I’ve spent the last 12-plus months talking with enterprise marketers from around the globe to get a handle on where the content marketing industry is going. Through that process, in combination with our ongoing research, the CMI team puts together the schedule for Content Marketing World 2016.
Here are what I believe are some of the biggest issues enterprise marketers are dealing with, as well as some thought leaders who are covering this topic at #CMWorld (hint, hint).
Note: These are not in any particular order. They are all important, depending on where you are in your content marketing maturity.
One thing is for sure: Content creation and distribution in the enterprise, outside of the content about our products and services, have become both more important and more integrated over the past year.
Creation of a real content marketing strategy
In almost every keynote speech I give, I ask the audience members whether their organizations have a documented content marketing strategy. Sadly, most do not. Our research tells us that those organizations that do have one, and that review it consistently, are more likely to be successful. Even though you (the expert reading this) might think this is basic, it’s not. We are still too focused on campaigns and talking about our products, instead of truly driving value outside the products and services we offer.
If you are a regular listener of the PNR: This Old Marketing podcast, you know that Robert Rose and I cover native advertising just about every week. I’ve often called native advertising the “gateway drug” to content marketing (in a good way). We are starting to see a number of enterprises experiment, and succeed, with paid, native promotion of their content.
Why is this so important? Five years ago, enterprises were spending 80% on content creation and 20% on content promotion. I believe this ratio has switched, with successful enterprises creating differentiated content and putting some advertising and promotion muscle behind it.
This is the first year that we are offering a dedicated track on native advertising at Content Marketing World. In addition, we have a panel on native with some of the leading experts in the world on the subject.
If you are unsure of native and how it can help your organization, check out this post.
Influencer marketing has always been a “thing,” but in the last six months … wow … this topic has vaulted into the top five. It seems that every enterprise has some kind of content and influencer strategy, but few organizations execute a real strategy that makes sense.
What’s your why? Why do you create your content? Does it have a real impact on your customers and prospects? Is there a deeper purpose behind what you do, instead of just creating content as part of your sales and marketing machine?
We have a number of sessions on finding your purpose at CMWorld this year, but we specifically recruited comedian Michael Jr. to talk about “why versus what.” If you haven’t had a chance to see this video on finding your why, here’s a sneak peek.
Video and visual
It doesn’t take “Chewbacca Mom” to show us how big and important using video and having a visual storytelling strategy are. But, most brands are still hanging their video strategy on the viral video, instead of building a process and organization around the ongoing delivery of valuable information through video.
We have a CMWorld track dedicated to visual content, including this excellent session on building a visual content marketing program that scales. In addition, we have the video architects behind the very successful visual/video programs at Marriott, Jyske Bank, and Foodable.TV.
I have to be honest. I don’t get Snapchat, but enough of my smart colleagues have said it is here to stay. Since Snapchat has surpassed Facebook in total video views, it’s about time we started to take notice at Content Marketing World.
Well, most of us built our social houses on rented Facebook land, and now what do we have to show for it? Not much actually. But there is a better way, especially when it comes to promoting your content assets on this powerhouse of a channel.
Although we have a number of sessions that discuss Facebook, I’m curious about the benefits of leveraging Facebook as a way to drive your content for lead generation. Brian Carter is putting on both a workshop and a session that will help you use Facebook as a demand-generation tool.
Teams and workflow
I’ve seen so many examples of well-meaning content marketing programs die because of improper workflow and hiring inadequate people to make real content experiences.
My take on both content strategy and intelligent content is that these core areas are about the pipes that the content moves through. Great content is one thing, but if you don’t build in a strategy that makes sense for a user experience or leverages technology in the right way, we are all doomed.
When I think of content strategy, I think of people like Kristina Halvorson, Lisa Welchman, and, of course, Ann Rockley on the intelligent content side. We doubled down this year on sessions about setting up your content marketing process for success. To work properly over time, we need our processes to scale and be personalized. Most enterprises aren’t set up to do this outside of campaigns.
Pokémon Go anyone? How many times have you heard that INSERT YEAR HERE is the year of mobile? Well, with all audiences with at least one untethered device, that year may be now. To put it simply, if your content isn’t easily digested on a mobile device, you have significant problems.
My good friend Jeff Rohrs, CMO at Yext, is putting on a mobile moments panel at CMWorld to look at the opportunities we might be missing, while we also added a new session this year on content design and the mobile device. We considered having a separate mobile track this year, but so many sessions integrate mobile — it’s the natural transformation where mobile is a priority with most of the digital content we develop.
Disclaimer: Before you choose any technology for your content marketing, be sure to have a sound strategy first. OK, had to say it.
Writing still counts, perhaps more than ever. More than not, marketers are abuzz about social media and video without comprehending that most of our communication is still text- and story-based. And frankly, most marketers are really bad at writing. From finding freelancers to becoming a better digital writer, we have more sessions dedicated to writing than ever (yes, even in this age of social media). And, of course, Ann Handley.
Integration with sales
I had a great conversation with Marcus Sheridan a few years back. While he loved our programming at Content Marketing World 2014, he made me aware of a very sad truth: Most organizations are dominated by sales, and if we don’t start integrating salespeople into Content Marketing World, marketers are going to get back to their offices and hit brick walls.
Marcus, as usual, was 100% correct, and Content Marketing World is evolving into a marketing AND sales conference. To prove that, we’ve added a full track dedicated to sales and sales integration this year, as well a workshop on how top-performing companies are integrating their sales and content led by Marcus and best-selling author of Same Side Selling, Ian Altman.
ROI and measurement
I don’t think this one needs explaining. The No. 1 question, every year, is “How do I show the success of my content marketing program?” At CMWorld this year we have more than 10 sessions dedicated to driving ROI, performance, and sales with content. In the meantime, if you haven’t checked out this post by Michael Brenner on the secrets of content marketing ROI, please make the time.
Email and marketing automation
I’ve learned a couple things about email recently. First, email is far from dead, and may be more important than ever for our content marketing programs. Second, most enterprises (99% of them) send spam disguised as content every day to our key stakeholders.
And then, as many B2B enterprises have done, they move from just email into marketing automation. I talked to a senior strategist recently who believes that marketers use about 10% of the functionality behind marketing automation (10% is on the high side). Simply put, most of us are using marketing automation the wrong way.
Again, the trend (rightfully so) seems to be moving from less content to more promotion. This is correct. No longer can we afford to create and execute on content projects without them ever seeing the light of day.
We developed the content marketing documentary, The Story of Content: Rise of the New Marketing, specifically to help marketers like you with executive buy-in. It’s definitely helped, but we need to do more. Content marketing is an approach … a way of doing business if you will … and many executives we work with are still firmly set with the traditional four Ps model.
Content Marketing World attracted 40% of the Fortune 100 in 2015. Every one of those organizations operates globally. This means complex processes, scattered teams, communication issues, politics, and varied customer experiences. Simply put, it’s hard.
We’ve added a full global strategy track this year including sessions from the likes of Oracle and Rockwell Automation.
Construction of a media organization
I’m fascinated by the movement of enterprises to becoming media companies. Red Bull Media House was, of course, one of the first to formally create a media company inside its organizations. PepsiCo and Mondelez recently announced their efforts to structure part of their content organizations as profit centers. This is a huge movement that has some momentum behind it.
After Arrow Electronics (Fortune 500 manufacturer) purchased a number of media properties from UBM (parent company of Content Marketing Institute), we decided to reach out to them about their core strategy. Victor Gao, vice president of digital and managing director of Arrow Media Group, will be presenting the company’s strategy on building a media division through acquisition.
Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute , Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, including best-selling Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill) and the new book, Content Inc. Check out Joe’s two podcasts. If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.
Social networks have been with us for just over a decade but it feels like forever.
When I first signed into Facebook I was amazed by how small the world had become. Friends, acquaintances and old college connections I hadn’t seen in decades and living in faraway places popped up on my screen. Maybe a little older, greyer and with less hair than I remembered.
It was a couple of months later and I joined Twitter. But I noticed the same behaviour. Obsession. This intersection of people and technology was resonating with our tribal curiosity and creativity. Technology was becoming more human.
Then the smart phone was added to the mix.
Social and mobile were the perfect storm. Today we are captivated and captured by both of these technologies. They are impacting how we work, socialize and play.
So what are the social media marketing trends today and how are they playing out for us as entrepreneurs and as passionate and complicated humans?
