Digital & Social Media Trends

Digital is constantly evolving. Long-term predictions are tied to technology trends, and short-term ones change as new ideas emerge on the best way to reach target audiences… to build better relationships… to find the tipping point for conversion. This post is the result of disseminating hundreds of source pages and hours of video, from agencies and businesses around the globe. It has been distilled down to a core list of digital trends and trends specific to social media, but let’s start with the broad view, move on to some relevant “trends” we saw last year, and then let’s see how the digital industry is predicting we will be over the next year.

Reports/Articles:
Econsultancy & Adobe Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing: 2014 Trends
Millward Brown Multi-screen global marketing trends
Forbes Digital Trends and Predictions from Thought Leaders
Forbes Top 5 Digital Trends for 2014
33 Digital and Hotwire Digital Trends Report 2013 & 2014
Experian The 2014 Digital Marketer
Emarketer Key Digital Trends for 2014 Webinar/Slides (December 2013)
Three Digital Marketing Trends for 2014 and Beyond Slides (December 2013)
Oxford economics – digital megatrends 2015
Gencom Technology – digital media trends 2015
Top Raqnk Blog 21 digital marketing trends 2015
The major marketing trends and challenges for 2014/2015 Slides
Forrester Predictions 2014: B2B COMs Will Juggle Data, Brand, and Organizational Investments
Forrester Predictions 2014: B2C CMOs Embrace the Post-Digital Landscape
Which Social Networks Should You Care About in 2014
New Trending Social Networks 2014
14 Digital and Social Media Marketing Trends for 2014
Social Media Trends 2014
Social Media Trends (from 2013) Infographic
The seven social media trends dominating 2014/2015
What Will Social Media be like in the year 2015?

Videos
Latest Digital Marketing Trends – State Of Digital Marketing 2014 – Stan Ventures
2014 Digital Marketing Trends
The sci-fi future is almost here: Marketing in 2015
The Future of Online Digital Marketing 2012 -2015
Digital Marketing Trends For 2014 And Beyond
Social Media Marketing Trends for 2014
Essential digital marketing trends for 2014 – Digital Bites

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In December 2010, Oxford Economics conducted a study to predict trends through 2015:

2015-trends

In December 2010, Oxford Economics conducted a study to predict the trends through 2015. Oxford predicted that these four digital megatrends are going to reshape business.
1) It should be no surprise to see mobile up there. They spoke of both the growth of mobile usage by the customers/consumers, as well as by the workforce for productivity.

2) Business intelligence encompasses the consolidation of all the data on customers, competitors, and the industry/global landscape. The growth in this area is for real-time data to help understand customers and make strategic decisions.

3) Cloud computing is taking on a critical role allowing for more economical investments in technology. You’ve probably also heard it labeled as Software as a Service (SaaS). IT’s acceptance of using the “cloud” has evolved quite a bit in this time period and the workforce does not notice a difference.

4) Social media should also be no surprise, but in the industrial space they predicted the most value from internal social networks and could only see the deep value of social communication with customers for the consumer market. You’ll see as we go through detailed trends that it is always hard to predict where social will go.

Survey demographics
This global survey of 363 business executives was conducted in December 2010. Of
the respondents, 19% hailed from the US, 20% from the UK, 15% from India, 14% from
Japan, and 8% each from China, Brazil, Mexico and Australia. The survey represented
a broad range of industries, including financial services (26%); manufacturing (19%);
technology, information, communication and entertainment (18%); retailing and consumer
products (15%); and life sciences and healthcare (11%). More than half (52%) of
respondents worked at firms with revenues of more than $1bn; 25% had revenues of
$500m to $1bn; and 23% had revenues under $500m. About 46% held c-level titles; 27%
were senior vice presidents, vice presidents or directors; and 27% were heads of their
business unit or department.

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To make this relevant, let’s look at a few trends we saw come true online in 2013.

