August 2015 | Digital8

The Future Of Online Marketing Part 2 – Social Media

Businesses, let’s put this as plainly as possible: Social Media is a thing. It exists and if you want people to be aware that you exist then you need to be on it. If you disagree with this idea then welcome to the beginning of the end if you had any plans to exist well into the future.

It took Facebook only 8 short years to end up with a 7th of the entire planet’s population on its platform and in the not so distant future it looks set to crack the 2 billion active monthly users mark should trending continue as it steadily has since its inception, contrary to all predictions of imminent doom. The data doesn’t lie.

To put that into even starker context, Facebook (although the largest) is (according to Wikipedia) only one of around 200 prominent social media platforms around the world without accounting for smaller scale sites/apps & yet to be had ideas.

If you’re still not convinced, then try listening to (and familiarizing yourself with) Dave Carroll explaining why “Your brand is nothing but the sum of the conversations being had about it”, or Jerry Kane explaining that “Social Media doesn’t exist, it’s just the internet doing what it was designed to do.”

If your business exists then you’re involved in social media whether you like it or not.

So now that we’ve go that out of the way, let’s get into where this very obviously valuable avenue might be headed and where the opportunity might be for savvy businesses and marketers.

I thought the easiest way to do this would be to break it down into a few main factors, starting with the fact that…

  1. Global tech brands will not predominantly be Western and neither will your customers

    We’re entering the Asian century, so when you think about social media platforms like WeChat or companies like TenCent it makes sense to expect a large cultural shift in social media over the coming decades, however the coming changes to social media in this sense are also technologically driven.

    This is one of my favourite talks of all time, particularly the part around 12 minutes & 7 seconds. Despite the talk being very uplifting, it poses the (paraphrased) question “What will these billions of new voices sound like? And what will they want?”

    More and more people are connected to the internet every single day all over the world. New online markets are emerging at a staggering rate as technology progression and deployment speeds up in hitherto unconnected places. There are currently just under 3.2 billion internet users in the world out of a potential 7.3 billion. Think about how transformative connecting the other 4 billion could be!

    As a business, that idea should excite the hell out of you. Billions of potential new customers? Next level potential for spreading brand awareness? This increasingly connected world is an increasingly large opportunity for you and social media is the tool via which you can plug in and begin to expand your thinking.

    Of course this sort of shift will not help all businesses, but the result could be seismic for those with potentially international products or services.


  2. Content will become more professional

    Currently, the level of amateur content output from businesses is appalling and although there could be some arguments made for the potential for these ads to go viral, it rarely results in a good business outcome and is gambling with your reputation. The reason for this is that online output is simply not being taken as seriously as other forms of advertising such as Television, radio or print and marketing budgets are often heavily geared towards more traditional methods.

    This is a huge mistake on the part of business given how far online advertising outstrips all of these mediums combined in terms of potential reach.

    Although this does create an opportunity for savvy businesses to take advantage and be seen to be ahead of the curve, it won’t last forever.

    The benefits of the burgeoning and dynamic world of content marketing online cannot be ignored and even the most stubborn skeptics are starting to come around to the benefits of paying this form of advertising the level of attention it deserves.

    My prediction would be that there is no “eureka” moment where everyone realizes at once that content marketing is great and jumps aboard, so there will always be a smaller group of early adopters who reap the benefits over everyone else, but give it 2-5 years and some level of content marketing will be as staple a part of any marketing campaign as newsletters are today.


  3. Offline & Online will merge (into Augmented Reality)

    This is the big one. Personally I’ve been touting AR as the next big shift in online behaviour for quite a few years now, but you’re really going to see it start to pick up in the next couple of years.

    To put it very simply, AR melds the digital world into the real world via a viewing device. Currently this would primarily be your phone, but as wearable tech becomes more prominent, something along the lines of Google Glass (even if not Google Glass itself) will be what takes it to the next level.

    It currently ranges in usefulness from this video showing an interactive Bert & Ernie from Sesame Street for the kids, to hugely popular AR games like Ingress, or super practical uses such as instant language translation and finding your car.

    But without a doubt, this video from way back when Google Glass was first gearing up for launch in 2012 gives the best example of how Augmented Reality might change your life.

    The immediate benefit here for marketers should be pretty obvious, with a whole new world of digital space for advertising, but the real benefit will lie in when you are able to trigger ads. This takes needs based advertising from simply targeting potential customers with those needs, to real-time immediate needs based targeting. The potential conversion rate for something like this is a no brainer.

