I really enjoy reading prediction articles. Writing them—not so much. If you don’t get everything just right, you can look pretty foolish. So why in the world would I go out on a limb by authoring a predictions post about social media—a tool that morphs and changes faster than any other in the marketing universe?
Well, as Will Rogers once said, you’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is. So, with that in mind, here are nine predictions that (I hope) will help your company better harvest the fruits of its social media efforts in 2016:
1. Social workflows will increase.
Far too many brands are still winging it on social media and not following a disciplined workflow. I call it shoot-from-the-hip social marketing and it leads to noise and blind engagement (see #2). But this will begin to change in a major way in 2016. Look for brands to develop social workflows for each type of content they create. (Here’s an example of a social marketing workflow for a new blog post.) Social workflows will help brands already doing social do it better, and they’ll make it easier for brands that have been on the fence about social to finally get started. Also look for the arrival of new social marketing workflow software solutions (like Get it Done! Social from HRmarketer), which help brands be more strategic on social and adhere to disciplined processes that support marketing and sales goals.
2. “Blind engagement” will diminish.
Most social marketing software makes it easy—too easy—for brands to share content and engage on social sites. The unintended side effect? Automating thank you’s … sharing/commenting on content they haven’t read … reckless re-tweeting … following people in bulk (without even reading their bios). These are examples of what I call blind engagement. Smart social marketers realize just how unproductive, inefficient and damaging blind engagement can be to a brand. As the name implies, “social” marketing is a form of communication focused on interaction and engagement—which means it requires a human touch. I wrote about this in a previous post, “What you should NEVER automate on social.”
3. “Influencer” relations will be more targeted.
More and more companies will create living lists (those that are changed and updated regularly) of influencers and sales prospects they want to build visibility with on social media. This is the opposite of blind engagement. You should do the same. Your lists can be built around influencers, analysts, journalists and prospects. And you should have a social marketing workflow to help you engage with each group. For example, when an influencer on your list publishes new content relating to your own expertise, you need to (a) be aware of it and (b) take action by commenting on it. A word of caution: don’t be too aggressive and don’t automate your engagement. If you ruin things in the early stages, you may never be able to salvage that relationship. Focus on nurturing each relationship over time. Don’t expect instant gratification. It rarely happens.
4. In terms of engagement, quality will trump quantity.
This goes hand in hand with social workflows and the diminishment of blind engagement because if you have no workflows and are blindly engaging then you tend to measure success by quantity (how many social updates you made) over quality. And as a result, your social channels become unfocussed and cluttered. Look for brands to tone down their volume and be more targeted (more on this later).
5. Content will get better and better.
Companies don’t blink an eye when spending hundreds of dollars an hour on coding but they often settle for minimum-wage content. And it shows. Those days are over. Brands will make bigger investments in producing great content in order to rise above the growing social noise and separate themselves from their competitors. This means you need to create content with real value for your readers … and then you need to follow your social marketing workflows to promote that content. I know, this takes longer and it’s more expensive. But those two blog posts you publish each week that say a little about nothing aren’t being read by anyone, and they’re not worth the SEO you think they’re delivering. You’re far better off writing one great post each month (long-form content) than four poor posts (clickbait).
6. Companies will cultivate commenting.
Commenting on content is one of the most powerful—and underutilized—marketing visibility tactics. And brands are going to be increasingly strategic about it in 2016. I recommend commenting on at least one article or blog post per week, and be sure to comment on content written by individuals (influencers, journalists, prospects, etc.) with whom you want to build relationships and recognition for your brand. Make sure your comments are never self-promotional, although it’s perfectly appropriate to share your thoughts and ideas by linking to your own related blog posts and content (see #5).
7. Team collaboration will be key.
Savvy brands will enlist a broader array of team members, outside business partners and other stakeholders to engage with their content and get active on their social properties (sharing, liking, favoriting, etc.). The reason: it makes a huge difference in terms of brand visibility and engagement, all of which drive more clicks to campaign content. Create a social marketing workflow to make this happen for your brand and make it easy for your own team members to get involved.
8. There will be less (but more meaningful) social measurement and analytics.
I know this contradicts Big Data and the trend toward more detailed analytics but we’re drowning in social media metrics … and a lot of it is useless data. I wrote about this in my post, “Why Your Twitter ‘Reach’ Is a Stretch.” You can save yourself a lot of heartache by not overcomplicating things. First, make a list of your marketing goals. Second, create social marketing workflows that support each goal. And third, list the KPIs that tell you if your social tactics are impacting each goal. Example: if a goal is to get more people reading my blog posts and I’m using tweets to promote each post, the “Reach” of my tweets doesn’t tell me anything about how effective Twitter was in getting people to read my blog. I’m better off focusing on which tweets drove traffic to the posts, which I’d know because I’m using a short, trackable URL. The point is not to produce reports just for the sake of producing reports. Make sure each data point serves a purpose.
9. Social and sales will finally sync up.
Tying social media to the sales process is a huge challenge for most companies. Brands are going to get a lot better at this in the year. Historically, social marketing has been its own silo and separate from other aspects of marketing and sales. These silos will fall and social marketing activities, like other marketing tactics (e.g., email marketing), will be more integrated into the brand’s marketing and sales processes.
So I’ve gone out on a limb here with a few social media predictions. But there’s one thing I can say for sure about social: it has the power to make your brand recognition soar and boost your sales in 2016—but only if you take a disciplined and strategic approach.
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