Digital & Social Content Predictions for 2018

Digital and social content changes quickly! Brands must ensure their content is evolving just as quickly to meet consumer demand. We’ve been looking at the major trends. Here’s what you can expect to see:

VIDEO DOMINATES

Did you know that in 2017, 90% of all social content shared by consumers was video?1 Video must be woven into content marketing plans as consumers are overwhelmingly expecting this content type. Social platforms like Facebook have also placed a higher emphasis on video content, but its the marketers job to design video to grab attention within the first three seconds.

MORE EPHEMERAL CONTENT

Ephemeral content has been on the rise for three main reasons: 1) it’s mobile first, 2) it’s perceived as being more authentic given the content is often ‘scrappier’ and 3) it often sees higher engagement as consumers typically only have 24 hours to view it before it disappears. Snapchat pioneered this space, but Instagram and Facebook developed products to take advantage of the trend too.

INFLUENCER MARKETING GROWS

While Influencer marketing has been on the rise for some time, the space is maturing. We’ve seen the landscape divide into four main segments: Micro influencers (1k – 30k followers), the ‘Power Middle’ (35k – 250k followers), the Established Influencers 250k – 5MM, and Celebrity Influencers. Influencer marketing has become an important tactic as it ads authenticity to brand messaging and has more credibility with consumers.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE GETS CONVERSATIONAL

Consumers have been reaching out to brands on social media with customer service inquiries for years, but Artificial Intelligence (AI) and chatbots have become so advanced that full dialogs can not only help answer common consumer questions, but can also help guide the shopper journey via a conversational experience.

AUGMENTED REALITY BRINGS NEW BRANDED EXPERIENCES

Pokemon Go put Augmented Reality (AR) in the spotlight, and the technology continues to grow as it has true potential to bring deeper, more immersive brand experiences to consumers. Nissan recently launched an AR Star Wars experience in their dealerships that enabled customers to view cars through their phone and highlighted Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility technologies.

Social Media Marketing Trends 2018

Written by: Andy Perez — TPN Content & Social Marketing Director

It’s All In The Delivery

The ways we eat meals continuously evolve as our lifestyles, social dynamics and workloads change. The frozen TV dinner changed the landscape of meals in the 1950s, streamlining meal prep with readily portioned trays that could be popped in the oven for easy weeknight meals. Tupperware enabled make-ahead meal prep possible, as well as proper storage of leftovers for reheating later. The mainstream introduction of the microwave in the 1980s, lead to more adaptations of ready-to-eat meals (and of course, the HotPocket).

Take out and delivery used to only be synonymous with pizza and Chinese food; fast food was burgers and fries (itself an evolution from street food vendors and bar food). Now we have apps that will coordinate pick up and delivery from just about any restaurant you could possibly want, at the touch of your finger tips; we gleefully hunt down specialty food trucks or trek down to the food truck lot, serving as our modern day, anywhere food court. Our busy schedules may not even lend themselves for meals, which has lead to a rise in snacking, a whole different conversation but one that I wanted to at least acknowledge.

So, while all this should beg the question Does anyone really cook anymore? Quite a contrary movement has taken place. Instead, there is appreciation for the home-cooked meal. The traditional route still involves grocery shopping for items needed for recipes, cooking the recipes at home; the routine is broken up by inspiration found on recipe sites, blogs, Pinterest and those droolworthy videos popping up in your feed that make all cooking look easy. According to Joe Scartz, TPN’s Managing Director of Digital Commerce and Integration, “Grocers have seen the trend move toward simple prepared meals now for years and they have tried to fight back with white label brands and grab and go meals.”

Retailers are also offering up opportunities to streamline the traditional process through omni-channel retailing of buy online, pick up in store: Walmart grocery is available in limited areas; CVS is testing CVS Express for a rollout later in 2016; Harris Teeter Express Lane has been around for awhile, also offering home delivery; Ahold’s Peapod is a online grocery service delivering orders and providing them for pickup; Amazon Prime Pantry is gaining speed as well, just to name a few. Inspiration becoming a final product precipitates social sharing of successes or pride in fails.

Meal delivery services, for those who can afford it, offer an alternate route with the modern convenience of having everything you need boxed up for you, ready to assemble/cook, so you can post it to your social media, aka humble brag “I made this.” What was once relegated to weight loss programs like Jenny Craig, these meal services now embolden people to be their own top chefs in the kitchen, with recipes that range from updated American traditions to ethnic fusions with unusual ingredients, previously found only in restaurants. The types of services available seem to only be limited by an entrepreneur’s imagination: local farm-to-table services, gluten-free services, food allergy services, high-end, unique services, etc.

