It’s time to write predictions for 2015. The whole Link Humans team have already given their own predictions, and I gave mine too (which you can see here). My prediction was about more social tools coming together, either by acquisition or just by collaboration, to form all-in-one tools and more integrated solutions. That’s something I’ve already seen in 2014 (e.g. Socialbakers, Simply Measured with SHIFT), and it’s a trend I can see being adopted even further in 2015.
However, one paragraph isn’t enough to talk about my predictions and my wishes for 2015. So, here we go – my top 10 predictions and 5 wishes for 2015:
10 Predictions for 2015
- Social tools combining: I’ve already touched on this and I’m looking forward to seeing more of these integrations and acquisitions. The result? More intelligent tools and smarter analytics to start with. This will move more tools to take a holistic approach to digital analytics. After all, if you’re advised to adopt a 360° view of marketing and a multi-channel approach, there’s no reason why the tool you’re relying on shouldn’t do the same. That won’t result in more data: that just means data will be collected and processed in smarter ways, giving you better insights. Same data + smarter approach = better insights.
- Twitter reach woes: 2014 was the year when marketers came to the sad realisation of Facebook being a pay-for-play platform. To top it off, Facebook announced plans to slash organic reach even further in 2015. However, the news that will hit and shock marketers the hardest in 2015 is Twitter playing around with organic reach, as they’re planning to introduce algorithm-driven timelines. To counteract this, I definitely recommend being more strategic with your targeting; Twitter has quite a few targeting options that you can use, including keyword, location, device, TV and interest targeting. If you haven’t already done so, make use of Twitter cards: there’s plenty of them and there are so many examples of brands using them creatively. (If you need a good steer on how best to use Twitter cards, have a good look at James Whatley’s Twitter Cards Masterclass slides here.) Don’t wait for these changes to happen before you start changing your approach to Twitter – start now (and if you need more budget to achieve this, just forward this post to your manager/senior/budget-holder.)
- Alternative platforms, alternative marketing: aside from “reach troubles” on Facebook and eventually on Twitter, we’ll finally see marketing/ad-friendly platforms launching with a rapid uptake from both consumers and marketers. In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to advertising-adverse platforms like App.net and Ello. Marketers will also venture on other devices too, for smarter personalisation and targeting – from proximity technology (e.g. iBeacons) to wearable technology (e.g. smartwatches). Imagine receiving highly targeted ads to your wearable device based on what you’re doing or a location you’re walking past. Content marketing will hit new highs, most of which won’t be on the same platforms and devices you know today. I’m really looking forward to seeing quantified self being explored for marketing too: imagine fitness brands using technologies like Apple Health or LG Health to recommend devices, apps, and other useful content based on your ongoing fitness at any given moment.
- Wearables: needless to say, this space will be huge in 2015. Sure, we already had a taste with Google Glass, and if we’re talking about smartwatches then we’ve already had a peek with Pebble, the numerous Android watches and lately with i.am’s PULS. However, with the incumbent launch of Apple’s WATCH, you can expect to see a shake-up in the market. Here’s what will happen: Apple launches the WATCH, more smartwatches follow suit, we’ll finally see these wearables moving away from tech companies right into the hands of fashion and lifestyle brands, the appeal grows even stronger across consumers, and marketers start experimenting with advertising, targeting and content marketing for these devices. While 2015 will see a rapid launch and adoption of all these smart wearables, they won’t blow us away until 2016, with companies refining their devices, making them sleeker, shinier, smaller, better, smarter (e.g. WATCH 2.0). Marketers will then be able to collect even more personal data for better targeting, better advertising, and a better user experience. Content won’t change, but here’s what will change: deeper applications and smarter push notifications. Until then, it’ll be interesting to see how things pan out with wearables. Expect to see great innovations and a few gaffes along the way.
- Social mobile: mobile has been a marketing focus for the past few years, but one of the top priorities for brands in 2015 will be reserving a spot in people’s notification drawers and homescreens. Twitter now lets you see what other apps your followers have installed, and Facebook have a very similar functionality – just wait until these platforms open the gates for hyper-targeting based on this data. Here’s what else will be even bigger on mobile next year: video. Video will have an even much bigger focus, and I can see another platform coming on board to steal Vine’s spot (as Laurence Hebberd predicted). Combine that with bigger network speeds and bigger/sharper screens and you have the perfect ingredients for a revolution in mobile video.
