Final trends for 2015: Social media goes PPC, SEO and email converge into content; plus birth of the ‘silent digital’

  • by helga
  • 02/01/2015

Key trends for digital marketing in 2015In the last two days I completely failed to publish my 4th and 5th instalments on the five key trends for digital marketing in 2015.

It didn’t help that I also had to travel to another country, spend time with family and celebrate the arrival of the New Year.

I should have relied more on automation tools and pre-scheduled, I know… It stands to show that I’m definitely a human and not a bot 😉

Happy New Year to everyone btw!

In this post I’m combining the remaining trends, read on…

Social media, SEO and email marketing converge into content

Social media goes PPC

In terms of social media, expert opinions* agree in one point: the long road from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media platforms towards monetising their user bases is urging brands to move away and create their own social and digital communities. According to Marketing Land, the end of the ‘free for all’ organic reach and the emergence of paid feeds is also leading to a revival of email and apps as preferred channels.

This leaves me wondering: how many brands saw social media primarily as places to build trust, community and engagement, as opposed to a ‘free for all’ lead generation? In that respect, it sounds like making marketing departments pay for the media space on Facebook user’ feeds makes absolute sense and was perhaps a bit late in the day. It’s now much easier to spot promotional content. The only downside is the sharp drop in user experience – despite claims otherwise, it looks pretty obvious to me that increasing the visibility of ‘genuine’ social content was never what motivated FB to a more aggressively priced news feed. On the contrary, and although you do have a limited amount of control on which ads you see, sponsored content seems to be all that’s left on news feeds now.

How effective are brand-owned Facebook pages as community tools, when it becomes almost impossible to start a conversation, drive engagement or get feedback without a media budget attached? It seems only natural that brands will start exploring other tools, keeping a more fragmented presence in ‘traditional’ social media platforms only to manage them within their PPC and content strategies.

It will be interesting to watch this trend alongside the continuous growth of content marketing and see where it will lead. In principle, typical ‘social’ media channels may simply be the future of media in general – content recommendation tools with slightly different algorithms. Digital communities will be found elsewhere and will be much more specialised and fragmented.

Shedding light into ‘dark social’

Another trending topic in 2014 was about how much of social media activity was being completely unaccounted for in marketing reports and dashboards; in 2015, it’s time to bring CRM, social data and specialist analytics tools together to shed some light into this ‘dark social’.

It will help enormously if brands can set clear objectives for their social media efforts. Only then it will be possible to measure activity, with higher or lower degree of accuracy, against marketing objectives. I suspect that in the majority of cases, Google Analytics and Google URL builder can track everything you need to know about social media efforts and results.

If I had to pick more sophisticated data analysis tools, I would look for any tools that can forecast sharing potential of content ideas with particular audience segments, allowing brands to plan and target content better – but once again, we’re already moving into content marketing territory and and not talking about ‘social’ in the sense of building and managing communities.

Google minus

Interestingly, at least two sources predict that Google Plus will go extinct in 2015 (Forbes and Search Engine Land) – I’m wondering if they know something I don’t? This prediction could be grounded on: a) mounting evidence of Google’s recent scaling back of Google+ in search results; b) just a rumour. It wouldn’t surprise me at all though, and it wouldn’t be the first of many other products previously killed off by Google.

SEO also turns into content

It’s a fact: SEO as it’s known should be buried. There are 3 main reasons for this:

1. The ‘death of the keyword’ was announced after exact matches to keyword strings were removed in 2014. Google wants us to use their search engine as if we’re asking questions and will keep improving semantic indexing. Better voice search is part of it, although it remains to be seen if users will adopt voice search as a standard (speaking for myself, I still feel very self-conscious and slightly mad when I say something to my smartphone). It’s also very likely that Google will keep pushing their own answers to the top of search pages and developing their ‘knowledge graph’, rather than linking to your website first for any combination of keyword strings.

2. Improving how you can be found online is not only about Google search rankings anymore, insofar as a large proportion of content discovery happens in ‘gated’ social platforms outside of public pages indexed.

