2017: The Future’s So Bright (People, Data, and the Right Message)…

2016 was a whirlwind of a year. With all the things that have happened since I’ve joined Vaudeville Ventures in May 2016, there has certainly been a shift in my perspective on how business and media is changing. I’ve had the opportunity to manage and execute a various array of digital marketing and content strategies for some great clients. And, with the current focus on how data and more personalized content strategies can drive more meaningful and authentic consumer actions and outcomes, it’s become clear that some focus needs to shift.

First, specific to the profession, if you asked me today, “What is a skill that every digital marketer should have and why?” I would reply with: the ability to master change and adapt with a flexible comfort level. We have seen so much change in digital marketing, and to succeed, people need to quickly adapt to new tactics, technology, channels, and measures. Having this ability allows us to be educated on the latest marketing techniques.

Second, specific to the mediums used for digital, my first thought is that email, although it’s in flux, still holds its position as THE medium of choice for digital marketers aiming to drive engagement and actions. Not only are emails 5x more likely to be seen than Facebook posts, but it’s also proven to drive a higher conversion compared to all other channels, including social.

Third, I believe the biggest opportunity (and challenge) for digital marketers is putting things into context and adjusting our ways. We have the ability to target the right people and read more digital cues about what’s happening in their lives in order to put our messaging creatively into context with what’s happening at any given moment for a targeted individual. We can find them.

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That adjustment is a huge opportunity for success, but as I’m learning, it’s also a challenge. With the available data and various tools needed to gather and model it, we have the ability to put a successful program or campaign into place. A lot of people in the business know they need to do it, but the struggle is real.

Furthermore, people-based marketing, or targeting at the individual level – at scale is a huge opportunity, especially if it’s able to be pushed in real-time.

Finally, there are a lot of prediction pieces being published across the media about what the next big thing NOT TO IGNORE in 2017 will be for marketers. Here are my 5 for the year:

  1. Apps, podcasts & messaging bots will become more used by businesses to market their products and services
  2. Social media as a marketing tool will become less effective – already has, and email still reigns
  3. Recommendations by celebrities and influencers will be less respected and therefore, played down by brands
  4. In-house digital strategists will be the hot job to have in 2017
  5. If it is not on your phone, your business is in the dark ages

All in all, email and content marketing success in general lies in marketers’ ability to master real-time personalization, deliver dynamic and engaging content, and leverage traditional storytelling and creativity alongside data to deliver resonating messages to the right audience.

So, in 2017 let’s be more positive, remain flexible and embrace change, and be more data- and people-centric.

The future’s so bright…

Instagram’s Snapchat Rip-off & The New State of Social Media

You don’t just take an Instagram. It’s a production. And for those of us who may take thousands of photos of last night’s sky, your gourmet donut, or my dog, only “the best one” hits the gram. And it took time: editing it, deciding on crop or no crop, adding a filter. In a world of oversharing, Instagram was for showing our very best.

Well, not anymore. With Stories, Instagram lets you group ‘grams into one cohesive narrative that disappears after 24 hours. Add text, a sticker, even a doodle, and within 24 hours the story will disappear. Sound like Snapchat? Ding, ding, ding – you are correct.

Stealing features is nothing new for social networks, but it’s rare to see a ripoff this blatant. On social media, people are crying foul. But, it doesn’t matter, really. Does it? As a way of reaching new demographics, the launch of Stories on Instagram makes sense. The posting experience mimics Snapchat, but they’re built right into an otherwise familiar app.

If you’re a Snapchat user, it works just about the exact same way. If you’re not, read on to hear how you use it…

As far as story creation goes, there’s a new “+” icon in the upper left-hand corner of your Instagram display. Take a photo or video from there, and it lives only in your story stream, not in your main feed. In 24 hours, poof, the all the photos in that story disappear. And whatever privacy settings you’ve set for your day-to-day grammin’ will automatically apply to your ephemeral efforts.

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Now for the state of social as such a blatant rip off launches, well this isn’t just about Instagram (and, by extension, Facebook) replicating the next fad in social platforming, though that’s part of it. Today, every major platform is looking to maneuver fast and change course to grow audience. Snapchat and Twitter want to become more accessible. Facebook and Instagram want more shareable, original content. And everyone wants live video.

Clearly, none of the major social platforms feel comfortable with their current status, change is always on their horizon.

If there’s one undefeated truth across this innovation, it’s that everything that is social must converge. It really is just the way the constant pursuit of the next gazillion users goes. And for the most part, the people using these apps benefit. Snapchat stories are fun. And, now you can have them in Instagram, too. Simple.

But, this week, we have seen and heard the app loyalists eye-roll & shame Instagram at what they see as selling out. Platforms become bloated beyond simple use. Social networks suffer from a boxed in sameness. And smaller companies are left uncertain of where they fit into the ecosystem, or if they do at all.

The question is whether, as apps strive to become everything to everyone, they risk losing what made them so unique in the first place. That risk is particularly obvious in an app like Instagram, which continues its domination of the niche for beautiful photography on social media.

It’s sort of concerning to see these apps drop the features and limitations that once made them unique. Take those away and you’re left with little more than a competition for the biggest, best social gathering.