It’s a tenant of User Experience designers everywhere, but in 2013 we saw a consistent user experience on all channels become mainstream. This includes things like websites, mobile, social, email marketing, in-store or event kiosks. Market leading companies have invested heavily in this, building templates for all types of digital interactions, with activities taking place throughout these companies to bring consistency as digital products are redesigned or new campaigns are launched.

Interactive television continues to evolve, but last year we saw many “two-screen” experiences with microsites for TV shows gaining popularity and the push for social interaction as episodes unfold.

With the popularity of social networks in daily life, businesses capitalized on leveraging social media internally to improve productivity. Technologies like Yammer and Jive led the way.

Facebook continues to have the highest levels of daily user engagement, but Instagram took second place in this stat, passing Twitter in third place.

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Digital & Social Media Trends from 2014-2015

Let’s discuss more specific digital trends that are happening now and predicted to grow even more over the next year. These trends have been grouped into five categories: Data & Content, Mobile, Process/Operations, Search, and Social Media.

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Data & Content

  • Variety of data-driven insights
  • Brands share the customers’ stories
  • Real-time content marketing

Trends related to data and content.

Data-driven insights are not new, but there is a shift from data volume to data variety. Data is coming from non-traditional sources like suppliers and complementary businesses, in addition to directly from customers. Lowes has recently created a data sharing portal for their suppliers that allows them to glean ongoing insights from a key audience, to not only help in engagement with suppliers, but engagement with customers.

Content has always been a key part of digital and that will never change. The trend is to tell stories that center around the user and not the product. Instead of saying X customer used X product or solution and did, this, that, and the other thing; have the customer be the voice of their own story with X product or solution in the background.

This is also driven from data, but there is a boost in real-time content marketing which references what is actually happening in the real world to create the most relevant content. The best example of this came before it even was a trend in a social ad that Oreo did about dunking the cookie in the dark when the lights went out at the 2013 Superbowl. It was timely, original, and shareable.

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Mobile

Mobile optimization of social channels
TV’s two-screen experiences evolve
Wearable technology goes mainstream

Mobile trends.

Social networks are optimizing for mobile device usage. The newest social niche tools like SnapChat and Pheed, and still relatively new Instagram and Vine, were born for mobile devices. Others like Facebook, have been doing more to adapt to improve the user experience and to make mobile advertising available for business.

TV’s two-screen experiences have evolved to leveraging mobile and other second-screen devices to follow along with synchronized content instead of just a microsite. AMC has done this well with “story sync”. If you haven’t seen this, the sync gives deeper insights into characters and locations in the stories while you are watching. Instead of just showing a twitter hashtag on a show, social campaigns actually influence reality shows, like voting results on NBC’s The Voice where twitter voters decide who to “instantly save” in the live shows. I’ve seen this translate somewhat into the business world with questions being tweeted to a presenter at a conference – a change from the traditional Q&A style.

Wearable technology, termed “Wearables” goes mainstream. This has been in the lifestyle market for some time, with Nike fuel band, FitBit, and Jawbone allowing you to easily monitor aspects of your health and fitness. There’s also been futuristic visioning with Google Glass, but the much anticipated iWatch is coming from Apple soon. With Apple’s history of great user experience, digital enthusiasts are hoping they will crack the code on usefulness of wearables. We don’t yet know where this trend will lead, but it is the ultimate mobile device.

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Process/Operations

Customer experience optimization with agility
Crowdsourcing expands business resources

Process/Operations-related trends.

Customer experience optimization of digital experiences, with an agile mindset, is a key trend to get closer to customers, using analytics for quick decisions and experimenting with new ideas.

Crowdsourcing becomes a standard practice to expand business resources.

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Search

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) with conversations, mobile speed, & visuals
SEM (Search Engine Marketing) with dynamic ads and remarketing

Search trends.

