by Ben Shute, Manager Social Media at QBE

Predictions are hard, particularly in an area like social media where the platforms and tools move and scale quickly. I expect, much like last year, that there will be trends that will come and go quickly, but there are three key areas where I think there will be improvements or increased importance.

Twitter will regain lost ground

At some point in the next 12 months there will be acquisition rumors about Twitter, and to be honest, as with every rumbling about this, it will likely be unfounded.

I’ve always remained fairly bullish on Twitter, and I think that they will regain some of their lost ground in 2017. Despite its lack of innovation, they appear to be getting themselves closer to getting their groove back.

Their renewed focus on live positioning, partnering with sporting and other live events has been a smart strategy. While curation functions like Moments may have fizzled, by bringing tools like Periscope into the main app they are improving the ability to story tell in the moment and curate for later. Video is only going to get bigger for them.

Of course, Twitter still forms an important part of any social customer service strategy, and they have been developing tools to improve this. Expect to see more of it as the year progresses.

Customer service will remain paramount and the expectations of customers will become even more extreme

There’s no doubt that customer service has become probably THE single most important function of a social media strategy. Seriously, if you’re doing only one thing, it should be customer service.

The great challenge of all of this, however, is that the benchmark for many is set by a few who do it exceptionally. This makes it challenging for many organisations and poses huge risks from a reputational perspective if they get it wrong or can’t meet that expectation.

Many companies will turn to bots to try and improve customer service, but only a few will succeed. Bots became a hot topic when Facebook announced Messenger bots during 2016, and at last count they were in the tens of thousands. The challenge to implementation will be how it sits alongside the empathetic nature of customer service, particularly in regulated industries.

Instagram will dominate Snapchat

Earlier in the year I wrote that Instagram was succeeding in spite of itself. While it’s taken a bit of a beating at the expense of Snapchat in recent times, it’s made a number of leaps forward in 2016 and feels to be iterating faster than Snapchat as a visual platform.

Spectacles may be cool, but the launch of Stories gave the platform a much-needed shot in the arm, and it now sports an impressive 600 million users. The (in my view) much easier to use version of the ephemeral curation function has seen it grow rapidly.

Improved comment management function, the ability to like comments being trialed, and the new ability to bookmark content makes it feel like it’s approaching the fully fledged network that it can be.