As a new year quickly approaches it’s time to recap the year that was, as well as make some bold predictions for 2016. Let’s face it folks, marketing is not an inexpensive proposition. Whether it’s time or money or both, it’s important to maximize the resources you have available and generate a reasonable return on that investment. The goal of this report is to point you in the right direction and provide options (not mandates) on where you can best focus your marketing efforts in 2016 and beyond.
New marketing channels and opportunities sprung up in 2015, most notably the live streaming platforms such as Periscope, Blab and Meerkat. Others, like 2014’s hotly anticipated social network, Ello, never quite reached mainstream adoption in 2015 like many expected. Google+ shifted the focus of their platform concentrating on niched “communities” and “collections”.
With so much changing so quickly, brands often take one of two approaches: Stand pat and wait to see what pans out, or jump right in to emerging platforms and see what sticks. I think there’s a much smarter and safer play however, and I’ll reveal that approach towards the end of this report.
2015 Marketing Survey Results
Over the last month, I conducted a short, informal survey of entrepreneurs from various business circles I run in as well as via social media opening it up to business owners across the globe. I asked them four questions related to their marketing efforts. I’ve compiled some of the most interesting answers below and quoted them in italics.
Question #1: What marketing channels worked for you / gave you the most bang for your buck in 2015?
While answers were wide ranging, the majority of responses mentioned social media and/or in-person networking as their best performers. Here are some of the answers:
- “From the digital side, Instagram was a great tool for brand awareness.”
“For a dollar return? Facebook & Meetup. For a time return? Newsletters (email) & Twitter.”
- “The networking groups that I am a member of and strategic partnerships.”
- “Events where I was the speaker.”
“Social media – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, Twitter.”
Question #2: What didn’t work or was trending down in 2015?
Facebook came up quite a bit here. I suspect the respondents were referring to organic Facebook marketing rather than paid, however. Here are some of the answers:
- “Big drop in LinkedIn.”
“Free Networking Groups.”
Question #3: What marketing channels will you focus on in 2016 and why?
Overwhelmingly, the live streaming platforms win out. Here are some selected answers:
- “Youtube/Periscope. Video is exploding and is why apps like Periscope are emerging as leaders. Even in the picture form, apps like Instgram , Snap Chat and even TInder are popular because of visual. There are not many audio only apps that are as popular.”
- “Email (better follow-ups).”
- “Presenting eight-hour workshops, in addition to my one-hour speaking events. I will try live streaming with this.”
“Blab.im and virtual networking LIVE.”
Question #4: What is your bold prediction for 2016?
Some interesting answers here included:
- “Twitter will continue dwindling down, from being a massive place to discuss topics, to being a collection of niche interests – mostly B2B networking, entertainment and indie content producers, and live event posting.”
“Live streaming will gain sharehold in strategy emphasis.”
“Snapchat will go mainstream.”
My Own Bold 2016 Predictions
For me 2016 will be the year of engagement. What do I mean by that? I think brands will need to focus on mediums where they can directly begin a conversation and elicit a response from their customers and fans. Rather than putting static content into the world, there will be a shift in focus to making media that is engaging.
Take this article for example. Much of it was generated by users who participated in the process.That’s one way you can engage and interest an audience. I’ve done the same thing for my podcast. I let listeners choose the next subject. It ensures they’re getting what they want instead of me guessing what they want. It involves people emotionally in the process and helps me create content my followers want to hear. On my Blab.im and Periscope broadcasts, I have segments of the show dedicated to audience questions and input. It gets people excited to watch every week. I strongly believe that if you can figure out ways to engage your audience – take their order not just feed them – you’ll build a much bigger brand following in 2016.
My specific predictions:
- Blogging and content curation will go through a sifting process. Consumers are being inundated with content. There is too much content being produced because so many companies have been told that it’s the future and that their SEO will get a boost. While that was true, I feel the ship has sailed. There are too many content farms producing spammy content and consumers are getting savvier. Sure, the blogs and content producers who have gotten a foothold will continue to do well, but new ones are going to have a hard time competing for attention, especially against the live streaming platforms that are catching fire.
- Live streaming will organize. It’s currently the wild west out there, but that is soon to change. Smart marketers are already creating shows, hosting webinars and doing other engaging activities that are attracting attention and captivating consumers. I’d focus on Periscope and Blab much more than Meerkat and others.
- Podcasting will be a continue to become more popular. I’m personally investing most of my resources in this medium in 2016. Podcasting works because it’s on on-demand platform, and it’s something you can listen to while driving and doing physical activities. It fills a hole that video can’t. With Google opening up their Google Play platform for podcasts, it’s evident it’s gaining a lot of steam.
- Virtual reality will be a new frontier for the big brands (Coca-Cola, Samsung, Nike, etc.). I think we’ll start to see virtual reality become a place where subtle product placement will be utilized. Imagine being in a VR environment and seeing a can of Coke on the desk for instance. Or driving a race car and passing billboards for real-life products.
- Re-targeting and geo-fencing will explode. As big data is building a profile for each and every consumer, hyper-targeting is going to get more popular. Facebook rolled out new re-targeting features last year as well as began a beacon program for local businesses to start beta-testing. These beacons or geo-fences allow businesses to target mobile users within a certain proximity of their physical location. Soon phones will start receiving push notifications and timely ads based on proximity. Millennials and the younger generations are much more lax on privacy and studies have shown they prefer to get personalized advertising tailored to them over broad approaches. In exchange, they’re more apt to allow their information to be used by advertisers.
- Brand will shift focus to their employees more. By concentrating energy on their own staff they can build brand champions that will spread their message to the world. It’s a win-win for everyone as consumers would rather interact with real people than brands.
- Creating niched private communities or groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ will perform better than more traditional or broad-based social media strategies. Our world is getting hyper-niched. People on social media are organizing and segmenting themselves into interests. Again, just look at what Google+ decided to concentrate on – communities and topical post structure.
So those are my broad observations and predictions for marketing in 2016. Now what to do with all that information? As I mentioned in the beginning, there are two approaches most entrepreneurs and brand managers take: diving into everything or waiting. My suggestion is that you take a different approach. I suggest you take the remainder of this year (2015) and build a profile of your target client. Then, find exactly where they’re hanging out. You might find Twitter is the best place, or you might find it’s LinkedIn. You might find they don’t engage in social media at all but they listen to radio. Whatever it is, don’t get caught up in what some guru tells you is the next best thing. Instead, do some research up front and find out where your customers hang out. Then focus 80% of your energy on that one platform. Yes one and only one! Then take the other 20% and try a few of these new ones mentioned above. Dabble around and see if anything sticks or if you can carve out a space.
Good luck and happy brand building in 2016!!!