The face of Social in 2020

Social media is evolving fast and more big changes are on the horizon for next year.

Here’s what to keep an eye out for and how it could impact your social media experience.

The end of likes

Well, not entirely, but the use of likes and emoji reactions are set to change in the future. With the powerhouse Facebook trialling removing counts from select Instagram profiles and soon on the flagship product itself.

They postulate this may help address the growing concerns over mental health and social media proliferation of negative self-image. It may also be a somewhat cynical move to enable the business minded gamification of likes at a later date. Whatever the reason the literal ‘faces of social media are sure to be changing tac in the next year.

Micro-communities

The users in the early internet era were highly engaged, butfor the most part separated into small communities of forum users. The rise of social platforms ended that, pushing everyone into multiple huge sets of online groups, which gave us better interactivity but far less identity.

As big platform politicking, unreliable algorithms, and the fear of fake news have grown, there has been a move back towards smaller, dedicated social networks where there is a feel of being more in control of the experience and personal data. Messaging apps and private areas within other platforms will continue to grow in popularity. With a continuing cycle of over-population followed by exodus to other platforms likely following in the coming years.

Alternate realities

Facebook has suggested for years that Virtual Reality was where it wanted the platform to move in future, which lead to its purchase of Oculus Rift in 2014. While that dream is still somewhat unrealised for the public, they have announced plans for Horizon, an envisioned huge user focused virtual world for multi-user interaction. Frequently referred to as the real-world equivalent to Ready Player One’s Oasis, it will likely be much more centred towards social interaction than a useable alternate reality. The beta test begins within 12 months.

Augmented Reality, already a mainstay of Instagram and Snapchat filters, looks likely to only grow in relevancy, though most notably we can expect more marketing application of AR in social advertising with utilities like Snapchat’s Geofilters being a great example.

 

AI social

Having maligned algorithms earlier this one could be surprising, but Artificial intelligence and machine learning are at a point where simple tasks can be performed pretty reliably. In 2020 bots and new forms of machine agents will become more widespread and visible in many of online communities.

They may well be used simply as help guides, finding information and people we may want to see, at its core, a hyper sophisticated ‘people you may know’. In the background programmes like these will keep evolving to moderate and analyse our interactions both for greater content awareness and eventual marketing efficiency.

The Fake News Cycle

The growth of technological masterpieces like mo-cap avatars, virtual influencers, deep fakes and politicised misinformation campaigns means what should and should not be in the media will be continuing to change in the next year.

We are yet to see a truly ground-breaking marketing manoeuvre using fake content as its corner stone, but you can guarantee anything that gains consumer engagement will soon be used for this purpose. Likewise, celebrities will start investing heavily in ways to both sell and protect their digital visage.

Social commerce

E-commerce, specifically the Facebook marketplace and apps like Shpock will grow ever more possible in our social arenas, moving past traditional digital shopping with their ability to monetise connectivity and sharing experiences.

A new Instagram storefront is likely to blossom exponentially taking its no nonsense rich image filled profiles and becoming a socio-digital sales portfolio of sorts. The afore-mentioned bots and personalisation algorithms will extrapolate the platforms’ user data and habits into more consistent and relevant ‘other people bought…’ etc. sections.

More legal scrutiny

The unfortunate backdrop to all of the above is the fact confidence in social media as a whole has been soundly tested of late. Privacy, digital surveillance, advertising data protection, abuses, failed unhealthy media mediation, and much more have all taken their toll.

The sad news is this is unlikely to be going away any time soon and even with government mandates and new in-house programmes in place to tackle issues, we can expect more regulatory moves and a glut of cases in the courts. The silver-lining? As more regulation happens, and social as a whole grows and spreads, businesses will take note and hire far more staff to control their online presence. A win if you’re looking to become a social media expert…

Geofencing and its role in marketing

Often some of the hardest businesses to make great digital marketing process work for are the ones that have geographical audience limitations. How can we effectively advertise for a hyperlocal business who only want their effective marketing reach to extend to the edge of their village? The usually accepted answer to this is persistent but subtle strategy to as much of the populous as possible, creating as many touch-points as possible with everyone. All well and good, but in reality, the efficacy of typical ad campaign likely won’t achieve desired results, that’s where geofencing comes into its own.

 

Geofencing as a concept is not necessarily a new concept. If you’ve ever been to a supermarket and noticed the trolley has magnetic wheels you’ve definitely been through a type of geofence. They can be best compared to – a virtual ‘movie laser grid’. In more detail geofencing is service by where an app or other software uses GPS, RFID, Wi-Fi or mobile data to activate an action when a mobile device or RFID tag enters or exits a virtual location boundary.

