We Are Social Australia Managing Director Suzie Shaw has shared her predictions for the year ahead with Ad News. They have been kind enough to let us reproduce it here: 

By any measure, social’s growth in the past five years has been phenomenal, with innovations continuing to sweep through the space. This year we’ve seen the rise of live video, the replication of key features across different platforms and the rise (and continued rise) of a major new platform in Snapchat. Buckle up for more in 2017.

Here’s a rundown of what we see as the forces set to take hold of social in the coming year. Good news: there are opportunities aplenty for brands.
 
Messenger apps
Globally, messenger apps are set to overtake public social networks to become the dominant social channels in the next 18 months. Currently four out of the top five social platforms globally are messenger apps, and two of these are owned by Facebook: Facebook Messenger and Whats App, but the trend towards them is universal. It presents both opportunities and challenges for brands. The opportunity is to build out one-to-one communication with consumers via messenger apps, however, because a paid interruption model doesn’t currently exist in these platforms, it will be critical to adopt an engagement model to ensure the dialogue remains open. Otherwise, marketers face being cut out of the conversation.

Live video
In 2015, Meerkat and Twitter's Periscope brought live streaming to the masses. Last year, Facebook introduced live streaming for celebrities and then rolled it out to all users. YouTube Live has just launched.

As the experience economy continues to grow, live social will hit its stride in 2017 with media owners, performing artists and brands aiming to capture eyeballs with live experiences. Brands that can create live experiences at scale through social have the opportunity to capture mass audiences, delivering solid ROI beyond what has ever been possible with IRL activations.

Continued growth of Snapchat
Snapchat is the fastest growing platform globally, going from 2 billion to 10 billion daily video views in the last year.

It’s the only platform showing a strong growth rate amongst Gen Z and Millennials, but is also growing amongst 35 to 54-year-olds. Snapchat claim more than half its daily users 18 to 34 are exclusive to Snapchat and can’t be reached by YouTube, Instagram or Twitter. Brands targeting a young audience would be wise to develop their own paid strategies in Snapchat as there’s definitely scope for enjoying the benefits of being an early mover in this space.

The power of programmatic
More than 50% of all digital media in the US is now bought via programmatic (automated bidding on advertising inventory in real time, for the opportunity to show an ad or content to a specific customer, in a specific context) and it has been predicted to grow 30% in 2017.

Programmatic is arguably the most effective, efficient and innovative way to reach consumers and is becoming more and more sophisticated, with improvements in the quality and variety of media inventory available - including mobile, influencer and even traditional media. There is an opportunity for brands to improve efficiency by employing a sharp programmatic buying strategy across all key lines of media.

Influencer marketing goes mainstream
Research suggests social media influencers have surpassed traditional advertising as the most influential factor in purchase decisions. A recent article talked about how the top six bloggers in Australia have amassed a larger combined audience than the top rating TV show, newspaper or magazine. Last month, CNN bought top social media influencer Casey Neistat’s ‘Beme’ app, in what appears to be a new frontier with heritage media networks looking to social influencers to help them evolve. If you’re not already playing in this space, there is an opportunity for brands to build strong relationships with social influencers in order to reach new audiences, leverage the power of their endorsement and co-create valuable content.

Social commerce
One of the most significant macro trends of this decade has been demand for the ‘frictionlessness’ customer experience, as seen with the proliferation of payWave and even Uber. Social platforms are increasingly integrating buying functionality natively. For example, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter are now allowing for purchases as a way to add value to people’s social experience - as well as supporting ROI for brands. There is an opportunity for brands to integrate products and services natively into platforms and content in order to make the consumer buying experience more frictionless. The trick is to ensure it’s done creatively so we don’t turn social environments into sales catalogues.

Meaningful measurement
The significant flow of investment into social media and away from heritage media has been well documented, but brands are still wrestling with the most effective way to measure ROI. There is a wealth of data in social. If anything, we are somewhat snow-blinded by it. The opportunity is in clarifying the true objectives of your social activity, building a measurement framework that clearly enables you to track KPIs, then employing a clever analyst able to plumb together the many data sources - enabling you to measure apples with apples.

What is certainly clear is that social is set to keep growing. Innovation will give way to opportunity. The ongoing challenge is keeping pace with the change and determining which opportunities are ones to invest in and which ones are fads that will pass like Google Glass.