man consulting magic 8 ballCheckpoints are important – and heading into the New Year is a naturally good time to assess the business trends we should be following and the ones we need to leave behind.

Of course, everything we do is for our clients. So we asked them what they think will be the next big leap for social data in 2016. Their thoughts, and ours, are below.

How far we’ve come

First let’s look at the social landscape as it stands here at the end of 2015. This year, we took analyzing human language to yet another level by tapping into Twitter’s API, and other social pipelines, with our Audience 3D™ tool – delving into what social audiences are really feeling.

This deeper social data helped us create new consumer segments, find new audiences, and create unique campaigns and strategies to reach them. And show our clients how to do the same.

Our CEO calls 2015 the “the year of Big Data,” predicting 2016 will be about “exceptional insights” – applied specifically to social customer care, social intelligence, and social media marketing. The Age of You will continue, and consumers will demand continued individualized engagement from brands.

And we will continue to power our clients’ ability to deliver this engagement.

Looking ahead

Speaking of clients… Where do they see social heading in the New Year?

A lot of them have their eyes on live-streaming, ready to see how audiences are interacting with this new technology:

“On-the-go updates are going to be huge! … Apps like Periscope give today’s social users the chance to see how other people are living around the globe.” – Sharnelle Kan

Others are hoping to find a foothold with Snapchat:

“We may be taking a deeper look at SnapChat in 2016 especially since we keep hearing how much it has evolved. Our CMO has expressed interest but we struggle with identifying how it can be used to meet our company’s overall objectives.” – Becky Rehwaldt

“Snapchat has really taken off this year.” – Sharnelle Kan

“My group is actively looking at how to leverage SnapChat. It’s been interesting to see how the platform has evolved even in just the last few months.” – Katherine Jacoby

The respective excitement, uncertainty and hope are justified. Periscope, Meerkat, and now Facebook Live are all gaining traction as social users share what’s happening via live video.

Meanwhile Snapchat has the hearts of teens, as their third most important social network – behind Instagram and Twitter, and ahead of Facebook. In 2016, brands using Snapchat successfully will be under a microscope by those determined to do the same.

What’s everyone talking about?

Our clients are interested in topical conversations happening on social – which is exactly the right strategy. One thing we learned this year: Consumers are in charge. So the only way to reach them is to know what they’re thinking, feeling, sharing, and caring about at every moment – in real-time.

And of course, there are predictions around what these topics may be:

“Political discussion will continue to ramp [up] in 2016 as media capitalizes on, and individuals comment on, sensationalist rhetoric. – Brittany Burgeson

“One rather large topic of conversation, especially for Millennials, is food. I have seen a lot of conversation about organic and how things are grown.” – Meghan

“People in digital should be paying attention and figuring out how to answer the questions that consumers are asking of brands.” – Katherine Jacoby

Social becomes a prominent part of operations…

With so much riding on social engagement, and the ability to connect at personal and individualized levels with consumers, social listening will move into the forefront of brands’ day-to-day, and intraday, operations. And we’re not the only ones who think so.

“On the horizon in terms of social … includes using social listening not just to provide a summary of data, but for delivering actionable insights to key stakeholders throughout the company.” – Becky Rehwaldt

“Businesses will hire more social listening experts and social listening will expand as a discipline within the wheelhouse of data scientists as they see the insights that social can deliver.” – Chip

…And privacy remains part of the discussion

Though there’s potential for social data to bring brands and marketers closer to consumers than ever, our clients think privacy is something marketers will have to watch out for.

“New and existing social media platforms will increasingly be adding features that keep user communication private as an important element of user retention.” – Alex Ostrovsky

“Privacy will be a perpetual concern in the digital age.” – Brittany Burgeson

These predictions are steeped in the knowledge we have right now, the trends we’ve seen rising as technology continues to evolve, and the expertise we have as social and marketing professionals. But all that being said – we won’t know for sure until the future unfolds.

But whatever 2016 brings, we’re ready to offer up everything in our power to make our clients successful in their social listening endeavors. We can’t wait to see where we are this time next year.

Are you ready to meet new levels of social success in 2016? Reach out now to learn how we can help you get there!

Image from Bark