Social and content technology is transforming, and will continue to transform the ways in which we engage with people online.
Do you want to hear about the exciting changes that are happening in the industry? The changes that will shape what’s coming in 2016?
I recently presented at a fantastic marketing technology conference (MarTech) founded by Scott Brinker and, at this event, I gave a sneak peek into what’s coming in 2016.
Before we dip into the trends, let’s look at the depth and breadth of social technology.
What is social technology and how broad is it?
When you talk about social, people think Facebook and Twitter.
They are certainly platforms that enable social but it’s so much broader than this!
Social technology can (and should be) found across an entire organization – marketing, sales, customer service, HR and many other departments.
Social technology is technology that facilitates a conversation with your target audience (employees, customers, partners) through digital channels.
Here are some examples:
- Email – if you are not just about broadcasting, this can be a great channel to open up dialogue with your customers and stimulate conversations.
- Website chat – very social, you allow customers on your website to interact with you in real time.
- Messaging tools like WhatsApp and Slack
- Commenting systems
- Skype – 1-to-1 communication over voice/video is not scalable but is extremely powerful for targeted groups. Can you build a relationship over skype? Of course.
Your whole social strategy could be that your team is available 24 hours a day to interact with website visitors and you create the best and most engaging and personal experience for your audience.
What’s wrong with that?
Think about social technology differently and you’ll see the potential for success.
You do not have to be on Facebook and Twitter to be a social organization.
But you do need to open up your brand for conversations and engage with your audience, and that is not necessarily what we typically think of, with social channels.
What about content-marketing technology?
Content is the fuel that feeds the fire.
You need to build your marketing engine, and content and social technology are crucial components of this.
As I only had 25 minutes for my talk, I missed out on a few items. So here are 10 areas that are worth watching over the course of 2016.
1. Acquisitions give more depth and breath
Have you noticed the number of acquisitions going on in the social space at the moment?
Why are there so many acquisitions and what’s going to happen in this area?
Investors realize the true potential and scope of social and are investing big dollars in some big platforms.
This is selective investment in the companies that really have tied down social in a way that is impacting a customer’s bottom line.
For example, NewsCred (a content marketing technology and service) raised $42 million and Sprinklr raised $46 million.
NewsCred is a content marketing platform as well as a marketplace for services. But NewsCred is expanding its content to TV advertising. That’s content. Think broad.
These vendors will go on acquisition trails to expand their social technology platforms.
Larger customers do not want a lot of different tools that don’t integrate well together.
Sprinklr recently acquired GetSatisfaction, Branderatti, Pluck, Newbrand and others. And they are not stopping there.
Sprinklr are extending their platform to cover more areas of social. For example, GetSatisfaction is used for customer service and Newbrand is a predictive analytics platform that predicts buyer behavior.
It’s fascinating to watch.
As a tech geek, I love all this.
Watch out for more acquisitions like this:
- Monitoring tools – Management tools will buy monitoring tools because it doesn’t make sense to have an independent monitoring tool.
- Management tools – Monitoring tools will also buy management tools! Acquisitions can go in both directions.
- Management tools buy curation tools – If a company builds a really smart curation tool, this can be very useful to incorporate as part of a management platform.
That’s just an example, watch out for a lot of action in this space!
2. Freemium to stay but free to go
We all know that building your social strategy on free is a bad strategy.
The freemium model is where tool providers offer you access to a tool with limited functionality or for a limited time period in order to help build trust with the product so that you eventually upgrade.
Freemium is loss making but creates customers and brand awareness and has other benefits.
Free is now more and more unsustainable.
The reason is that platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are increasingly restricting access to their data unless you pay.
Last year, Twitter implemented restrictions to the ability to access to their full fire hose (their complete data).
To get access to their full data, you pay money through a company called Gnip (there are alternatives, too).
Recently, Twitter bought Gnip and brought this back in house.
Twitter has also just announced it will no longer share Twitter count numbers (i.e. the number of shares). To get access to this, you will need to pay!
At the end of April, Facebook announced it was implementing further restrictions on its public API.
Expect more platforms to follow suit.
Their data is valuable, why make it available for free?
Be careful of free. It’s not affordable.
3. Influencer Outreach Automation
I’m sure you’ve noticed that the number of opportunities to engage with your potential customer on different platforms is increasing.
There’s Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Periscope, Meerkat and many more.
But you can’t be expected to have a presence on all of these platforms.
This is where influencer marketing will become increasingly important.
It is very expensive to build up a presence on a new platform and you can’t focus on all platforms at once.
So, one of the best ways of reaching some of these new platforms is through an influencer who already has a trusted relationship with the audience you want to access.
This could be a paid or unpaid route.
If you have a small influencer program with a small number of influencers, managing this is not too difficult.
But if you want to scale this up so you’re managing relationships with thousands of influencers, you need some automation.
Recently, TapInfluence announced that its platform now supports extensive automation to find, manage and track influencer relationships.
Influencer marketing automation technology is the future of influencer marketing.
Build influencer relationships at scale.
4. Curation gets smart
Earlier, I mentioned the potential of curation tool providers to be acquired.
Curation is the ability to find the most relevant content from the noise that is available.
BuzzSumo, Content Gems, Curalate, Scoop.it and many more options are available.