- Smart apps vs. Dumb apps: content marketers will resort to launching their own apps as a way to attract new visitors, a new audience, and perhaps change their user demographic. We’ve already seen that with the Guardian app – an excellent example of content, matched with sensible push notifications, intelligent personalisation and a great commenting system. Buzzfeed is another leader in this trend, and the latest addition is MSN, which released half a dozen apps in December catering to news, sports, weather and more. On the other hand, these apps will have three other types of apps to compete with: private apps (e.g. Facebook Groups), anonymous apps (e.g. Secret), and “dumb apps” (e.g. Yo, Ethan). If 2014 was the year of “ephemeral apps” (Snapchat, Slingshot etc.), 2015 will be the year of private, anonymous and “dumb” apps, but more importantly, the year of push notifications for marketing. In 2015, you either have push notifications enabled in your website (using smart services like Roost), or you have an app where you can market your content in a smart way. Otherwise, be ready to fall behind. (To get a glimpse of how you could use these types of push notifications, check out this article about an integration between Roost and Hootsuite.)
- Breakthrough of email: email marketing will face a shake-up too. Out of all the major webmail providers, Gmail is the only one that seems to be pushing the boundaries and the experience forward when it comes to email, and they already gave us a glimpse with Google Inbox. However, Google won’t be the ones disrupting email. This disruption will change email marketing too, with more brands embracing content newsletters. While we’ve already seen a rise in newsletters in 2014, prepare to see more targeted and personalised newsletters in 2015.
- Reviews: we all know the value of consumer reviews for products and how people trust them more than brands. However, 2015 will be a big year for consumer reviews sites for businesses. G2 Crowd and Trust Radius are two notable leaders in this space, full of reviews around businesses, products and marketing solutions from the people who use them. While this area may have been somewhat of a “niche” in the past few years, it will be huge in 2015 with a massive impact on SEO and search rankings. Soon, businesses will have to rely on these sites to reach the highest spot in the first result page on Google.
- Sentiment analysis and NLP (natural language processing): this one is very dear to me, especially seeing how passionate I am about the subject. Judging by the latest trends, we can expect much better intelligence and much better natural language processing for search engines and social monitoring tools. Expect more intelligent search results, better accuracy in sentiment analysis, as well as smart machine learning to interpret multimedia content. This can easily be plugged into social listening tools to monitor text as well other pieces of creative content (e.g. pictures, videos, emoticons, sounds etc). As Google refines its ability to interpret and summarise natural language, we’ll see an increase in traffic driven from this technology, and further site optimisations as brands run to win the first spot in Google’s summary/info cards. (For a sneak peek, try searching for “how to bake apple crumble” on Google and notice the “summary card “as the first result; or have a look at the latest addition – song lyrics.)
- Social media visualisations: we’ll finally see the (second) rise of social visualisations and social command centres. We saw a moderate spike back in 2013 with all the talks around “big data”, with a few remarkable examples of social command centres, including EE’s Social Hub (you can see a snippet here). However, 2015 will be the year when social visualisations will make a comeback, as a way of putting social at the forefront for brands, internally. We already have a few big players in this space, with Buzz Radar leading the pack. Buzz Radar have been constantly (and rapidly) innovating in this area, and it’s no wonder that they’re being used by the likes of M&S, Nokia/Microsoft, British Airways and Twitter themselves. Their aim is to make social data easily understandable, appealing, and shareable for everyone – and that’s the way it should be. Great things are on the horizon, and they’re all visualised – on the big screen.
