Let’s be honest, 2016 was a pretty freaky year. Brexit, Trump, celebrity deaths, Ed Balls on Strictly, fake news. It’s shaken a lot of assumptions and led to uncertainty in what people expect will happen next.
But life goes on.
As digital comms professionals, we’re in the business of trying to work out the direction things are heading and tell our client’s and company’s stories in more interesting, engaging ways.
Here’s what I’m expecting from social media and content, mostly seen through a B2B lens.
The decline of social media…
In Gartner-speak it feels like social media is in a ‘trough of disillusionment’ at the moment.
Think of your own streams, how much of it is ‘real’ vs what is highly automated spam content? How often are you using social media personally these days? More importantly do you know how much your targets audience use it?
It’s an extension of the attention economy. Busier than ever, more content than ever to wade through.
At least from a B2B perspective, I believe we’ll see a decline in interest mass broadcasting using social media – it needs to be more sophisticated than that to deliver results. At an individual level, we’re more likely to use private channels like WhatsApp and Slack.
Twitter and LinkedIn have plenty of problems to overcome. Not least, they’re completely outgunned by Facebook and outwitted by Snapchat.
The rise of influencer relations
In line with the fall of mass broadcasting, I’m expecting to see lots more interest in influencer relations – much more targeted communications aimed at end users and the people they listen to. In essence it’s word of mouth marketing, which old as the hills.
For me, influencer relations appeals because it’s much more audience targeted. It recognises purely targeting the end-user audience is a blunt instrument and working on the people who may sway that end-user audience can be highly effective.
What I’d love to see is the evolution of what it means to be an influencer. It seems that homing in on follower base size is declining, replaced by a focus on micro-influencers, who are more likely to have actual impact.
Decline of brand comms – rise of the individual
People have never been more sceptical of what companies, institutions and public bodies have to say. If brands have less currency with their audience, it puts a bigger focus on the people who carry the message.
After all, who do you place most trust in? People you know. People you have history with. People who won’t let you know.
This is a massive opportunity for individuals, especially business leaders who are good communicators and have a natural, authentic tone. This doesn’t mean gaming Twitter for retweets, but being more considered and thinking carefully about what’s being said and whether this supports your overall message.
More automation – but only if it’s intelligent
We’re all experience more intelligent tech, with the likes of Amazon Echo, self-driving (well assisted driving) cars and nest.
But from a marketing comms perspective, it feels like there’s a long way to go. Sentiment analysis, content automation, chat bots – they’re all early evolutionary from a marketing standpoint.
If you believe Hubspot’s Bryan Halligan, 2017 will be the year of the bot. The “marketing conversation” will become a human-machine conversation. I’m sceptical that we’ll see marketing bots routing leads to the right people in the next 12 months, but it’s the direction of travel. In the meantime, expect more human-to-human marketing.