2016 in digital

As another year draws to an Auld Lang Syne-singing, Big Ben-chiming end, it’s time to reflect on what has happened over the year in the world of digital. It’s been another year of social media evolution, with the digital landscape continuing to take a leap forward. Both WhatsApp and Snapchat have had a big year, with updates that have changed their offerings significantly.

Ross Tyson, Account Executive at Freshwater, takes a look at some of the biggest stories of the year and the effect they’ve had. 


If any platform can be described as “the” platform of 2016, it was Snapchat. Snapchat was launched in September 2011 and, as of September 2016, has an estimated 150 million daily active users. The app was built on a simple premise of users sending pictures or short videos to one another, the media then disappearing instantaneously. Like MSN Messenger, MySpace and Twitter before it, something struck a chord with the public and its popularity soared.

A lesson Snapchat has taught brands in 2016 is to innovate constantly. “Filters” allow users to customise their face, voice and surroundings and are refreshed often so there is always something different. Additions since its inception include a chat feature and 2016’s introduction of the ‘memories’ feature and show the brand is looking to become the go-to social media channel for communicating with friends, rather than a niche app to use alongside Twitter and Facebook.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so at Snapchat HQ they’re sure to be blushing. Instagram introduced ‘stories’ this year, a feature that allows users to post a series of snaps, which expire, and more recently Facebook has released a series of camera features, which bear more than a slight resemblance to Snapchat. It will be very interesting to see if and how Snapchat stays ahead of the curve in 2017.

Further reading

Instagram and WhatsApp for Business

There are two certainties on social media – one is the presence of cute cats, the other is the presence of marketing. 2016 saw major marketing changes on both Instagram and WhatsApp, with the brands introducing new ways for businesses to connect with their audiences.

Businesses have always been able to showcase their products on Instagram but slight amendments to the app mean they can now turn these posts into ads, thanks to the targeting, analytics and algorithms of its big sister, Facebook. A contact button also allows consumers to get in touch with a business directly.

A slightly more controversial decision was the one made at WhatsApp. WhatsApp is an instant messaging platform, it’s not public facing and doesn’t feature a “timeline” or “wall” like Twitter or Facebook, so when news broke in the summer that businesses would be able to contact you through WhatsApp, the reaction was mixed. Some felt private messages would be invasive, while others considered the convenience of instant messaging business in regards to their orders and offers. The stage has been set, so it will be interesting to see how the first full year of marketing innovation goes for these two social giants.

Smartphone game icon. Go symbol.Pokémon Go

The cliché ‘an overnight sensation’ is truly an apt description of Pokémon Go. For the few of you who don’t know, Pokémon Go is an augmented reality mobile game that drops 90s sensations, Pokémon, in various spots across the globe. In its first week, it became the most downloaded app on the App Store within the first week of release, and by 13 July the app reached 15 million global downloads. In the summer of 2016, you could rarely take a stroll without encountering herds of Pokémon trainers in parks and local landmarks.

The game, however, had a finite lifespan and many fans eventually gave up. By mid-September, almost 80% of its players had left. Themed Halloween and Christmas events were set up to boost user numbers and belatedly, brands are now officially partnering the game. However, the candle that burnt so bright seems to be flickering, with no realistic chance of re-ignition.

Various lessons can be learnt from Pokémon Go; augmented reality can take off in a big way, a viral start doesn’t mean a long run; getting users to download your app is one challenge but keeping consistent engagement is another altogether. Tipped to have similar success, Mario Run is one worth keeping an eye on in 2017.


What digital trends have you noticed in 2016? Let us know on social media: @FreshwaterUK

Freshwater is a multi-channel communications consultancy that delivers diverse digital and social media marketing campaigns across a range of sectors.


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Impact Report 2017

Impact report 2017