    But to get back to the point of this whole conversation, Augmented Reality and Social Media are natural bedfellows. People already post a lot of content via social media about their daily lives, but when you can move the digital world into that space and add a more real-time (likely even in progess) element to that content, this interaction with potential customers will be fundamentally transformed and hugelybeneficial to marketers.


  4. Social Media will start to influence public life

    If you want to get an idea of how revolutionary social media could be for something as seemingly institutional as government process, you need to see this TED Talk on “Coding a better government.”

    Social Media, once a cute way to throw sheep at friends or force your favourite song on them upon viewing your MySpace profile, has yielded mountains of behavioural data with which everyone from marketers, to governments and even developers can start to not only build a much more accurate picture of the people they need or hope to interact with, but can innovate social co-ordination and communication with.

    This can often be ruined by improper use of or a lack of understanding on that data (which is why most people regardless of their gender or sexual persuasion may have wondered why facebook thinks they want to date “hot Russian women”), but for those able to read between the lines, the possibilities are endless.

    Need a leaky pipe fixed? Crowdsource it in real time based on who’s in your area. Having trouble with a business decision? I’m sure there will one day be a social app for that. There are even apps with which politicians in some countries can get real-time feedback on the will of the people which I’m sure would translate very well into customer feedback applications on the direction of your company, a product line, or the perceived image your business currently has in the public space.

    Exciting stuff!


  5. The behavioural/technology loop

    Along with the action that can be taken in the real world on the sort of data mentioned above, this data and the activity it inspires can actually feed back into social platforms. Social Media is strongly influencing offline social behaviour, which in turn produces online social behaviour, which produces data, which produces changes in social media platforms based on the data it produced via its own influence on that behaviour.

    Sound confusing? Let’s try an analogy and then connect it to marketing.

    a) Chat is introduced.

    b) The sudden need to differentiate between something funny and something that makes you literally laugh out loud is born.

    c) LOL becomes a thing.

    d) Chat (& by this time social media) responds and LOL emoticons become a thing.

    e) People tire of LOL.

    d) “Haha” overtakes LOL as the most often used indication that one is amused. (Seriously, there’s a study facebook did on it here)

    e) Marketers either writing ad copy or running a page for a business need to adapt their language if they don’t want to seem “lame”.

    f) People tire of “Haha” and so on…

    This is obviously a very simplified take on events, but keep the context in mind. You’re advertising in people’s perceived personal space and seeming out of place or out of date can be a death warrant for any advertising campaign.

    It’s very important to take the time to pay attention to the latest behavioural statistics via social media.

    And finally…


  6. Expect the unexpected

    Educated guesses are educated guesses. Too many people take the theoretical ramblings and musings of so called (and real) experts as gospel.

    The fact of the matter is that 12 years ago MySpace was the only social platform worth worrying about and marketers were finding it pretty counter-intuitive. If you were able to travel back to that time now and describe the behemoth that Facebook has become along with its functionality, even if they believed you their brains would explode.

    The only thing you can 100% count on is that social media will continue to evolve rapidly and that if you were to travel forward in time to about 5 years from now you may barely recognize it.

    There is only one surefire way to stay on top of it: PAY ATTENTION.

    Every new development is documented somewhere and something as simple as a good 30-45 minutes of Googling on the topic each week should at the very least ensure that any major developments don’t pass you by until it’s too late.

    But that’s enough from me for today, my fingertips are bruised.

    Next week, we take a look at the future of SEO!


The Future Of Online Marketing Part 1 – Content Marketing

At Digital8 HQ, we’re super interested in emerging technology. We’ve always (and currently) got a few projects on the go in fields such as augmented reality, beacon based apps (taking location based apps to a new level of accuracy) & our Founder/Director/Resident Genius Jeff even builds drones in his spare time!

So as you can imagine, the conversations around the office can be pretty mind blowing. One such conversation that happened recently was around how future technology will affect Digital Marketing in particular, at which point we realized we should get onto this in blog form right away!

And so here you have part 1 of a 5 part blog on the future of Digital Marketing. However this is by no means our attempt to predict the future. Consider it a collection of musings and observational best guesses based on current and emerging tech trends and developments. Beginning with…

…content marketing!

Most businesses tend to see content marketing as a relatively new part of the online equation, but the fact of the matter is that search engines have been talking about content since their inception. Their basic ethos is to provide end users with the best possible website (of which content is a huge element) in relation to their search query. The real shift and newest element of this has been away from static content to regularly updated and engaging content.

