Instagram – 2016 was an incredible year for Instagram. The Facebook-owned company has gone from strength to strength with some key product launches and also hitting 500 million monthly users.

Here are some highlights from Instagram’s 2016:

Significant launches

Stories – Instagram stories enables users posts, photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours, much like Snapchat Stories.

Business Tools – Business tools include new business profile, analytics and the ability to create ads from posts directly within the Instagram app.

During 2016, the Facebook owned company hasn’t acquired any businesses directly, but we may see it benefit from some of Facebook’s recently acquired audio and video editing tech.

3 Instagram trends to watch in 2017 and beyond

Business tools – Instagram is getting serious about business users. And though Business Tools hasn’t been one of Instagram’s most talked about feature releases of 2016, it could be one of its most important.Instagram worked with hundreds of businesses to understand what was needed to enhance their Instagram experience, and three key needs became clear – stand out, get insights and find new customers. And the release of Business Tools brought with it business profiles, analytics and the ability to create ads from posts directly within the apps Instagram continues to enhance its ad product alongside Facebook, we will likely see business profiles and tools continue to evolve in order to make it easier for businesses to drive traffic and revenue from their Instagram profiles.

Live Video – Instagram wants to be the place to capture and share the world’s moments, but not every moment worth sharing is perfectly framed and filtered like the feeds of many of Instagram’s 500 million monthly users. The release of stories has helped to encourage users to share more off the cuff, Snapchat style content to Instagram, but live could take it to the next level.In 2016, Facebook has been extremely bullish on live video, and has shared that its users watch live videos more often and for longer periods of time than non-live videos. So, it is no surprise to see Instagram is testing live video too. However, there has been no confirmed launch date for this feature yet.

The evolution of Instagram Stories – In August 2016, Instagram launches 24 hour long Snapchat style stories to fill the gaps between the posts in our Instagram feed, as Kevin Systrom explained to The Verge: “If Instagram is built around highlights, we are filling in the space in between – and becoming more about visual expression in general. We are capturing all the world’s moments, not just the best ones.Stories have already evolved, and with one of Instagram’s latest updates stories could potentially provide businesses with a way to drive some all-important traffic from Instagram. Instagrammers with verified accounts can now share links through Instagram stories using a neat “see more” action which loads content in an Instagram – contained browser when a user swipes up on a story. As of now, it is a test for verified accounts, but hopefully we will see it rolled out to all users in the next few months.With live video on the way alongside stories, Instagram seems fully committed to help its users to “fill the gaps” and become the place for people worldwide to share every moment, not just the most memorable moments.

Snapchat – From the release of moments, where Snapchat wanted to become your new camera roll to the launch of their first physical product, Spectacles, 2016 was an eventful year for Snapchat and its parent company Snap Inc.

Here are some highlights from Snapchat’s 2016

Significant launches

Memories – Memories enables Snapchat users to share photos and videos captured outside of Snapchat to your stories.

Spectacles – Spectacles are sunglasses that Snap! Tapping a button on the glasses enables you to record from your perspective. Then, relive the moment later in Snapchat.

Vurb – Snapchat has always been intrinsically linked to celebrating and sharing our lives in the moment. And the acquisition of Vurb could solve one of the platform’s biggest issues: discovery. Vurb is a local app helping consumers find local things to do and letting them save their ideas.

Bitstrips – Bitstrips gives you an entertaining and dynamic visual identity that lets you express yourself in ways that words cannot capture.

3 trends to watch from Snapchat in 2017 and beyond

1.The evolution of spectacles – With the release of Spectacles, Snapchat has succeeded where Google and many other companies have failed – they made tech-filled glasses cool. And a lot of that has come down to the way they have marked the product. As Josh Constine said on TechCrunch, “If you want to make something cool, don’t give it to geeks first.”Spectacles are a fun product, predominantly aimed at Snapchat’s core teenage audience. And by making them scarcely available and not providing tech early adopters and journalists first access, Snapchat’s own users and not the media are spreading the word about Spectacles, making them seem cool and importantly making Snapchat users all over the globe want a pair.As Snap Inc’s first venture into physical products, it will be interesting to keep an eye on how Spectacles are used in 2017 and how Snapchat looks to evolve the product.

2.Improved ad product – Snapchat opened up sponsored geo filters to everyone in 2016, enabling businesses of all sizes and individuals to create and sponsor their own filter in a location of their choice. And in 2017, I think we will see Snapchat double down on its ad product to enhance targeting and analytics for its advertisers.We have already seen some signs of this, with Snapchat and Foursquare announcing a deal to power geo filters with more data so that marketers can use it to pinpoint where their ads are served – this enables advertisers to be far more specific with the locations their geo filters will be available in.

3.The rise of circular video – When Snap Inc unveiled spectacles, they also announced a new circular video format.Spectacles can record with a 115-degree field of view – similar to that of a human eye. The key benefit of this is that no matter what device you are viewing on, you can view the content full screen in any orientation. So you could turn your smartphone from landscape to portrait while watching a video and you will still see the video full screen.With circular video, Snapchat has solved the age old argument of whether video should be recorded and shared in landscape or portrait. And as more and more people begin to consume video on mobile devices and tablets, circular video could become the norm.

So that was part 2 of my 3 part blog on the future of Social Media, join me next time as I discuss where Twitter and a selection of other social media platforms are going in the future.

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