1: Live streaming video
YouTube was a sensation in 2004. That technology allowed us to record, upload and view but 12 years later the mobile phone has become a broadcasting device that allows you to capture the live moment. Not recorded and sanitized with editing but raw live footage.
Meerkat was one of the first social networks to make live streaming video easy, then Twitter bought Periscope and blocked Twitter’s sharing on Meerkat.
Blab tried hard for a year in 2015 and made some waves but has been switched off.
Now Facebook “Live” is taking on Twitter’s Periscope.
This trend is changing how we share our stories (both business and private), live events and educate. It is another way to engage with your audience.
Buzzfeed recorded a Facebook live stream that attracted millions of views. The topic? How many rubber bands does it take to burst a watermelon?
It can also be a new way to build trust and credibility online with authentic unfiltered content.
2. Chatbots are changing our conversations
Chatbots are a conversational agent that is designed to simulate intelligent conversation without a human being present.
In the artificial intelligence era it’s all about embedding human smarts in machines.
Facebook chatbots are one application of this revolution, as they rapidly gain popularity and provide a new tool for marketers to leverage. These chatbots are the incorporation of automatic chatbots within Facebook Messenger.
Chatbots offer flexibility in order to automate tasks, and assist in retrieving data. They are becoming a vital way to enhance the consumer experience for the purpose of better customer service and growing interaction.
In April 2016, Mark Zuckerberg announced that third parties could use the messenger platform to create their own personal chatbot. Since then, the popularity of chatbots has rapidly grown all over the world. Their prime functionality remains the same, and that is to improve real-time engagement.
Customers are always searching for prompt and ready replies to their comments and queries. The chatbots are designed in such a manner that they are able to answer most of the queries placed by customers, without human intervention.
Chotu, one of the leading chatbot technologies, is an AI robot on Facebook messenger that assists in accelerating customer information acquisition through Facebook messages. It provides all the needed information from your messages itself, rather than relying on several different apps working together.
Chotu performs multiple tasks at a single time and offers 24×7 customer service.
These can help in bonding a strong relationship with your customers and potential crowds, without paying for high overheads on staff.
3. Expiring social content
Attracting attention online is a battle between brands with big budgets and savvy marketers with little cash but who know how to hack business growth with technology.
The result? A lot of online noise and clutter. The challenge is standing out and gaining attention. Normal marketing tactics don’t work like they used to.
But Snapchat decided on a different tactic.
Make content expire.
This brought urgency to the content table. Visitors now knew that they had limited time to read or view content before it disappeared.
This included the watching of 10 second videos that are gone after one view and then it extended to Snapchat stories. These only last for 24 hours.
So Instagram saw the future and just “copied” SnapChat Stories and brought its own “Instagram Stories” to its platform.
Expiring content is now part of the evolving social media landscape. It’s trending and the spurning of Facebook by Snapchat when they were offered a $3 billion buyout seems to have become personal.
Their message to Snapchat? If we can’t buy you we will beat you. Social media is no longer an experiment or a game. It is big business.
Expiring content is a trend you may need to test and try in your future digital marketing campaigns.
4. Social media consolidation
Any evolving industry moves from a Wild West frontier to a more centralized and concentrated group of players over time. In his book “Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires” Tim Wu (a professor at Columbia University) reveals this pattern has been with us since the rise of the telephone in the 1800’s.
Social media is no different.
Facebook bought WhatsApp, Instagram and Oculus Rift. Twitter paid for Periscope. And Microsoft just acquired LinkedIn for a lazy $27 billion.
As big enterprise moves into the social media landscape the rules will continue to change. Control will be exerted and buying a seat at the table will become a high stakes game.
Expect this to continue as smaller social startups struggle to break through the clutter.
The significance for the modern marketer is that it is dangerous to assume that things will remain the same. You will need to watch the changing landscape and keep reinventing your tactics.
5. Organic social traffic gets harder
Earning attention in a digital world was straightforward at first. You earned it by growing Likes on Facebook and followers on Twitter. No need to beg the gatekeepers or pay the newspaper and media moguls.1
But that is changing.
Facebook, Instagram and others are removing chronological timeline updates. They are starting to make you invisible unless you pull out the credit card. Social media is just becoming another paid media.8
This is a simplified algorithm that shows the key factors behind how Facebook determines what they show to you the user. The reason? Too little space and too much content.
As tools have become smarter and people’s resistance to general advertising grows higher the need for personalized and relevant content and advertising delivery becomes more important.
Facebook re-targeting and adverts driven by identifying where you have been on the web and your interests are becoming the digital advertising tactic of choice for campaigns. It delivers relevant content that converts at a much higher rate.
Digital marketing automation also can provide the data and the tools to send the right content at the right time to the right customer.
Relevance is king for catching a distracted eye and online glance in a noisy world of data clutter.
8. The rise of the social influencer
The social web gave rise to global topic tribes.
Bloggers created content on fashion, food and thousands of other niche passions. They also built loyal followers and advocates on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. They constructed credibility and trust built on authentic content.
As the noise increases online and reaching your target customer gets harder because of content clutter the influencer and thought leaders who have built reach globally are the new niche gatekeepers.
Brands are now paying to reach their admirers and devotees.
9. Social media transforming business in a trust economy
Making a mistake or receiving a complaint in the past was behind closed doors. A telephone call, a letter or even an email discussion was private and hidden conversation for most.
Stuff up in a world of social networks is like airing your dirty washing in a stadium. It’s visible and sometimes viral.
Uber rates the driver “and” the passenger. Don’t drink too much and abuse the driver. Otherwise you may be walking a bit further in the future.
This visibility has been adopted from social.
So …transparency is the new business paradigm. Some brands just don’t know it yet.
10. Artificial intelligence and the rise of the robots
The rise of the robots has been predicted since we watched HAL in “Space Odyssey 2001” in what was another world in 1968. In the decades since we have seen the emergence of the personal computer, the internet, social networks and the mobile smart phone.
The intersection of these technologies is changing entertainment, business and our lives.
The last 2 are obsessive technologies that have made 7 billion of us publishers. We are now all video creators, selfie photo producers and writers that share by the billions every hour.
The result? A content explosion.
As the data volume has increased exponentially, the scale of the noise means that making sense of it needs artificial intelligence and machines with big powerful processors.
When I find myself eating the exact same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the work weeks I grow frustrated by the repetitiveness of my habits. Luckily, this isn’t the case with social media. In the world of social media marketing things are constantly changing, which is what keeps all of our jobs interesting.
Every week, social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram are releasing new features and improving old ones, and naturally, our habits as marketers need to adjust to stay ahead of our competitors.
As summer’s winding down, it is time to start gaining a competitive edge before the holiday rush, which is why you need to pay attention to these three big social media marketing and advertising trends that are all the rage these days.
#1: Live Video Streaming
As video has taken over our social feeds, live streaming has popped up on the horizon as the hip new hip sidekick to regular video. Whether it be Facebook Live, Periscope, SnapChat, or Instagram, engaging with your audience in real-time through video is becoming essential to your social strategy. Video helps humanize your brand, but live video actually connects an individual to your brand in real-time, which is even more powerful than well-produced recorded content. The other benefit of live video is that the production quality isn’t expected to be high, which eases the production process.
Most recently we’ve seen big brands use live video in a variety of ways, from Marc Jacobs using live video to give a sneak peak of their 2016 fashion line, The Tonight Show providing a behind-the-scenes look backstage before the show, and Madden video games providing behind-the-scenes coverage of players.
But these are HUGE brands. How can you use live video? Live video can be used to build excitement about a new product release, show off your company culture, give live coverage of an event, or even host a live Q&A with your super-fans. The possibilities are endless.
Check out the post below for a live video we made at Wistia of the unboxing of the brand new Canon 5D MarkIV. This is a great use-case of live video as this new video camera is a pretty big deal for a huge chunk of our customers, so the live stream was especially interesting for our audience.
Still not convinced? Live videos receive 10x more comments than pre-recorded videos, according to the VP of Facebook in Europe, Nicola Mendelsohn.
#2: Social SlideShow Ads
Ahh! More new and exciting forms of interactive visual content. What could be better!?
Social slideshows are popping up in more and more social networks and for good reason! Social slideshows are easy to create and can utilize images, videos, or both. Advertisers can even pay to play for these babies leading to more, even more, exposure and interaction. So whether you’re showing off your new winter ski apparel or displaying videos promoting your upcoming conference, slideshows are a great way to help your social audience interact with your brand in a memorable way.