3. After Google made it riskier to fudge with ‘natural’ search rankings by penalising offenders (or those who seemed to be offending), content marketing has already become the most substantial part of SEO techniques. In terms of the penalties, some predict that they’ll become harsher in 2015 while others say they will disappear; who knows! There may be some lobbies out in action – just imagine the amount of SEO specialists who’ll run out of business or who’ll have to turn into other specialisms or broader digital marketing.

This isn’t to say that the technical side of things is going away completely, as Search Engine Land points out – but that technical ‘SEO’ aspects need to be perfectly embedded in web development, from the outset and not as an add-on. Why would you build something that you’ll need to break apart later on anyway? Effective link-building has become more difficult but is still very important as well. And optimising anything you build online for mobile is paramount.

Email revival – the survival of the fittest? 

Many had predicted the death of email marketing a long time ago, but the opposite seems to be happening – with user feeds harder to reach on social media, email is increasingly the channel of choice for many brands, keeping communities engaged and supporting content marketing in a more controlled environment.

The default split of Gmail into main mailbox, branded and social mailboxes had some impact. As we speak, our email mailboxes are already turning into alternative news feeds of brands and content we have subscribed to.

Will email have another substantial makeover in 2015 with the new Google Inbox app? With mobile taking over, advanced email inboxes could become a very practical way of keeping track of what’s happening in other platforms and managing various notifications.

Off-screen possibilities and ‘silent digital’

Finally, a trend to watch out for in 2015 is the increase of media blackout periods and off-screen time.

People are being warned about the long term effects of screen overload and advised to take more breaks away from the shimmering light of smartphones. If smartphones accentuated the move to an ‘always on’ behaviour, equally they have also ramped up the backlash against it. Being ‘mindful’ of the world around us is taking centre stage in a culture that is becoming tired of information overload and endless screen interactions.

In this spirit, it’s good to keep our minds open about the applications of digital marketing and remember that it refers to much more than on-screen time. Event marketing, the Internet of Things and non-intrusive digital tools could become the new ‘silent digital’ in marketing – a name I’ve just invented myself -, in 2015 and beyond.

‘Silent digital’ is NOT about finding new ways to embed screens in our heads like Google Glass (which is predicted to dwindle and die in 2015 btw). Silent digital is about finding subtle ways of engaging with your audience, making sense of their activity, improving the lives of your customers, and how your business caters to them, even when they’re not looking at a screen.

So what – what does this mean for your organisation?

Look at how you’re currently using social media and set clear objectives for what you want to get out of it. You may want to scale back on community management time and consider more efficient alternatives. This could mean building your own micro-site, integrating comments, trust signals, forums and basic social functionality on your own pages. Or it could be about developing an app more in line with your objectives. It could also be about creating new mailing lists and relevant email marketing programmes.

It will be good to see social media as part of your wider content marketing strategy from now on. However, don’t stop monitoring mentions of your brand in social media – have a clear risk management and response strategy to deal with any negative PR quickly and swiftly.

In terms of SEO, stop seeing it as a marketing add-on; integrate the technical requirements in all your web development briefs instead. This will avoid technical aspects to become a hindrance to other marketing efforts, and it will stop SEO to become a drain in you outsourcing resources. And for any new brands out there: don’t rely solely on search rankings to be discovered by future customers. Good inbound links, brand awareness and trust rankings tend to take a long time to develop. Consider all the different ways in which your target audience can find you beyond Google searches.

Last but not least, look to include more ‘silent digital’ strategies going forward. This means being prepared to engage with your prospects and customers outside the screen – such as through good event and experiential marketing-, but still keeping track of your marketing efforts by using adequate, non-intrusive digital tools.

Happy 2015 and may it bring lots of enjoyable off-screen time to you as well 🙂

*to name just a few of the sources I’ve consulted before writing the 5 key trends for digital marketing in 2015: e-consultancy, emarketer, kissmetrics, mashable, clickz, smart insights, search engine land, moz, marketing land, marketing week etc

  • Scotty

    I really enjoyed this article. The “silent digital” was interesting, and somthing I strongly agree with. I know getting your name is the top 3-4 of the organic rankings is great and effective, but there are other ways to reach new potential clients.

    It very interesting as I don’t use twitter at all and FB sometimes, and everything I am reading is telling me SEO is going social. What I an missing? The only social media I really use is instagram and I find more of a marketing tool than FB?

    I like to know if anyone else feels the same.


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