The new year has bought the usual flurry of exotic predictions for what to expect across the communications and social media world in 2019.
A quick google search will unearth some weird and wonderful industry forecasts many of which, to anyone who actually works in communications day to day, seem pretty far fetched.
So, we decided to inject a little dose of reality to the clamour of 2019 predictions with our own thoughts on what trends are actually likely to unfold within the next 12 months:
Content is king, but it had better be good
Content, in all its forms, remains the cornerstone of effective communications. The internet has a hunger for content – words, images, videos, audio – that will not be sated any time soon. In fact, the demand for powerful and engaging content is only likely to grow so meeting this demand remains the most effective promotional strategy for most businesses. But the content, whatever form it takes, will need to be better than ever.
While the traditional media have wised up to businesses using editorial ‘contributions’ as a free PR tool, editors will still accept submissions that are actually of value to their readers.
But beware, the need to survive in publishing means more pressure on advertising revenues therefore the rise of native advertising means that any self promotion/sales led content is likely to be considered as paid for content. Advertising and PR budgets will need to converge to get the most impact for brands and businesses.
As these lines between editorial and advertising blur, more businesses are taking advantage by turning out long-form sponsored content positioning them as industry leaders. A massive 75% of communications professionals have used sponsored content as part of their toolkit.
While on social media, since pretty much everyone is now self-promoting their brands in some form, the challenge is standing out. Video and audio continue to grow in popularity, encouraging greater engagement. So, get your creative juices flowing for 2019.
Long live media relations
For years people have predicted the collapse of traditional media relations, and for years they have been wrong. This year is no exception. Yes, the media landscape is changing, and yes, there are now many alternatives to traditional media relations for getting brand messages to key audiences, but few things are as effective for raising a company’s profile than third party endorsement by a respected and relevant journalist, commentator or online influencer.
Online coverage often has the added benefit of boosting the organic SEO of the featured company’s website, assuming there are live links included, so is more sought after than ever by businesses.
Many newspapers are now opting for subscription models, reducing their reliance on advertising due to dropping revenues. The Times, The Financial Times and The Economist have all moved their content behind a paywall.
So, a strong news story or feature angle remains the best way to generate media coverage that will really have an impact.
Driving the content churn is the constant call for blogs to boost organic SEO on company websites. Many companies view this in a purely functional way, demanding that the relevant keywords are included but with little thought as to the quality of the content. This is a mistake. A really great blog will not only boost SEO but can also be used in email marketing, social media posts, the sales toolkit, internal communications and more. If it is really good, it may even be suitable for media relations, with some tweaking.
Social media Stories and ‘Live’ content on the rise
The popularity of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram Stories and Twitter’s Pins is set to continue. Their strength as marketing tools lies in the fact they do not disrupt audiences’ browsing and encourage proper engagement.
The increased use of ad blocking technology means more brands will be looking to move away from traditional advertising such as pop-up banners and find alternative ways to promote their products that work seamlessly within the overall user experience. A great example is Easyjet which recently made it possible to find and book holidays just by clicking on a photo.
While Instagram posts still reach and gather more impressions per fan than the ‘Stories’ feature, the number of brands posting on Stories quadrupled in 2018, with brands investing 212% more in Stories compared with the previous year, according to Marketing Week.
Influencers will wield great, erm, influence
You’d have to be living off grid not to have noticed the explosion of social media influencers in the last few years. They’re not going anywhere. In 2017 there was a massive 12.9 million brand sponsored influencer posts on Instagram, the most popular influencer marketing forum. Figures for 2018 are likely to have been double that, with posts worth nearly $1.7 billion.
While marketers can see the value, the trend will continue and a 2017 report suggested that for each dollar spent on influencer marketing, marketers see an average of $7.65 in earned media value returned.
Facebook will lose ad spend to Instagram
Instagram has been on the rise as a brand building and advertising channel for some time but this trend looks set to continue as engagement levels on the photo-sharing platform outperform Facebook.
Ad spend on Instagram increased in 2018 while falling on Facebook, according to Socialbakers. Despite its smaller audience size, Instagram boasts much more engaged users than Facebook making it more effective as a means of capturing targeted communities.
Podcasts on the rise
Podcasts have seen a major revival in popularity in the last few years and advertisers are following the numbers. In the US, advertising revenue rose to a record $314 in 2017 and forecasts by the IAB and PwC suggest this will grow more than 110% by 2020.
In 2018 digital audio company Acast began running personalised podcast ads across its global network of 125 million monthly users and 3,000 podcasts.
Podcasts are also becoming an increasingly popular way for businesses to get their messages out to target audiences, the audio equivalent of a thought leadership feature. The chatty informal and often intimate nature of a podcast makes it an engaging way to for businesses to communicate their expertise.
This ties in with a wider move towards audio content due to the rapidly growing popularity of smart speakers such as the Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomePod. These are likely to trigger more online publications embracing audio content which can be published to these devices.
Data driven results
Communications professionals can finally demonstrate their return on investment with quantifiable figures and in 2019 we are likely to see smarter metrics emerging. With online media tracking tools able to measure earned media impact, social media analytics measuring reach and engagement, the Google Data Studio and the ability to monitor different elements of PR using a communications software stack, there is now no excuse not to demonstrate the impact of your PR work using hard data.