Social media is a key strategic communications tactic to engage your target audience. It is also the most rapidly evolving communications tool.

Staying on top of social media trends is a priority for any smart communicator. It helps ensure that you are most effectively and efficiently leveraging opportunities and overcoming challenges to reach and move your audience to action.

The new year is a great opportunity to take stock of social media trends in order to shape an informed strategy that optimizes your efforts and resources. We are here to help.

Check out our top five social media trends and how you can make the most of these opportunities in the months ahead.

Video or Bust

Video has begun to dominate social media platforms near and far, and this trend will only grow as we move into 2017. Facebook is one platform that is betting big on video next year, as Mark Zuckerberg has put together a video-first strategy based on the prediction that Facebook will be exclusively video within five years.

The turn to video is good news for many organizations that have struggled to achieve wide organic reach on platforms like Facebook that put highly engaged posts higher up in users’ feeds. Video has higher engagement rates than any other type of content. Photo Facebook posts average 53 percent more engagement than text posts, but video posts average 62 percent more engagement than photos.

If you haven’t taken the plunge into video, the new year is the time. While 2016 was the year of live streaming on social media—including Facebook Live—look out for many new opportunities to leverage video in the new year. Facebook plans to roll out 360-degree video, a Snapchat-like camera option that could quickly outpace the text box for status updates, and a video tab for users seeking to scroll through videos with ease. No matter what option you choose, be sure to make the most of the opportunity by creating shareable videos that provide something useful, tap into emotions, and tell a good story.

Content Customization

As more people use multiple social media accounts on a daily basis, users saturated by media look for different experiences on each platform. Facebook and Instagram are the two fastest-growing platforms across age groups, and Americans now spend 20 percent of mobile time on these two sites.

A recent survey of Facebook and Instagram users helps organizations make the most of that time by mapping what users seek on the two platforms. People often spend time on both platforms each day. But they use Facebook to maintain and build relationships with friends and family, while they use Instagram to get inspired and discover new places.

In the new year, it will be important to customize the content you post on each social media platform in order to create a strong community of followers by providing them with the content they seek. We recommend conducting audience research of your own to inform custom content strategies for each platform.

The Snapchat Effect

The video-messaging app Snapchat continues to surge in popularity, and it’s becoming one of the best ways to reach and engage younger audiences. It now reaches 41 percent of all adults ages 18-34, and a quarter of its 150 million daily active users are under age 18.

Beyond its incredible growth, Snapchat is also beating all other social media platforms at engagement. Some say the viewing rate of Snapchat content is around 90 percent — astronomical when compared to average Facebook posts’ reach of 2.6 percent. Indeed, the app projects that it will reach 18 billion daily video views by May 2017.

Other social media platforms are taking notice of Snapchat’s popularity and high engagement rates, adopting features eerily similar to the platform. Instagram announced Instagram Stories, or collections of photos and videos in slideshow format, this year, mirroring Snapchats collection of Snaps called ‘Stories.’ Facebook has gotten in on the playful, interactive nature of Snapchat by launching Facebook Stickers. Instagram recently followed suit with stickers for stories. Just this week, Facebook launched a new group video chat feature that has playful Snapchat-style filters.

Social media platforms have begun to take the millennial trend of fun, interactive video to heart, and you should, too, in the new year. If you have younger target audiences, consider joining Snapchat to influence and engage millennials and generation Z. Otherwise, play around with the app to stay ahead of the trends on other platforms.

Check out the Prichard blog posts on Snapchat, which have been the most popular posts of 2016:

Engagement is Key

In 2016, post reach plummeted as more social media platforms adopted changes to the way they sort content. Facebook started to algorithmically sort top content back in 2015, and Instagram and Twitter followed suit this year. Instagram now puts the highest engaged posts at the top of feeds. Twitter, likewise, prioritizes content that has already gotten more attention. Facebook went through another change to its algorithm this year, prioritizing content from friends and family rather than organization and business pages.

These changes have dramatically reduced reach, but successful organizations are adapting by creating content that earns high engagement. Social media platforms reward content that earns engagement by placing it higher in your followers’ feeds. On certain platforms like Facebook, sharing is key because it directly expands your reach in followers’ networks. For other platforms, sharing with a comment is the best way to expand reach.

A recent study of Twitter found that encouraging your audience to add their point of view by commenting on the retweet increases reach and quickens momentum. A whopping 84 percent of videos with a high ratio of comments to retweets achieved broader reach. Comments motivate users to share content because they feel like they are part of a popular conversation or initiating an important discussion.

In 2017, creating content that users can’t resist is no longer an option—it’s a must. We also recommend adding strong calls to action tailored to each platform to encourage your followers to like, comment on, and share your content.

News You Can Use

Social media has become the newspaper of the future. A recent study by the Pew Research Center reports that 66 percent of users get news on Facebook. Another  study found that 80 percent of users take action after reading news on the site, and 59 percent talk about this news offline. Organizations would do well to build a social media strategy for 2017 that takes this trend into account.

For one, social media is a hot new tool for media outreach. As the majority of readers now get their news on social media, publishers are responding by growing their social media presence on a variety of platforms, from standards like Facebook and Twitter to newcomers like Snapchat and Instagram. We recommend leveraging this trend by building strategic relationships with media outlets that are also social media influencers across platforms in order to amplify the reach of your news coverage. Consider pitching a story to a key blog with a strong social media presence in your field to highlight your nonprofit’s news rather than putting all of your chips on a large print daily.

For social media strategy at large, consider how to connect your social media posts to local or national news to reach this highly engaged and news-hungry audience. Post-election, these users are increasingly vigilant about fake news, so make sure you are posting news from reputable publications so that your community knows you are responsive to this concern.

What do you think will be the top social media trends in 2017? Share in the comments below.