2013, you really were a year to remember. From the explosion of short form content and to wearable technology grabbing headlines, the numerous events that have happened just proved how change is the only constant in the industry we love.
This landscape is characterized strongly by evolution and transformation -- and technology has, very quickly, impacted and driven much of the digital behavior we have seen today.
Here's the context:
1. Mobile devices, for many, have become an irreplaceable extension of personal identity. When I did a quick poll of my audience at a keynote for Econsultancy's Digital Outlook, nearly 90 percent admitted to first checking their smartphone for updates before they brush their teeth.
2. There's a massive inundation of content and noise, and users becoming more acutely aware that there is a need to only engage with knowledge that matters. Content needs to be focused, frictionless, and agile.
Instead of grouping it as a generic trends piece, I've also decided to group it according to three key areas -- Content, Context and Advocacy. Content, together with Context, and how they can drive real Advocacy are the ways brands can communicate real value for users.
Why is it important to understand this context? It would be foolish to try and predict the future, and I can never profess that my personal predictions would be the absolute truth. Change is the only constant, and it is wiser to understand what are the drivers that characterizes the landscape that we see today.
2014 Trends for Content:
1. Social Intelligence Centers
We have heard of social listening centers created by brands such as Gatorade and Dell -- and we have heard of brand newsrooms with agile content teams for events such as the Super Bowl. Social Intelligence Centers as a concept is not new, but it is fundamentally important to create a virtual hub (not necessarily a physical location) which can combine the best of social listening, analytics, content amplification, content iteration and influencer mapping. This is an exercise that is not just exclusive to marketing, but should gradually evolve into covering other parts of the business such as recruitment, product development, public relations and customer service. It's about harnessing social capital to develop social intelligence, and ultimately grow social influence.
2. From Ego Analytics to Business Metrics
Marketers and brands are de-emphasising on vanity metrics, and re-focusing on baking social as a more meaningful layer across marketing plans -- through data capture, improving existing customer relationship systems and advocacy programs, or quantifying what "engagement" really means. Gone are the days of chaos, denial and hype. It's time to put back the purpose of what social and digital can do for business -- instead of chasing it through tactical campaigns and without a concerted, overarching strategy.
2014 Trends for Context:
1. Battle of the Feeds
We live in an age where we are inundated with different content feeds, providing short, sharp bursts of information that rewards the "pleasure centers" of our brains. 2014 will only signal the increasing importance of agile, sticky content creation as marketers attempt to win at this battle of content feeds. It's important to understand optimisation, have a clear content strategy and understanding each nuance of every unique platform to win. After all, it's always easier to buy eyeballs, but much harder to earn attention -- especially if you do not target the right user moments.
2. Micro Signals, Macro Possibilities
I do believe that the phrase "Social Media" will eventually phase out in the next couple of years as digital platforms which are inherently "social" become the norm. "Social Media" is not just about the platforms, but about people and conversations -- and being where people are. The ability to distinguish each micro signal from the rest of the digital "white noise" will translate to macro possibilities for brands. Capturing these possibilities and user attention on mobile devices -- the one touchpoint where most users are -- will be of paramount importance. Real time signals are sent every day by users -- and real time opportunities should be captured in these real time moments. How will you ensure that your content will be contextually relevant and in the moment?
2014 Trends for Advocacy:
1. Passion Points for Celebrities, Influencers and Advocates
2014 will be a year of driving advocacy, but it's more important to identify key passion points around your brand and showcase how your brand can be enablers of such passion points -- such as a telco brand in enabling passions around consumer technology, music, gastronomy and so on. This will tie in with an overarching content strategy (and defining key content pillars) while segmenting the digital population into clear modes of engagement -- identifying celebrities, influencers and brand advocates, and understanding who are content creators and/or social amplifiers.
2. If It's Not Relevant, It's Not Real
Driving hardcore advocacy is also about delivering brand experiences which are relevant and non-intrusive. You can't make real time marketing work if one hasn't planned out the actual content or engagement calendar of activity and understand how to make marketing "relevant." Planning (and owning) different moments along a user's digital journey to mine real time signals of context and intent will help bump up the relevancy of your brand's engagement with the user. Real-time user intent can be measured and addressed when one distinguishes the signals from the noise. At Twitter, we have a framework, #PlanForTheMoment, where we advise brands on how to maximize everyday, connected and live moments, and the preparation the brand can plan for depending on their readiness & resources.
I wish I can gaze into my crystal ball and give more answers, but the truth is, you can't really predict the future -- but you can understand what are the drivers that characterizes the landscape that we see today. The lessons from the past are our insights into the future for the landscape as it continues to evolve , shape and amplify our behavior, reactions and interactions with technology, marketing, and brands.
Note: This piece is the elaboration of a keynote I presented in late 2013 on what I believed would be key trends driving the digital landscape (particularly for Social and Content) in 2014 for Econsultancy's Digital Outlook Series.