These ads also work! Take the sock company Stance for instance;comparing their static image ads to slideshow ads, they saw a decrease in cost per acquisition by 48%, a 2.42X increase in click-through-rate, and a 1.48 increase in return on ad spend. Pretty outstanding stuff! Facebook also just made some improvements to their slideshow ads, outlined here.
#3: Diversifying Landscape of Social Channels
With different forms of content and social interaction, we’re also seeing more channels emerge as important places for marketers and advertisers to build a strong presence. Online social communities, run through platforms like Slack, are becoming a more and more important area for marketers to engage with their customers and prospects. Medium, Inbound.org, and Reddit are critical places to spread awareness of your content. Not to mention Snapchat and Instagram are taking over with sponsored stories and in-line ads. Long gone are the days of only having to maintain a Facebook and Twitter page.
“Now, forms of interaction are starting to diversify. Platforms like Snapchat are allowing more one-sided conversations, in a more fleeting, temporary context. Brands and consumers are able to talk to each other in new, more diverse ways, and that range is only broadening,” says Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers.
#4: Instagram Stories
Instagram recently stole a page from Snapchat’s book by adding a story feature at the top of the feed. Now social browsers can see what their favorite Instagrammers are doing for 24 hours.
So why copy Snapchat? Perhaps Facebook is still a bit bitter about Snapchat’s declining to sell the app for $3 billion, but regardless the reaction to this new Instagram feature was mixed. Some were outraged, others pleased to have their snap stories moved to their favorite social network.
Regardless, this has been a big opportunity for businesses to showcase their brands in a prime location on the app. Large brands like Starbucks, Taco Bell, and JCrew have already been taking advantage, as well as smaller brands like Justin’s PB and HubSpot.
“Over time we look forward to introducing new advertising and other business opportunities as part of Instagram Stories,” says the Instagram Business Blog. “In the meantime, we’re excited to see all the ways our community will use it to highlight their businesses on Instagram.”
#5: Social Chat
Did you know that over 900 million people use Facebook Messenger? WhatsApp has become one of the largest chat apps in the world. Seventy-seven of the top 100 Fortune companies use Slack. Chat is no longer just used for internal communications, but it’s being used more and more to engage with prospects in a more personalized manner.
“People are becoming more interested in actually communicating, rather than broadcasting,” according to Harvard Business Review.
Marketers need to start utilizing chat apps to engage in real-time with their leads rather than posting and wishing for the best. In the future chat, bots will likely make this scalable in new and fascinating ways.
About the Author:
Margot is a Customer Success Coach at Wistia. She loves all things digital, and spends her free time running, traveling, and cooking. Follow her on:
Resources and time are small business owners’ personal demons. Supporting this fact is a Bank of America survey where small business owners voted to say that running their businesses was twice as stressful as handling relationships with a spouse and three times as stressful as raising children!
If you’ve felt that limited manpower and funds have been setbacks in terms of marketing your business, here are six simple ideas that will change your mind and your business.
Small Business Social Media Ideas and Marketing
1. Employ Nifty and Affordable Tools to do the Heavy Lifting
Social is massive. Facebook has 1.65 billion monthly active users. There are 350,000 tweets every minute. If you’re specialized in an industry, say technology, how would you sift through each of those uploads to find the ones best suited to your social media audience?
The answer is you can’t. But the right tools can do that for you, and intelligently. What you require is a tool that can crawl the Web and find high-quality shareable content for you. Tools like DrumUp let you curate and share content through the same interface and help you stay active on social with ease.
2. Share Only What You Know Resonates with Your Readers
Buyer behavior is pertinent when building marketing strategies. Invest a good amount of time in profiling your target audience. It’ll be a one-time and worthwhile investment because everything that really works on social isn’t random — it works for very specific reasons.
For instance, if you run through Starbucks’ Twitter page, you’ll discern a distinct theme — all things that are coffee, feel-good and look great. Check out a cinnamon coffee recipe share. It is relevant, something that’d help Starbucks’ loyal audiences, who are ardent coffee fans, and it looks great.
Make quick lists of specific topics — like recipes but relevant to your industry and use content curation tools to find shareable content.
3. Organize Your Efforts, this Actually Saves More Time Than it Consumes
You might spend about an hour a month planning what to share, but this beats spending an hour every day! Content calendars are very simple and effective. All you have to do is download a calendar of each month in advance and then write a theme over each date. Or you could use Google Calendars which are fairly easy.
Your themes could be drawn from the lists you’ve made in the previous step. Suppose you have 10 possible themes that you’re sure your social media audience would love. You could allot those themes to dates on the calendar on a cycle, 1 through 10 and then back to one. This way, you’re audience would get both value and variety on your social media pages.
4. Include Content from Diverse Sources and in Varying Formats
If there’s anything that all audiences look for, it is the freshness factor. Expert blogger Nir Eyal once said, “People don’t want something truly new, they want the familiar done differently.” This idea fits perfectly well into the strategy we’re discussing.
You do the same themes on a cycle — familiar stuff, but you do it differently — with different sources and formats.
What are the formats you can use? Blogs, videos, vlogs, gifs, infographics, graphs, the more interactive and visual the better. Always make quick inclusions of nice-looking visuals, because visuals increase willingness to engage by 80 percent.
5. Make the Best of Your Existing Content
If you’ve already shared a bunch of stuff on social, that’s great! Because now you can reignite conversations on those shares and use that to drive traffic to your site. Reuse and recycle your old stuff, edit the title a little and maybe add a new image. Throw in a hashtag? Especially on days when you don’t have enough time to look at anything, you could always do this as a back-up. Some content curation tools even have content libraries where you can store golden posts for a rainy day.
Another way of using old stuff is re-purposing it. Have you noticed a particular post that has gotten you a lot of engagement? Pick it up, re-purpose it and re-post! All you have to do is pick a new angle discussed in that post and title it accordingly. A quick and easy way to get results!
6. Add Your Own Voice to the Shares, it Portrays Authenticity
Curation is a great way to connect with an audience without having to commit much time to the practice, but it certainly can’t compete with originality. If you’re hard pressed for time, what you should definitely be doing is adding a touch of your personality to everything that you curate and share. It shouldn’t take you more than a few seconds to type in a few words before sharing.
Add your personal touch using one of these 3 easy ideas
1) State an opinion
2) Add a personal greeting
3) Ask a question
While curating content remember this simple rule. Share as you and share for your audience. Consider what they’d like to read and what would excite them and always add your personality to whatever you share. After all, the biggest asset of a small business is its personality.
Do you have any small business social media and marketing ideas to share? Leave them in comments if you do!
Going forward, Google will only continue to raise the bar for what it considers to be mobile-friendly (including page load time) and reflect that in its algorithm updates. So if you haven’t been focusing on improving your mobile experience, you’d better prioritize it now, or your search ranking could really suffer.
Shutterfly is an online service that allows users to create photo books, personalized cards and stationary, and more. Because more and more people are taking photos and then accessing them using their smartphones, Shutterfly recognized the need to create a great mobile experience for their customers — and they delivered.
Shutterfly accomplishes two key goals on their mobile website:
It’s easy for users to find out information about their offerings.
They’re selling that information by way of beautiful imagery.
When you arrive on their mobile site, you’ll see the menu items have been enhanced into large buttons at the bottom half of the screen. This makes it easy for users to quickly select which option they’re interested in learning more about.
Once users click through to one of those options, they’re greeted with large photos showcasing what Shutterfly is capable of for easy browsing.
Everyone has their favorite map or directions application. Mine is Google Maps, which I use whether I’m walking, driving, biking, or taking public transportation. What’s special about their mobile website is that it’s virtually indistinguishable from their downloadable mobile app.
The screenshots below are taken of their mobile website, but if you’re familiar at all with the app, you’ll notice they look exactly the same. Not only is the appearance identical, but the mobile website has the speed and functionality of the app.
Typeform is a Barcelona-based tech company with one, simple mission: to “make forms awesome.” Their desktop website is really beautifully designed, greeting visitors with succinct copy, high-definition videos, relevant animations, and other, more complex design components.
But for mobile users, they recognized that complex design components like video and animations could significantly affect page load time, among other difficulties. That’s why they actually removed many of them — which decluttered the site and simplified the overall mobile experience. The mobile website is a simpler version of their desktop website, and it’s still beautifully designed.
Take note of the large buttons in their menus — perfect for tapping with your finger on a mobile screen.
