and many of us do not realise the huge changes the progress of technology is making.

We don’t really think about it, as our favourite social media apps roll out updates on a near constant basis, frequently changing slightly. So, just as we don’t really notice a child getting taller every day, so we don’t always see how social media is evolving around us – and it does, constantly.

In 2018 there will be some highly important trends in how that evolution unfolds.

Below, we take a look at just some of the most important ones.

Augmented reality – 2018 will see augmented reality finally take off. Google have been experimenting with AR since it came out with a pair of glasses about 5 years ago, which were a flop. The promise of AR coming into the mainstream seemed a long way off. Now, many companies, including Google, Facebook and Snap are in competition to bring AR onboard. With greater technology sophistication, rising sales of VR headsets and a few very successful AR apps, it may be that AR will reach its potential in 2018.  Faster internet speeds and better visual rendering is helping it along and it is thought social media will be one of the most popular applications for the technology, bringing people together over vast distances and providing an entirely new UI (User Interface) for social interactions.

Live Streaming – Live streaming has dominated 2017 and its rapid growth is set to continue in 2018.  Recently, it was reported that about 80% of consumers would rather watch a live video from a brand than read a blog. Also 82% said that they would rather have a live video than written social media updates. The fact that social platforms and other companies have supported the format saw live streaming statistics exploding in 2017. It is predicted that as brands and audiences have now become more familiar with the format, 2018 will continue to see yet more growth. For brands this is a must, not just a cool way to interact with audiences.

Advertising – 2018 will see a rise in Ad growth.  When social media platforms began their development, their main priority was building up their user base. Now, firmly established and with their long-term viability, their main aim is to establish a revenue stream. Monetising their platforms is now a big focus for social media brands and building more advertising is what they will be concentrating on more and more in 2018.

User privacy – With customers becoming more aware of their privacy rights, they are less happy about their information being sold to advertisers. Certain types of privacy are forfeited in the use of social media.  Some social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have tried to crack down on users who abuse the system and are attempting to keep customers advised on their privacy rights.  A rise in Apps that offer open-source APIs (application programme interface) and keep user privacy as a top priority, making customers feel more at ease in using them, is sure to take precedence in 2018.

Gaming – and gamification – Many see this extending to social media apps. Users enjoy interacting with one another and they also love game-like experiences.  As many companies are generating significant revenue from microtransations and immersive gaming experiences, it will not be long before there is an app that attempts to blend gaming with social media more organically. It will be a matter of waiting to see what kind of app will appear for this but 2018 could see just what an impact this could have.

Brand Fatigue – in 2017 over 50 million small businesses were using social media pages to reach their customers.  We have all seen the increased presence of brand-written content on our pages. This is because social media is incredibly popular. However, customers are already showing signs of ‘brand fatigue’ making them less likely to engage. The belief is that brands will be under more pressure to make better, more independent content from verifiable sources and it is thought that this will force changes to the current social media formula.

Location – local and personal engagement. In 2018 Google will be putting a higher emphasis on search results for local companies as online consumers increasingly want more local, interpersonal interactions. This is due in some part to the awareness of brand fatigue.  It is thought that more local businesses will reach out and do more to engage with people in their local communities.

It is unlikely that all brands and customers will completely change the way they use social media but 2018 should be an interesting year. Companies will need to explore new trends, expectations and opportunities.  The more up to date a campaign the better their chances will be of reaching their target audience and making themselves stick out from the crowd and their competitors.