A natural fit for its brand, Weight Watchers has partnered with meal service Chef’d to provide points-approved options that work well with their diet plan. Blue Apron has taken the lead of the services, with a somewhat customize-able recipe offering and subscriptions with meals for 2 and larger families as well; their price range is roughly $60 to $140 per week, depending on the number of meals delivered. Blue Apron also offers wine solutions as well, to partner with the meals. The convenience takes away all guess work and is winning with folks who alternatively, ate out or brought home meals on a regular basis.

We’re seeing how retailers are adapting to our ever changing foodie landscape, what can brands do to adapt? “Brands should be doing more to partner with the home delivery meal services if they want to attract this type of consumer. That being said, while consumers “barely” have to go to the store, 97ish% of all of grocery shopping is still done in-stores of various formats. It’s one of the slower ecommerce categories to catch on but that is changing, slowly,” says Scartz. To that point, “Brands need to worry less about the fresh food meal delivery service and need to worry more about being shut out of impulse purchase as grocery ecommerce does grow. For example, once a consumer creates a list for Amazon.com, they are apt to reorder the same products. Same goes for Instacart or Peapod or whatever. Brands need to market and merchandise on those platforms with an eye toward subscription, especially as omni-channel retailing becomes more the norm.”

Targeted Marketing takes Aim

That time West Elm advertised to me with a photo of my living room:

Last week, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and came across a photo of my living room. This wasn’t something I had posted on Facebook, it was a West Elm ad. I snapped it on my iPhone when my new couch finally arrived and uploaded it to Instagram with the hashtag #mywestelm.

In April 2015, Facebook began testing a new product ad with Olapic that pulls in user-generated content for ad imagery. This is the first true test of user-generated content in a Facebook ad.

In the past, consumers didn’t want to interact with brand content on their social platforms. But with the rise of image-based platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, a shift happened. Consumers now want to share how they engage and interact with their favorite brands and products. Because of this and consumers’ need and desire to have everything hyper-personalized, we are seeing the rise of user-generated content, from staged food photos on Instagram to product hacks on Pinterest. When consumers started seeing products friends and influencers were showing interest in, they found a desire to buy, right from social. They became shoppers.

Facebook is taking the Instagram and Pinterest user experience that motivates shoppers to make a purchase, and applying it to their ad units. West Elm didn’t know they were showing me my own photo (why would they sell me a product I already own?). What they do know is that consumers are more responsive to user-generated photos than branded content and I was the type of consumer likely to shop at West Elm (which is very accurate). My photo could have sold someone a coffee table. I should probably take a new picture now that I have a new West Elm rug.

The #brandbowl

The Super Bowl. The one day of the year we don’t set our DVRs. Instead of fast-forwarding through the commercials, we’re glued to the TV to capture every second. We pay a lot of attention to the major players on the big screen, but now so much of Super Bowl engagement is occurring on much smaller screens: laptops, tablets and smartphones, where people are active across their social platforms.

These three brands won at social around the big game:

HostGator

GoDaddy released their Super Bowl ad in the morning on January 27th, featuring a lost puppy who finds his way home to realize he’s being sold online. Animal rights activists took to Facebook and Twitter to complain. Most puppy mill dogs are sold online. The ad was intended to mock the Budweiser #bestbuds ad, but had a very different effect. Due to the negative backlash, GoDaddy pulled the ad by 6:30pm ET the same day. HostGator, a GoDaddy competitor, immediately created and sponsored a “Puppy Love” Tweet and coupon code announcing they would be donating a portion of their profits to a local Austin Animal Rights organization. If any animal lover was considering a web-hosting provider, HostGator won their business. This is an example of smart real-time social marketing done right.

HostGator Tweet

 

Monster

Monster brilliantly used a Twitter photo size feature to create a post that went live right after the Super Bowl. The Tweet read “Congratulations Seattle from Monster.com! #biggame” and the photo also featured a congratulations message in the image. If you click to view the full-sized image, you see a Monster search for a Social Media Manager position. This was smart for a few reasons. First, it makes fun of brands who have famously messed up on social media. Second, it immediately catches your attention (everybody watching on TV or on social would know the Patriots won the game. Third, they were able to prepare ahead of time by likely having two versions approved and ready to go. Lastly, it has a direct connection to their service (while many Super Bowl commercials are memorable, consumers don’t connect the brand or product affiliated with the ads).

brandbowl featured image

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 11.21.01 AM

 