Etsy is an ecommerce website where people can buy and sell vintage or handmade items. Most buyers who visit Etsy’s website are there to do one of two things: Either they’re searching for a specific item, or they’re browsing items in categories that interest them.
The mobile website caters to both types of visitors from the very beginning. When you first go to their mobile website, you’re greeted with an option to search for specific items, shops, or categories.
Immediately below the search bar are thumbnail images of trending items that showcase some of the most popular things you can buy on Etsy. Mobile users can view these trending items in a collage format, and the images are big enough for them to easily tap with their finger.
This is the personal website of Adrian Zumbrunnen, a UX designer, writer, and speaker. When you visit his website, you’ll notice right away there’s something very unique about it: It’s a conversational website.
It almost looks like a text message conversation you’d normally have on your phone — including the ellipsis to show he’s “typing.” Users are given two response options at the end of every exchange, so it’s kind of like a “choose-your-own-adventure” experience.
While the mobile and desktop experience are very similar, the desktop website feels like it was made primarily for mobile — which could be the direction sites will go in the future.
And if you’d prefer not to engage in the conversation-like exchange, you can simply scroll down for details.
Elf on the Shelf is, relatively speaking, a fairly new Christmas tradition based on a children’s book. If you’re unfamiliar, the basic premise is this: The book tells the story of Santa’s scout elves, who are sent by Santa to watch over children in their homes all over the world and report back to Santa.
Along with the book, parents can purchase an elf figurine, which they’ll subtly place somewhere in their house where their kids can see it. Every night leading up to Christmas, parents move the elf to a different location around their house to “prove” to their kids that the scout elves are real and always looking over them.
When you first arrive on Elf on the Shelf’s website, you’ll see that there are actually numerous types of Elf on the Shelf products you can purchase. But instead of forcing users to scroll through a long, text-based list, the web designers made it easy for users to simply swipe from left to right to look through all the different options — ideal for visitors browsing products on the website.
BuzzFeed is a news company known for it’s viral content and popular quizzes. It also happens to be one of my favorite sources of entertainment during my commute to and from work.
And where do you think I’m checking BuzzFeed during my commute? You guessed it: on my phone. BuzzFeed knows that a lot of their visitors are visiting their site on mobile, so they’ve taken great care to create a smooth experience for their on-the-go readers.
When you arrive at BuzzFeed’s mobile website, the first thing you’ll see is some of their most popular pieces of content displayed in a simple, collage-like format using large images that are easy to tap with your finger.
For users interested in specific categories, there’s a clickable menu in the top left-hand corner of the screen that lists out all the post categories.
Evernote is an application that allows you to store notes, images, and web articles and then access them across all your devices. Because users tend to download the app or access the website on multiple devices including desktop computer, smartphone, and tablets, it’s essential that Evernote get the mobile experience right.
If you look at Evernote’s homepage on your desktop computer, you’ll notice how clean the design is. The value statements are short and to-the-point, and the images add to the positioning but don’t clutter the page. When you look at their mobile website, they’ve kept this design and style entirely intact. Their mobile website is clean, simple, and doesn’t detract at all from the value of the app.
Plus, there are those large call-to-action buttons again, which are great for mobile users.
The Huffington Post is a well-known news outlet that reports from everything from politics and current events to entertainment and technology. What makes their mobile website unique is that they actually alter their headlines slightly for mobile users so their content is more easily scannable.
If you compare the desktop versus mobile websites, you’ll notice that the mobile website has fewer words on the homepage. The headlines are shorter and much more digestible — perfect for someone skimming or reading on a small screen.
As with BuzzFeed, you’ll find a clickable menu in the top left-hand corner of the screen listing out all the post categories.
Express is a clothing store that caters to young men and women. Because their audience often comes to their website to browse clothing, it’s important for their website to include big, clear images of their clothing — especially on mobile devices, when users will need to tap items on the screen with their fingers to click through for purchase information.
Express takes their mobile experience a step further than most online retail sites. If you slide your finger from left to right across an image showing a piece of clothing, the image will change so you can see the clothing in a different view. In other words, users don’t have to load another page to see multiple pictures of the same article of clothing.
Look at the image on the top right in the following two images to see how it changes when you swipe to one side:
Nationwide Insurance provides insurance and financial services. You might think a financial company would have a really complicated website, but on mobile, Nationwide Insurance nails down the simple user experience.
When you arrive on their mobile site, you can get an auto insurance quote right away by entering your zip code — or, alternatively, you can “Find an Agent” to learn more information about their services. Other than logging in or signing up for an account, that’s all the homepage offers.
Although this gives users limited options, it makes for a much easier experience for visitors using small screens. This is a great technique to lead potential customers in the right direction.
Squaredot is a HubSpot partner agency that helps marketers build out their inbound marketing strategies. Their mobile website is colorful, simple, and makes for easy navigating. But what sticks out to me most is how they’ve adapted their blog for mobile users. Check out the screenshot below, which shows one article in a list of many. Each article takes up the entire width of the screen, making for large, eye-catching images and text that’s big enough to skim
We like how they’ve optimized their online forms for mobile, too. Check out how large the text and the form fields are in the subscription CTA below, making it easier for folks to fill it out on their mobile devices instead of pinching and zooming.
Zappos is an online vendor for shoes and clothing known for their stellar customer service. Their top priority on mobile is to help users search easily for the items they’re looking for on their website, so they’ve put a large search bar at both the top and bottom of their mobile website to make it super easy for them.
This is what the top of their mobile site looks like:
And here’s the bottom of the page (equipped with a delightful signoff):
ABC is a television broadcasting company known for popular shows like “The Bachelorette,” “Battle Bots,” and “General Hospital.” Users visiting ABC’s desktop website are greeted with a ton of options: view their television schedule, check out the Oscar winners, watch some of your favorite television shows, or even look at entertainment news relating to those shows.
But ABC knows that the experience on a mobile device should be simplified. When you visit the ABC website on a mobile device, you aren’t offered nearly as many choices from the get-go. Instead, you’re given one option: to scroll through large, clickable images representing all their television shows. Users can scan through these options and click into any show they want.
Lean Labs is a HubSpot partner agency that creates engaging, responsive, and high conversion web solutions. (They were also featured on ABC’s hit TV series Shark Tank.) The folks over there do a great job of providing a smooth experience for their mobile users, especially with regard to their design techniques and the emphasis they place on their core values, which are apparent to visitors within seconds of landing on their mobile site.
Notice how their mobile website uses scale and color to distinguish certain elements of their page:
And, like I said before, their core values — growth strategies, responsive web design, and inbound marketing — are clearly visible to mobile users scrolling through the homepage, with relevant icons to match.
SAP is an enterprise software company that manages business operations and customer relations. They enhance the mobile experience by condensing information.
More specifically, they combine some of their calls-to-action into sliders, whereas their desktop website has these CTAs laid out horizontally. This helps keep things simple so mobile users aren’t overwhelmed with a lot of information at once, and it also ensures none of the CTAs are too small to read.
KISSmetrics provides analytics software for businesses. On their homepage, there’s a lot of information explaining what the software does along with a testimonial.
But their mobile site is displayed a little differently: On a mobile device, the information on their site is shown in a list with alternative dark and light modules. This makes it easy for users to skim the page without getting lost in text.
They’ve also made the text and fields on their forms large and easy to read:
idig Marketing is a development and communications provider. Their mobile website is laid out similarly to their desktop website, but I especially liked how they incorporated the interactive heart icons into their blog posts so users can “Like” their posts.
This mimics the “Like” heart icon in Instagram and Twitter, which is easily recognizable for mobile users familiar with those platforms.
These were some of our favorites. Which other mobile websites have caught your fancy?
Mobile website design experts Anna Dahlström, Dean Evans and Sam Hampton-Smith share their best advice for those involved in pages for mobile devices.
In the last few years mobile design has exploded, but knowing what to do and where to start can be tricky. Mobile website design is not just a question of choosing between a mobile website or an app – there are a range of options in between and aspects to take into account, including responsive web design, mobile-friendly web fonts and much more.
To help you out, we have gathered together 30 top tips on what to consider when defining your mobile strategy and designing for mobile. Note that we are focusing on on mobile website design and, to a lesser extent, app design, but not responsive websites – although we’ll touch on RWD at points. Here goes.
01. Think ahead – define your objective now and for the future
We’re in a time when technological advances happen quickly in mobile website design, and new players are constantly being introduced. Consider how the first iPad came in the summer of 2010 and the Apple Watch in 2015; it’s safe to assume that even just two years from now things will very different to today.
