Another year has come and gone in the evolution of digital marketing. Some strategies that would’ve been considered absolutely crucial a year ago have now died, some former best practices have gone sideways, fading away to the virtual cemetery in the clouds. In the space of 52 weeks so much can change from the demise of Google authorship to the continued rise of video content and the decline of organic reach on Facebook. And now we are predicting what is on the horizon and looking forward to the digital marketing’s future in terms of the trends in 2015 which the brands should be watching. So where do you have to look? In anticipation of the next big change, what new skills will you have to cram up? For the new year, in terms of marketing planning, here are 3 things you should take into consideration.
Content Marketing is Still a Big Focus
Content Marketing came forward in 2014 and was exactly what all business yearned for in order to be taken more seriously. It all began in the middle of 2013, when Google launched their “Hummingbird” algorithm which along with the current “Panda” improvements shifted the emphasis from SEO staples and keywords to content quality. Even though, those elements are still important, using more functional data points, the systems are able to allocate search rank, because they are becoming smarter, further strengthening that the best possible way to rank good in Google is to have content that is highly referenced and highly shared and in order to determine authority and relevance, Google can use the activity signals from users.
Knowing that, it is highly unlikely that the emphasis on content will go away anytime soon, however a change to the creating process is expected. Thus far, the drive has been on creation and the necessity of determining a content process, however in the next year or so we will see the efforts focused on the functional elements and quality aspects required to accomplish it.
In order to guide users to the most relevant material to their queries and to them and help filter the data flood, the development of more measures is an absolute must due to the rise of online content. The most predominant instances of this have been the News Feed changes of Facebook and constant algorithm updates of Google which have smothered the organic reach. Facebook described it like this, with so many posts coming in 24/7, they have made the necessary changes in order to make sure that the most important and relevant updates are highlighted to every user, according to their historic preferences. Meaning that if brands wish to maintain any level of reach they have to start providing and listening to the needs of their fans. The burden has evidently been put on brands to secure highly relevant content, which compels discussion, re-posting and sharing, as well as being social by nature as a part of the community discussion. In order to better rationalize the increasing content flood, online platforms can diminish non-paid reach, however highly shared content will continue to perform well and be exceptional- the purpose of the algorithms is to present the highest relevance content to users, meaning that you have to make sure that yours is that.
The positive sign is that we now know what our audience wants, because we are guided by a whole range of data that we have access to. All over the web, our target audience is leaving data clues behind for us to find via the growing use of social media. Within the big data mine, in order to find those nuggets of gold, our focus has to be on locating that data and separating the message from all that noise. This way, the brands can build community relationships that transform into actual results, make informed marketing decisions and create better content. You audience is at the online world, therefore in the online world, the content is crucial. Now, in comparison to any other time in history, you have the opportunity to target your efforts by being receptive and tuning in to what your potential audience is saying. The next goal of the content movement is to create niche-specific, better targeted and high-quality material. In order to break from the pack, it’s not enough to just put out infographics, videos and blog posts like everyone else in the world.
The Continuous Rise of Video Content
In the very near future, in terms of overall video consumption, YouTube is set to be overtaken by the video content’s rise on Facebook, talked up by company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the recent call for third quarter earnings. He also added that in the next couple of years, he expects the number of videos posted on Facebook to increase substantially and you can already see the indications regarding that statement with the launch of auto-play video that has essentially altered the news feed of Facebook. Even though, there have been some negative opinions regarding the rise of video content, in 2015 because of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge the main focus is likely to remain on the emphasis on video.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest sensations of 2014 was the Ice Bucket Challenge, generating billions of likes and clicks and raising over $119 million for the research of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The video was one of the most resounding feature of the campaign because people could take part in and share their experiences easily and quickly. Amidst the rise of video content, it’s a good idea to consider that access, because back in the days in order to produce quality video work you needed a production budget and expensive equipment. Nowadays, using the online video apps and the camera on their smartphones, anyone can produce a decent quality film. In the rising popularity of video content, the 6-second approach by Vine has also played a key role, seeing what they might do an increased number of online users are trying out and see what is possible in just six seconds.
In 2015, a lot of brands will focus their efforts on UGC-based campaigns, because of the increasing opportunities of making video content and the accessibility of the necessary tools. It’s definitely a smart move, one that works well with consumer trends, especially those targeted at younger audiences. The emphasis was on including images wherever you can and on images in 2014, however in the next year the video will be where it is at. It might be worth considering the opportunities of UGC and video content in your campaigns, as you go about your content planning.
Empowerment of Employees
The role of word-of-mouth messaging has been infinitely expanded by the social media. Back in the day, the practice was restricted by geography however in modern times there are no limits to how wide and far you message can be spread amongst followers and communities. Given that, in your overall marketing plan spreading your brand message through word-of-mouth will play a key role.
As brands acknowledge the power of online individual voices, employee advocacy will become a bigger focus. In this regard, your employees are best positioned to help, because in order to make your business what it is, they are the ones putting in the effort week in, week out. They are aware of the most frequently asked questions by clients, they understand their perspectives and they answer those questions. Clever brands will find ways to authorize their employees to think of their “9 to 5” not just as a job but also something they have faith in, the intention behind all their efforts. By allowing your personnel to communicate on related topics and develop their industry knowledge, through their expertise you are developing your brand and you are also helping them develop their professional profile which in long-term career plans can be quite beneficial.
Of course, the downside is that you allow them too much, they receive job offers from other brands and eventually resign. However, the great Richard Branson once said that the job of an employer is to train his employees so good that they can be ready to leave, but appreciate them on regular basis so that they would not want to. A tough goal definitely but as the leader in your field the advantages of your employees creating their personal online brands will affect your company’s overall standing in a beneficial way. Just image if you could get all the top-notch professionals to come and work for you. That would definitely result in a lot of customers finding your brand name as they were searching online for related information.
In the digital marketing sphere, the change is a constant as it is with all industries, but in comparison to most, the sector is more influx due to the rising adoption of social media platforms and the rapid evolution of online technologies. It’s essential to know what your consumers are saying about your brand, how they are consuming the media, to stay in touch with what is changing and stay on top of the latest industry trends. However, apart from that knowing what your target audience is doing is the most important element to take into consideration. If you are not reaching the audience you are targeting there’s no need to experiment with different trends and if no one is reading your posts you shouldn’t write them. The overall trends alone are not important, what’s important is to do your research and understand your communities by figuring out their specific details.
From a wider industry perspective, it is important to consider the fore-mentioned trends however the biggest obstacle of 2015 will be to learn how all these new platforms and all this data can be best developed for your leverage. Learning what’s out there is the best way to start. After that, you just have to allow the ideas to develop in your mind.