BuzzSumo brought out a tool to find trending content, which is the most-shared content, content shared by influencers and much more.
It has grown rapidly because there was a real need for a tool like this.
Curalate will find the most relevant content for you but it will also track what you share from the content it presents.
It can then tailor future content, based on what you have shown interest in, using its smart curation engine.
The future of curation is coming.
It’s smarter, it’s predictive, and it’s mega useful.
Mark Schaefer introduced the term ‘Content Shock’. There is too much content out there. Curation creates a bird’s eye view of the content you need to know about.
Too much content is not a problem if curation is smart enough to find the best content for your audience.
With the increasing volume of content, you need smart curation tools.
And… they are on their way.
5. Image recognition and analysis
We have so many text-based monitoring, filtering and analytics tools but most social content is based around imagery.
Image analysis is hard and not foolproof.
But technology is getting better in this area and having image recognition and analysis software is a big plus to brands.
Sysomos recently acquired Gaze.
Gaze provides image recognition and analysis software.
You enter a search for your logo and Gaze identifies images that contain your logo.
Absolutely, its mega smart and essential.
Social is image- and video-based at his core, and we need the tools to match this.
6. Content optimization and Content predictive analytics
Imagine being able to predict whether you could rank for a piece of content before you post it?
Did you know that 95% of your blog content typically gets an initial burst of traffic and then no organic traffic on an ongoing basis.
You’ll find that a small number of blog posts get the vast majority of your organic traffic.
Inbound Writer is a tool that’s all about content-predictive analytics.
You enter the keywords you want to create content about and rank for and it will predict the likelihood of achieving this.
Let’s not waste time on content that doesn’t rank in organic search. Some content you’ll write because you simply want to write about that topic and don’t care about organic search results but, with most content, you’ll want to rank for it.
Predictive content analytics. It’s the future.
Content optimization on the other hand is smart software that reads your content and tells you what’s wrong with it.
Does it have spelling mistakes, grammar issues, is it going to be engaging?
Writing content that is not engaging doesn’t do us any good.
Platform such as Acrolinx have very smart software in this space. Let’s only deliver the most engaging content.
7. Massive increase in enabling and tracking social selling.
Social is a channel.
You direct traffic from social media to your website to feed your funnel.
You might nurture the relationship a bit more, to warm up your prospect, but you still pass them through a funnel to generate sales.
Or… maybe you don’t and you should!
Next year, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms will have a ‘buy’ button.
It may be suited more towards low-value transactions but it makes perfect sense.
Imagine a friend sharing a review of a book (shared as a Twitter card that contains the image of the book, summary of the review, etc.).
You see it, you click ‘buy’ and purchase the book without leaving Twitter.
You’re on LinkedIn and you’re impressed with a consultant. You click a ‘hire me now’ button and transact within LinkedIn.
But what’s also coming is that social media and content marketing people will understand the importance of building sales funnels.
Internet marketers know how to build online sales funnels.
Traditional social media and content marketers don’t.
If you don’t have the software, you’ll need the skills.
It will come in the form of software like Insightpool.
They have a social media automation platform that warms up the relationship with a prospect on social.
…recently, they bought a social selling platform that closes the sale.
We need to hire content marketing and funnel optimization experts. We need to hire social media and funnel optimization experts.
You create the conversation, you create the opportunity for the sale, and you close the sale.
We train people around the world in our PRISM model. You create an audience (P for people), you develop the relationship (R for relationship), you drive inbound traffic (I for inbound traffic) you generate email subscribers or you do social retargeting (S for subscribers or social) and then you monetize (M for monetize).
You can sell on social media.
There will be more selling on social media.
Update your tools and your skills.
8. We’ll see more predictive analytics
Predictive analytics is where we use technology to predict what is going to happen, before it actually does.
For example, Trendspottr predicts a trend before it happens.
Imagine if there was something really negative about your product that was shared online.
Wouldn’t it be great if you catch this before it went viral?
Trendspottr tries to predict a trend before it happens.
We mentioned Newbrand already, which predicts customer buying behavior.
We will see a lot more in this space.
9. Live streaming
Live streaming has been around for many years but it never got widespread adoption.
This is changing and we’re at the start of rapid growth in this area.
Blab, Periscope, Meerkat, NomadCast and many other live-streaming platforms are growing like crazy.
We have the mobile devices, we have the bandwidth and we’re more used to opening up to people online because of social media.
Don’t sit on the sidelines.
Build a strategy for live streaming. It’s not going away.
10. Messaging – Slack
WhatsApp has over 850 million users. It’s a messaging app. It will have more users than Facebook in 2016.
Slack is a messaging app for teams.
However, that slogan on their website will change soon because the potential for this platform is enormous. This shows you Google trends related to searches for Slack… it’s only at the beginning…
Messaging platforms like Slack are going to take over from the likes of LinkedIn groups, which are full of spam.
There is going to be another breed of social that is engaging, real-time and powerful.
Watch out for this!
We are at a very exciting time with social technology.
- The market is maturing.
- The tools are maturing.
- Our knowledge of social and content is maturing.
Many people will give up on social and content marketing because they never understood it in the first place. The people who stick with it and really get these forms of marketing, will thrive and tools will help them get there.
I’d love to hear your opinion on this.