Via The New Yorker:
[…the app’s introduction of an expiring highlight reel is more than a shameless grab for one of Snapchat’s core features. It’s a response to a demand: on an Internet that always remembers, we are fighting for places we can go to forget.]

All Roads Lead to Mobile Messaging

Last week at F8, Facebook’s massive annual developer conference, the big news was bots—specifically on Messenger, Facebook’s messaging app. Messenger has a increasing user base of 900 million users per month – very enticing for companies eager to get their wares in front of customers. Facebook is turning Messenger into an open platform where any company can now build a chatbot that users can talk with. If you’re an airline, you can build a chatbot to book flights; if you’re OpenTable you can build a chatbot to allow reservations, you can even call an Uber – one-touch marketing.

People don’t use a ton of apps, and they don’t download many either. The reason is simple: There’s an enormous amount time spent with learning about a new app, downloading it, signing up for it, and then remembering you even have it. And this is why the rise of the chatbot makes sense.

The promise of chatbots is that from within Facebook Messenger you can do anything you’d like with the speed and ease that would be impossible if you were toggling between numerous apps. Moreover, because you’re already in Messenger, there’s no need to sign up all over again if you’re trying out a new service. Messenger already knows who you are. 

Your Facebook profile becomes the foundation of your online identity.

Once you start a conversational thread, your transaction history is right there, threaded into a cohesive stream of conversation that you and the bot can access.

With 15 million businesses using pages and 1.6 billion people using Facebook, actionable conversations can now come together in threads that are contextual and almost sacred. For the lifetime of the interactions everything stays in one place, unlike email.”

Chatbots in Kik and other messaging apps work much like this already, with guided options that push your chat along. But “Facebook believes that the future will yield deeper and deeper integrations between the chatbots and the sensors and data on your phone.

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courtesy Facebook, via Variety.com

Soon, we’ll see how well consumers engage with these features & developments, which really have been around since the days of IRC, if you think about it. Only users will decide if they really are faster and more fluid than apps; the proof will be in the numbers. With users reportedly sharing less on Facebook each year, it makes sense for them to create a business-friendly platform, with less and less need for Facebook proper.

Millennials Need All Five Senses Considered

When marketing to millennials, brands must consider all five senses. Their eyes are always looking, ears are always listening and fingers are always, ALWAYS typing, but figuring out how to tap in with millennials is an ongoing challenge for marketers. They must be met exactly where their attention is with an authentic, genuine message promoted by someone they trust. So let’s check in to their five senses…

Sight: What are they watching? 

Digital is the BEST way to reach millennials. This has been said over and over. But the facts remain:

  • There will be 78 million millennial digital video viewers, representing more than 92% of all U.S. millennial Internet users, according to eMarketer.
  • The above is coupled with the fact that of millennials who are consuming traditional TV, 65% are using a second, third, or more screens to consume content simultaneously, according to Verizon.
  • With multiple screens vying for their attention, millennials are texting while watching TV, or watching digital video as they video chat with friends, or engaging with more screens than just that. How about that AMC Theaters allowing texting during movies scare? Oh, for goodness sake.

With that, we know the connection to content is constant.

In today’s influential world, Millennials are more likely to listen to and be influenced by their favorite YouTube superstars compared to professional athletes. According to VideoInk in 2015, millennials watch 11.3 hours of free online video per week and 8.3 hours of TV per week on average. In the YouTube vs. TV battle, marketers should be mindful that millennials hail YouTube as the ultimate winner.

Hearing: What are they listening to?

In terms of music, Millennials are discovering and enjoying music differently than the generations before them. Younger listeners spend on average 25 hours a week streaming music from a variety of online services, according to Vevo’s new “Music Fan Report”.

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Via Variety.com

Brands need to be sure they’re mixing things up where these Millennials ears are ringing.

Touch: What methods are they using to communicate?

A millennial’s communication originates in their hands. Everything starts on their mobile phones, including snaps, Facebook posts, Instagram tags, and Tweets.  89% of adults ages 18-29 use some form of social media, according to the Pew Research Center. Millennials are finding new ways to engage with their friends, family, and their communities every day. That means that brands and other organizations must do the same to stay relevant and in front of their target audiences. Snapchat is a great example of a company leading the way, instead of following trends and adapting.

Taste: How do millennials prefer their content?

Of course content has to be informative, enjoyable, passionate, funny, original and unexpected, but for brands – IT NEEDS TO BE SHAREABLE. Period. But what do they REALLY like? AdWeek hit up many millennials and summed up a few things – click the image:

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Via AdWeek

Smell: What products are they ultimately choosing, and why?

Millennials may not be relying only on their noses to remember their favorite products, they can sniff out when they’re being marketed to. According to Animoto, two out of three say that they will stop watching a video if they feel the tone is too promotional. Brand loyalty is influenced heavily by whether they think they can trust a brand and by what others highly recommend to them, from the shoes on their feet to the snacks they eat and the apparel they wear. Fifty percent of millennials say that being real, genuine and authentic are the most important factors with regards to distinguishing favorite brands, products or services. Keller Fay Group has enormous amounts of data on this group.

To sum up, Millennials are consuming original content that has an authentic voice, connects to them personally and provides a message that they relate to and possible share. In order to succeed, brands need to be active & multi-sensory in the space that millennials are interacting otherwise they just won’t reach this demographic holistically.