For a platform such as a search engine this is a no brainer, especially since social media came into the equation. As technology progresses and user behaviour changes, these more in-depth methods of engagement present an opportunity for you to further refine your own value online and interact with customers in ever deepening and more meaningful ways.

For this reason, the type of content you can deliver is changing along with the methodology for engagement. You’ve likely noticed the slowly but steadily increasing amount of video content businesses are putting out there and this is only going to continue to not only grow, but further transform. Here are a few ways in which we think your content writing methods will need to change and why:

Video content

Mostly, the delivery methods for this will evolve before we start to hit some of the more sci-fi type predictions below, but already some relatively recent developments have started to change the way in which businesses advertise via this medium. Remember when the first video ads actually made for YouTube started to hit? It was a moment in advertising that the general populace barely noticed (which meant that the ads were doing their job), but it was a seismic shift in opportunity for early adopters to take advantage of as an understanding of the evolving world of user generated content started to take root.

This was also the beginning of online ads which attempted to grab your attention right off the bat by breaking the fourth wall. These types of advertisements proved incredibly popular as it seemed to give users the feeling that businesses were moving with them into this amazing new and seemingly endless world of content. They rewarded those businesses appropriately.

Similarly, Facebook’s recent “auto-play” feature (for videos you see while scrolling through your newsfeed) has presented an opportunity that savvy advertisers are utilizing with great success.

But you can see the seeds of the real way in which video technology will progress in the interactive “menus” available “in-video” at the end of and during these ads across YouTube, Facebook & various other video content platforms: Interactivity. This will a) Take the breaking of that fourth wall to the next level and b) Provide you access to and meaningful interactions with potential customers which can anticipate actions and have responses and solutions set at every point in that process. Which brings us to the next point…

Richer content

With the way that technology is evolving both in the hardware and UX & UI design(user experience) spaces, we’re pretty confident that you can kiss the idea of advertising oriented content being “video”, or “text”, or “imagery” goodbye. It will at the very least be all three when you consider the level of interaction you’ll be having with customers. Landing pages are definitely on the rise and as users are able to have more engaging experiences in their day-to-day use of the internet, smart businesses will need to get in front of this with purpose built landing pages targeted at particular behaviours and utilising new technologies. As for things they might need to contain, video content is (as we said) on the rise and the data supports this being worth the investment of both time and money given the potential return over traditional media. But that doesn’t take away from some good punchy text content optimization along with engaging imagery.

You can expect to use video content increasingly as time goes on, but you can more readily expect to have to create an engaging experience overall utilizing the above, along with a number of other (exciting) future possibilities such as…

Augmented & Virtual Reality

Remember this video making the rounds right before Google launched their Glass product for limited use to developers and other interested parties?

Obviously this hasn’t happened yet and for the moment Google has gone back to the drawing board with the product with an aim toward re-introducing it for commercial use and growing from there. But make no mistake about it Augmented Reality is the future. Virtual reality offers a lot of opportunity in the way of advertising to future consumers as more and more devices become internet connected, but Augmented Reality brings the digital world into the real world and has the most potential to seamlessly integrate with our day to day lives.

This will present never before seen opportunities for advertisers to reach out to people in ways that, although they might at first glance seem intrusive, will actually empower you to be more relevant, convenient and better timed as far as getting in front of your customers is concerned.

But not to dismiss Virtual Reality outright, let’s not forget the opportunities that could exist given the way that entertainment technology is currently headed, not to mention the “internet of things” movement! Which brings us finally to…

The Content Targeting Revolution

I wanted to open this part with something snappy like “imagine if you could target users based on what they just watched on TV”, except that this is already technology that is soon to be available thanks to Smart TV’s.

As your home and the devices in it become increasingly connected, new possibilities arise for targeting everything from how much food is in the fridge, what the family is watching tonight, sleeping patterns, activity choices (in real-time), what the pets are eating, what the family is eating, when they’re eating, the list is almost endless. Combine this with interactivity, augmented and/or virtual reality and you’ve got yourself a pretty bright future for needs targeted real-time interactions with consumers!

Again, this might sound invasive to some, but in reality this helps match up consumers with businesses who have what they need at the exact moment they need it, so we’re pretty confident that uptake will be just as, if not more popular than other platforms have been because you can position yourself to be of genuine benefit to their everyday lives.

As for what sort of content this might result in, well that’s a little too hard to make realistic predictions on save to say that it will likely be highly interactive and the ability to take action should the consumer desire to would be fairly similar, but very much enhanced where choice and convenience is concerned. Think Back To The Future II…. or don’t.

Next week, the future of Social Media!