5 Wishes for 2015
Predictions aside, I do have a few items on my wishlist that I’m really looking forward to seeing come to life, in one way or another. I won’t ask for much, just these 5 wishes:
- Social, seriously: I really, really hope that 2015 is the year social media starts being taken more seriously in big organisations. I hope 2015 is the year that the “C-Suite” (CEOs, CMOs, CTOs etc.) wake up and realise that just having a social media team in their company does not make their brand social. Speaking of the C-Suite, I hope 2015 is the year we start seeing more senior executives and officers adopting social media. (There are already some great meetups and initiatives to help bring that to reality, one of the most remarkable being the “Social C-Suite” by Damian Corbet.) I also hope 2015 is the year we start seeing the rise of the Head of Social Media: sometimes having a social media manager is not enough, and I know a good number of social media managers and senior social media managers who do an excellent job going above and beyond their remit to evangelise social media in the business. However, sometimes that is not enough, and that’s where you have a Head of Social Media – a leadership figure in social media, a figure who understands and leads the adoption of social in the business, including new technologies and innovations, engagement practices, and various collaboration initiatives (e.g. employee advocacy). Call it whatever you want – Chief Social Officer, Chief Social Evangelist, Head of Social Media – this figure is just as important as a Chief Marketing Officer. In fact, I’ll go one step further and say that if your business has a Chief Marketing Officer but you don’t have a leadership figure for social media, you’re terribly missing out. Now, I could go on and on about this, but I’ll talk about this in-depth in next month’s article.
- Google+: say what you want, but I love Google+. However, it’s evident that Google+ is going through a phase where it doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up. Google+ was very ambitious from the start, yet it lost one very important bit: its social core. The fact that it was so late to launch its social analytics (which are still half-baked) is one clear indication, and it makes you wonder if that is produced by the same company that produces Google Analytics. The fact that the content and advertising options for marketers are lacklustre compared to other social platforms is another indication. 2015 will be the decisive year – it’ll be the year that makes or breaks Google+. Ultimately, the problem lies internally: with executives and leaders leaving the project, Google+ doesn’t seem to be a high social priority on anybody’s workstack at Google. Do I think Google can bring it back? Sure, but I think it’ll take a total relaunch for that to happen. (If Bebo can make it, I don’t see why Google+ can’t.) The solution? Here’s a suggestion: get a Head of Social Media in there, then someone who understands marketing (not how to market Google+ but how other people can market on Google+); then get a team of marketing specialists, some great analysts and developers in there: the marketing specialists will take care of the advertising side of Google+ (a bit like when Twitter introduced Twitter Cards), and the analysts with the developers can take care of the analytics (like the developers team for Twitter that relaunched Twitter Analytics – have you seen what you can do with it?!). It took Twitter an internal reshuffle and re-prioritisaton before their Twitter Cards and analytics were up to scratch to what they are today, and Google can learn a lesson there.
- Psychographics and demographics: 2015 will hopefully be the year we zero in on the user – properly. I’ve already seen a few great uses of demographic and psychographic (looking at personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles) data. A great example of this in practice is Demographics Pro. What can you do with it? For starters, you can dig deeper into the science behind what works (and what doesn’t) in your marketing (e.g. the science behind the viral Monty The Penguin ad). More importantly, you can understand who you’re marketing to, who your customers are, who your site visitors are, what they’re interested in, what makes them come to your site and what makes them leave it – interests, affinity, brand affiliations and beyond. With the recent acquisitions and innovations in this area (Demographics Pro, Peerindex and Traackr to name a few), understanding the demographics and psychographics of your audience won’t be an “obscure science” anymore. Hopefully these digital companies can make it much easier, more accessible and fun for brands to look into consumer profiles, as the benefits are numerous, especially for marketing and advertising. This used to be the job of the data analyst, but it will soon be embraced by anyone who wants to understand who they’re marketing to.
- Disrupt search: here’s another Google product that I’m sure will go through a refresh – Google search. I rely heavily on Wolfram Alpha for my analytics and Google for anything else, and I love giving Google access to as much data as possible, for better targeting, better context and higher accuracy. However, I’m hoping for a disrupter in search, and I don’t think it’ll come from a direct competitor – not Bing, not Yahoo Search. That disruption will come from a competitor that takes advantage of a change in user behavior well ahead of Google.
- Disrupt social: lastly, do you know what we need in 2015? A social shake-up. I think a few social networks have been resting on their laurels in 2014, making small steps but nothing outstanding. What’s needed is a big “social reboot”, and 2015 is the year that will bring that. I have a few social networks in mind which I think will go through a shake-up – an awakening, a reboot. Oh and before I forget, can somebody please disrupt LinkedIn?
And these are my predictions and wishes. I’ll keep count of how many of these come true, and we’ll check-in this time next year to see how many of them have materialised (totally or even partially). Deal? Deal.
READ MORE: Social Media in 2015: Our Predictions