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Social in 2017 – the trends and challenges

by AprilSix Proof

We recently joined in a webinar run by Hootsuite on social trends for 2017. The session gave us some great ideas about how we can fine tune our social media offering for clients this year, so we thought we would share some of the data with you in a blog, along with our own analysis on what this could mean for STEM organisations.

At the crux of Hootsuite’s 2017 social trends is the rising influence of social media. Data analysed from the 2016 GlobalWebIndex report on social media, supports this. It shows that whilst established channels like search, advertising and email are still prevalent, their use has plateaued. The use of social, however, is accelerating. 98% of online consumers (aged 16-64) have visited or used a social network in the last month. They now have, on average, eight social media accounts – twice what they did in 2012.

Even more interesting is the data around social as a tool for discovery. 37% of users will rely on social media to research brands or products, a statistic that grows as the user’s age decreases. In fact, half of all Snapchat and Instagram account holders will use the platforms to investigate products.

Given this data it is perhaps unsurprising that the much-hyped social commerce is also seeing encouraging signs of growth. The percentage of users to have made a purchase from messaging app WeChat grew 106% last year. Pinterest and Instagram have both reacted to this, unveiling new features designed to deliver more information to those researching features and looking to buy products.

Elsewhere “Dark Social” – networks like email and instant messaging that are difficult to track with traditional web analytics – are being used more to share content through the rise of mobile and messaging. This is particularly the case with younger users on networks like Snapcat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Kik. In order to capture this data content owners need to adapt. Time Inc noticed that content on its Marie Clare website was being cut and pasted via email four times more than through Facebook and Twitter. In order to capture this data the company built ‘share via email’ buttons and began tagging as social media in their UTM codes.

Finally, and perhaps most interestingly of all for AprilSix Proof and our clients is the trend of employee advocacy – how companies are utilising their workforces to build trust with stakeholders using digital. This has come about through the blurring of the lines between the personal and the professional when it comes to social media. Employees are now important digital advocates for the companies they work for, whether that is through influencing consumers, building trust with stakeholders or encouraging candidates to see the organisation as an attractive place to work. To benefit from this businesses need to increase the digital skills of their workforces, give them the training to be highly effective advocates and ensuring the company expands its reach.

For communications teams at STEM organisations, this means the policies and procedures need to be in place to train employees, upskilling their digital capabilities whilst ensuring there is consistency of communications and message delivery. This can be difficult, particularly for those working with researchers who are well versed in using their own networks for working collaboratively and sharing their results (such as through ResearchGate – the closed network for scientists and researchers to share their published work).

Communications professionals need to ensure that they are aware of how employees are distributing content or information that impacts on corporate branding, but need to do so sensitively. Policing social networks can only alienate staff, pushing them into using ‘dark social’ networks. Instead, working with employees to engage hearts and minds through a strategy that all staff feel they have contributed to and can buy into helps to ensure consistency and clarity of messaging whilst also preparing your people to be effective advocates for the work you do, and the products and services you supply. Working with an independent third party to deliver such a programme is even more beneficial. It enables the internal communications team to step back and present employees with external experts who know how to engage and encourage them on the benefits of a joined-up approach to social media. That is where companies like AprilSix Proof can help – all you need to do is ask.

If you have any questions about this blog please email