Digital Marketing in 2016 – what does the year ahead hold for digital media?

by Kenny Murray

Friday, January 8th, 2016

Peek into the crystal ball with the digital experts at our public relations agency

facebook logo reflected in a user's eyeIF WE REALLY had a crystal ball we wouldn’t be writing blog posts on digital marketing. Instead we’d have worked out the numbers on the most recent Euro Millions lottery and be enjoying the life of Reilly.

It’s fair to say we’re no futurologists here at Holyrood PR. But just because we don’t predict we can at least project. While it’s true that we can’t say what the digital landscape will look like in 10 years, we can make a few well-educated suggestions as to how it will shift over the next 12 months.

As the company’s resident digital and social media expert, what I can safely predict is that busy business people like you don’t have the time or inclination plough through over long treatsies about the future of social media.

So here is our quick and simple guide on what to watch out for over the coming year – it might just help keep you ahead of the competition:


 

1 – CURATED CONTENT

Public relations and photography by Holyrood PR in EdinburghThis will be the year when social media users really start to feel the power of curation.

The early promise was that you could follow anyone and everyone you wanted, including the brands and business that interested you. However, that early optimism soon turned sour as social media users ended up getting too much information.

That led to the rise of the algorithms, particularly with Facebook, which introduced complex programmes to help decide what users would and wouldn’t like to see. Unfortunately that also proved unpopular, with users missing stuff they really wanted and being served up stuff of no interest.

Happily 2016 promises to be the year when these platforms make real progress in starting to deliver the content that users really want to see. This article in Slate makes a great job of explaining the background of how Facebook is tackling the problem.

Across the board social media sites are beginning to curate content based on user behaviour – if you engage more with someone you’ll see more of their posts than someone you won’t.

What does this means for brands, you ask? It means your business will have to approach social media in much the same way that smart firms started to look at search engines a decade ago.

That was the point when everyone realised that success meant your website appearing on page one of a Google search and a massive new industry was born – Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Now your business will have to take a similar mindset on your social media content – optimising it for readers and making it as share friendly as possible. That means that more than ever before, your business is going to need well-written, well researched and well-presented content that informs educates or entertains.

There is often a perception that SEO strategy is easy (actually it most definitely is not) because it’s writing content to be picked up by a computer. With Facebook using human testers and actual users to decide whether content is worthy of appearing on newsfeeds, increasingly only quality content will get through.


2 – PAY TO PLAY

A woman's hand holding a collection of bank notesIf 2015 was the year that business realised no-one was seeing their content on Facebook, then 2016 is set to be the year where they will start to pay handsomely to make up the difference.

Over the past 18 months business have had to come to terms with the fact that organic reach on Facebook fell off a cliff. Basically the social media giant started to throttle brand updates to serve people what they really want – news from friends and family.

In fact if your business in on Facebook, the chances are that no more than 10% of followers will now see your lovingly crafted posts and updates.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook can offer you a solution – you can still reach all those thousands of friends, fans and followers (and more besides) as long as you are prepared to pay for the privilege.

The savviest of businesses have already realised this and have been happily shelling out for Facebook’s very affordable advertising and promotional options. Those get your content in front of super-targeted audiences. You want to reach mums aged 25-35 who love custard creams – Facebook can probably manage it.

As more and more businesses cotton onto this, the costs of Facebook ads and promotions are likely to climb – so now is the best time to start making sure that you have experts on board who can help you navigate the system.

Likewise, the sooner you master Facebook’s pay-to-play options, the sooner you can steal a march on your rivals by testing out the paid options on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram Snapchat and others.


 

3 – SOCIAL COMMERCE

A young man using an iPad or similar tablet to shop onlineSocial channels are also introducing direct buy and donate buttons to pages so e-commerce transactions can happen directly on site and traffic doesn’t leave the site. A robust example of this is Facebook’s buy and sell pages.

Huge swathes of traffic leaves social channels to click on links for the likes of Gumtree, eBay and Amazon. Facebook spotted this and hastily set up a group function for buying and selling products or services.

