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#sometrendit2016: The Only 2016 Social Media Trends You Should Read

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As the year approaches the end, it has become an annual tradition for me take a look at crystal ball and share my views with Kurio Social Media Agency on the next year´s social media trends.

For those adapt at Finnish, I recommend reading the whole report. If you are not interested in the predictions of 28 other Finnish digital marketers, you can also jump straight to the most important ones (mine) below.

Before I go into my answers, I have to quote myself from the last year:

I have to say that I have not been interested in social media as such for a long time. Do not get me wrong. Social plays crucial role in digital business. But I seldom think digital as a separate entity either: digital is air. Digital, mobile and social should be a part of every business. Sometimes at the core, sometimes playing supporting role and sometimes playing no role at all. Strategy is about deciding what to do, but even more importantly what not to do. If you are thinking social media as a separate unit you are missing the bigger picture. 

The dominance of digital universe goes well beyond our traditional silos.

And here are the bold/boring predictions of 2016:

  1. 1. Biggest Social Media Trend in 2016?

Internet will be build more and more upon instant messaging. We have moved to the latest phase of Internet: the Age of Messaging. What is most interesting, who will be the master of that era? If previous phase was the Age of Social and Facebook was the undisputed king, is it able to keep its lead? Currently it seems with the dual-strategy of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger that Facebook will continue to dominate.

2. Social media platforms to look out for 2015?
Last year I was speculating about anonymous messaging and those services were not able to live up the hype. On the same speculative tip, I would keep an eye on live-streaming platforms like Periscope. It is easy to recognize the opportunities Periscope can bring to the brands. Bigger question is will they be truly interesting to actual users?

It is worthwhile to keep an eye on WeChat, because what it does today in China, Facebook will do in western world tomorrow with its Facebook messenger.

3. Biggest challenges in doing social media marketing in 2015?

The huge portion (probably somewhere around 3/4) of sharing in social media is so-called “dark social”. This means that social media listening gives one-sided and even totally faulty picture about what people are really talking about. People share where the brands play no role.

This is great for consumers, because brands are not ruining your conversation or begging you to like them. It makes our work way more difficult. Established channels like FB and YouTube are 100% paid media. To some IM services you cannot get even when you are paying. There is no such thing as earned media anymore.

4. Social Media Buzzword, which hopefully disappears in 2015?

Content marketing.

Despite all the hoopla about native advertising and new content agencies, the division of labor is simple. In Internet there is only good (or bad) content or good (mostly bad) ads. Ad agencies have shown that they cannot truly create content and content marketers have not been good at creating ads (which essentially move products of the shelves). There is role for both counterparts, but it is utter stupidity to think that you could replace one with another. Or that one agency could be great at creating both of them.

To see what I have been predicting in previous years, see the following links:

Social Media trends 2013

Social Media trends 2014

Social Media trends 2015

 

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The Only 2015 Social Media Trends You Need to Read This Year

As the year approaches the end, it has become an annual tradition for me take a look at crystal ball and share my views to Kurio Digital Marketing Think Thank on the next year´s social media trends. For those adapt at Finnish, I recommend reading the whole report in here. If you are not interested in the predictions of 26 other Finnish digital marketers, you can also jump straight to the most important ones (mine) below.

Before going through the actual answers, I have to say that I have not been interested in social media as such for a long time. Do not get me wrong. Social plays crucial role in digital business. But I seldom think digital as a separate entity either: digital is air. Digital, mobile and social should be a part of every business. Sometimes at the core, sometimes playing supporting role and sometimes playing no role at all. Strategy is about deciding what to do, but even more importantly what not to do. If you are thinking social media as a separate unit you are missing the bigger picture. The dominance of digital universe goes well beyond our traditional silos.

Having got that off my chest, here are my most important social media trends for 2015:

1. Biggest Social Media Trend in 2015?

One-Size does not fit all
No more social media army knives. Consumers demand services excelling in one feature instead of having multiple mediocre features crammed into one. It is no longer about maximizing users in one single service (Facebook), but maximizing the time spent on the whole ecosystem (WhatsApp, Instagram, FB Messenger). How different services will or not be integrated together is big strategic question and will have implications on what channels companies should be using to reach their target audience.

2. Social media platforms to look out for 2015?

Anonymous and Interest-based networks
Anononymous chat apps (i.e. Whisper & Secret) are definitely interesting. It remains to be seen, can they do the jump to the next level like Snapchat has done.
Even in 2014 discussion forums are still alive and kicking. This is one proof that, there is demand for interest-based social network with underlying idea ”It is not who you are, but what you are interested in”. Ello cannot make it and current anynomous chat apps focus more on filth, rumors and spying. All of those activities are naturally great, but is it enough for these apps to make it to the major league is a billion dollar valuation question.

