Around ten years ago when Web 2.0 became mainstream, the impact on communications and marketing was mainly that customers had a much greater range of information and opinions from which to make more informed decisions.
This was a significant dent in the ability of brands to control the message. And the power of public ratings is now without question; for example, this analysis of a million reviews showed that 96 per cent of all purchases are made for products with an average rating of 4 or more stars.
A couple of years later social media brought in more options for engagement and sharing opinions via networks. And over the years this has been forcing brands to take a more person-to-person (dialogue) approach to communications.
More recently the introduction of always-on smartphones and mobile devices is starting to change things, but to date only a fraction of the eventual impact has been felt. Since web access via mobile devices is now dominating, the first need has been to optimise the user experience with apps and small screen user interface designs.
But the ability of smartphones to be more contextually aware will be a big driver in years to come and I’ll touch upon this at the end of the post.
Areas to consolidate
Content marketing has become so mainstream that it has becoming ever harder to standout. So it will be more effective to produce less but higher quality and more meaningful (targeted) content marketing.
There is a continued imperative to expand social media ownership across departments, particularly in customer support where there is still opportunity to surprise before it becomes the expected norm.
While Facebook and other networks are gradually becoming more like paid channels, the default should be to build relationships based on where the mutual desires and needs of the brand intersect with those of their customers.
Using video in communications has been a steadily increasing practice and this will continue – particularly the use of "throwaway" video. This is video that is of sufficiently good quality but is only made to be used for a short timeframe.
Areas that we need to do better in
There is a need to build up a greater cross-departmental response capacity, and approach social media listening more with the aim of reacting rapidly to influence discussions rather than just reviewing general activity.
Related to this is the more systematic endorsing and facilitating of employee and brand ambassadors to engage and advocate more using existing channels and dedicated platforms – and this includes the enabling and rewarding of collaborative content creation.
Since social media is all about personal engagement, the use of video live streaming (e.g. Google Live, Periscope, Blab, etc.) will be something that many will be using on a more spontaneous basis.
Areas to be experimenting with
This Nordic report shows the rapid rise in the use of messaging-type services and these will need to be considered from the marketing perspective.
According to the report WhatsApp has about two million users in Finland. Facebook Messenger and SnapChat usage has also been growing rapidly. Communicating via these apps remains challenging as the services themselves are still trying to figure out what marketing options they should add, e.g. SnapChat’s Sponsored Lens.
Areas to keep an eye on
As smartphones continue to become evermore contextually aware (e.g. location, movement, schedules (personal and public), social networks, traffic, weather, etc.) this will enable more sensitive and appropriate marketing messages that are ultra personal and hyperlocal, e.g. your local food store pushing a notification on your way home that it has the organic roast chicken you like on sale.
People are gradually getting used to giving applications more access to their data in exchange for more personalised, useful and responsive services. And it could be the introduction of "messenger services as platforms" that allows better data integration to create butler-like services; which will integrate the delivery of more personally relevant and helpful advertising and better ways to reward customer loyalty.
The writer Richard von Kaufmann is Head of Social and a Founding Partner at the social media communications agency Vaikutustoimisto Zipipop Freud.