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2016’s Biggest Social Media Trends for Business, by Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite

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Around the world, there are now more than 2 billion active social media users (growing at a steady pace of 25 percent a year). This means more people now regularly use social media than the entire populations of the United States and China, combined.

Social media, much more so than the web itself, has become the new ‘front door’ for business today. 

Nine out of 10 US companies are now active on social networks. 90 percent of businesses see increased exposure as a result and more than half report improved sales.

Companies increasingly turn to their own employees for bigger social media reach. 

Nearly 80 percent of businesses now have a dedicated social media team. But many still struggle to reach an audience. 2016 will see companies turn increasingly to an underused resource in the effort to get the word out: their own employees. Employee social advocacy programs, which encourage staff to share updates about the business on their own social media accounts, have grown by 191 percent since 2013 and are due to take off in the year ahead.

When done right, the payoff can be impressive: companies not only expand their social media reach dramatically, they also get measurably better results. Content shared by employees, by one recent measure, gets eight times more engagement than content shared by brand channels.

Social media advertising (really) takes off in 2016. 

Haven’t noticed the exponential increase in ads on your social media feeds? That probably means they’re working. In contrast to old-fashioned banner ads, the new generation of “native” social media ads like Facebook and Instagram sponsored posts and Twitter promoted Tweets look and act a lot like normal social media updates from friends and followers. They’re also targeted with an uncanny degree of precision: Advertisers are able to drill down not just by age and gender but by interests, location, company affiliation, role and more. So the ads you get are probably the ones you actually want to see.

For all those reasons, companies ramped up social media advertising in 2015, with spending increasing 33.5 percent to nearly $24 billion (especially impressive because a few years ago that number was $0). Expect to see those trends continue: By 2017, social media ads may account for a full 16 percent of all digital ad spend globally. Fueling the growth: a host of new tools that let small businesses design and pay for social media ads in a few clicks—simplifying a process that was once the exclusive domain of high-priced media buyers.

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