McDonald’s

While the McDonald’s Super Bowl spot received mixed reviews, the brand recovered and won on social. McDonald’s Tweeted a giveaway tied to every product advertised during the Big Game. This was easy for brands who released Super Bowl commercials ahead of time, but more difficult for brands who didn’t, and involved a large real-time social media effort from the McDonald’s team. People entered by simply Re-Tweeting the McDonald’s tweet, generating engagement awareness for the program. Giveaways ranged from a $1,000 Victoria’s Secret gift card to designer sandals and a pedi tied to the infamous Jublia toenail fungus ad. The giveaways allowed McDonald’s to surprise their fans and engage real-time throughout the entire game.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 11.51.53 AM Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 11.56.51 AM

Digital Advertising Predicted To Surpass TV

“Forrester Research today prognosticated that interactive spending will achieve a 12 percent compound annual growth rate and total $103 billion by 2019. The development is driven by huge gains for the search, display and social media niches, though mobile is truly spearheading the change. The Cambridge, Mass., researcher found mobile advertising will account for 66 percent of growth across interactive categories in the next half decade” as reported by AdWeek.

Not to be outdone, Magna Global claims that digital spending will outstrip TV spending as soon as 2017: “We are anticipating digital media to become the number one advertising category in 2017 when digital ad sales will reach $72 billion (38 percent market share) compared to TV sales of $70.5 billion,” the report said. Magna Global also estimated that U.S. ad spending will hit 167 billion this year, up 5.1 percent; this is a downgrade from the firm’s previous forecast of 6.1 percent. The firm attributes the downgrade to a slower U.S. economy, which caused advertisers to cut ad spending as well as “freeze” budgets, and lower-than-anticipated spending from political and Olympic advertising budgets.”

Regardless of when it happens, it’s pretty obvious that the writing on the wall for traditional media (especially print) is that they will eventually go the way of the billboard and newspaper ad; still hanging around but definitely taking a backseat to all things digital.  Phones, watches, glasses and other personal devices will be the advertisers dream target, with all content customizable to the end user.  In the meantime, advertisers are already using online outlets like YouTube and Hulu that aren’t limited to just 30 seconds to reach a younger demographic that has cut the TV cord:

The State of Social Media: Shifting the Conversation

When brands first started activating via social media, we knew so little about what we were getting into and what we’d get out of it. Metrics such as number of views, likes and/or followers seemed to make sense. A brand could post whatever they wanted on Facebook and then track the percentage of followers and comments. They were able to push out as much content as they liked, as frequently as they liked. Newsfeeds were cluttered with content pushing products, sharing ads, promoting coupons and talking for the sake of talking.

Unfortunately, when reach was the primary metric of success, something important was lost in the process… content.

When we shift our measurement for success from reach to engagement, we can start analyzing trends and create themes for high quality content.

As marketers, we can’t forget that social media is inherently social. It’s a two-way conversation. People don’t want brands talking at them, they want brands to talk with them. We can now measure engagement across all of our social platforms, whether that is clicking a heart-shaped button on Instagram, sharing content on Facebook, clicking through to read an article on Twitter or repinning on Pinterest. We can use metrics and insights to determine the types of content people want to engage with.

Reach is still, of course, important. A person can read a post and not click to engage with it. However, when people do take an action with content, messages become more viral.

With Facebook’s organic reach approaching zero, we have to create relevant, engaging content. We need to remain relevant to our followers and show them that we understand who they are as people and what type of content they are looking for.

People visit their social sites to interact with friends, to be inspired, to find breaking news or to just take a break from their workday. Brands can’t interrupt that space with irrelevant content. Without engagement, social becomes another form of advertising. When brands create high quality, on trend, relevant content, everybody wins. Brands are able to communicate their message in an engaging way, resulting in their message reaching a bigger audience. Fans and followers are able to truly connect with the brands they love on a meaningful, personal level, and become brand advocates.

Viral Brilliance

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, viral phenomenon, is teaching us a lot about a lot of things — ALS for one, human nature, masterful fundraising and some things us marketers should pay attention to. It is treasure trove for Cause Marketers and there are some universal truths (reminders) in it for the rest of us.

The request on social media from one person to several  friends to donate to the cause of ALS, while demonstrating their support for the cause/cure by sharing a video of themselves dumping a bucket of ice over their heads is the basic premise. Then, the friends who are challenged are supposed to donate, challenge a few more people and post their video proof of their ice bath. And so on and so on.

It is the dream child of every viral campaign to have this much uptick and involvement, so quickly. (for the record, it is not a new concept.  I personally have participated in a very similar tactic (the dunking booth) to raise money for a cause. My friends joyfully lined up, made their donations and then pelted the target as hard they could to send me into the tank of nasty water.

But to my observance, The ALS Ice Bucket challenge is a first of it’s kind in the viral world, engaging so many participants and dollars. Besides the fact that these videos seem to claim every other post on Facebook, the ‘event’ has raised over $62M since July 29, the average gift being only $46.25, for a horrible disease that until now was far less known and funded.

