Digital trends for 2016; what's really important?
I'm not normally a fan of these posts, because everyone under the sun has *some* sort of opinion on what will be important next year. However, while writing up some thoughts for The Holmes Report on digital trends for 2016, I arrived at some fairly concrete conclusions for where I think we'll be focusing next year. And I'm keen to share to see challenges and builds.
1. Influencer relationships will change.
Stakes are so much higher now that the value of influencers has evolved from being largely PR-led, to ad-led and beyond. As such, these individuals know their own value – and are asking for fees to match it. Higher regulation, overuse of the same people and mistrust from consumers in the authenticity of influencer commentary means that using digital behaviours & data to select the right people to work with will become key in 2016.
The brand/influencer dynamic will also have to shift, and we’ll see smarter companies playing the role of enablers (empowering people with high levels of influence to use that in a responsible way, or to do the things they dream about) – rather than act as dictators of ‘coverage’.
2. Personalisation at scale will take more of a hold.
Better targeting functionality across all social platforms has already made it easier and cheaper to create campaigns that focus on smaller groups of people – be it based on location, personality or preference. For 2016, delivering different creatives to these groups, testing, learning and iterating quickly will become a more realistic thing to do for a larger proportion of agencies and brands.
3. Crisis management will become a core player at the marcomms table.
Because of the ease with which consumers now see branded activity across multiple digital touchpoints, immediately and often simultaneously, there is no differentiation between pace to place from a consumer point of view. They do not see (nor care) about departments or different teams. And when something goes wrong, they don’t distinguish between offline and online. Brand is brand.
The days of having crisis, marketing and customer service handled by disparate departments is long gone, and businesses must catch up. It’s no longer best practice; it’s business critical.
4. B2B is ‘B2B’ no more, as we’re in a B2H environment.
People don’t consume media according to their job title any more. They’re just as likely to catch up on the football scores on Facebook in the middle of the day as they are to read business news via Pocket at home. So B2B becomes B2H; business to human.
As such, ‘B2B’ brands must become smarter in defining their audiences, and picking which distribution partners to work with. LinkedIn is excelling in this space, with their Lead Generation toolkit proving to be efficient and delivering actual ROI. Their purchase of Lynda.com and the roll out of employee advocacy tool Elevate further strengthens their offer.
5. No new players, but possible disruption at the top
Platform-wise, the big guns are securely in place and we’re unlikely to see a ‘new player’ emerge from the West, but we should keep our eyes firmly on the growth of WeChat, QQ and QZone to see if they make direct moves to enter Europe and the Americas.
Twitter will struggle. We’ve seen a plateau in growth and the business is struggling to make money. While for PR, it is still a wonderful source of relationship building, from a scale perspective, that’s not the case.
Facebook’s numbers (especially when combined with Instagram and WhatsApp) are overwhelming, and continue to grow. 2016 will show us a sneak preview of what they plan to do with the combined data behind these three spaces. I hope they’ll do this responsibly.
6. The future of content is smart video.
That is, the combination of video and technology. Not just putting a video on a piece of tech, like YouTube, but actually joining the two together.
For me, this can be the creation of an interactive video online that you can explore, like Google’s work with RSA Films director Rob Blishen on Inside Abbey Road. It’s an exceptional piece of work.
Or, the combination of video and augmented reality tech. We’ll see the first real output of Facebook’s purchase of Oculus Rift in early 2016, which in terms of connecting social with brands to create immersive experiences, is phenomenally exciting for entertainment, sports, music brands and more.