10 Digital and Social Insights for the Year Ahead

wadds-digital-trends-010517It’s that time of year when we reflect on the past 12 months and look ahead.

At the end of last year we published Trends 17. It’s a view of the year ahead from subject matter experts and our Mindfire network of entrepreneurial students.

I’ve dug deeper into digital and social media, and asked colleagues from around the world what we can expect in 2017.

There’s a mix of research, influencers, storytelling, paid media, new forms of media and disruptive workflow…

RESEARCH

1. Data disruption demands more human approach.
How we analyze and capture insights from data is evolving. In 2016, the outcome of the US presidential election, Brexit and Facebook’s reporting mistakes all demonstrate that we can’t blindly trust data. In 2017, a human interpretation of data will be paramount. Executives will expect a deeper understanding of metrics and mechanisms of data science to ensure strategies are guided by reliable insights. Marketers will need to use scientifically credible methods to prove the validity of their conclusions through qualitative and quantitative analysis and invest more time into understanding platform-specific analytics and the hidden messages behind the numbers.

Alex Bochner, U.S.

2. See what I’m saying.
Consumer sentiment will continue to become more visual and specialized in 2017. The growth of Facebook Reactions offered one-click to convey multiple feelings. This provides deep insights that I expect other platforms, like Twitter, to emulate as competitive offerings. Additionally, the age of personal theater will permeate social media with advances in Snapchat-esque filters for real-time videos. What someone is feeling will be expressed as diverse micro-moments with marketers offering ways to make them highly-branded. As a result, new visual intelligence tools will be vital for measuring success.

Ken Buraker, U.S.

INFLUENCERS

3. Power of micro-influencers vs celebrities.
Micro-influencers are everyday individuals that have built an online following, typically between 10,000 to 100,000 followers, thanks to their continuous hard work and knowledge around a specific subject matter. These individuals are seen as a trusted and authentic source of information. As a result, micro-influencers receive much higher levels of engagement compared to top tier influencers and celebrities. 82% of consumers claimed that they would highly likely follow a recommendation made by a micro-influencer. Unlike celebrities that charge big money, 90% of micro-influencers would charge brands less than $250 to create content. It’s a cost-effective solution allowing brands to tap into niche audiences.

Amaury Treguer, Australia

STORYTELLING

4. Video integrates offline with online.
Social live streaming is a huge topic for almost every social network in 2017. Instagram launched live streaming in December 2016, the NFL streams games on China’s Sina Weibo network, and Twitter will stream the Golden Globes red carpet in January. Live streaming is an easy accessible way for brands to share their offline activities with a broad public and integrate elements of your daily business life into the social world.

Philipp Schmidt, Austria

5. Virtual reality goes mainstream.
The average human attention span is now just eight seconds. Storytellers and brands alike are turning to immersive visual content to capture and hold people’s attention. Virtual reality (VR) is not just for gamers anymore – it sits at the intersection of education and entertainment, enabling realistic and immersive simulations of a 3D environment, often those environments where people couldn’t, shouldn’t or wouldn’t be able to go to in the real world. As VR glasses become more accessible and affordable, expect to see branded VR experiences flying off the virtual shelf.

Barri Rafferty, U.S.

PAID MEDIA

6. Algorithms for hire.
Social algorithms are for sale. Paid investment is required to promote content and keep ahead of news feeds. Breakthrough content and savvy back-end implementation skills are crucial. It’s critical to keep end goals in mind rather than with vanity metrics, along with the value in an efficient vs. pricier bidding structure. Know what you’re paying and playing for, and against, in the future of this ever-competitive social landscape.

Rachel Winer, U.S.

7. Making paid media connections.
Telling a brand’s story through paid media efforts isn’t just about the content or the ad metrics – it’s about the full user experience with the brand. To see this 360 degree view of a brand’s paid efforts, we must establish and analyze the connection between digital advertising and brand goals. Tracking the user’s first click to goal completion through website pixilation and Google account linking helps public relations practitioners tie paid efforts to website behavior. Audience insights gleaned from this can help place users in the marketing funnel and impact future paid media strategy, content and targeting. Fostering the connection between traditional public relations, paid media and website analytics is the future of the Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned (PESO) model.

Rachel White, U.S.

NEW MEDIA

8. Messengers and chatbots.
2016 was a year of messengers and 2017 will build on this trend. Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Telegram and others are developing new tools and features while companies are using them for marketing purposes. Many brands are using chatbots to connect with customers and help them with their need, or to create another channel of communication to a brand’s services: book hotels, order pizza or buy clothes.

Igor Chelotkanov, Russia

DISRUPTIVE WORKFLOW

9. Social networks crack the enterprise.
Companies are shifting away from email and intranet systems and towards enterprise social networks with the goal of breaking down silos, unifying organizations and engaging employees. Products such as Workplace by Facebook (Ketchum is an official Workplace service partner and has implemented the platform internally), Slack, Microsoft Teams and others reduce email and promote better collaboration across offices and business units. These social network platforms work well on desktops and mobile devices enabling various types of employees, ranging from factory workers to corporate workers on the go, to interact with their colleagues and share and receive timely information and knowledge.

Melissa Barry, U.S.

10. You never learn alone.
Learning evolved from lecture to experience and from content to practice. The best learning experience is a shared one, where you and others develop ideas and solutions together – or where you get answers for your learning gaps from others’ experiences. Get an idea, try it out and share your experience back – that is what makes learning communities thrive in an ever faster environment and where knowledge is crowd sourced. Our partner Nomadic, for Ketchum’s collaborative learning tools, has charted the evolution of collaborative learning.

Julia Menninga, U.K.

About Stephen Waddington

Stephen is a Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University. Chairman of Future Proof policy unit and Past President, CIPR. Author of Brand Anarchy and #BrandVandals; and editor and contributor to Share This and Share This Too. Connect with him on Twitter: @wadds