Four Communications Trends for 2017

December 24, 2016
December 24, 2016 Stephen Davies

2016 has been a momentous year both technologically and politically. We may look back on it as a defining moment in what shaped the world for the next ten years.

In 2017 we’ll begin to see the effects of this new era begin to play out.

It will be an exciting time as emerging technologies make their way to the forefront whereas others will fail.

It will be an interesting time as technological and cultural changes surpass their traditional counterparts changing the landscape forever.

In 2017 I see four trends that will set the precedent for these coming years.

Virtual Reality tentatively becomes a reality

VR (virtual reality) has been around for decades. The problem up until now is that it hasn’t been very good. Previous VR incarnations lacked the processing power and the graphics to stimulate the masses into adopting it.

That’s about to change however thanks to the new consumer VR headsets now available.

Facebook owned, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR were all publicly launched in 2016. All of which are doing a push this Christmas to get it into the hands of avid consumers.

Most of these purchases will be by gaming aficionados. Currently most VR experiences are based around gaming with high price points but that will change.

Increasingly we will see immersive entertainment experiences available on these VR platforms.

Imagine immersing yourself in a West End show, a Paris catwalk or the Wimbledon final all from your living room.

Perhaps sitting on The International Space Station viewing earth with the family is more your thing. Or virtually going to a gig of your favourite band with a bunch of friends.

All possible via VR which of course isn’t as good as actually experiencing these things first hand but they’re the next best thing.

As a sidenote, if you think social media has made people more reclusive wait until VR comes of age.

Trend: In 2017 we’ll see an influx of news games for these new VR platforms. This will encourage brands to go beyond gaming to provide immersive entertaining experiences. Albeit tentatively.

The rise of Information Warfare

The US presidential elections this year predominantly played out on social media. For years people have predicted that social media would surpass traditional media to become the platform to win an election. This was the year that it came true.

It was a hard-fought election and the most gruesome in terms of tactics. The use of bots, fake news, rumour spreading and name calling made it the dirtiest election ever. As a result, the USA is still very much a country in strong disagreement with itself.

The election showed that there was a war of information. Sometimes this information was factual and other times it was not. Sometimes it was based on rumour and other times it was downright bizarre.

This information was used as artillery by both parties and their armies of supporters.

The information warfare battleground was fought out by disparaging tweets, Facebook post comment arguments, sharing of memes, sub-group social media activists, short and long-form video and so on.

Many of the most influential people in the election were not official party representatives or journalists. They were social media users who had built large platforms through their political activism.

Trend: This is just the beginning of a new kind of warfare. It will involve bots, fake news, sleeper agents, memes and rumour spreading. Thankfully no one dies directly from this kind of warfare but the repercussions of it can change the course of history. 

Artificial Intelligence remains childish

A.I. has been touted as having huge potential and could disrupt the world if it lives up to the hype. More sobering both Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking it could end the human race forever.

From a communication standpoint A.I. promises to deliver us intelligent chatbots, programs that can write news stories and even put us out of a job.

The problem so far is that current A.I. is not really intelligent at all. Deepmind can beat any human at Go and IBM Watson can dominate Jeopardy! Ask either one of them to play chess with you and without the programming to do so their ‘intelligence’ wouldn’t know when to start.

The current crop of A.I. require information programmed into it by a human. An A.I. programme can’t do any additional thinking for itself. A loose analogy is the current level of its intelligence is that of a small child. It requires everything doing for it.

A.I. will help us do individual tasks really well and likely much better than what a human can. Just don’t expect it to be able to think for itself anytime in the near future.

Trend: 2017 will see A.I. technologies help us to perform individual tasks such as writing basic news stories, photo identification and answer programmed customer service responses. Other than that expect it to remain with the intelligence of a small child… a toddler at best.

Social media becomes the dominant media

The rise of social media continues to impact all areas of life and work and has showed no signs of slowing.

The social media platform war was won a long time ago with the main (Western) players including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Twitter dominant and with very little competition.

Twitter is going through turbulent times but remains the most important social media platform for many people in the political and business spheres. I therefore remain optimistic on its future.

Moments, stories and live video are all the current darling functions of these platforms as they continue to innovate in order to keep their user-base content.

In 2016 we witnessed the US Presidential election being fought out predominantly on social media. Despite the vast majority of mainstream media being largely pro Clinton had little bearing on the result.

In 2016 we saw more budgets being allocated to social media across all industries and verticals, including the more traditional B2B space.

In 2016 digital advertising surpassed TV advertising for the first time cementing that when it comes to eyeballs the online world is where they’re heading.

Trend: 2017 will see organisations and individuals of all kinds doubling down on their social media efforts. More business budgets will be allocated to it, political parties will place more emphasis on it and individuals will see the need to develop their own professional profiles to stay ahead of the competition. 

Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

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