By Darren Gilbert

Although no one can predict with 100% accuracy what will happen in the social media world, those who work with it every day can make an educated guess.

Niche social media networks will gather momentum

While everyone should know about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, that doesn’t mean they are the only ones available. In fact, there is a platform for just about any interest or demographic out there.

For example, you have Dogster for canine lovers and Catster for feline fans. Then there is CafeMom for mothers; Dpadd for gamers or Survival Info for survivalists. There is even a social network for fans of David Hasselhoff. And no, that is not a joke.

As Gavin Coetzee, digital monitoring researcher at Newsclip points out, niche social media networks will emerge to serve niche market needs. In fact, they need to. “Think of Snapchat and the rise of ephemeral messaging in the last few years that emerged as a direct result of privacy concerns.”

This blossoming is good thing; it allows brands and companies to pinpoint their audiences.

2016 will be the year for social commerce

Social media advertising came into its own in 2015. What with Instagram finally joining Facebook and Twitter last year, social media has become a fertile ground for brands.

The next step from that is social commerce, and Will Smyly, director of Reach Social, believes 2016 is the year it happens. “Tech companies have been working hard to make selling on social media easier,” he says. “And I think 2016 is the year they will nail it.”

Of course, this does mean that brands need to take a look at their above- and below-the-line budgets, adds Smyly. This also means brands should seriously consider moving a bigger portion into social.

Coetzee agrees, saying that brands need to invest more heavily in digital advertising and especially in social advertising: “Users who are retargeted to are 70% more likely to convert.” Meanwhile, native ads that include rich media boost conversion rates by up to 60%.

Social media consumer service will only improve

Consumer service has always seemed a good idea on social media, points out Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, in an article for the Observer. After all, it gives you the opportunity to speak directly to complaints or queries.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s always been good. For Holmes, this year that will change. “In the latter part of 2015, both Twitter and Facebook significantly upped their customer service functionality,” writes Holmes.

Coetzee also sees the need for improvements, considering the stats of the amount of people turning to social media for help.

“An estimated 67% of consumers now tap networks like Twitter and Facebook for customer service,” he says. “Young consumers (18 to 29-years-old) are more likely to use brands’ social media sites for servicing interactions than for marketing.”

What are your thoughts? What else can we expect from Social Media in 2016? Tell us below.