It allows users to post products or services and a price, with haggling and debating taking place within the thread of the discussion.

This not only, cuts out the cost of a middleman such as Amazon or eBay but brings a sense of trust.

However there will undoubtedly be horror stories appearing, with users transferring money for goods never to appear or other crooks, counterfeiters and conmen trying to cash in.

So it’s likely that regulation will soon begin to appear – and with this the appeal of the service could diminish, making this an interesting area to watch.

Of course, it’s not all individuals buying and selling, soon you could be ordering pizza via Facebook or clicking to order a new t-shirt printed with a photo you like from your Instagram feed.

This means that promoted content (where businesses pay to have their information given prominence on Facebook) is also likely to grow in importance as brands begin to see direct monetary value in having a social media audience.

This is currently being tested in the US and should appear in the UK, although some argue that people don’t browse Facebook to make purchases – Facebook must have data that says otherwise.


 

4 – VIRTUAL REALITY

A man wearing an Oculus Rift headsetWith Oculus Virtual Reality going live this year, it’s a certainty that a key aspect of digital evolution in 2016 will be virtual realit (usually referred to by those in the know as ‘VR’)

Facebook paid a cool $2 billion to buy the fledgling Oculus technology. The compan produces a VR headset which allows wearers to immerse themselves in a 360 degree experience whether it be as part of a computer game, a video or some CGI such as architect plans of a new development.

What would it be like to watch House of Cards while standing right in the action with Frank Underwood or being able to watch it in 360 degrees to see the reactions of his adversaries? That’s certainly what I’m hoping for that on a personal level.

A key movement for virtual reality could be how well it eventually integrates with with real world digital media – for example, allowing people to insert themselves into warzones where reporting is taking place or having a look at the holiday resort they’re looking to book.

That’s not going to happen for Scotland or perhaps even most of the UK in the next year – but it’s certainly something you should keep an eye on.


 

5 – LONG FORM CONTENT

The home page of online news site, BuzzfeedIf you’re any way familiar with Buzzfeed or other leading online news sites, you may be familiar with the term ‘listicles’.

This is a term used to refer to articles that are essentially shorty and punchy lists, such as “25 things you should do in Edinburgh” or “five  top reasons to hire Holyrood PR as an Edinburgh public relations agency”.

While this type of content helped transform Buzzfeed from a niche online site into  a bona fide, global news giant.

However, that expansion means it is now having to make room for higher quality reporting.

Indeed, sites like Buzzfeed are now producing real news repors from all around the world, with a large network of contributors and journalistically trained staff.

Other sites have followed its  example and we’ve seen an increase in real quality content – however this longer form isn’t reserved to news.

Twitter, which has always famously restriced messaging to just 140 charcaters, has announced it is  looking at the possibility of extending their character limit to 10,000.

While I think this s a horrible idea and would ruin the aesthetic of the platform, it does recognise the growing public appetite for quality, longer-form content.


 

So what does this mean for your business and how can Holyrood PR help?

 Social media platform are changing.  As these platforms emerged the more romantic social media managers insisted it was all about the “experience”. Now the various platforms are morphing into tools.

Tools for for communicating messages; tools for buying and selling; tools to allow people to find and do the things they want, despite the demands of increasingly busy lifestyles.

What it means is that it’s never been more important for your business to be producing quality content to share via social media – and to be totally on top of all the  latest best practice to ensure you are getting into the right news feeds and in front of the right people.

That’s where the expert public relations team at Holyrood PR can help. To find out how we can benefit your business, phone us on 0131 561 2244 or fill in the simple form, below and we’ll get straight back to you:

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Kenny Murray of Holyrood PR in Edinburgh, Scotland

Private: Kenny Murray

Kenny Murray is part of the expert PR team at Holyrood Partnership, an award-winnning Scottish public relations agency, which offers media relations, social media, photography, video, crisis management and PR in Edinburgh.

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