As you’re probably all too aware, we’re fast approaching the final act of 2015. Christmas and the inevitable 2016 will soon be here with a raft of promises, some of which will be fulfilled and others that will meet the same fate as an overly optimistic new year resolution.

In 2015 we’ve watched as Facebook became a huge online video platform; the buy button moved from curious fiction into powerful reality and the de facto leading social media networks further tightened their grip on the market.

But how will these changes play out in 2016? And can we expect any new trends to emerge? Below are a 5 social media marketing predictions that you should be factoring into your strategy for 2016.

1) The proliferation of live social

This may seem, on the face of it, a strange prediction; surely social media is, by its very definition, ‘live’? And while that is to some extent the case, 2015 saw the emergence of a new breed of truly live social media.

Live social streaming hit the headlines with Periscope, while services like Snapchat and Instagram hit their stride with a raft of new features and platform changes. While Snapchat was released back in 2011, in 2015 it underlined itself as one of the fastest growing social media networks on the planet, growing more in its first four years than Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

And the implications of ‘live social’ are potentially massive. It opens the gateway for real time interaction with brands (think Q&A sessions and behind the scene product tasters). 2016 will see the emergence of ‘live social’ proper. Though it won’t, as some have suggested, mean the decline of social media scheduling.

2) The true birth of social commerce

2015 may have been the year of the ‘buy button’, but that was just the beginning; social commerce will take off in 2016 with every relevant platform introducing its own commerce solution, or moving current solutions out of the testing phase.

Actually, we expect social commerce, particularly through Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to have some bearing on Christmas 2015. But 2016 is when social commerce will truly come into its own.

You can read our thoughts on social commerce and Christmas 2015 here…

3) Advertising will become even more granular

Big data. One of the in-vogue terms of 2015, and not one that we like. Detest it we may do, but it’s hard to deny its importance. Personal data is, by the year, becoming more granular and it’s having a strong influence on how we conduct our social media marketing.

If you’re not targeting consumers through social media, then you’re missing out on a spectacular opportunity to reach your target audience. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that targeting is vital for effective social media marketing.

And the move into big data will only continue in 2016, with new options for the targeting of advertising and brand messages on social media becoming available for marketers. Invasive it may seem, but effective it will be.

4) Content to remain king

Content has been king for years now and so it will remain. But that doesn’t mean it can’t claim new, improved territories for itself. Social media has, traditionally, been all about sharing the content of other websites. In 2016 that will change; social media will have its own content.

LinkedIn Pulse is the first and excellent example of this, but it will soon be joined by the worldwide roll out of Facebook Instant Articles and other, even more sophisticated, solutions for the publication of unique content on social media. Project Lightening, for instance, will put the power of publication in the hands of users, potentially saving the network from its current stagnation.

5) Privacy concerns will peak

But nothing will happen. Since the beginning of time users of social media have bemoaned the relative lack of privacy on social media, while continuing to document their lives in minute detail online.

Naturally, to allay concerns, all platforms have taken steps to bolster user privacy and we expect this to continue. However, there will continue to be a dearth of sweeping measures; advertisers will continue to be given access to increasingly granular data and, unfortunately, there might be one or two more data breaches. But not at any of the major social media networks.

There ends our social media marketing predictions for 2016. We’re as excited as your are to see what trends really do emerge, continue and – ultimately – fail in 2016. It’s set to be an exciting year for all involved.