As 2015 draws to a close, it’s time to peer into our crystal ball and see what the next year will bring in regards to social media.
This past year was all about ‘live video’. Apps like Meerkat, Periscope and Blab, brought video streaming to the masses thanks to smartphones, algorithms and (nearly) unlimited data plans. Apple named Periscope their ‘app of the year‘ and even Facebook now have their own version of live streaming rolling out over the next few months. I even live streamed my wedding earlier this year so that friends and family around the world who couldn’t join me in New York were able to experience the joy of young(ish), love.
Moore’s law, an observation within the computer sciences which states that technology doubles every two years, tells us that 2016 should bring something, even more, incredible. What will we be wrapping up, this time, next year? Virtual Reality? What about being able to high-five someone from across the world?
Nope. Our prediction is that this next year will be all about:
Voice? That’s right. It may seem like a step back from video streaming (after all….why would you just listen to someone when you can see them) but it’s also a far more logical area for the next big wave of social media services.
Take, for instance, podcasting. Podcasting surfed an unprecedented wave of popularity in 2015 with the release of Serial, a long-form investigation into the murder of a high school student in 1999. The professionally produced podcast is an offshoot of This American Life, also a popular podcast series, which is distributed by Chicago Public Radio.
“Podcasts have always been a successful category for us,” Apple said, adding that as far as mainstream recognition for the medium”, if there was a starting point, Serial is it.”
Serial has been downloaded more than 75 million times, and podcasting has seen a 5% increase in listeners over the past 24 months with that number expected to grow.
Podcasting isn’t the only way that voice has been gaining popularity. Apple’s iMessage platform, WhatsApp and Facebook have all rolled out voice messaging services to compete with their text offerings. Why? The rise of smartwatches, such as the Apple Watch, is presenting an opportunity for people to reply easily to messages and emails utilizing a quick voice clip from their wrist rather than pulling out their phone to type a lengthy paragraph or two.
So, why is voice so popular?
The proliferation of smartphones and tablets mean that people are easily able to access podcasts on their commute, in their car or at the gym. Add to this the fact that a podcast is relatively small regarding the file size (a podcast averages between 25-50mb per episode) and audiences can easily listen to a podcast wherever and whenever they want.
So, how is voice going to explode in 2016?
Podcast apps such as Stitcher, Overcast, and PocketCasts, have added a range of social sharing options over the past 12 months that many users will begin to take advantage of as they gain popularity. However, in my opinion, the biggest shift in voice will come when ZCast debuts in the next few weeks.
ZCast is the app you thought already existed but, for some strange reason, didn’t. It is, essentially, a live-streaming platform for voice. As we saw with Meerkat and Periscope, ZCast aims to bring a previously out of reach technology to the masses.
While it has always been possible, and relatively simple, to create a podcast series based on your chosen topic, ZCast gives you the ability to live stream your podcast directly into the smartphones and browsers of your listeners. It also allows your listeners to interact with you in real-time and provide feedback, questions and comments during your show. However, the genius of ZCast is the fact that it allows multiple users to engage in the conversation. What this means is that you can easily host an audio-only panel with multiple participants to a live audience. All of this ties in with your social networks that give marketers a great way to leverage all the platforms that they’re on.
When ZCast was promoted by Forbes recently, and, therefore, public knowledge to those outside of the beta (of which I am a part) I explained it to a client of mine. This client is in high-end Manhattan real estate (think $20-30 million apartments), and I instantly outlined different ways that she could promote her brand and her listings through ZCast.
“The audio aspect eliminates concerns over appearance before going live.” says Farhana Rahman, Director of Communications for ZULA, the creators of ZCast “listeners can join with the simple tap of a link, and are each given a voice as they comment and provide feedback in real-time.”
With 2015 coming to an end, we’re going to see the continued rise of Facebook as it reaches into new markets and increases its customer base. Both Meerkat and Periscope will continue to vie for new users as each seeks to maintain dominance of a market that is less than 12 months old. But, to me, the most interesting aspect of 2015 will be the reimagining of how we communicate with each other.