By Sasha Allan

It won’t come as a surprise that the number of us using social media has continued to increase in 2018, reaching 3.2 billion worldwide. That’s a 13% increase year on year - overtaking the growth in internet and mobile phone users (Smart Insights).

Below we take you through the four key events and most exciting changes we saw across social media this year.

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Scandals and Data Protection

Facebook continued to overshadow the social market, accounting for approximately 75% of time spend on any social platform. Yet 2018 has been an interesting one for Facebook, spending a lot of their time in the spotlight, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal we all watched unfold in March. The discovery that data was harvested from as many as 87M Facebook profiles (CNBC) and a widely followed public grilling of Zuckerberg, resulted in a lack of trust. Public belief that Facebook is committed to protecting the privacy of user data fell by over 65% (NBC).

Ultimately though, Facebook saw an increase of unique users (up 7% year on year) and got away with a £500k fine – the equivalent of Facebook's revenue every five and a half minutes (The Guardian).

Although Facebook’s usage may not have taken the brunt of the scandal, it has had an impact. Alongside the enforcement of GDPR, the topic of ‘personal data’ has been thrust into the limelight, picking up some serious media coverage. There has been a widespread push for transparency, fuelled by concern about who knows what about who.

Facebook continues to feel pressure to be less intrusive, making the following changes in 2018 to try and combat this:

  • The addition of “why am I seeing this?”
  • Providing complete visibility over all ads running from any given page
  • Exposing media spend and the funding source behind political campaigns

It will be interesting to see how the platform expands these initiatives next year as they try to strike the balance between easing public concern and providing advertisers with the advanced targeting capabilities that differentiate them in the market.

New Facebook ad transparency measures

The Continued Rise of Video

This year, we all continued to binge on video and social platforms didn’t hesitate to accommodate. IG TV was launched and is likely to see great success if the performance of Facebook Watch is anything to go by – consumption has increased 14x since the start of this year (Facebook). LinkedIn finally joined the party, and launched their video format for advertisers, which we’ve found to be a very valuable addition to our strategies for clients. We’ve also seen some interesting developments from video-centric Snapchat – with continued innovation in the AR space, adding shoppable capabilities to increase their social commerce offering.

There has also been a huge shift toward live content, where brands are now able to communicate with consumers in a non-edited, authentic manner, and we’re lapping it up. One in five Facebook videos are now a live broadcast, which isn’t surprising given that they’re generating 10x the number of engagements (Facebook). Twitter is also prioritising live video, by surfacing them and placing them at the top of users’ feeds. Whilst the ability to incorporate live content into paid activity is still somewhat limited, it’s one to watch moving into the new year – with increased consideration of how it can be incorporated into marketing efforts. Video consumption is expected to account for 78% of total mobile data consumption by 2021 – so not one to miss (Cisco, 2017).

Facebook Live video

The Power of the Influencer

The popularity of influencer marketing continues to rise, with spend predicted to be between five and ten billion pounds a year by 2022. Whilst it’s seen huge successes before, this year the demand for more transparency and authenticity has definitely been a talking point. Primarily, its ability to generate measurable results and tangible insight to prove its value in a marketing mix as well as a need for more regulation (from both a consumer and brand standpoint) around issues such as clear declaration of paid activity and faux-following. Whilst these questions may not have been fully answered yet, progress is being made in the area and it looks to be a very exciting area, with more potential than ever to be a more considered element of the traditional paid media mix. 

Finally, some Paid Social Attribution

One of the more exciting new features from Facebook was rolled out, after more than a year in Beta - Facebook attribution. Whilst it’s still relatively new, it’s going to hugely impact the insight we have into the relationship between paid social and other media channels. Primarily through finally having full viability over impressions served across Facebook and the Google stack, but also allowing us to delve further into cross-device, data-driven-attribution – an area where Google Analytics has traditionally fallen short for us socialites.

To conclude…

It’s been an interesting year; platforms continue to churn out new features, video consumption sky-rockets further, influencer marketing has infiltrated marketing strategies alongside more traditional paid media and there has never been more of a focus on data privacy. Whilst these trends aren’t showing any signs of slowing down in 2019, we’re excited to see what other developments the coming year has in store for the world of social!