As much possible we need to build something which can be evolved a year or two from now rather than require a complete redesign. So define your immediate mobile website needs as well as your longer term ones and cosider the pros and cons of the value that doing an app brings vs investing in a site that works across devices.
02. Know your target audience and what they use
Knowing what type of device people are viewing your mobile website on is key for guiding the design process and your mobile website strategy. Though many people have smartphones, don’t assume that everyone does, or that they all have an iPhone or Android phone. Instead look into what devices your target audience actually are using with the help of analytics or research.
Other things to consider is how your target audience use their phone and for what as well as if they have a reliable internet connection. The latter is particularly important if, for example, your users will fill in forms on their mobile devices.
03. Understand mobile website usage and behaviour patterns
There are a range of misconceptions regarding mobile website usage that can lead to misleading design decisions. One of the most common ones are how mobile users are always rushed and on the go, or that we’re only interested in certain things when we use our mobile phones.
In fact a big portion of our mobile website usage happens when we have time to kill or when we’re sat at home in the sofa and that impacts how we should approach things.
It’s better to base your design decisions on the theory that we’re increasingly using our phones for the same tasks as we do on desktop, as this is actually what’s already happening. But as much possible do research into the specifics for your target audience to understand what’s true for them.
04. Understanding tasks and context
In the early days of mobile usage there was a stronger relationship between tasks and context. Limitations with devices as well as how we experienced the internet on them meant that the tasks we carried out were quite limited. If someone accessed our site on a mobile device we could assume they were on the go and after something specific.
Today mobile devices are used anywhere and everywhere and increasingly for the same tasks as a desktop. Though context is still an important consideration, it’s in the form of how our surroundings impact our usage rather than that the context we’re in equals a set number of tasks that we want to carry out.
05. Try to avoid bespoke mobile site
So how do you decided what to do with your mobile website? Limitations with current technical solutions like a CMS may make building a bespoke mobile website necessary. But if possible try to avoid building separate mobile sites. In the long run these will be more costly and time consuming to maintain as it means doing bespoke ones for different devices.
Building something which works on as many devices as possible will provide you with the best setup for focusing your resources and budget on the content rather than maintenance.
06. Keep core content the same
As users increasingly are using their mobile devices for the same tasks as on desktops and due to this expect an equal and continuous journey across devices, there is a strong argument that your mobile website should be a reflection of your desktop version.
People do click the ‘desktop version’ link, particularly when served with a very limited mobile website, or a site that is substantially different structurally or visually to what they are used to. So try to keep the core content the same and keep in mind how the user will move from one device to another and what that should mean for their experience.
07. Optimise for mobile
Just because you keep the core content the same doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t or can’t optimise your mobile website. On the contrary you should optimise both display of content, interactions where appropriate to make them better for touch and look at using built in device capabilities.
Mobile provides great opportunities for creating even better and more tailored experiences than on desktop and these can still be achieved even if you don’t build a bespoke mobile website or app.
08. Look at entry points as a guide for whether to do an app or not
Apps are great for more focused and personal experiences and if you’re considering supplementing your offering with an app using analytics and looking at entry points can be a first guide. If the majority of your users arrive via direct traffic this could indicate that they bookmark your URL and that an app icon on the home screen would be of value. If most of your traffic comes via shared links an app alone won’t cut it as people need to be able to get to your content even if they haven’t installed your app.
09. Use analytics to define what devices to focus on
Consulting analytics is also great for defining what devices to focus on in terms of operating system, version, or screen size. For example, in Google analytics you can see a breakdown of the devices that are being used, the divide between different operating systems as well as what versions of each operating system that is being used.
10. Consider the different types of apps
If you have identified that you need an app look into what type of app that is right for you. Native apps like Instagram are built specifically for each operating system. Due to that they often provide the most device optimised experience but it does mean maintaining bespoke code bases.
11. Adhere to UI guidelines and patterns
Every operating system has a set of UI and interaction principles that their users are used to. If you create an Android app don’t just take your iOS app design and use it as is but optimise and recognise that each operating system is different. Learning what makes them different and adhering to the guiding principles will make your app easier to use.
12. Consider backwards compatibility and fragmentation
When it comes to doing apps it’s not as simple as iOS and Android. Each operating system has different versions and not every user will be on the latest one. Adoption rates of new versions varies and whilst it’s fairly rapid for iOS it’s slower and as a result more fragmented for Android. Make sure you don’t just design your mobile website for the latest versions but that the versions that your target audiences will primarily be on are covered.
13. Define your grid and breakpoints
When it comes to responsive design, defining your grid and breakpoints is the backbone of your mobile website design. There are a number of tools to help you define both the number of columns, their width and the gutters as well as providing guidance for how these will work on mobile websites and smaller screens. In some cases a fixed approach where the width remains the same is more appropriate. In some a fluid approach or a combination of the two.
But the grid and your breakpoints, i.e. the different screen resolutions that change the display of content from one layout to the next, is your trusted friend when it comes to responsive and making your site modular.
14. Mobile or desktop first – where do you start
Designing for mobile first is still a hot topic. Some people are more comfortable with it. Others less so. As with everything there is seldom a right or wrong approach.
The key is to focus on the content and having smaller screens in mind, but whether that is done with sketches for mobile being made along the way whilst the more detailed definitions are done for desktop first doesn’t really matter. As long as you consider your content, why it’s there and how it should behave across devices. Start where you feel comfortable but experiment with both.
15. Define your content stacking strategy
Unless you define how the different content modules in your columns are going to behave the modules in the left column will be placed at the top as you move to a smaller screen, followed by the middle column modules below and lastly the right column at the bottom. This seldom equates to the order of importance of the individual content modules.
To ensure your content is displayed properly from desktop to mobile or vice versa you need to define how the content modules are going to stack and reorder themselves. Use a simple number approach to start with, sketch out how the display of the content would change and take it to the rest of the team to work through. Get development to prototype it and do further definition where needed.
16. Don’t forget the navigation
An often overlooked area which is starting to get more attention when it comes to responsive design is the navigation. Brad Frost has written some excellent posts on the matter outlining different options as well as pros and cons with each. Read them and define how navigation is going to work on your mobile website, rather than leave it up to development to define.
17. Don’t be afraid to challenge what’s already out there
The web is full of great pattern libraries and tutorials. Learn from them and take inspiration but don’t be afraid to come up with something new or challenge what is already out there. Established patterns are great but pushing boundaries is what brings us forward and in the world of mobile things are moving fast.
18. Not every page/screen needs a wireframe/design
It’s easy to get trapped in that everything needs to be defined. But every page or view for every screen size or orientation does not need a wireframe or design. Use analytics as a guide for what to focus on, work closely with the development and the design team and find a way and level of definition that works best for you and your project. But try to avoid e.g. doing wireframes for each main screen size and orientation. A lot of that can be handled with a master set and sketches for the rest.
19. Work collaboratively and closely across disciplines
To get the best end result when it comes to mobile design, and design in general, there should be close collaboration between the different disciplines. Many problem areas won’t be noticed until you wireframes turns into designs and designs into build and the more you work together the sooner you will identify and find solutions to them.
20. Prototype, test, and iterate
The most important things when it comes to designing for mobile is to prototype and iterate as you go. Work closely with the development team to see if what is being proposed actually works when it’s built and to identify situations that needs more detailed looking into. And get something together that you can test with your prospective users and get actual feedback on. That in the end is what matters.
21. Deliver content quickly
The best mobile sites are elegant and clean. Try to understand what people visiting a mobile phone website will actually expect to see – ask clients what’s really important to them and consider what information their users will want to access quickly, such as reservation information, menus and location maps on a restaurant website.
22. Limited layers aid navigation
Try to keep to a maximum of three levels of navigation through a mobile site – some people aim for just two. Mobile users want to get information quickly, so they won’t tap here, there and everywhere just to find what they’re looking for.
23. Design from the user’s viewpoint
Try to learn to use a device from a user’s point of view. Test your design on that device and ask your clients to test it too, so you can see if there’s any information that shouldn’t be there or if anything’s missing. User testing is always really important as well.
24. Choose the right web font
While you should try to avoid using serif fonts unless they’re very sharp and easy to read, mobiles have advanced enough that you can be more creative with type and you can embed fonts on a mobile site. You still need to keep things as simple as possible for users, though. Also read our article on responsive typography tips.
