Content drives awareness and storytelling in the digital space, and with new content formats come more diverse options for engaging the public. As different formats gain traction, it is imperative to adapt and to try to stay ahead of the game, perhaps even by starting to test some of them. Regardless, it is worthwhile to understand what is happening so that you can better strategize the direction of your digital presence and storytelling.

With this in mind, I would like to examine some of the content trends to look out for in 2017. There are five content formats that will likely be popping up across social media and beyond.

I will be exploring these formats in detail in my upcoming posts, but I wanted to begin with an introduction to each.

Video

We know what video is, but we are going to see it used in broader contexts this year. We will also see new platforms and technologies for creating better video content.

Why is it going to be big in 2017?
Video has two key things behind its growth: consumer behavior and platform development.

We already consume a lot of video content, and it performs really well. For example, YouTube has reported that mobile video consumption increases by 100% each year. Moreover, that increased consumption affects consumer habits — 90% of viewers say that seeing a video about a product helps their decision-making process.

Platforms, particularly the big ones like Facebook, continue to develop new features and functions to enhance user experience and to make it easier to produce and share content. Facebook Live rolled out for the general public last year, and it will continue to grow massively this year. Facebook Live allows users to broadcast live videos while viewers comment in real time. Facebook also has an app that enables devices such as drones and professional video cameras to access the platform.

Additionally, online news services are — and will be — focusing almost exclusively on video. For example, NowThis News is a video-based news service designed specifically for mobile devices. Its website merely offers links to the various social media platforms that NowThis News serves. Of course, there’s also an app. Similarly, AJ+ produces content designed for social media and mobile devices.

Related articles
“The future of online news video”
“50 must-know stats about video marketing in 2016”

Audio

With the ongoing growth of podcasting, similar audio-based platforms will emerge and take off this year. For example, Facebook recently launched a new feature, Live Audio, that taps into the popularity of podcasting and audio content, and even Spotify stepped up its game by adding a lot of non-musical audio content for its users to stream.

Soundcloud is also a great example of an audio hosting platform, where anyone can share content and connect with fans worldwide. It is the equivalent of YouTube for audio formats.

Why is it going to be big in 2017?
As with video, there are two key aspects of audio that are facilitating its growth: ease of access and content quality.

Audio formats are easy to access and, because there is no visual component, can be listened to while driving, walking, or waiting. Often, audio can be stored locally to a device, so no Wi-Fi is needed. Additionally, there is a lot of quality audio content already available. This attracts and keeps listeners who want — and expect — more of the same.

Related articles
“Podcasting: fact sheet”
“The 5 key 2016 podcast statistics”
“Facebook Live Audio makes talk radio social, starting with the BBC”

Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality

Although these three terms are used interchangeably, there are differences between them.

Virtual reality (VR) requires users to wear a device on their head so that they can engage in an immersive experience that becomes their reality — a reality they can interact with.

Augmented reality (AR) is just what it sounds like — the real world but augmented with digital information. Pokémon Go is a prime example of AR. In this game, a “layer” appears on top of what your smartphone lens captures, and players interact with this layer. Some AR formats require users to wear a device, as with VR.

Mixed reality (MR) combines aspects of VR and AR. It allows users to see the real world but with virtual elements connected to reality.

Why is it going to be big in 2017?
These media are being developed thanks in part to funding from large tech companies. In turn, this is helping to drive the public’s interest in these evolving technologies, which have the potential to change how we consume and experience content. For example, the New York Times has developed its own VR app that allows users to experience events and stories. Rather than merely reading a story or watching a video, users can now immerse themselves into a different world — a world in which almost anything is possible.

Despite the hype, there are several challenges that need to be overcome, particularly with VR and AR. Consumers still have limited access to VR and AR because they require a device. Additionally, wearing a device for an extended period (e.g. more than 15 minutes) can cause motion sickness. Regardless of the format, there is still a dearth of quality content. It is hoped that ongoing investment can address this last issue and provide storytellers with the tools they need to create lasting and meaningful content.

Related articles
“What are the differences among virtual, augmented, and mixed reality?”
“World of Digital: The future of virtual & augmented reality”
“Virtual, augmented and mixed reality are the 4th wave”

Chatbots

Unlike other emerging formats, chatbots involve a different type of content: automated content. They provide opportunities for companies to reuse existing text-based content and some multimedia content, which can be built into the bot, on existing messaging platforms. Also, some bots, such as those run through Facebook Messenger or WeChat, can be setup to enable customers to make purchases.

Why is it going to be big in 2017?
Chatbots are part of trend toward the privatization of social media. They allow individuals to interact one-on-one with brands and companies without the public element traditionally associated with social media. With people spending more time on messaging platforms, chatbots are likely to become a greater presence in our online lives. They provide greater personalization for customers while addressing issues of scalability and the expectation for quick responses to enquiries.

Related article
“The complete beginner’s guide to chatbots”

Stickers, Filters, and GIFs

Stickers, filters, and GIFs add graphic and animated visuals to communications. For example, Bitmoji features elements of gamification in that it allows images and animation to interact during conversations. Also, by enabling users to tell a visual story, these formats can communicate greater emotional nuance than a similarly short text-based message.

Currently, stickers, filters, and GIFs are used primarily in private conversations, in both personal and professional contexts. As such, companies will need to develop a better understanding of these content formats, as well as the capability to use them. Otherwise, they may find themselves communicating in a different language than their customers.

Why is it going to be big in 2017?
Already huge in Asia, stickers and filters — as well as GIFs — will continue to grow in popularity in the rest of the world thanks in part to Snapchat and LINE. Within Snapchat, stickers and filters are already popular, but they are also evolving. As more people use them in this arena, they will start to appear elsewhere, and they will become more sophisticated — as will user expectations. The audience may come to expect stickers, filters, and GIFs as part of general communications. Additionally, there is an opportunity for monetization, particularly with stickers, through branding and merchandizing.

Related articles
“The emoji is the birth of a new type of language (no joke)”
“How journalists use Snapchat’s pencil stickers and filters to tell better stories”
“GIFs will rule the world”

Throughout this year, I will further examine each of these formats and explore how they are evolving and affecting how we communicate and create great stories.