The end of the year is (somehow already) upon us, and that means it’s time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

Below are a collection of the biggest social media updates, trends, and feel good moments from 2017.

They can provide insights on what to do (and not to do) in your social media marketing, and what you can expect to ramp up in 2018.

Business Moves, New Additions, and Changing Technology

As new features and technologies are added to the suite of ways social media can be used in marketing, there are new possibilities to connect with customers and grow your business.

Here are some of the biggest business moves, new additions, and changing technology from 2017.

Twitter Gives Users 280 Characters

Starting in late September Twitter starting testing out giving the power to say twice as much to some users. Reactions from users and brands vary, but many landed on the fact that there is still no edit button.

Marketers should heed the lesson from one user: “With 280 characters comes great responsibility”.

Facebook Joins Team “Stories”

Twenty-four hour picture and video stories started with Snapchat, and Instagram joined shortly after. The feature is so popular with users that Facebook decided it wanted in on the action too. The social media giant launched Instagram Stories late last year, surpassing Snapchat in user adoption and began testing the feature for Facebook in early 2017. It works exactly the same as Instagram Stories, down to the “masks,” and gives everyone yet another disappearing-picture platform to choose from.

Snapchat Goes Public

Snap, Inc., the company behind Snapchat, went public this year with a strong start. On opening day stock prices for the tech company rose 44% and placed their valuation at a whopping $28 billion. For reference, this valuation put the company on par with Target and CBS. It has been a rocky year since then. Though the company turned a profit in the third quarter, it was below expectations, and stock prices fell 20%.

Facebook Launches Journalism Project

For a little over a year, #FakeNews has been all over, well, the news. It’s now been revealed that Russian agents reached more than 126 million Facebook users with content meant to stir up hostility between U.S. citizens. Facebook, along with other social media platforms, is taking measures to ensure the credibility of posts.

In January, Facebook announced a new initiative called the Facebook Journalism Project. It has three primary goals: collaborative development of news products with news channels, training and tools for reporters, and training and tools for anyone who reads the news. It’s crucial, now more than ever, for brands to hold high standards for their reporting and information sharing.

Pinterest Tests Visual Search with “Lens”

Pinterest realized that sometimes when it comes to finding items online, words can fail you. That’s why they introduced “Lens” this year, a beta visual search engine within the app.

The technology not only allows users to find pins that are related to the inspiration they see in the real world, but advertisers can use this opportunity to promote branded content and product information.

pinterest visual search

via pinterest blog

Instagram Expands Post Options

Instagram users can now post more content than ever on a single post. The platform launched posts with multiple photos in February, and the service now supports landscape and portrait orientation. Marketers, including the team at Target who created the ad below, have found interesting ways to use up the extra space.

Target Instagram Carousel

Target Instagram Carousel

LinkedIn Automates Small Talk

LinkedIn recognizes that small talk and back-and-forth administrative chat can be extremely time consuming. This year the networking platform launched Smart Replies, a chatbot that can jump in on conversations to send replies when you’re too busy.

For now, the machine learning capabilities only allow you to select from suggested replies, such as “Sounds Good!” and “What time?”. This may not revolutionize your networking game, but every minute counts!

Live Streaming Brings Record Viewers

Live streams are becoming more popular for brands and events alike. This year saw a few record-breaking live stream turnouts, with the presidential inauguration receiving 4.6 million live views and the birth of April the giraffe’s baby with 1.2 million viewers tuning into YouTube.

Brands such as GoRuck are also using live streams to connect with audiences. The gear brand hosts a weekly live stream show called The GORUCK Show that consistently brings in 6K+ viewers.

To see another example of a company using live streams to grow their audience, plus find inspiration from 19 other social media campaigns, check out Social Media Campaign Ideas from Your Favorite Brands.

Good News, Viral Moments, and Supportive Communities

Just because social media is a powerful business tool doesn’t mean it always has to be so serious! In a year filled with trials and tragedies across the country and globe, here are the viral moments that made us smile.

NPR and Ramona Make the Country Smile

Forgetting to switch from a work profile to personal account on social media before hitting “send” may strike panic into a social media manager’s heart, but one NPR staffer made the cutest “oops” possible. NPR made its readers smile when the following post appeared:

NPR social media post

Dad accidentally posts to NPR social media

The post was soon taken down, but not before Ramona had amassed a small fan club who wanted to hear more about her adventures.

