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The growing importance of social media means that all businesses need to keep up with the latest social media trends. Unfortunately, though social media platforms offer excellent opportunities for commerce, keeping up with the latest trends is also complicated.  As this is such a rapidly evolving market. not only is the technology involved in social media constantly developing, but the way uses choose to engage with this niche also shifts at a dizzying pace.

Big players challenged

One of the most notable trends in recent months is that traditional social media is clearly in decline. This is extremely surprising to many people given the prominence of Twitter and Facebook in our culture, and the extent to which the media refers to them. But the simple fact is that established sites such as Facebook are struggling to attract new users given the consumer penetration that they have already achieved. And this is coupled with a significant migration away from the world’s three largest social media platforms, as regular users apparently perceive them to be stale.

Based on annual Comscore data for Q3 of 2014, user interactions were down for Facebook by 0.6 million, Youtube by 2.3 million and LinkedIn by 1.2 million. It is also particularly noteworthy that Facebook is slowly but surely losing the teen market. As adolescents look for the next big thing, with Instagram becoming particular popular with teenage girls, Facebook is suffering somewhat in terms of maintaining youthful users. Teenagers are ditching Facebook’s admittedly already massive user base, and this was reflected in the most recent financial figures which the company reported.

Additionally, Ofcom’s International Communications Market Report for 2014 discovered that the number of British adults accessing social networks on a weekly basis fell from 65 percent in September 2014 to just 56 percent by October 2014. This was the largest decline across the nine countries surveyed in the report, but was indicative of a uniform trend.

Privacy concerns

There are several possible explanations for this, but one of the most obvious is concerned with personal data. High profile examples of data loss, along with concerns raised about the security of personal information by revelations such as those revealed by Edward Snowden, may have had wide-reaching effects on the public perception of social media.

Social media platforms have already emerged which respond to these concerns, with sites such as Ello, Path and Everyme selling themselves to the public as pro-privacy. Ello in particular has strongly emphasised that the platform will neither use advertisements nor sell your data to advertisers or third-parties.

Aside from a basic concern about privacy, it is also possible that users are migrating to social media applications that don’t require as much initial information. Security might be a big concern here, but one should also consider convenience.

A good example of this phenomenon is Snapchat, which requires an incredibly minimal amount of personal information in order to open an account. Once a Snapchat account has been set up, users control precisely what is posted on the page, with no other users tagging photos of them, for example. Instagram have also released a competitor to Snapchat with similar functionality named Bolt.

Thus, it is important to understand that the public desire for online privacy is increasing, and will probably expand still further in the future. Facebook has already acknowledged this trend by developing its own private platform which is considered to be similar to Snapchat.

Social media evolution

This tendency is part of a broader social media evolution in which social platforms have had to adapt in order to meet public requirements. This is often involved with the acquisition of new sites, introducing new revenue streams, or setting up commercial partnerships with other entities.

Uber, the high-profile taxi ordering site, is an excellent example of this concept. Uber have already partnered with Google Maps and City Mapper, and has very recently announced a third partnership with Spotify; the commercial music streaming service. Snapchat has also generated publicity thanks to its new venture Snapcash, which involves a public partnership with the money distribution company Squarecash.

Both Uber and Snapchat have essentially identified what they consider to be user desires for these services, and view this as an opportunity to significantly increase revenue. The jury is still very much out on whether or not this will be a success, but it is nonetheless indicative of the extent to which social media users' expectations regarding social platforms are resulting in services being integrated.

Conclusion

What we can discern from these figures and trends is that the big players in the social media sphere are experiencing depreciating engagement, while users are more concerned with privacy and also social media platforms which they perceive to be more fun to utilise.

This does not mean that social media should be considered a declining influence for travel-related companies; quite the opposite. What it does mean is that tourism businesses and destinations need to keep abreast of all the latest trends in social media, as the niche is currently experiencing a massive diversification, and many of the new players in the market deserve due consideration.

Additionally, companies must bear in mind that security, privacy and data protection are particular hot potato issues in relation to social media, and taking this seriously should be considered essential.

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