When I first signed into Facebook I was amazed by how small the world had become. When I was more comfortable with Facebook, I joined Twitter. I noticed technology was becoming more human. Then the smartphone was added to the mix.

Today we are captivated by social media. It is impacting the way we work, socialise and play. But what are the social media marketing trends right now and for 2017?

Chatbots are changing our conversations

Chatbots are conversational agents designed to simulate intelligent conversation without a human being present.

In April, Mark Zuckerberg announced that third parties could use the messenger platform to create their own personal chatbot. Since then, their popularity has rapidly grown all over the world. Their prime functionality remains the same, and that is to improve real-time engagement.

Expiring social content

Attracting attention online is a battle between brands with big budgets and savvy marketers with little cash. The result? A lot of online noise and clutter. The challenge is standing out from the crowd and gaining attention.

SnapChat's main selling point is making content expire. This brought urgency to the content table. Visitors knew that they had limited time to read or view content before it disappeared.

Expiring content is now part of the evolving social media landscape. It's trending and the spurning of Facebook by Snapchat when they were offered a $3-billion buyout seems to have become personal. Social media is no longer an experiment or a game. It is big business.

Social media consolidation

In his book, Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia University, reveals that this pattern has been with us since the rise of the telephone in the 1800's. Social media is no different.

Facebook bought WhatsApp, Instagram, and Oculus Rift. Twitter paid for Periscope and Microsoft just acquired LinkedIn for $27-billion. As big enterprise moves into the social media landscape, the rules will continue to change. Control will be exerted and buying a seat at the table will become a high stakes game.

Organic social traffic gets harder

Earning attention in a digital world used to be straight forward. Brands earned it by growing likes on Facebook and followers on Twitter. But that is changing. Marketers should be optimising for search engines so that they rank on the first page of Google. Build email lists so you can reach your own audience.

Automation moves to mainstream

Marketing automation software platforms are now essential tools for any grown-up marketer. These are becoming smarter, more intuitive and cheaper to buy. If you aren't using one today or thinking about it then you may find your competition giving you a marketing wake-up call. Also ... it's costing you money.

Personalisation becoming a priority

As tools have become smarter and people's resistance to general advertising grows higher, the need for personalised and relevant content and advertising delivery becomes more important. Facebook re-targeting and adverts driven by identifying where you have been on the web and what your interests are, are becoming the digital advertising tactic of choice for campaigns.

Digital marketing automation also can provide the data and the tools to send the right content at the right time to the right customer. Relevance is king for catching a distracted eye and an online glance in a noisy world of data clutter.

The rise of the social influencer

The social web gave rise to global topic tribes. Bloggers created content on fashion, food, and thousands of other niche passions. They also built loyal followers and advocates on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. They constructed credibility and built trust on authentic content.

The influencers and thought leaders who have built reach globally are the new niche gatekeepers. Brands are now paying to reach their admirers and devotees.

Social media transforming business in a trust economy

Making a mistake or receiving a complaint in the past was behind closed doors. A telephone call, a letter or even an email discussion was a private and hidden conversation for most. But stuffing up in a world of social networks is like airing your dirty washing in a stadium. It's visible and sometimes viral. Uber rates the driver "and" the passenger. Don't drink too much and abuse the driver. Otherwise, you may be walking a bit further in the future. This visibility has been adopted from social.

Artificial intelligence and the rise of the robots

The rise of robots has been predicted since we watched HAL, in Space Odyssey 2001, in what was another world in 1968. In the decades since, we have seen the emergence of the personal computer, the Internet, social networks and the mobile smart phone.

LinkedIn uses AI to provide better job matching between business and candidate, Pinterest uses the intelligence of the robots to boost image recognition and search. Expect to see more of these technologies and trends emerge in digital marketing automation tools and beyond.

What are the implications of these emerging trends?

As marketers and entrepreneurs, we will need to let go of practices and tactics that are not effective as they once were. We live in a fast-changing world. We need to keep reinventing.

For more information, visit www.mediashop.co.za. Alternatively, connect with them on Facebook or on Twitter.