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Digital and Social Media Marketing: Know What’s Next for 2019

Digital and social media marketing don’t stand still for a moment and 2019 will bring an amplification and acceleration of emerging trends. Amidst a marketing landscape where rapid change is the only constant, knowing What’s Next is even more important than knowing What’s Now. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know to play big and win big in a digital world that’s evolving at the speed of change.

The idea of “using” social media will become obsolete.

Once upon a time, it made sense to “use” digital advertising. But that was before everybody “spoke social,” before the widespread adoption of the internet and before social media was the newest, bright shiny object in the digital universe.  Back then, campaign lifecycles and consumers’ journeys could be clearly identified, neatly segmented, and accurately assessed. Back then, it made sense to “use” social media to reach consumers.

But in the context of the all-pervasive digitally-enabled “connectivity” that characterizes today’s connected consumer, marketers need to grasp the idea that the idea of “using” social media is obsolete. This isn’t because consumers are less social, but because they’re becoming more social in terms of increased digital connectivity across multiple touchpoints and in their relationships with brands and fellow consumers.

This means that in 2019 we’ll see a widespread shift from a mindset of “using” social media to a mindset of adapting and thriving in an ecosystem where a highly connected, social, empowered consumer is now the non-negotiable norm. In other words, marketers will no longer view social as a channel they can more or less successfully “surf” but as the online and offline “water” in which consumers and brands alike are inescapably swimming.

Value will be redefined and more sensitive metrics will be deployed.

Depending on the kinds of questions being asked, value can mean many different things — things that are invisible from the limited perspective of traditional econometrics. Marketers need to hone their sensitivity to the subtle yet potentially powerful forms of influence that content or campaigns may be generating in unexpected ways and in unforeseen channels, and use this information to reform their mindset and refactor their understanding of what value means to their marketing strategy.

The migration of today’s connected consumer across multiple digital touchpoints renders ROI an unreliable default for accurately assessing campaign success. With this realization, marketers will increasingly move beyond ROI and adopt metrics that are more sensitive to the complexity, ambiguity, and dynamism of the consumer journey.

Overly data-driven approaches will be seen as dangerous to disruptive innovation.

Right now, data is viewed as king, but this view needs to be dethroned. The problem is that data doesn’t win the hearts and minds of consumers, and contrary to the term “data-driven,” it doesn’t drive compelling messaging or campaigns (though of course, it plays an important role).

Data-addicted marketers can be terrified to loosen their grip on data because it gives them the illusion of insight, control, and safety. Numbers may not lie, but they don’t speak for themselves. They require interpretation, and they don’t tell the truth about disruptive innovation. After all, something that’s truly innovative is unprecedented, which means it doesn’t even exist to measure, at least until after the fact.

Disruptive innovation rests on the ability to defy existing data and dispense with the illusory safety net of data-driven certainty. It’s not data that drives disruptive innovation but creative risk.

To propel rather than impede innovation, marketers will come to regard data as just one part of an iterative creative process that is more dedicated to experimentation and testing than to certainty and safety.

Integrated Marketing will no longer be optional.   

As marketers face mounting revenue pressure, a dizzying diversity of customers, markets, channels, and products, decreasing budgets, and siloed organizations, integrative marketing will no longer be viewed as one approach among many but the very foundation of customer-centricity.

As the name suggests, integrated marketing brings coherence to the complexity and fragmentation that increasingly characterizes the marketing world. Regardless of what theories marketers may espouse, approaches they may take, or organizational models they may adopt, integrated marketing is a way of bringing everything together into a high-performing whole. This is accomplished through the process of aligning and coordinating a marketing organization to deliver a consistent, seamless experience across all channels.

As a testament to the power of integrated marketing, research conducted by Gartner has found that Integrated campaigns across 4+ channels outperform single or dual-channel campaigns by  300 percent. Amplifying a consistent message drives value, and according to Kantar Millward Brown, integrated campaigns are 31 percent more effective at building brands. Because integrated marketing represents the move from a cost center to a profit center, it will no longer be viewed as an optional approach but the price of admission for competitive viability.

B2B will behave more like B2C.

While B2C marketing has learned to speak to consumers in increasingly human, authentic ways, B2B has been slower to realize the value of this approach. B2B marketing still has a tendency to speak to buyers in transactional terms or “sales-talk” that can feel impersonal and fail to inspire buyers’ trust.

Consumers have become increasingly interested in the actual human beings behind the “public persona” of businesses and brands. B2C has responded by giving consumers an inside perspective on the brand by telling compelling stories about those inside it (employees and stakeholders), or those personally impacted by it. These kinds of authentically told stories leave consumers less likely to feel they’re they’re being “pitched” and more likely to feel they’re being treated like family.

This approach helps to humanize the brand and B2B is rapidly responding in kind. B2B is now taking to heart the reality that buyers resent feeling like the target of a marketing ploy just as much as consumers. With this understanding, B2B will continue to become more human in its approach by dispensing with sales-speak and relying on compellingly told stories as the most valuable currency of authentic engagement.

In conclusion

2019 will bring an amplification and acceleration of five emerging trends.

  1. “Social” will no longer exclusively refer to social media platforms but will be understood as constituting the online and offline “connectivity” across multiple channels and touchpoints that constitutes the terms and conditions of the digital age.
  2. Value will be redefined in ways that defy traditional econometrics, demanding that marketers deploy metrics beyond ROI that are more sensitive to the complexity, ambiguity, and dynamism of the consumer journey.
  3. Overly data-driven approaches will give way to experiments of creative risk that drive disruptive innovation, and marketers will put a premium on seeking the meaning behind their metrics rather than merely manipulating them.
  4. integrative marketing will no longer be viewed as one approach among many but the very foundation of customer-centricity and price of admission for competitive viability.
  5. B2B will behave more like B2C by speaking to buyers in less transactional, more authentic terms that make the brand more human and inspire trust.

Even more than knowing What’s Now, it’s knowing What’s Next that is the difference between the ability to compete and the ability to lead the charge. Taken to their logical conclusions, these five trends have far-reaching and dramatic implications for the future of marketing and what it means to be a citizen of a rapidly evolving digital world. For those up for a high-speed adventure, the journey is well worth it.

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