25. Don’t get hung up on different devices
While you do need to be mindful of the fact that not everyone is using the same device – for example, not all smartphones have touchscreens – the technology used on different mobile devices is fairly similar. So remember that not everyone has the same screen resolution or input, but don’t get too hung up about it. If your content is worth accessing, people will want to access it, however the particular device interprets your styling.
26. Test, test, test
There are so many different platforms out there that it’s practically impossible to test on every possible combination of smartphone and operating system; new Android devices ship almost weekly, not to mention Windows Mobile, iOS, Blackberry OS and Cyanogen OS. It is important to test across a cross-section of devices, however, and you should aim to make this an iterative, ongoing process. There’s nothing worse than designing against iOS alone, then discovering at the end of your build that Android devices won’t render your page as intended.
27. Consider battery life
It might sound counter-intuitive to have to worry about battery life when you’re designing a website for mobile, but your users will thank you for being considerate. This is an issue web designers need to be aware of because smartphones and tablets have limited-size batteries, and powerful processors. The more you work the processor, the more the battery will drain. This is especially true when you’re using HTML5 features such as geo-locational positioning, or rendering complex canvas animations, so try to use these tools sparingly.
28. Accept and embrace the limitations
It’s tempting to try to cram every last bit of functionality into a mobile-orientated website, but you need to accept that some things are better suited to desktop machines than portable devices. Conversely, mobile devices are far better at some things than desktops. Location-aware content, for example, is an ideal application for mobile, but rendering webGL is (currently) best left to the desktop.
29. Minimise text input
On most phones and tablets it’s perfectly possible to type out a few sentences or paragraphs with relative ease, but it’s not exactly a fun experience. It’s also a pretty interruptive process on modern touch-screen devices as the virtual keyboard pops up over the web content. To reduce user frustration, aim to minimise the amount of text input you require in web forms, and where it’s really necessary make sure that you consider the practicalities: nobody is likely to type a 2000 word essay into Safari on an iPhone!
30. Love the pace of change
One of the best things about the current lifecycle of features on smartphones is the sheer speed at which the platforms are developing. Techniques that didn’t work just six or 12 months ago are now perfectly feasible. The downside to this is that code you work on today isn’t guaranteed to still work in a year, especially if you’re using cutting-edge technologies. Make sure your client understands this.
That’s the question I was asked in an interview recently. This kind of question can be really easy since there are so many easy candidates – IoT, VR, and just about anything to do with Facebook.
But if you don’t want to rely on the cliches of future social technology, it can be a challenge to pick out what will matter and why. I suppose this post is somewhere in the middle and I hope it helps you think about where the substance breaks away from the shiny social media objects.
The most important thing about social media marketing isn’t always the tech. It’s the people.5
A lot of what draws marketers’ attention to social media is technology: new apps, networks and the latest features on major platforms. But the most important thing about social media marketing isn’t always the technology. It’s the people and how they use that technology to create, publish, share, interact and transact.
Social media is a dynamic of consumer behaviors driving new social technology development while at the same time, new technologies that affect consumer behaviors. It’s important for brands looking at what’s next in social media to understand this dynamic amongst their own customers and broader community.
With that dynamic cycle of people and technology in mind, here are a few directions for social media evolution I think are worth paying attention to:
1. The Facebook Internet
Facebook is dominating social media usage, video and advertising and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Along with WhatsApp messaging and predictions that Instagram will soon become the second biggest social network, many Facebook users don’t really need to leave, do they? Think about that customer expectation when developing your Facebook marketing strategy and how much you can accomplish with customer engagement before they ever even think of visiting your boring corporate website.
2. Converged Social
The combination of Microsoft and LinkedIn will create innovations that will benefit marketers in some interesting ways, especially if professional social profiles become accessible and integrated within Microsoft 365 apps. There’s more convergence to come and guesses are hot as to whether Facebook, Google or Apple will buy Twitter or if Twitter will go the way of Friendster and MySpace.
Imagine what it could mean to your content co-creation and influencer marketing efforts with the integration of the LinkedIn network to Office 365. Need an expert quote for a blog post, ebook or article? Right click.
3. Hot Video
Real-time video is the hot shot on the block right now with Snapchat, Facebook Live and Periscope leading the way towards social engagement with customers in ways many brands haven’t explored before. Facebook’s own Nicola Mendelsohn says in five years, Facebook will “probably” be “all video”.
Like live TV, live video presents brands some opportunities for things to go differently than planned, like Mark Zuckerberg’s inevitably comedic Q/A with Jerry Seinfeld on Facebook live that has reached over 9 million views. On the other hand, who wouldn’t trade some awkward for the reach and exposure (159m views) of a Chewbacca Mom event?
If real-time video isn’t in your comfort zone, find someone who is comfortable with that kind of exposure and media creation. Then train them to be your social champion.
4. Paying to Play Social
Social Advertising will continue to rise with even more options for advertisers. Social media advertising is projected to generate $11 billion in revenue by 2017, up from just $6.1 billion in 2013. More social networks and apps will expand their advertising offerings, just look at Snapchat now inserting ads in between users’ “Stories” and Snapchat Partners, API access that will provide access to creating custom buying and management tools.
There’s no getting around the requirement for paid amplification with content on social networks. More importantly, with Facebook’s continued efforts at putting the focus on individuals over brands, companies need to think about the collective social wisdom of their employees and community for distribution vs. simply publishing on the brand social home base.
5. Dark Social
With 84% of global social shares dark to social media analytics, there’s a growing importance, but brands are challenged to measure its effectiveness in ways that synch with other social media measurement. There’s no shortageof recommendations on how to measure dark social, but we all need more concrete direction on this and collaboration between apps, networks and platforms to make it meaningful.
6. Social Chat Bots
Again, Facebook has opened doors for a new kind of engagement and with customers’ expectation of real-time engagement, bots may be able to satisfy basic customer service and information needs for brands. Will bots be a service or communications solution for your brand? Maybe.
At a minimum, brands will need to invest in more interactive social experiences for their community and what better what to that than an neural network and some AI?
7. Mobile First
Mobile traffic now exceeds desktop traffic and 2 billion consumers worldwide are expected to own a smartphone in 2016. There’s nothing new about the importance of mobile friendliness or having apps, but the cost of ignoring mobile social media experiences for brands dragging their feet will rise dramatically. At a minimum, make sure Google thinks your site is mobile friendly and maybe, most of your customers will too.
8. Social Media Automation
“Martech Shock” extends to social media as brands look to automate and scale. The use of social media automation tools and platform features will grow to help brands with prospecting, delivering content to the right customers at the right time and engagement – all integrated with a marketing dashboard for end to end reporting of the impact social media has across the customer journey. Just don’t think this kind of solution is “plug and play”. As with CRM, analytics and marketing automation, you will need human expertise and a strategy to make the most out of your automation software investment.
9. Social Content Participation
People are empowered and motivated more than ever to co-create social contentwith brands. If a brand makes that possible, I think consumers will be incredibly interested in partnering with companies in ways that serve mutual interests.
In a way, this kind of consumer and brand collaboration is tapping into the whole user-generated content phenomenon. There are so many ways to do it, especially because of mobile devices allowing people to participate at all times with brands on topics they’re passionate about. Content can easily become an outcome of this type of participation, whether it’s a video, image or even text.
Activating passionate people within a social network environment where they can co-create and participate is an exciting opportunity to scale reach, content quantity and connect with social influencers.
Here’s the thing: Sometimes social media marketing often seems doomed to become nothing more than another advertising channel, with artificial automation schemes for brands to scale the illusion of customer engagement.
While that seems a bit cynical, I also think the collective power of individuals on social networks has never been greater – for content, engagement and influence. When brands and marketers can marry the wisdom and action of the crowd with technology that actually solves a real problem, I think the future of social media is brighter than ever.
So what are the key trends that social media marketers need to look out for in 2016? While we all expect certain platforms to introduce certain updates, it’s arguably more important to understand the wider context behind such changes, the implications of those specific updates in a wider sense. It’s one thing to know that Facebook’s introducing a new emoji toolbar, it’s another to grasp why they would do it and the expanded implications of emoji and how social media users are moving with this trend.
While the updates in themselves are important, thinking over why those shifts are occurring can provide marketers with a better platform to work from, a better level of preparedness and audience understanding from which to operate. And if you can anticipate the ‘why’ that motivates such changes, you’ll be better placed to stay ahead of the curve and shift your marketing activities in line with audience attentions.
