2016 was a banner year for social media. We saw live streaming go mainstream, we’re giving wearable tech another try, and everybody seems interested in quick, ephemeral content. These eight social media trends from 2016 aren’t just changing communication as we know it, they’re also changing how consumers find and discover the products they want to purchase.

1. Facebook Live goes live

Early this year, Facebook rolled out Facebook Live for all users. It’s a nifty feature, but it’s more important to note why the social media giant is making such a big deal out of it. Live events — like NBC’s The Sound of Music Live!, which drew 18.5 million people the night it aired — are exclusive draws that generate enormous buzz. Facebook is hoping to garner similar buzz if and when one of its live programs becomes a big hit. For Facebook, going live will hopefully get users to spend even more time on the platform. For brands, it’s a new way to communicate with consumers by offering them live chats or behind-the-scenes access to events.

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A map of Facebook Live broadcasts. The bigger the dot, the larger the audience.

Instagram was king in 2016. In our free guide, Instagram influencers dish on the best ways to generate interest and maximize reach.

2. Snapchat mic-drops Spectacles

Snapchat is still “in,” and parent company Snap Inc. is doing an incredible job keeping the momentum rolling. Where Google failed with smart glasses, Snap picked up the ball with its simple-but-fun Spectacles — and the product may now be the single most influential force in popularizing smart glasses among millennials and Gen Z. Brands like Sour Patch Kids and Mountain Dew have already started using Spectacles to make marketing videos that showcase their products in new, cool ways. Expect more brands to join the fray in 2017.


3. Instagram Stories is instantly popular

Snapchat’s Stories has been a runaway success ever since it was introduced in 2013 — it was intuitive and made it even easier to broadcast your adventures to friends. Not to be outdone (and fresh off revamping its look), Instagram launched Stories, which became a hit almost instantly. In fact, Instagram Stories had 100 million daily active users just two months after launching and they are now watched daily by 18 percent of U.S. users and monthly by 53 percent. Brands began using Instagram Stories almost immediately. In the first week, Marc Jacobs, Vogue and other fashion brands began creating Snapchat-like content on the platform and haven’t looked back. Not even a year after launch, Instagram Stories is an integral part of marketing efforts for all types of brands.

4. Social media weighs in on the election

For better or worse, social media had a huge impact on the 2016 presidential election. Facebook drove a huge wave of voter registration, though it was also complicit in the wildfire-like spread of fake news. Tweets from candidates whipped entire news cycles into frenzies and set the internet afire. If it wasn’t clear already, social media has tremendous clout. And for many more years, it’ll be instrumental in influencing voters in future elections.

5. Pokémon Go sweeps the world

Pokémon Go was such a phenomenon that at one point it reportedly enjoyed higher engagement than Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat. Not only did it get millions of people outside (and give them a common topic for social interaction), but it also put augmented-reality gaming on the map. Brands like Rebecca Minkoff, Amazon and Marriott quickly jumped on the fad to connect with Pokemon-crazed consumers.

6. Microsoft shells out $26.2 billion for LinkedIn

The bad news for LinkedIn? Its shares annihilated $11 billion in market value after dropping more than 40 percent in a single day. The good news? Microsoft swooped in to buy the business-networking company for a cool $26.2 billion. Count it as Microsoft’s bet that social media won’t just be a central component of our personal lives, but our professional interactions as well.

7. Platforms tinker with their algorithms

Making algorithm changes is a way of life if you’re a social media company. Facebook does it all the time. Twitter and Instagram rolled out their own overhauls in 2016 as well. Many people speculate YouTube is making changes behind the scenes. Why all the algo tweaks? Simple: It’s all in pursuit of higher user engagement and increased ad revenue.

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8. RIP Vine

We’re going to miss our beloved Vine, the six-second-video platform on which potatoes flew around rooms and Viners like Shawn Mendes shot into superstardom. The Twitter-owned company was awash in problems: The user base stopped growing, top executives were leaving, and popular Viners sought better monetization at Facebook and YouTube. In the hyper-competitive social media space, rivals like Instagram and Snapchat were simply more effective at keeping users coming back day after day. The Vine shutdown validates a frightening reality about the industry: In the Wild West of social media, even a mainstay like Twitter has to claw its way to survival.

2016 was they year when social media influencers went mainstream. Check out our free guide How to Win Fans & Influencer Purchases to learn how much influencer marketing costs, how to measure ROI and why micro-influencer marketing is the future.

For a quick, painless way to find influencers, use Curalate Explore, which allows you to discover micro-influencers eager to post authentic content about your brand. Learn more here.