By Megan Anderle, Editor and Contributing Writer
Social media has evolved quite a bit since the pioneering days of the now defunct Friendster 13 years ago. Since then we’ve seen a number of networks rise, chiefly Facebook and Twitter, as well as Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. We’ve also seen networks like Google+, which failed to catch on because it didn’t add value to how we connect online, and Myspace, which has been rebranded into a much sleeker platform for finding new music.
A popular prediction for the future of social networking is the imminent demise of Facebook and Twitter, with Princeton researchers arguing that Facebook could lose an enormous 80 percent of users by 2017. But whether such a mass exodus actually occurs for these preeminent websites remains to be seen. There are, however, more prominent emerging trends that are more likely to occur in 2015. Here are our big predictions for the new year.
1. E-commerce/mobile wallet features will become a bigger part of social media.
This past October, hacked screenshots revealed Facebook’s plans to implement payment options inside its Messenger app, possibly so the social media giant can charge small fees for money transfers between users. In June Pinterest announced its promoted pins feature for businesses. Likewise, Facebook and Twitter beta tested “buy” buttons in July and September, respectively. It’s safe to say that more financial transactions will be completed over social networks in the next year, especially since these networks have built their user base enough over the last few years.
2. Social networking will become a more private user experience.
Selfies and status updates aren’t going away anytime soon, but in general, the majority of social media users are less inclined to put their lives on blast now, opting for rising pseudo-private social media outlets such as Snapchat, Kik and Whisper.
“There’s this re-emergence of expressing your true self, not as this highly curated version of yourself like you would on Facebook or Twitter,” Greg Isenberg, founder and CEO of 5by, a video-curation platform that has private messaging features, told us.
We’ll also see more encrypted, open-source platforms in 2015, as Ostel and Tor have become popular messaging apps in the wake of revelations about National Security Agency snooping.
3. Communication will be more visual than ever before.
The emoji-only instant-messaging network Emojli is one of the forerunners in the move away from text-based communication networks such as Twitter.
“We’ve graduated from text, and the emoji has changed our culture,” Robert Hernandez, a University of Southern California journalism professor who studies social media trends said. “We’ll see a lot more visual communication styles in the future.”
4. New social networks will be mobile-first.
It seems somewhat obvious, but as retailers use location beacons and mobile payments become a popular option, emerging social networks will be built more for mobile than web.
“We’re just starting to see networks embracing the culture and language on mobile, and this will get bigger in the next year,” Hernandez said.
5. The next big thing isn’t here yet.
Certainly, networks such as Ello, Tsu and Yik Yak generated a lot of buzz this year, but none of them appears to be the next Facebook.
“The next one is going to have to reinvent the wheel, and most of what’s coming out now are slightly modifications to the wheel,” according to Jay Baer, president of digital marketing consulting firm Convince & Convert and author of “Utility.”