So what are the key trends to look for in 2016? Here are five key drivers to keep an eye on.
1. The Growth of Emoji Analytics
However you feel about emoji, whether you like them or not – whether you use them yourself or don’t – their influence is undeniable. Driven largely by younger users, emoji have become a core element in social; research conducted by Instagram, and published in early 2015, showed that in some nations, the amount of Instagram posts with emoji characters now exceeds those without: “If the overall trend continues,” the researchers noted, “we might be looking at a future where the majority of text on Instagram contains emoji.”
Emoji have become a key communications tool, a way for people to express sentiment quickly and easily, without having to explain the full context in so many words. This is particularly important when you consider the impact of the mobile shift – as more and more people are conducting more interactions via mobile, any tools that can provide efficiency on this front are valuable, and emoji do just that. Now, rather than fumbling with tiny keypads are battling suggestions from auto-correct, you can paste in a single image and convey the intended sentiment. Communication efficiency is crucially important in this application.
But one of the wider questions around the rise in emoji use – and one that will become increasingly important in 2016 – is ‘how do we use this trend to better understand our audience?’ Can emoji habits and behaviors be used as an indicator of interest and engagement? Absolutely they can, but extracting the specifics of how and why emoji are used, and in what context, will become a much bigger focus in 2016.
Which emoji are more closely related to click-throughs and conversions? Do sad emoji responses correlate with lower readership? Does the use of certain emoji characters lead to more shares? These questions will be important, particularly as Facebook moves to roll out Reactions more widely and Twitter seeks to implement their own emoji toolset. You may not care about emoji, but the numbers suggest that your audience likely does, and increasingly so every day. How they’re used in isolation is not important, but what they mean, in a wider sense, could provide crucial insight.
2. Identifying Relevant Metrics
This one has been a common thread over the past couple of years, but in 2016, it may finally see real focus.
Back in the early days of Facebook, The Social Network encouraged brands to build their Page Likes in order to increase reach – it was even included as an ad objective:
The basic principle makes sense – when people Like your Page, it indicates to Facebook that those users want to see content posted by your business, so more Likes means more reach. But over time, and as we all know, organic reach has fallen dramatically – nowadays, a Page would be lucky to have 10% of their total audience see any one of their Facebook posts, which makes Page Likes a less effective target to strive for, and thus, the wording of the ad objective has been changed to de-emphasize this element as a target. Because it’s not – and really, it never has been, at least, not in a wholistic sense.
While metrics like Likes, followers, re-tweets can all be used as indicators in certain contexts (and should definitely not be dismissed as a form of assessment, particularly in awareness campaigns), the real numbers that matter are conversions. Click-through rates, subsequent actions taken, purchases made – these are the numbers that truly matter. While shares and engagements play a part in that process, the real numbers relate to the bottom line, and that, increasingly, is where we’re going to see the focus of social media metrics in 2016.
We’re actually already seeing the next stages of this play out – Facebook’s ‘Conversion Lift‘ metrics go beyond the basic implications of soft numbers and aim to show businesses exactly how their on-platform efforts contribute to their bottom line results. Twitter’s implemented a similar system, using both on and off platform data to provide a more accurate overview of campaign results.
Through this, we’re moving more towards the next level of social ROI, where marketing teams can provide definitive links between their social efforts and real-world results – a measure that’s crucial to truly understand and maximize social marketing performance.
“The goal is not to be good at social media. The goal is to be good at business because of social media.”
3. Focus on Engagement (Not Virality)
Along a similar line, ‘going viral’ is going to less of a focus in the new year. Why? Because ‘going viral’ is a result, not an aim – you simply cannot plan on creating viral content.
We’ve all heard it many times, companies that want to create a ‘viral’ video – I’ve even seen it written down in marketing plans (‘we’re going to create a viral video and that’ll get the word out”). And you can understand why – who wouldn’t want to create infectious content that generates thousands, even millions, of impressions through organic reach? Everyone wants that level of success, but the thing is, you can’t make it happen. There are elements of viral content we can study and better understand, sure, there are learnings we can take away from the latest viral post that can help increase our chances of creating highly shareable material. But planning on going viral is like planning on winning the lottery – if it works out, great, but if not, you’re gonna’ be left with a big hole in your marketing plan.
As social media matures, we’re seeing a move away from viral content and more towards creating content that resonates with your audience. This is a far more viable, and valuable, approach, as the people who are most likely to see your content on social are the people who already like your brand to begin with. Those are your core fans, the ones who really want to know what you have to say, who are attuned to your aims and message – so why not use that as the starting point from which to build your social brand?
How do you do this? By learning and understanding what your key audiences want and expect from your business. You deliver that, and those people will like your content, they’ll comment, they’ll share it among their own networks, and that’s how you’ll see increases in the reach of your brand messaging. Word of mouth is amplified immeasurably by social networks – for example, this image below shows an average Facebook users’ network.
And while, as noted earlier, organic reach has fallen, and not everything you post is going to be seen by every one of your followers (this relates to both Page and personal posts), you can see how word-of-mouth can spread your message from one person to another within that graph and work to greatly expand the reach of your messaging over time.
The key to social is delivering excellent customer experiences – excellent experiences lead to happy customers, happy customers, over time, become advocates, and advocates help spread your brand messaging throughout their own extended networks, thus using the potential of organic social reach to best advantage. Paid reach is, of course, another avenue to help build upon that, but the real truth is that social media is best suited to turning people who like your brand into people who love your brand. That’s the best base to build from, the best way to maximize the use of social media’s connective capacity.
‘Viral’ is great, but ‘advocacy’ is a much more realistic, and likely beneficial, strategic aim.
4. Evolving Customer Service
As more and more people use social networks, more and more are also turning to social platforms to resolve customer service concerns. In fact, according to research by Socialbakers, social media customer service requests have increased more than 2.5X in the past two years, with the vast majority (80%) coming in via Twitter.
Questions are being raised on the platforms where people are spending more of their time – so it makes sense, then, for brands to be paying attention and meeting customers where they are. As such, expect to see a big focus on social customer service in 2016. I mean, it’s already relatively big, but expect to see both brands and the platforms themselves moving to better facilitate this over the year.
We’ve already seen Facebook moving on this, working to make Messenger a more effective platform for customer service interactions, adding in additional capabilities for brands to respond to Page comments via private message, to add a Messenger plug-in to their websites so users can send them a Facebook message without disrupting their browsing experience, while they’re also exploring the capacity of AI in this regard, working to develop new, smart systems that would enable brands to automate parts of the customer interaction process, making it easier and more effective for people to get relevant information quickly and via the platforms which they’re already using.
This evolution will be an important trend to watch in 2016, an important, new battleground for social platforms to consider. As noted, Twitter’s currently leading the way, in terms of requests for social customer service, but the popularity of Facebook, and Messenger specifically, could see The Social Network take big strides on this front very quickly. Either way, the end result will be more tools made available for brands to better service their customers, likely through more intelligent automation options. And that development, which would reduce the expense of having real staff respond to such queries, while also improving customer outcomes through better system response, could prove significant for a great many brands moving forward.
5. Think Mobile – Always
And the last trend of note is one which requires little further build up, but is worth noting either way – the mobile shift is one of the most significant marketing trends of the last century, and one which every brand has to factor in when considering their social media marketing plan.
Not sure that this really applies to your brand? Well let’s take a look at the stats:
Facebook currently has 1.55 billion monthly active users – around one in every five people in the world is active on The Social Network. Of those users, 1.39 billion access the site via mobile device – more than that, Facebook has over a billion daily active users, 900 million of which also access the site via mobile.
And in one of the more telling stats from 2015 – last year, Google search volume on mobile finally exceeded desktop numbers in more than 10 nations (including the US).
The mobile shift is happening, it’s undeniable – if you’re not optimizing your content or considering the mobile experience of your users when constructing your online presence, you’re missing out.
While this trend has been in effect for some time, in 2016 it’ll move to the next level – mobile will become an absolutely essential consideration in all campaigns and digital programs. If you can’t afford the investment of re-vamping your website in order to optimize mobile performance, you’ll need to start considering how to better integrate mobile options like Facebook’s ‘Instant Articles‘ and ‘Canvas‘, which offers an immersive mobile ad experience, all built into Facebook itself. Now that, of course, also means building on ‘borrowed land’, which can be risky (particularly if Facebook decides to change the rules), but it may be the best option, particularly if that’s where your audience is at and the comparative level of mobile experience they’re getting from other providers is evolving beyond your own.
