We now have 2 billion users of social media. And while some platforms continue to grow at an amazing pace, such as Instagram, others are slowing dying or are already almost dead for various reasons – Digg, Google+, and Delicious, to name a few. Marketing disruptions are hardly a new thing, but they are clearly gaining velocity.
What Won’t Change
As marketers look towards the future of social media platforms that remain popular, some things will not change. Relationships, trust, emotional triggers, and consumer experience will continue to be critical.
What Will Change – Customer Experience Demands
What will change, however, is the delivery of content through those platforms, with newer technology and tighter metrics. Here are 5 changes to which marketers will have to adapt as we move through the last half of this decade. And all of them will relate to creating wonderful customer experiences.
Big Data Becomes Bigger
Right now, marketers are collecting lots of data on their customers and potential customers.
- They have developed personas
- they know when their audiences are online and what devices they are using
- they track behavior of visitors to their sites
- They use analytics to determine which content formats and which platforms are engaging their audiences most.
All of this can be used to determine what, when and how they publish on each social media platform.
What’s Next? – Segregation
The next level of reaching those audiences will now be to segregate them into groups and even into individuals, and to “track” their behaviors and movements within that smaller context. The purpose is to give them individualized experiences that are tailored to their needs. Here are the new critical trends to which marketers will now need to adapt if they intend to remain relevant in social media.
- Tailoring content to specific individuals in real time. The technology is here. A consumer is walking on a street. As he approaches Starbucks, he receives a tweet informing him that one of his favorite lattes is now on sale.
- Differentiated email. Most marketers have already divided their target audiences into sub-groups for such things as differentiated email marketing. This marketing helps customers have experiences that are somewhat more personalized.
Differentiation will carry over into social media, where posts will also be segregated out based upon the experiences that target audiences have shown they want. As we look toward the future of social media, what shows up on someone’s wall will become fully personalized based upon that consumer’s behavior and the experience that a marketer knows s/he wants.
- Content management systems will become more sophisticated and sleek, and cheaper to incorporate. And these systems will allow marketers do give those personalized experiences in automated and efficient ways.
Like the fellow who walks by Starbucks and gets the tweet because of its GPA system, a content management system that has tracked when and where and how to deliver that content is doing so without a marketer having to physically be involved.
- Privacy concerns will be voiced loudly. Consumers already complain about their behavior being “tracked”. They get ads on their Facebook page, receive tweets related to where they have been online and what they have looked at, or see sponsored photos on Instagram. They feel intruded upon, as if somehow “Big Brother” is everywhere. And in many ways he is.
Social media marketers will have to proceed very carefully with all of the new technology they have, so that they find that “sweet spot” between being helpful in the exploration and purchasing process and being intrusive and, possibly, threatening to a user.
Design Architecture that Integrates Holistic Customer Experiences
In his recent book, “X: The Experience When Business Meets Design”, Brian Solis has provided marketers with great insights about the future of social media marketing and, in fact, marketing in general. To him, the future of marketing will rely almost wholly on experience of customers.
It will be the marketer’s job to design a holistic customer experience through what he calls “moments of truth.” While these may “look” somewhat like a sales funnel, they are different. Each moment of truth is a part of the total experience a customer has in the process of and after making a purchase. And each of these moments of truth must involve personal attention. To summarize:
Moments of Truth
- The “0” Moment: This is the discovery process. Someone is looking for a product or service. H/she may conduct a google search and land up on your website; it is just as likely in the future, however, that s/he will first go to social media and ask others for recommendations.
- The “1” Moment: Now the consumer has narrowed down his/her search and has come to your website. You will need to make that experience great.
- S/he does not want a sales presentation
- s/he doesn’t want to chat with anyone
- S/he wants a presentation that is engaging. And if that presentation is terrific, a “teaser” of it should have been placed on social media platforms to draw others in.
- In most instances, presentations will be video-based, because, as Brian Solis states, 2016 will be the year of the video (more about that later.)
- The “2” Moment: A purchase is made, and there must be a great experience with that purchase. If customer service is needed once that purchase is made, then that experience has to be wonderful too. And if there are questions, they must be answered. Companies know this, and this part of the buying experience does not involve social media per se.
- The “3” Moment: Customer experiences are either bad, neutral (okay, good), or fabulous.
- Bad experiences will be shared on social media because they are cathartic.
- Neutral experiences will not be shared unless someone else on the same platform asks for them.
- Fabulous experiences may be shared when others ask, but will not always be volunteered. Marketers must find ways to motivate those with fabulous experiences to share them.
Positively rewarding those who share will be a key element in brand exposure and new traffic, because peer reviews will become more and more important in consumer decisions. Such reviews have been important to millennials for quite some time, and Gen Y is already showing the same tendency.
The current statistics on the importance of video in social media marketing are stunning if marketers have not been paying attention to them. Clearly, videos will continue to be a huge part of the customer experience, and, if done well, can move people into that #2 moment of truth. The future, moreover, will include live video in real time, with a lot of new technology.
Meerkat, Periscope, Facebook Live, and Blab are just some of the new technologies that allow marketers to give customers great experiences.
- They can involve conversations with other customers, with experts and with organizational team members
- They can broadcast company participation in a charitable event, demonstrating social responsibility
- They can show “behind the scenes” production. Movie production companies are already doing this to promote their films and entice customers to buy tickets.
360 videos will also become more popular, as technology continues to make these easier. Consumers can immerse themselves in a 3D, almost virtual reality environment, and can be broadcast over social networks. Such innovations as “Cardboard” from Google and Facebook 360 are already being experimented with by innovators, and as the technology continues to improve, marketers will embrace it or face the results of competitors doing so.
Customers demand experiences that are ever new, and they will flock to companies whose marketing strategies give them that something new.
Things are moving that quickly, The obsolescence of smartphones has already been hypothesized by no less an authority than Cisco. Wearables and consumables, and dashboards of cars will become the new mediums through which social media will be accessed. Obviously, responsive architecture will have to accommodate these new devices.
Social Media Creating Sticky Environments
All social media platforms are continually “upgrading” and innovating in order to get people to stick with them. Twitter adds videos; Instagram comes up with carousels; Facebook comes up with “alerts.” This trend will continue until social media platforms become the new NBC, ABC, and CBS – the places where people will get their news and their information.
Of course, as this trend continues, these innovations will have to be monetized through advertising. But this advertising will have to be very different.
- It cannot be disruptive the way TV commercials are.
- It will have to provide experiences that consumers do not want to miss (think super Bowl commercials).
This will be a huge challenge for social media marketers as they create those experiences.
Disruption in any society occurs when old things are made obsolete. Big disruptions can change entire industries, if not kill them. The future of social media marketing will be disruptive, to be sure. But there is one common theme that will not change – experience – customer experience. To give customers the experiences they demand, marketers will have to embrace every innovation and disruption that comes their way.