Social Trend Watching

Michael Oelschig Submitted by on the 30th of March 2016

Welcome to our first 2016 edition of social media trends to watch out for. This month, we’re talking about encryption, employee advocacy, and social algorithms – three hugely important topics in the digital space right now.

  1. Privacy and Encryption

In the social media age, we’ve become accustomed to sharing everything about ourselves with the world. As the saying goes, a relationship is not official until it’s Facebook official. This innate need to share is a major reason for the rise of social media in the first place.

But over the last few years we’ve seen an uprising of resistance to people, businesses and government having unfettered access to our personal information. You may have seen this playing out in the news recently with the battle between Apple and the FBI in the US.

The right to privacy movement has also started giving rise to a shift in what new social platforms users are migrating to, especially in the instant messaging space.

One such example is the messaging app Telegram, which has seen significant growth because it boasts greater levels of encryption than other messaging apps. It was built by two Russians whose primary goal was to “build a means of communication that the Russian security apparatus couldn’t access”.

With Facebook’s questionable record regarding privacy, Telegram really took off when its much larger competitor, WhatsApp, was acquired by Mark Zuckerberg’s company. Currently, it is reported that Telegram has upwards of 70 million users and is growing rapidly. Until such time as the more established social networks can achieve the same levels of encryption, expect this shift to continue.

  1. Employed Media

Employed Media is the principle of leveraging the personal social reach of your employees as a resource for the brand. Since we first wrote an eBook about employed media (you can download it for free here), there has been a major uptake of the idea in both the volume of information published on the topic, and a sharp rise in social platforms developing tools to leverage its power.


LinkedIn Elevate is one such example. It works by providing employees with a steady stream of quality content to share across LinkedIn and Twitter. The platform also offers a clear picture of how employee activity is affecting the company in terms of sales leads and new hires.

With the thinking around employed media taking off, we expect Elevate to play a significant role in that.

Download your free copy of the The Employed Media Opportunity eBook to find out more about harnessing the power of Employed Media for your business.

  1. Changing Algorithms

When Facebook changed its algorithm to all but eliminate organic reach for brands, it was the first time the topic of newsfeed algorithms became part of the social media person’s everyday lexicon. Facebook’s apparent rationale for this approach was founded in their shift to becoming a publisher and wanting to ensure that people saw what is most relevant to them. The fact that it had the added benefit of significantly increasing their ad revenue wasn’t lost on most people.

Twitter has also announced that they too have adopted an algorithm-based feed as opposed to a chronological one. Twitter’s algorithm is based on their “while you were away” feature they introduced a year or so ago. While Twitter promises it will make your timeline more relevant to your interests and ensure you don’t miss anything important, some users might find it makes following live events and conversations a lot more difficult, thereby destroying one of the core values of why people use Twitter. The key question now is; will it make Twitter better because it is more relevant or will it break up conversations so that Tweets are taken out of context? One can’t help but feel that the future success of Twitter depends heavily on the answer to this question.

Recently, Instagram also announced they will be adopting an algorithm-based feed. With the app taking a page out of parent company Facebook’s playbook, brands will need to rethink their Instagram strategy. While a “more is better” approach worked previously, brands will now have to follow their Facebook strategy of creating less but better quality content – and no doubt paid media.

The most important take out from all these changes is that the power once again sits with the platform and not the user. The ironic thing about all of this is that what made social media such a success in the first place is now being diminished in favour of a more traditional media model – the same model that social media had largely replaced.