Looking Forward: Community Management Trends to Look for in 2016

The ever-changing landscape of social media certainly keeps community managers on their toes. And while CMs are experts at quickly adapting to an ever-changing landscape, a little heads up now and then doesn’t hurt. To support the unsung heroes that are community managers, we’ve rounded up our best predictions for important 2016 trends—and our best advice for how community managers can stay on top of them.

Wearable Devices

Apple dropped their watch last spring, to much hype, but considerably fewer sales than most trend predictors anticipated. But while the Apple Watch didn’t exactly command overnight lines (like those of iPhones past), sales of the wearable device slowly picked up steam throughout 2015, with an estimated 1.7 billion in 2015 sales. A rumored Google Glass re-vamp and innovative tween-targeted social media wearables like Gemio all make a strong case for 2016 being the year wearable devices go mainstream.

With the anticipated growth of yet another device comes another task for community managers: they’ll need to quickly become expert users who can navigate these devices and use them to target customers in novel ways. Insiders predict that wearables will encourage people to use social media even more—providing even more engagement opportunities for community managers.

Highly Personalized Content

With sophisticated social listening platforms, like Spredfast Intelligence, companies know more about their customers than ever before, and they are able to produce incredible amounts of content that appeal to their customer base. But with the influx of content comes the risk of oversaturation: if content production has switched from a “nice to have” to a “must” for big companies, the task now becomes consistently engaging customers and capturing their attention among the noise.

In 2016, community managers will not only need to produce and manage content, they will need to target content to specific customers to create a highly personalized experience. With increased access to brands through social—from Twitter to Periscope to Instagram—customers now not only expect timely responses, they expect thoughtful and authentic answers and interactions, all of which community managers must navigate.

Seasoned community managers agree: social video will be an important area of focus for 2016. James RC Smith, the social media coordinator for Nature’s Path Foods Inc., told Spredfast he’s excited to: “Run with Facebook Live when it rolls out in 2016. From the looks of things,” Smith continued, “there will be some really useful features which will take a live video event to a more rounded experience, on a platform which our audience is already actively using.” And Kai Sabo, social media coordinator for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, told us how she plans to use social video to engage her audience in a unique, positive way. Sabo said, “My main focus this year is using video to tell stories for action. Telling stories about genocide can easily leave anyone depressed, but when paired with an inspirational story of triumph or hope, we are able to reach new audiences, increase engagement and ultimately provoke the world to think about their actions and their part in the bigger world.” And social platforms are ramping up their use of video, too. Recently, Periscope announced their partnership with Twitter—Periscope streams will now autoplay in user’s Twitter feeds, offering social media managers exciting new ways to reach their audience with personalized content.

Managers should continue to hone their brand’s message while allowing room for a human touch—instead of perfectly-tailored (yet canned) responses, try loosening the reigns just a bit to notice something specific about a customer, or let an unguarded moment shine through.

Hyperlocal Marketing

Social media users access platforms through multiple devices and, with the rise of wearables and the continued proliferation of tablets, we predict that users will increase their mobile access of social media platforms in 2016, which will create incredible opportunities for highly specific marketing opportunities.

Business 2 Community predicts that the current trend of hyperlocal private social networks—like NextDoor, Alignable, and Townsquared—will rise in popularity, offering enterprising community managers the opportunity to target customers by location with personalized content.

Imagine: Whole Foods’s community manager notices that a pack of Austin Cycling Meetup riders often stop into the Austin flagship location after weekend rides because members check in on Swarm. Whole Foods’s community manager reaches out to the group, offering a few words of athletic encouragement, or maybe a tip about the grocery chain’s newest protein-packed green smoothie (see that personalized content going to work!). Members of the group then share Shapchat stories, post on Instragram using hashtags like #postridegreenjuice and #refuel, and some riders even comment on Whole Foods’s Facebook page inviting others to join their rides—all of which allows a national brand to connect with local communities and increase customer loyalty.

And finally, we’d like to reiterate a classic: maintaining a consistent, on-message voice across all platforms is one of the most important tasks of a community manager and, we believe, will remain so in 2016.

Julia Eddington's picture

Julia Eddington

Julia Eddington is a freelance tech and personal finance writer and editor living in New York City.