SEO, Search Engine Optimization, has often been led by Google’s trends and they have moved to conversational search. Instead of focusing on ranking with keywords, Google’s new algorithm looks for the best answer to the user’s question – whatever question they ask. This switch has changed 90% of rankings and SEO will become even more important in a content marketing strategy. Mobile site speed impacts rankings, with those pages that load in under 1 second getting the best placement. Visuals are also getting better search page real estate in Google which I think is actually a response to Bing’s user experience as it grows in market share. I will mention this in the social trends, but Google+ & YouTube play their parts in SEO as well.

SEM, Search Engine Marketing, is seeing the growth in dynamic ads where the title of the ad changes to be more relevant to the search. There is also a lot more remarketing/retargeting, where return visitors are getting different ads when they return to the search page or to a website that is part of Google’s Display Network which includes 2 million publishers.

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Social Media

Google+ is a must
A/V content is critical
Social advertising budgets increase
Twitter is key in PR

Social media trends.

There is no longer a choice for companies to join Google+ , as Google is leveraging social signals to help with relevancy in search results. Facebook and Twitter also give off social signals, but Google+ obviously has clout.

A/V content is critical. Visual content is the biggest trend in social media right now with Instagram and Pinterest usage by businesses growing (and Snapchat growing for personal use, as Snapchat users share visual content with an expiration date). Micro-video has gained speed since last year with Vine leading the genre, and Google + Hangouts and Instagram joining in. (Side note on SEO: In addition to any presence on Google+, YouTube still garners SEO rankings, as it is owned by Google.) Podcasts grow in popularity as it is easier for listeners to multi-task when listening to a podcast.

There are larger budgets for social advertising, especially with advanced targeting available. LinkedIn’s targeting for sponsored updates was released earlier this year and has a wealth of target criteria, even letting you target your audience by preferred language.

Twitter is the “newsroom of the future” and it is important to bring back the tweets that will interest journalists. (This is vastly different than the strategy advised a couple years ago where it was recommended not to push press releases in twitter because it would not engage the masses.) To make twitter a newsroom, you have to think beyond the press release though, and we have to find a balance in twitter to engage the journalists in the brief time they have to write the story, to tell our stories to the various audiences, and to have grass roots/organic engagement from the employees.

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How can you apply these digital trends to your projects?

As with any campaign, we need to understand the audience (customer, employee, press) and then create the most relevant content (text, photos, infographics, videos) to engage them at the right time and place.
Are there new sources for this intelligence?
Is the audience leveraging mobile devices? How?
Is the audience leveraging social networks? Which?
What content will be most engaging?

You may already have been caught up in the movement of digital and used some of these trends to make your campaigns more effective this year. If so, please do share your examples here.

Here’s some guidance if you are just getting started in digital and want to know how you can apply these digital trends to your projects.

Search-related trends are self-explanatory, as we have to work on optimization for the most current search approach and take advantage of the methods employed in search advertising. After we determine who we want to reach and what our goals are for our campaign, other trends can be taken into advisement or inspire new ideas. For example, should we give customers a two-screen experience at the annual meeting during break outs with synchronized content that goes beyond the presentation?

With any campaign, we need to understand the audience, whether that is our customer, an employee, the press, or any other target audience we have, and then create the most relevant content which can be conveyed through text, photos, infographics, and videos to engage them at the right time and in the right place.

I mentioned the trend about data – are there new sources we can use for understanding the audience? Are we fully leveraging the sources we have?

Is the audience mobile? With employees, would mobile communications make them more productive? Do field engineers need content fo

r customers optimized on a mobile device, or tools that are mobile-friendly? Will customers leverage mobile ecommerce?

Is the audience leveraging social networks? Are customers gathering in small groups in LinkedIn? Are we tweeting the right information to make it easy for press coverage? Would a facebook page be the best place to engage the community we are in?

And last, but not least, what content will be most engaging for the campaign? Once you know where you are most likely to reach your target audience, and have figured out the right time to do it, creating an infographic, which is highly shareable may be the best content to leverage on LinkedIn, where a case study from the customer’s perspective may be most valuable on the website. It’s not just converting content for the different platforms, though, it is telling the story in the right way for the medium.