 

While the majority of this blog will concern itself with geofencing’s application in the marketing industry it does have a lot of other uses within a vast range of businesses. They can be used to both interact with digital devices and monitor movement inside or between different fences. Some push messages and notifications to phones; others allow for the automation of business timekeeping; the checking in and out of company property; and some of the most common are used at logistics handling companies to track packages and provide real time data to their customers.

 

So, how does it work and what can it do for your hyperlocal marketing strategies. Well in simple terms making use of a geofence requires a software/app developer to create a virtual boundary around a location in a GPS or RFID-enabled application. This may just be a ring pulled out around a location on Google Maps, integrated with APIs, when developing their app. This digital fence will then trigger the programmed response when a location-service enabled device enters, exits or stays in that area.

 

The marketing application of all this is the last piece of the puzzle. The programs that run this sort of software can enhance visibility to the audience in the targeted area exponentially. Social media has become a much bigger player in the marketing ecosystem and takes full advantage of geofences with its advertising arrangements: Snapchat has its geofilters, that can add visible branding to consumers images when they are near certain participating locations; Facebook and Instagram use geofences to allow their stories and posts to be location tagged, visible to billions; and most social media with the capability to display advertising use geofences to allow better targeting of its platform users content. Push notifications are a fairly consistent part of the current mobile application infrastructure. The worst thing to be in marketing is forgotten, even if your marketing message isn’t visible it’s better to be in the consciousness of those you want to appeal to; so some applications use push notifications when people travel near points of interest to re-engage them. The fences can be used to engage with audiences or crowds at events allowing messages to be distributed or coordinated mass social media interaction, a very cost-effective way of reaching those already in the vicinity of the business.

 

The key things to consider before undertaking a geofencing project are:

  1. Know your audience, it’s all well and good to put up a fence around your business to retarget the customers and sales you’re missing out on, but if your goal is improved foot-fall the likelihood is the customers are not passing your location in the first place. Geofences can be set up anywhere, learn your target market and their habits, those places are the key locations for you, not necessarily your front door.
  2. Test different things, if your geofences don’t seem to be having the desired effect the ability to move them does exist! Starting out small is always the best way, maybe just a medium sized ring around the location you selected in from above. But things change, audience habits can shift due to the smallest of factors, and it is very unlikely to find your ideal location first time so starting small, A/B testing and progressive upscaling are key to a successful strategy.
  3. Stick to the point, one of the key limitations of geofencing and push notifications is their impact. Notifications are often limited to around 100-150 characters so making an impact in each and every message, as well as using great marketing first principals regarding calls to actions etc, are absolutely essential. Be direct, but interesting and incite engagement before a confirmatory ending that draws the recipient further into your process.

 

Geofencing is a great, and currently under-utilised, tool for the marketing community, but its popularity is growing at a great rate, now is the time to consider how it could help you.

The importance of digital strategy

With the change and evolution of modern technologies, businesses of all sizes, but in particular the small and medium sized, are having to do everything and anything they can to keep up with the growing technology to ensure their business is up-to-speed.

Bricks and mortar businesses especially are beginning to move may of their services online, some are becoming online-only businesses as a bid to save money and keep up with the technological advances in business. The majority of companies now, no matter the size have specially designed, online marketing strategies in place to capture the growing online marketplace.

But why is it so important for businesses to have a digital marketing strategy in place?

  1. Level playing field- for SME’s, marketing online allows them the chance to target and capture leads that would not otherwise be accessible to them. The sales and marketing processes were once only available to large corporations with bug budget, leaving SME’s fighting for the small proportion of targeted traffic with much smaller budgets and staff to monitor the process. With developments, improving at the rate they are, the processes that were once only available to the larger corporations are now much more easily accessible to smaller and medium sizes companies.
  2. Cost effective- small businesses with limited resources and budgets simply can’t afford to partake in marketing activities that are of high cost as their budgets often don’t allow for major losses. Online marketing allows companies to track and monitor their campaigns in real time so they can easily see the results of their campaign, and make changes and alterations if necessary to lessen their loss of budget. With a SeeLocal campaign, we have developed a unique algorithm, Campaign Guard™, which works to protect budgets by pausing and reoptimizing campaigns if they begin to underperform.
  3. Targeted audiences- real-time engagement points allows businesses to see exactly what their audience likes and dislikes based on click-through-rates and social media likes and comments. This then improves customer retention and satisfaction, leading to more precise and effective targeting, increased sales and overall marketing efficiency.
  4. Access to ‘the internet of things’- Getting involved in online marketing at this stage is really important, as more and more appliances are running through the internet, technology is only going to get more complex. For businesses just starting out online, getting to grips with how everything works now is key to understanding the digital world in years to come, setting up a stable, internet based future for the business to ensure stability and longevity.

The main thing for seasonal business owners to remember, is that there is no quiet time when it comes to preparation and advertising for the busy period. Keeping active and present online even in the quieter months will help ensure that the business is the leading brand when the time comes.