It’ll also become increasingly important for brands to understand how their audience is discovering and accessing their content. Much of this data is available via tools like Google Analytics, but those in-depth stats will become more critical in providing insight and mapping the customer journey – knowing the when, where and how people are connecting to your brand will form an essential part of any planning and will guide strategic direction. It’s nothing new, I’m not telling you anything you haven’t heard before on this front, but it’s important to note the growing mobile trend – and particularly how that trend only looks set to increase as the next generation of digital natives moves into your target demographic brackets.
While there are numerous other, audience-specific trends what will impact your business, these five key trends will play a big part in the wider social landscape in 2016. Video, too, will be important, visual trends will continue to evolve over time – the next ‘selfie’ movement is right around the corner. But these larger shifts are likely to influence the social space more generally over the next 12 months – staying on top, or ideally ahead, of these will have your brand well-placed to maximize social marketing performance.
2016 has been an exciting year in the world of search engine optimization and social media marketing – what are the main developments to inform your marketing?
The two fields of social media and search are constantly evolving, with plenty of changes that prompt shifts in consumer and marketer behavior.
In order to succeed, you should adapt to these changes and employ the latest and most effective strategies.
The following are 15 social media and search engine marketing trends in 2016 and what you should do to stay ahead of the curve:
1. Mobile optimization is a must.
Last year, mobile generated more traffic than desktop and laptop search. With virtually everyone using their smartphone or tablet to find information online, it goes without saying that business owners must cater to the needs of their mobile audience to generate leads and increase conversions.
If your website still isn’t optimized for mobile, then you risk losing out to your
competitors. This is reinforced by Google’s Mobilegeddon update, which favors mobile-friendly websites.
Be sure you use responsive web design to provide the best user experience to your visitors regardless of the device they’re using.
2. Voice search introduces huge changes in keyword research.
Digital assistants have become more popular among mobile users over the past couple of years, thanks to their much-improved functionality.
Siri, Now and Cortana are making the lives of users so much more convenient. But this presents a new challenge to marketers as they must now optimize for voice search.
People use different search terms when speaking and typing. Voice searches lean toward long-tail keywords, so be sure to include these terms to increase your chances of ranking.
3. Local SEO will be even more important.
With the launch of My Business, Google places even more importance to local
There have been significant changes in how Google presents search results for local terms. Different search elements are used to provide immediate information regarding local businesses.
It is imperative to have your business listed on Google to improve search visibility. Google My Business is a great place to get started, allowing you to control multiple accounts from one central location.
4. Social posts get ranked higher.
It’s a good move to try to rank your blog posts and universal assets (videos, images, news, etc) on the results pages, but this year you shouldn’t forget to rank your social posts as well.
Many marketers are already utilizing social media to gain more visibility in search engines. When customers enter your company name, you must make sure that your social media profiles are seen on the first page. This should be further leveraged for your reputation management and monitoring. Various social media sites also now encourage long form content, most notably Facebook with their revamped Notes feature.
Various social media sites also now encourage long form content, most notably Facebook with their revamped Notes feature.
5. App store optimization is crucial.
One study shows that in 2015, 52% of time spent online was on mobile apps. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as people tend to prefer using apps over surfing mobile websites due to better functionality.
If you have a business app, optimizing for the app store is crucial to enhance visibility. Tons of apps get created every day, making it more difficult than ever to stand out.
It’s vital to use in-app analytics as well to measure conversions, click through rates and app open rates.
6. Learn the new on-page SEO.
When talking about on-page SEO, what immediately comes to mind are content optimization, internal linking and improving site structure.
But now, there are more factors to consider to ensure that your on-page SEO is in check. These include click-through rates, engagement, social signals and relevant content. By measuring these important site metrics, you can see which areas of your site need improvements.
These are also used by search engines when ranking web pages, so look beyond conventional on-page SEO strategies and be sure these factors are included in your next optimization campaign.
7. Sell on social.
Different social media sites have enabled advertisers to sell directly on their
platforms. Facebook and Pinterest, in particular, have introduced “Buy Now” features. This is a fantastic opportunity to reach your target audience and increase conversions. It’s a win-win situation since social media users can now buy products without even leaving the app, allowing for a great user experience. Without question, more social platforms will follow suit this 2016.
This is a fantastic opportunity to reach your target audience and increase conversions. It’s a win-win situation since social media users can now buy products without even leaving the app, allowing for a great user experience. Without question, more social platforms will follow suit this 2016.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise if buy buttons become very prominent in advertising campaigns by this year’s holiday season.
8. Enhancements in in-app functionality.
Mobile apps have come so far. It’s amazing how much you can do without ever leaving the app. Developers continue to make innovations and add new functionalities to their apps.
Facebook, for instance, introduced a lot of new features last year such as Instant Articles and automatic video playing when scrolling. They are now making their own digital assistant. Canvas.Facebook.com is by unique invitations only, but will come onto the market, full-force.
Twitter, Instagram and other platforms refuse to fall behind, promising to have plenty of things in store for their users. By making improvements in in-app functionality, conversion rates skyrocket, so it’s essential to make enhancements in your app to experience a boost in ROI.
9. Take advantage of new publication options.
Facebook created a game-changer when they launched Instant Articles. This is their way of presenting users with content while ensuring that they wouldn’t leave the app. Instant Articles load measurably quicker than regular web links, thus improving user experience.
Major publishers are now using this feature to reach their target audience. Twitter is about to release a similar feature called Project Lightning. Check out these new publication options and see how you can utilize them to generate new leads and improve conversions.
10. Videos will continue to dominate.
YouTube still receives a massive amount of hits per day. Facebook receives 8 billion
video views daily as of November 2015.
These two facts alone prove how much online users love watching videos. Plenty of studies also show that content within videos have higher engagement rates compared to those that only contain plain text.
It’s recommended to find ways to present information to your audience through entertaining videos. Trying to rank these videos on the results pages can also drive a significant amount of traffic to your website.
11. In-the-moment content will surge in popularity.
By nature, social media are “in-the-moment,” with users eager to share what
they’re doing as of the moment. But over the past couple of years, live streaming has become very popular. Periscope, the most popular live streaming online platform, allows users to record a short moment of their lives and share it
Periscope, the most popular live streaming online platform, allows users to record a short moment of their lives and share it with the world. Snapchat and Instagram have already jumped on the bandwagon. This could mean huge changes in how you use social media. Instead of scheduling posts in advance, you might want to consider posting in-the-moment updates and take advantage of the fact that millions of online users love this kind of content.
This could mean huge changes in how you use social media. Instead of scheduling posts in advance, you might want to consider posting in-the-moment updates and take advantage of the fact that millions of online users love this kind of content.
12. Dark traffic gradually becomes clearer.
If you’re using Google Analytics, then you know how frustrating it is to try to decipher dark traffic—the kind of traffic whose source you do not know. Analytics simply includes it under direct traffic. This can affect your marketing campaigns. As a marketer, you want to know as much as possible about your audience.
Thankfully, dark traffic has gradually come to light over the past few months. Digital marketers expect that this year will mark the end of dark traffic, with analytics tools getting more precise information regarding their source.
13. Link building continues to be effective (think SEO).
Many say that link building should be avoided altogether, especially after the Penguin update that demolished millions of websites last year. But links are arguably the most important ranking factor. As long as links are used by search engines for ranking web pages, they will remain effective.
Just keep in mind that when it comes to links, quality trumps quantity. Be sure your links are contextual and relevant.
Also, don’t forget to optimize your anchor text ratio. Avoid using the same keywords as your anchor text to avoid any spam detector.
14. Long form social content will become huge.
Short messages are often published on social media, with brands preferring to post a concise description or summary of their post and then placing a link to the target URL. But social media sites are encouraging users to publish posts directly on their platforms.
LinkedIn has recently ramped up their long form content publishing. Facebook has also revamped Notes, one feature which had not received a lot of love from the social giant for many years.Blogging on social media will become a huge trend in 2016.
Blogging on social media will become a huge trend in 2016. This is a significant change in content marketing which makes it easier for readers to find the information they need.
15. Advertising costs will rise.
It is now more difficult than ever to increase visibility both on search engines and
social media. This is largely due to increased competition. For the same reason, advertising costs are expected to rise this 2016. Social media sites are also throttling organic visibility to make brands purchase ads.
While you can still set up a successful online marketing campaign with a limited budget, it helps to be prepared and allow for some room for extra expenses particularly on the advertising front.