3. Biggest challenges in doing social media marketing in 2015?

Wrong teams doing wrong things with wrong budgets to wrong clients
From business logic perspective, Facebook and YouTube are more traditional advertising than social media. When you sponsor a post in Facebook, you should invest as much or even more to it than to a print ad. Emphasizing the verb “should”. Many marketers have not understood the shift in dynamics in digital marketing. Facebook is new print. YouTube is the new TV. Some marketers still have the illusion that digital is either free or cheap and you do not have to worry about production values. They could not be more wrong.
On the other hand, some marketers misinterpret the rising digital ad prices and increased resemblance to traditional ad buying logic to just pushing your TV ads to YouTube or print ads to Facebook. They could not be more wrong. Although the prices are getting closer, the creative should be drastically different.
Eyeballs cost money and you do not have loopholes for free publicity any more. If you are not ready to take risks, be honest and bold, catching the attention of consumers is even harder, almost impossible regardless of the media budget.

4. Social Media Buzzword, which hopefully disappears in 2015?

Ello
There has been a simple reason why I have not written anything about Ello in this blog. It is not interesting at all. Diaspora and Ello are manifestations that consumers are not really that interested in privacy, your personal data usage in advertising or in pretty much anything else that you should be interested as a conscious consumer. The problem is that majority of consumers are not that conscious.

5. Biggest social media wish for the next year?

Wishes are for people, who do not make demands.
I actually read through my last year´s predictions and I still think they are valid stuff as well. So if you did not find trends suitable to your liking in this list, I recommend reading that one.

Happy holidays to every one! I still might have couple of posts left in tank for this year, but soon going for a deserved holiday.

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Who Will Be The Master of Internet Universe?

Web is dead.

That is the title of one of the greatest articles ever written about digital revolution four years ago to Wired. The main points about that brilliant piece are still valid, although speed of mobile revolution surprised many of the players for a while. The main idea of the story is that web starts to resemble more and more traditional industry with handful of players. Web is oligopoly and certain verticals almost resemble monopolies.

If you simplify the consumer-facing web business (so I am excluding infrastructure and other boring things which is where the real money is), it is about three things: products, commerce & advertising. Products enable you to connect to the Internet: smartphones, computers, watches, television sets, fridges and whatnot. Commerce is about being able to buy things from Internet and advertising is what it is: bombarding you with messages to buy more stuff.

Product category as we know it will eventually be commoditized. If you want to remain premium, you have to innovate constantly. That is the only way to remain luxury brand in this realm. Cheap smartphones will eventually beat the premium ones. In the future you are able to connect to Internet in whatever device and you do not really have to pay that much of that privilege.
Where the growth will come? Wearables can be the future winner product category, although they have not really yet taken off. The changes are rapid though. iPad was launched only four years ago, created totally new category and is currently at risk of vanishing because of the phablets. So is the life.
 
Current champions: Apple, Samsung
Challengers: Xiaomi and other cheap manufacturers
Disrupters: Luxury brands (Would connectivity enhance Rolex? I say not, but I might be wrong as well)

Commerce will become even bigger and you are able to buy pretty much everything online. Will all the physical retail vanish? Not necessarily, but the point is not about that. It is about that you are able to buy everything online, and majority of people will do exactly that, because it is more convenient and affordable.
Commerce is the biggest opportunity and a space I follow most closely. Strong brands will definitely start to create their own online retail experiences, which would enable them to bypass the more traditional retail channels. In the next decade there will be lots of turmoil in this category and many big players will fall and new challengers will arise. Biggest challenges are not that much about technology (lots of payment innovations happening), but about logistics.
Second interesting point is that idea of commerce has changed with shared economy. Both Uber and AirBnB are selling physical service, which would not be possible without digital channel. How far collaborative economy can be stretched remains to be seen. It can potentially be really big disruptor to the way we do business in general.
Last point about commerce is the ecosystem approach. Apple makes money constantly through App Store by enabling others to make money. Facebook is building app ecosystem with the acquisition of Instagram, WhatsApp and Parse. Both Amazon and Alibaba are enabling developers to build things on their platform.
 
Current Champions: Amazon, AliBaba, Ebay
Challengers: Google, Facebook, WeChat, Line, Apple (Apple Pay) 
Disrupters: Brands, FMCG brands, Collaborative economy players (Uber, Airbnb…)

Advertising will be important, because people will keep on buying stuff. Stuff makes us happy. More stuff makes us even happier. How are you able to buy that stuff if you do not know that it exists?
Will advertising become smarter in the future? Yes and no. In last decade or so, we have had one revolutionary advertising idea. That is SEM. You show people ads when they actually want to see ads. Contextual advertising and retargeting have been nice inventions, but mainly advertising is still based on interruption (some of it being more relevant like app install ads). One of the most innovative companies in the world, Facebook, makes most of its money by interrupting its users in various ways.
The advertising business is relatively simple: it is all about reach. All of the most successful advertising platforms are based on firstly to reach and then secondly the quality of those who you are reaching. That is unlikely to change. However, the biggest task is to try to narrow the gap between the interruption (advertising) and purchase (commerce). The monetary exchange is the only tangible KPI we have and less you have to travel to do it, the better.