I love the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge because it is:

  • Organic and authentic. This does not have the stamp of a corporate or “official cause” on it. ALS is not asking you to dump ice water over your head and donate; your friends are.
  • Fun. The gimmick of pouring ice over one’s head is universally fun, a little outlandish and engaging.  Responses are cross-generational — young, old and in between are into it, challenging each other and helping each other with the videos.
  • Global – the money raised is going for global research and the donations and videos are coming in from all over our small world.
  • Appropriate use of humor and silliness. It has those components in the act itself but still delivers a very sober plea to donate to an important (and decidedly not humorous) cause.
  • Incredibly democratic. The request is one that can be answered by anyone with a cell phone (tripod or friend) and access to frozen water and a bucket. And it is being responded to from everyone from President George W. Bush to Justin Bieber.
  • 15 seconds of fame. It plays to most (non-famous) people’s desire for fame and acknowledgement of being a good person without having to self-promote. The aspect of slight humiliation is endearing and creates camaraderie.
  • Quick. It only takes a few minutes out of our busy lives.
  • Masterful Fund-raising.  The requests are on social media with a huge audience seeing who is being challenged and who responds. So there is peer pressure to participate vs a plea via a newsletter, telethon or dinner.

I think the watch-out is the “me too” factor that is bound to happen, or has already started? Too close a copycat will not be well-received.

P&G Shifting to a Less is More Strategy

Earlier this month Proctor & Gamble (P&G) announced that it would be cutting more than half its brands, a drastic shift  in strategy for the world’s largest consumer-products company. In the past, the company obtained brand after brand, even within the same category to ensure a hefty percentage of shelf space and leverage for consumers’ dollars. But as the retail landscape is shifting, P&G, along with other CPG companies, are having to adjust their paradigms and their portfolios.

From the Wall Street Journal:

P&G didn’t say which brands it will sell or shut down, but it will be a sizable culling of products that bring in around $8 billion a year in revenue. The company owns scores of lesser-known brands including Era and Cheer laundry detergent, Clearblue pregnancy tests and Metamucil laxatives. Dozens could prove attractive to private-equity firms that specialize in orphaned brands or companies in countries like China or Brazil looking for a more global presence.

“I’m not interested in size at all,” Mr. Lafley said in an interview Friday. “I’m interested in whether we are the preferred choice of shoppers.” He said some larger brands may be culled if P&G decides it cannot do well in those segments, and pointed to the company’s recent sale of its pet-food brands, including Iams which had over $1 billion in sales.

So it’s no longer about amassing a chunk of brands, but about keeping and focusing on those brands that are the best fit for the company. Though P&G has not declared which brands it plans to sell, likely some of its smaller, less productive brands will be let go. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean smaller, niche brands are going to be out completely, as long as they are niche market leaders, like Dreft baby clothes detergent or Fixadent denture adhesive.

In looking at this shift in strategy by P&G, it’s crucial to keep consumers in mind at the core of this shift. These days companies must wage battle for consumers’ attention through what seems like a ever-evolving number of channels. There are thousands of TV channels now, satellite radio, social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, with new ones popping up everyday, along with display and search advertising in addition to more traditional advertising, and that’s just a brief summation. While it’s ripe with opportunity to be able to reach consumers on so many levels, the only way to reap the rewards is if brands can break through to be seen and remembered. And when you have too many dogs in the fight for consumers’ attention, you don’t do any of your brands any favors by creating more competing “clutter.”

Additionally, think of the impact of technology has had on the state of retail given the physical store shelves are competing with virtual store shelves. On his blog Stratechery, technology strategist Ben Thompson addresses the P&G announcement within this context:

…Remember, dominating shelf space was a core part of their strategy, and while I’m no mathematician, I’m pretty sure dominating an infinite resource is a losing proposition. What matters now is dominating search… There are two big challenges when it comes to winning search:

  • Because search is initiated by the customer, you want that customer to not just recognize your brand (which is all that is necessary in a physical store), but to recall your brand (and enter it in the search box). This is a much stiffer challenge and makes the amount of time and money you need to spend on a brand that much greater
  • If prospective customers do not search for your brand name but instead search for a generic term like “laundry detergent” then you need to be at the top of the search results. And, the best way to be at the top is to be the best-seller. In other words, having lots of products in the same space can work against you because you are diluting your own sales and thus hurting your search results

The way to deal with both challenges is the same way you break through the noise: you put more focus on fewer brands.

I think Thompson hits the nail on the head, especially for such a large player like P&G in the CPG game. Time will tell if this move helps P&G’s bottom line and if the private equity firms expected to purchase the former P&G brands wind up with deals.

Photo credit: Getty