As each year passes, social media platforms play a more active role in our daily lives. In 2017, we have seen a commitment to the development and evolution of our favourite sites and apps. Their constant new feature updates — more often than not with features we didn’t know we wanted or needed — keep us glued to our retina-display screens. Social media giants are only getting bigger too, providing more functions and services for us to consume and enjoy. Here are some trends we can expect to be using in the coming year.

Music Streaming

Google has already achieved some major advances in various different industries, from its position as the world’s number one search engine to its acquisition of Android to inching closer to putting driverless cars on the road. It has, however, had little luck with music streaming. While it has already launched the little known Google Play Music and Youtube Red, which provide services for music lovers to listen and watch their favourite audio and music videos, 2018 marks the year that the social media giant combines the two, announcing Youtube Remix. This, they claim, will simplify the music streaming services they already have and marry the audio-only Google Play Music and the ad-free video content of Youtube Red. Will this finally be the coup Google needed to win the music streaming race against Spotify and Apple Music?

Virtual Technology Goes Viral

Video content was ubiquitous in 2017 and a favourite for brands and digital marketers, as video posts received higher engagement across all measurements. This was partly due to how we as social media consumers respond to moving content and partly because social media algorithms began to favour videos and live streams in our timelines, elevating them to the top. This is likely what we will see with Virtual Technology this year. Given that Facebook owns Oculus –- the virtual technology headgear set to go mainstream –- we can expect to see interesting links being made between Virtual Reality and social media coming soon.

This will most likely be used to facilitate multi-party conversations between Facebook users – think House Party meets VT. This has already been demonstrated at the latest Oculus Connect presentation by Mark Zuckerberg, yielding impressive results. We may be able to expect these technologies to start making their way onto our Facebook feeds as early as next year, although we have yet to be given any confirmed launch dates.

Instagram Becomes more Shoppable

Social media has become more shopper-friendly and commercialised in recent months and this is a trend which we will only see gaining prominence in 2018. This functionality is not only offered additional utility and ease for the emerging Generation Z shoppers who are set to be the most tech-savvy and consumer-minded generation to date but is also beneficial to brands and online stores who want to use social media to sell to this age cohort.

Instagram’s ‘Shopping Tags’ for example, via a new partnership with Shopify, allows business users to add price and information descriptions to their posts, much like the current people and location tags. This feature is sure to cause both fluid ease of use for e-commerce and annoyance to some users who remain nostalgic for the simpler time when Instagram was just a photo-sharing platform. In any case, we can expect to be shopping through our Instagram accounts very soon.

A Revised Twitter

We can most likely expect to see a reformatting of Twitter as we come into 2018. While Twitter is a ‘niche’ platform, it is nonetheless losing its mass appeal to users (with exception of the President of the United States, of course). It was reported in July of this year that it has started to lose users month-on-month. This is against a backdrop of upward growth enjoyed by its leading competitors like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. This may be as a result of inner turmoil with board members and executives or perhaps the character-based model of social media has become obsolete in the age of moving images, which it’s competitors more adept to cope with. In response, Twitter extended their character limit to 280, to the delight of their more wordy users; it has put greater emphasis on live events and streaming; has made the site more advertiser-friendly.

Will this help them to recover the blow of 2017? In the coming year, we may expect changes even greater restructuring as the platform tries to survive, or may face its untimely downfall.

Increased Social Media Monitoring

It has been established that social media sites are responsible for the content which its users upload, with many platforms facing a backlash from its users over content it allows and hosts online. While the biggest concern of 2017 was the fake news epidemic largely facilitated by Facebook, this also applies to copyrighted content, revenge porn, violent images, hate speech, prejudice and other illegal or simply anti-social material.

Facebook enrol full-time staff to sift through posts which have been flagged or reported with the staff having just moments to delete or keep the posts active on the site. This will be something that all social media platforms will increasingly be put under great pressure to control over the next year, especially as users and people with access to the internet only grows by the day. This includes taking down your #freethenipple posts on your Instagram page, sadly.

A New Way of Consuming Social Media

Anyone with an internet connection would have heard the rumblings of the net neutrality debate in the US. This is an important discussing being had in America where the categorisation of internet providers under the law may threaten the rights of citizens to have unrestricted access to (lawful) internet content. This has significant consequences on the way that internet companies provide their services and the way we will consume the web in the future.

If the battle for net neutrality is lost, then internet providers will be able to prioritise certain types of online material, while demoting others – like the websites of their competitors, for example. This could also see the introduction of subscription-based access to services and a pay-per-view-type model where a basic internet package may prevent you from being able to stream music and films. While this is protected in the UK under EU law, but with Brexit looming and growing uncertainties, the loss of net neutrality in the US could see a mirroring effect in Britain soon after. This raises concerns over equality and fairness which has been the cornerstone of the internet up until this point and threatens the democratised web.