Online technologies are constantly evolving. In order to avoid being left behind by the fast-moving online world, it is essential that you have you finger on the online pulse. Businesses have never had so many avenues for reaching their customers, or such interesting ways of presenting content – but, to succeed online, you really need to move with the times.

Here are the emerging social media technologies that we believe forward-thinking businesses should be watching out for (and making the most of) in the coming year:

Live Streams

Live streaming refers to online videos that are delivered in real-time. Live streams provide opportunities for brands to engage with their customers like never before.

Earlier this year, Facebook introduced Live Streaming for celebrities, and they recently rolled it out for all users. Youtube Live also launched recently, and Instagram is soon-to-jump on the Live Steam bandwagon. If these mega social media platforms are anything to go by, live streaming is set to explode in popularity.

Although live streaming hasn’t completely taken off yet, we reckon it’s set to boom in 2017, which will likely bring new live streaming platforms, faster connection speeds, advancements in live stream technologies and bigger data plans. For more information about how brands are using live streaming to their advantage, see Convince & Convert.

Augmented Reality

Did you know that IKEA has an augmented reality (AR) app that allows you to see how furniture will look in your home before you actually buy it? Or that Sunglass Hut has an app that allows you to virtually try on sunglasses? Although the most popular occurrence of AR has been Pokémon Go, it’s obvious that AR has great commercial potential.

What is AR? Augmented Reality technology enhances the physical environment you see by overlaying virtual elements (like information or images), either through displays such as HoloLens or through the camera view on your smartphone.

In the coming year and onwards, we expect to see brands experimenting with using AR to represent their products or services in a way that is more immersive than ever before.

Chatbots

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has now reached a level where it is genuinely useful to people in their daily lives. The rise of digital assistants (like Siri and Google Assistant, for example) has many people talking to their phones instead of using their fingers to facilitate certain actions. Although chatbots and basic AI have been around for years, in the coming year and onwards we expect to see them improve and be used in more innovative ways.

Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Google Allo already have bots to help with their bookings and customer service. Chat bots make sense for brands, as they allow common questions to be answered and simple tasks to be completed without the need for a real-life staff member. This frees up staff to answer more in-depth queries and perform more significant tasks.

We look forward to seeing how AI develops in 2017 (and we hope brands have learned from Microsoft’s chat bot fail!).

Immersive Video

Videos are no longer one dimensional and detached from the viewer – the emergence of shoppable films and 360º videos break the 4th wall and immerse viewers like never before. Want some examples? Recently, lifestyle brand Ted Baker released a spy-themed ‘shoppable’ film, called Mission Impeccable. This video allows viewers to add fashion items that they see in the film to their online carts with a simple click. Another example of immersive video is Youtube 360  (Youtube’s official Virtual Reality channel), which allows viewers to interact with 360º videos that have been filmed with omnidirectional cameras.

Although immersive video is still in its early stages, we think it could really take off in 2017. Immersive video allows users to experience online content in exciting and practical ways – could your business benefit from the technology?

Goodbye to desktop

Did you know that mobile traffic now surpasses desktop? Yep, for the first time, there are now more people browsing from phones and tablets than there are from traditional desktop computers. It seems there is no going back – mobile browsing has officially taken over. This means that your business needs to be as mobile friendly as possible. Take a leaf out of Google’s book – they recently introduced Accelerated Mobile Pages (i.e. light versions of web pages that load ultra-fast on mobiles). They also announced that they are soon going to index the entire web using a mobile first index.

In order to succeed online, brands need to put mobile first and think about the handheld and immersive experience when creating content for their social media. Interactive online content is only going to develop further – you need to make the most of it to succeed in the busy online space.

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