CEO Sends a Supportive Response

Before a company can truly take care of customers, it needs to look out for its employees. Madalyn, and employee at Olark, let her coworkers know that she would be taking two days off to tend to her mental health. Her CEO responded with support and commended her for setting a positive example for everyone else as well as breaking down the stigma around mental health.

CEO mental health response

CEO responses to employee taking mental health days

The grateful employee tweeted the exchange, which in turn received more than 7K retweets and was liked 31K times.

The exchange is the perfect reminder that no matter what industry or setting you’re in, it’s important to remember the person you’re communicating with is human.

BBC Dad and his Kids

Professor Robert E. Kelly was being interviewed on BBC about the recent impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye when his two young children decided it was time to play. The serious professional/dad tried to keep his cool and nudge his daughter out of frame when his son came bouncing in.

Mom burst in to usher the kids out, and Kelly apologized, but it was too late; we had already witnessed TV gold. The moment was funny and relatable and has been viewed nearly 25 million times.

Fiona the Hippo

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a person who doesn’t enjoy a zoo-baby, but one small hippo has dominated social media in 2017. Not only is Fiona lovable, but she’s also changed the marketing game for the Cincinnati Zoo this year.

In 2016 the Zoo’s Facebook page had 8 million video views total. In the first six months of 2017 alone they had more than 160 million views.

Fiona’s content was such a success that Facebook approached the zoo to create a Fiona mini-documentary exclusive to the platform.

Fiona was born prematurely and had a rough start, but she’s come out on top. Fiona has appeared on T-shirts, mugs, Busken cookies, ornaments, and will even have a book written about her. Fiona’s story goes to show that audiences want an individual (human or animal) that they can connect to, and like to follow along with their journey.

Fiona the Hippo

Fiona the hippo (photo source)

What to Expect in 2018

The coming year will see the growth of new technologies and ways to connect with audiences. Here are five of the top social media marketing trends to know for 2018.

Live Streams Continue to Grow

Live streaming views hit record highs in 2017, but real-time video content will become even more popular in 2018. Video streaming is expected to be a $70 billion industry by 2021, and 80% of customers would rather watch live videos from a brand than read a post. Live streams can be used to promote brand events, host Q&As, introduce product launches, or share a promotion. Plus, Facebook live videos are watched three times longer than pre-recorded videos.

Chatbots Open a New Line of Communication

Sixty-four percent of customers expect companies to respond to their messages in real time, so it’s no wonder that chatbots are on the rise. In fact, the global chatbot market is expected to hit $1.23 billion by 2025. Some anticipated chatbot trends for 2018 include the rise of conversational copywriters for chatbot programs, “bot sites” that create an interactive and personalized user experience, and conversational API to establish uniformity across technologies.

Augmented Reality Technology Develops

While the technology to consumer AR and VR content is still developing, 2018 is expected to see more marketing teams finding ways to implement the technology. One of the most notable examples of AR from 2017 is IKEA Place, which allows shoppers to place IKEA goods virtually in their spaces before buying.

eMarketer forecasted that there will be close to 50 million AR users in the United States next year. With the popularity of Pokemon GO and dancing hotdogs on Snapchat, AR can seem like more of a novelty than a viable marketing strategy, but ABI Research has stated that AR is poised for an inflection point in 2018 with increasing growth.

User-Generated Content Connects

Customers craving authenticity will continue to flock to user-generated content in 2018. Considering that UGC ads have click-through rates that are four times higher than traditional ads plus 29% higher conversion rates, this should pique your interest. Sharing user-generated content alongside your branded content in 2018 will continue to be a strategy that humanizes marketing and acts as an indicator of brand quality to 86% of millennials.

Ephemeral Content Harnesses #FOMO

Snapchat has 10 million daily video views and users are hooked on ephemeral content. Short-lived content is seen as more authentic and attention-grabbing, plus the disappearing nature of it raises the fear of missing out and therefore encourages users to take action now. Ephemeral content on Snapchat is an ideal way to give customers a “behind the scenes” or “day in the life” look at your brand that is easy to connect with.

Cheers to 2017, and may you exceed all of your social media marketing goals in the new year!

What were your favorite social media moments of 2017?

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