How Social Media Will Change By 2020: An Informed Hypothesis on the Future of Social - Social Media Explorer
How Social Media Will Change By 2020: An Informed Hypothesis on the Future of Social
How Social Media Will Change By 2020: An Informed Hypothesis on the Future of Social

When social media platforms first started to emerge in the mid-2000s, they served a very specific purpose; they were opportunities for individuals to claim some sort of personal presence online and connect virtually with others attempting the same level of expression.

Today, social platforms are starting to expand their horizons. Now that robust social advertising systems are available to businesses on almost any popular social media platform, these platforms have both the means and the incentives to make their platforms as functional, useful, and cutting edge as possible.

Already, we’re seeing the emergence of radical shifts in the social media world, and by 2020, we’ll be fully realizing the dawn of a new era of social media. Here’s how we see Social Media in the not too distant future of 2020.

The Resurgence of In-App Purchases

By the end of 2020, this will be commonplace and widely used. But at the halfway point of 2015, it’s already here. Facebook currently offers advertisers the ability to add instant purchases to their advertising. Essentially, they can slap a buy button onto the bottom of their in-Facebook product ads and hope for users to buy the products directly (rather than going to the online store first). Pinterest just

Essentially, they can slap a buy button onto the bottom of their in-Facebook product ads and hope for users to buy the products directly (rather than going to the online store first). Pinterest just came out with something similar, just a little more robust and universal in terms of its overall functionality.

Rather than being limited to ads, almost any pin on the platform can be fitted with a buy button, and since Pinterest users are prone to buying things anyway, the relationship seems perfect. It won’t be long before other social media platforms catch onto the trend and start offering their own forms of purchasing—pretty soon the majority of online purchases might be done exclusively through a social channel.

The Advanced Search of your Dreams

In-app searches have never been out of place—Facebook offers easy abilities to search your own news feed, and the hashtag itself was invented out of necessity for a way to quickly organize and find socially transmitted information. But the realm of social search is already expanding, and by 2020, it will evolve into something that could revolutionize how we conduct online searches.

For example, Facebook has already developed its own web-wide search algorithm—currently, it’s only being used to help posters find the articles they had in mind for their updates, but with a little more fine-tuning, it could roll out to the entire app. Essentially, users could get the full functionality of a Google-style search engine (and maybe even a web browser) without ever leaving the app.

Deeper Integration With Other Apps

Facebook is leading the way in this regard, offering integration opportunities for almost every other mobile app capable of exchanging messages. Rather than ignoring the competition’s ability to connect multiple people, Facebook is taking advantage of it. Other social media platforms will inevitably do the same, to an extent based on what functionality is most important to their users. Social platforms will not be as rigidly defined as they are today, and in a few years, they may blend into one seamless experience with multiple facets, the way a mall can collect and display a number of individual stores in one location

Aggregated News and Content

Twitter is still experimenting with its relatively new project called Moments, which aggregates live user video feeds and update information into chunks based on live events and real-time unfolding news. Essentially, it works as a crowdsourced portal into real-life events as they unfold, eliminating the delay and personal biases of traditional journalism. Content, derived from emergent natural-language-based algorithms, may one day be automatically compiled and produced the same way—Facebook is already taking the first step in this area with its Instant Articles feature. Within a few years, it’s not unrealistic to think that our social feeds will be filled with news and content pieces that have been automatically assembled.

Predictive, Individualized Results on a Micro-Scale

Social platforms try to cater to us as individuals the best they can, and they even grant us options like filtering, blocking, and rating so we can better control what we see in our news feeds. Tomorrow’s next-generation social media platforms will take this to the next level by systematically learning our preferences and issuing predictive results based on information and events unfolding in the world around us. Of all the possibilities listed here, this is the least developed and most sophisticated, but I still anticipate it showing up in full force within the next five years.


If these five new social media standards aren’t commonplace by 2020, they’ll at least be on their way to popularity by then. Facebook may soon become a “social media platform” in the same way Google is now a “search engine”—it technically is, but describing it only as such is a limiting description that ignores its full range of capabilities.

In any cases, technologists, consumers, and even advertisers have much to look forward to as this new era of social media develops. Stay ahead of the competition by watching for developments, experimenting with new releases, and adapting quickly to the changing tides.

About the Author

Larry Alton
I'm a full-time freelance writer and business consultant. With over 7 years of experience providing strategic consulting to companies ranging from Fortune 500 firms to small, locally-owned shops. A featured columnist for some of the world's biggest brand-name publications, I bring a diverse perspective on issues I write about. I'm also a current columnist for a variety of different publications, including,,,,, and


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