2019 Social Media Trendspotting

Posted on January 24, 2019

new year

Before we get started, I want to give a shout out to the City of Milwaukee, who recently stuck up for their Public Works Department to the tune of $168,000 in parking tickets during a snow event — during my 5 years in Rochester, NY, I would have done some pretty ugly things to see some consequences meted out for people parking all willy-nilly in the snow.

I see you, Sconnie

Right Now with Nick Smith (Linkedin/Twitter)

What I’m watching:  Claire Saffitz from Bon Appetit making gourmet versions of snacks, most recently Pringles

What I’m listening to:  WEEZER JUST DROPPED A SURPRISE COVERS ALBUM which includes ELO and TLC songs so …

Mark Zuckerberg once said of Facebook, “Figuring out what the next big trend is tells us what we should focus on,” which, is honestly less pithy than I think he thought it sounded at the time. But since the calendar turned over three weeks ago, I’ve been looking online to see where my field was headed in 2019, and I have to be honest, it really feels like social media is changing.

Ch ch ch ch changes

See, I recently had the “opportunity” to redo my home office, and in doing so I found a book of social media trends that I’d printed and bound for study (omg so quaint & analog lol) when I was interviewing for my current Communications post in 2015, and flipping through it really struck me with how … different things are now.

In fact, when I set out to write this, it was originally supposed to be a comical takedown of people’s bold, unrealized predictions from years past — tons of really specific examples & meta-examples come to mind, like how absolutely nobody predicted that Facebook Live would launch in beta that August, or how people still considered Flickr social media(?) — but to my surprise, a far-more-interesting and important pattern emerged.


Instead, I’ve noticed that the general tone around social media has shifted, and dare I say it, matured.

In four short years, we’ve gone from “Social media is the future, in 201(x) we’re going to have flying 3D laser hologram AI VR live video selfie watches” to far-more-boring predictions like “Platforms will focus on rebuilding trust” and “Brands will focus on listening and timely, personal interactions,” and the reason for that is that social media is no longer just some futuristic wild west — it’s morphed into a legitimate Third Place with real life implications and, perhaps more importantly, slowing market saturation.

Those forces combined mean that social media has had a chance to slowly creep into proverbial boardrooms in a way that many of us had hoped for over the past few years, which has given a lot of legitimacy to the general idea of it through evolution rather than revolution — think about the first time an IT manager pitched their boss on email or how Kodak straight up blew it on the digital camera — as well as a bit of much-needed, healthy tempering of expectations. This is because people up and down the organization actually “get it” now, and understand not only the value of social media but know more than ever about how it works.

In its own way, this excites me far more than some sort of unobtainium, because it means that government organizations like ours are going to be able to leverage one another more than ever going forward in the same way that they do in the Parks or Public Works spaces — because there’s real, actual, usable knowledge at every level, instead of just clueless management asking interns to “make this go viral” — and that’s something that’s been sorely lacking.

what a social media manager does
Sorry, no third Spiderman GIF, this was just too good

For what it’s worth, my too-specific predictions for 2019 are:

  • more acceptance vertical video due to a rise in the use of ephemeral social media like Instagram Stories, and because, let’s face it, we really should all be thinking mobile-first anyway — even in government — and that’s how people hold their phones when they’re on Facebook and Instagram,
  • an increase in the ability for users to know where their news is coming from and fact-check it on the fly, and
  • a decrease in organizations’ use of GIFs as we move toward a focus in personalization.

Obviously, we’re going to have to wait until 2021 for the flying 3D laser hologram AI VR live video selfie watches, but I’ll schedule a reminder to come back and write a comical takedown of these next year in case I’m wrong, because after all, fair is fair.

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