Technology continues to evolve and change the way we live. Just 10 years ago, there was no need for social media managers or uber drivers. Fast food restaurants didn’t offer delivery with third-party services like GrubHub and DoorDash. We have technology to thank for all kinds of new job opportunities and conveniences. As we round out 2018, let’s take a look at how technology will transform social media over the next five years.

1. Social Media will Be a Tool for Product Research and Discovery

Research from GlobalWebIndex shows nearly half of internet users are following brands they like or thinking of buying something from. While search engines and online reviews are still a primary source for product research and discovery, social media is beginning to catch up, and will eventually surpass search engines.

As more businesses focus on crafting targeted audiences of potential customers, they are finally learning not to buy Instagram followers in an attempt to trick the social platform into believing they are more popular. Soon, we can expect that trend to die completely as more platforms, Instagram especially, are cracking down to get rid of the fake accounts to make a better user experience for everyone.

2. Social Commerce Will Continue to Grow

Most customers are primarily using mobile devices when online. Video is much easier to use to learn about products, and companies are already starting to experiment with what the shopping experience looks like for the “social video generation.” Brands like MikMak are turning to short form product videos, centered on fun, to convert their social media followers to buyers, More companies are likely to follow in their footsteps to create a shorter path between brand awareness videos and purchases on social media.

Instagram, for example, already allows businesses to build digital storefronts with video and visual content - and we can expect social media’s role in ecommerce to become stronger in the coming years.

3. Passive Networking Will Grow in Popularity

Worldwide, consumers spend about ⅓ of their time online on social media. But as people spend more time on the platform, we’re seeing a shift away from treating these platforms like personal diaries where they share anything and everything and more toward passive activities such as watching videos, sharing content to connect with friends and family, and just killing time in general.

It could be a growing concern about data privacy and keeping as much personal information offline as possible, or it could be just a desire to live a more private life and use social media for fun. Video is great for social media because you can use it to listen to music, listen to sports broadcast commentary, learn about products for sale, and more.

To prepare, focus efforts on learning how to create high-quality videos specific to your audience. Social videos can boost your traffic, but chasing that traffic and trying to stay up to date with ever changing social algorithms will never be the way to learn. According to Stern School of Business professor Scott Galloway, “Only Facebook and Google can monetize traffic at scale. Everyone else needs to build a group of loyal followers.”

4. More Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in Marketing

In the coming years, we’ll see more practical uses for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in marketing. Amazon is already exploring how to use AR technology to help customers try on clothes and try other products before committing to buy.

Snapchat is also paving the way with the use geo-filters and Lens features to create location-specific videos to influence customers that are nearby to attend events or visit certain store locations. We can also expect all the major social messaging platforms - Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and others to use AR in an effort to increase advertising revenue.

5. Even More AI Expansion

Over the past few years, we shifted from a desktop-centered world to a mobile-first world as we noticed mobile internet traffic surpass desktop traffic. And now, it looks like we’ll be shifting away from mobile-first to AI-first, according to Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google.

And according to Gartner, it’s estimated that by 2020, 30% of all B2B companies will use AI to augment at least one of their primary sales processes.

When you consider how much influence algorithms already have on our digital lives from the content we read, to the products we discover, where we go, and what we do, it’s no real surprise we’ll see it expand to encompass more than chatbots and predictive analytics.

To get ready for it, look into the tools that are already using AI for better marketing, such as MarketMuse and Conversable. MarketMuse uses AI to build better content and enhanced SEO strategies, while Conversable aims to make it simpler for brands to automate experiences with voice and messaging channels.

No one knows exactly what we can expect social media to be in 2023, but current available data suggests we’re getting ready to go to some pretty cool places thanks to technology. All you can do right now is keep up with the trends, and continuously adapt your strategy accordingly to be ready for whatever may come our way. As long as you keep your customer at the forefront of your mind and create content that keeps them happy, you’ll be ready to tackle anything.