It may have been said in years past, but for 2016 it’s especially true: This year was the year of social media. Social networks saw an incredible expansion in use throughout 2016, and it’s not expected to diminish anytime soon.

Social media has given businesses the opportunity to connect with prospects and customers in  ways never seen before, and in the coming year, the innovation from these networks will allow companies to engage even more with their communities.

According to a study conducted by Clutch, a rise in website traffic and an improvement in brand image are the top two advantages for businesses using social media, with a third being better targeting of the desired audience. These findings speak for themselves – for organizations not fully on the social media bandwagon, 2017 will be the time to jump aboard and reap the benefits.

So what social media marketing trends can organizations expect in 2017, and how can they create successful campaigns to bring in results? We spoke with members of Brafton’s Promotions and Engagement team to get their thoughts, expertise and insight on what the new year will bring to the world of social media.

Out with the old

While 2016 was all about the dominance of social media in nearly every aspect of our daily lives, there are certain social media trends from the past months that our Promotions & Engagement department hopes to see quickly fade away in the coming year.

Bad brand promotion practices:

Senior Social Media Engagement Strategist Rayna Gamble said she has seen companies posting amusing content on sad or somber holidays to promote a product or service, and she thinks it needs to stop. One example is Memorial Day – brands have used the remembrance holiday to post social messages that sell something. But the day is about remembering those in the military who have died in the line of service – it’s not about coming up with a creative or funny post to generate leads.

Spreading it all out:

While many brands prioritize having a presence on as many social networks as possible, Senior Social Media Engagement Associate Cassidy Wilson stated that this should not be standard practice. Businesses are increasingly coming up with diversified strategies, but that doesn’t mean they should broadcast their content on all platforms. Cassidy hopes to see this method fade away as companies instead focus on the social networks that cater to their target audiences.

No more auto posting:

Because no social media platform is alike, Promotions & Engagement Manager Allie Stone said that businesses need to throw out the practice of auto posting.

“Although publishing platforms make it easy to share the same posts across networks, it’s important to keep in mind that the messaging and audience can differ,” Allie stated.

Because of this, brands instead need to determine the individual features and audience of each platform, and then tailor their messages accordingly.

It's time to let go of automated social media methods and start humanizing your social presence.

It’s time to let go of automated social media methods and start humanizing your social presence.

In with the new

Even though there are poor strategies used over the past year, there are many more that were part of successful social media campaigns and should be a component of brands’ social efforts going into 2017.

One-stop social shop:

As users spend more time on social, it makes sense that the networks want to serve a variety of purposes. That’s where social commerce comes in. Social Media Strategist Walton Clark highlighted the fact that more platforms are introducing purchasing abilities within their applications. For example, Pinterest has “buyable pins,” Instagram just launched a shopping platform and LinkedIn will soon be adding lead generation forms on the site. And while purchasing products and services through Facebook has not yet caught on, Walton said it’s only a matter of time until all social networks integrate some form of purchasing.

“2017 will be the continuation of social networks trying to be everything for their users so that they have fewer reasons to go elsewhere on the web,” Walton stated.

Live video will only get bigger and better:

Live video on social platforms burst upon the social media scene this year, and it is expected to only grow in use. Senior Social Media Associate Alyssa Gallagher cited Facebook Live as a strong example, and she predicted that users will see new and more engaging aspects of the technology come into play in 2017.

Rayna Gamble reiterated the importance of live video, and recommended that companies use not only Facebook Live, but also Periscope and YouTube to broadcast live-streaming events to boost their social media strategies.

Associate Manager of Promotions & Engagement Erin Hancock feels the same way about live video. She highly recommended this method to clients who have expressed an interest in this outlet as a way to share content that is fun and engaging.

Show the brand’s human and honest side:

The emergence of social media over the past few years has allowed customers to connect with companies on a more personal level. For this reason, brands need to showcase the human side of their operations to engage more effectively with users. New technologies such as live video and even virtual reality give businesses the tools to post more interesting, relevant and current content for prospects, as highlighted by Cassidy Wilson. Honesty is also an important component of more intimate conversations.

“Honesty is especially powerful in social media, and users crave copy that’s sincere and candid,” she said. “Whether it’s humorous or heartbreaking, I believe truth is what makes campaign successful.”

What businesses need to know for 2017

Being successful in social media is not only about getting rid of old practices and adopting new technologies. It’s also about revisiting current strategies and revising them based on changes in the market, the target audience and the company as a whole.

You may need to head back to the drawing board to stay successful with social media marketing.

You may need to head back to the drawing board to stay successful with social media marketing.

For example, organic traffic may not bring in the same results in 2017 as it did in years past. Senior Social Media Engagement Strategist Sarah Robinson said that social advertising will become more prevalent in the coming year, and brands need to readjust their social efforts based on that.

“With the highly detailed level of targeting one is able to do on platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook, you’re more likely to get your content in front of the right eyes and thus achieve your goals,” Sarah explained as one of the reasons social advertising is growing in popularity. “With today’s highly saturated market, you have to ask, ‘How am I going to stand out?’ A strong social ad campaign might just be one way to do it.”

Another method that companies should revisit? How they converse on social platforms. Rayna stated that businesses should talk with their audiences, not to them. In addition, offering customer service through social media can increase engagement and satisfaction.

Going forward into 2017, social media will continue to play an exceptionally large role in brands’ marketing strategies. And as long as companies are willing to change up their methods and focus on what delights their prospects and customers, then next year will be nothing but successful.

Tressa Sloane is the Sr. Manager of Editorial Development in Boston. Born a Southern belle, she now resides in the chilly (but wicked awesome) Northeast, and when she's not learning everything she can about content marketing, she's obsessing over Elvis, Auburn football and France.