Current Champions: Google, Facebook
Challengers: WeChat, Line, Twitter (was tempted to leave it out completely, but I give it a shot still), “Traditional media companies”(although I do not really have high hopes for their complete digital transformation, but they will remain influential on this space as well)
Disrupters: Amazon (the closer you are to the actual transaction, the less you have to interrupt), Content owners (although none of them has done any major moves and have mainly milked the status quo)

The lines are naturally blurry. The quote from Eric Schmidt summarizes the whole situation:

Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo. But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon. People don’t think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon.”

That is also the reason why these big companies are testing weird things and buying obscure companies. Internet has made it easier to disrupt a category and also connect categories in new way. Facebook & Google test drones, so it can bring Internet the people who don´t have it yet. Thus increasing the reach. Amazon tests drones, because shipping is the biggest bottleneck of eCommerce. When your business can start to flourish rapidly, it can also vanish rapidly. There is no time to sleep, because sleep is the cousin of death.

What do you think, who will become the master of the Internet universe?

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Social Media Trends 2014: The Truth According to Me

Good folks at Kurio Digital Marketing Think Thank asked me (again) and 21 other Finnish digital dudes & dudettes some views of social media trends in 2014.

In many ways the social media scene has matured and the shifts are not as radical as they were few years back. Many of my answers from last year would not be out of place this year (last year trends can be read here). As majority of the readers of my blog cannot read Finnish, I have translated my predictions below. If you can understand Finnish, the report is highly recommended read.

Before going to my answers, it is important to make the distinction between a fad, a trend and a commodity. Every new thing starts out as a fad (i.e. Snapchat is in that phase). Majority just stay as fads (Chatroulette), but certain things evolve to trends (i.e. brands building their Facebook pages few years back). Only very few make their route to become commodities (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube at the moment). Trends do not pay the bills, so usually only when something is commoditized it starts to make safe business sense. In that way you should approach your social media marketing efforts like investor:

70% of investments to commodities (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)
25% to trends (Taking selfies)
5% to fads (Snapchat, Vine)

This is naturally subject to your risk tolerance and your business majority. If you are start-up with nothing to lose, it might sense to flip it other around. And do not get me wrong, my view is that brands should try to ride the trends and fads more proactively. It is just important to realize their business role (such as learning, gaining the opinion leadership, creating the future competitive advantage). Riding on the fads seldom is the way to reach masses.

So with that caveat my social media trends (with couple of commodities and fads thrown in as well):

 1.Biggest Social Media Trends in 2014: Monetization & Mobile-First
There is two big paradigm shifts which are not really trends, but changes which have already happened but keep
a) Money (Show it)
Twitter did the IPO this year, which will affect the user experience. I doubt that the success will not be as good as with Facebook. Mass social media channels are increasingly more bought media than earned media. Therefore community manager or social media director without also access to bought media budget is a position without any real power. In many ways the advancements in bought media (i.e. programmatic buying) have also been way more interesting in recent years than say in, content marketing.
b) Mobile (First)
The switch to mobile is not a trend, it is a change which has already happened.  Consumers  switch wildly between different channels, platforms, devices and even use them at the same time! This puts extra pressure to understanding the consumer journeys. You cannot really understand those journeys without constant testing, measuring and optimizing. Secret to crack the mobile-first challenge is to think holistically consumer-first.

 2. Social Media platform to look out for in 2014: Anything related to visual storytelling
I have talked about selfies before in this blog and they will not go anywhere next year (hopefully twerking will not disappear either). All the applications, which help you to modify and enhance will be hot items next year. China will show the way in this trend. Also, we have to also remember that selfie is a communication vehicle as itself. Combining IM and visual storytelling will be a big thing. Instagram has actually addressed this already with its Direct offering.

3. Biggest challenges in doing social media marketing in 2014: Processes block the real-time success 
Old processes stand in the way of the really great real-time executions. Year 2013 was disappointment in terms of real-time marketing. There were couple of nice stunts, but we should be able to do better than just dunk in the dark (Oreo is still pretty much the only proper case study example). The briefing process that is suitable for traditional big brand campaign just does not fit faster requirements of real-time marketing. My personal New Year promise is to concentrate even more in creating and executing more streamlined, collaborative and more agile way to make real-time success stories next year.

4. Social Media Buzzword, which hopefully disappears in 2014: The whole talk of the social media
If you are still in 2014 talking about social media as a separate unit, you are more old-school than the person still using FourSquare. Consumers switch smoothly between devices and platforms and between virtual and real-life like it ain´t no big thing. What is actually the difference between digital and real-life nowadays? How can your firm address the needs and the behaviors of these consumers in every relevant touchpoints? To separate social media from other digital activities or other activities is just laziness and shutting your eyes of the reality. Digital scene is more fragmented than every before. Therefore it is more crucial than ever to create a big picture of those fragments. We do not need any more social media specialists (or digital specialists for that matter). We need 100% digital people who live and breath like their consumers and have the understanding and empathy to connect with them (and also means to be in the right touchpoints).

 5. Biggest social media hope for the next year?
I do not hope, I just do. And measure, optimize and do it again.

Predicting the future is too much work, I rather create history.

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