Five digital trends for 2014… or for the next month at least

1. Contextual Social Networks 

I’m not sure whether it’s the increase in mobile usage, or the fact that people are a little obsessed with social media apps, but the way we communicate is shifting.

The thought of ‘create once, publish multiples’ just doesn’t work anymore, it’s not one message fits all; its one message fits me.  With a multitude of social platforms available right now, brands really need to make sure they are using the most relevant platforms to communicate with their target markets.

We all know that Facebook (no it’s not dead), Twitter and Instagram will remain the staple of most brands, but I think its time to explore more niche social networks like Vine and Snapchat – and we have already seen a few brands experimenting with these networks.

2. Real time data

We all remember Oreo and the amazing ad they did on Facebook for the Super bowl right? If you don’t just look at any case study video on social in the last year and you will find it about a billion times.

I hope we have all moved on. The best thing about the Oreo ad was their ability to utilize Real time data. During the Super bowl they were able to workout how many consumers were on Facebook at the time checking scores and seeking information on what was happening with the black out, and marketed a specific message directly to them “You can still dunk in the dark”.

The perfect way to use data, choose your time, know your market and always look for an opportunity, this will be a big trend this year, especially in social media, looking forward to seeing the next Oreo ad and the next brief with can I please have an Oreo Super bowl ad.

3. Retail digitisation

The biggest innovations in retail have tended to focus on making the best performing website with the coolest graphics and the best shopping cart experience. This will dramatically change this year, it will no longer be about just being online, it’s now a merger between offline and online, integrating digital into stores.

Think magic mirrors, relevant content, digital concierges and competitive prices based on real time information and offers. Marks and Spencer do this really well in the UK, so Australian retailers will need to begin to adapt, invest and support this shift.

4. Content Explosion

Content marketing.  Can you walk through a business at the moment without hearing the words content strategy?

Content was massive in 2013 and it isn’t slowing down anytime soon, its not just king, its queen, prince, princess and duke. Brands are creating, curating and promoting engaging and valuable content for their consumers.

Content can be used in many different ways whether it be to build brand awareness, improve brand affinity with consumers, engage consumers in conversation or just demonstrate yourself as the market leader, it needs to form a big part of inbound and outbound marketing strategies.

Content can range from blogs, articles, eDMs, videos, infographics; user generated content or simply brilliant copy.

The two I want to make sure you focus on are images and videos (your community manager will applaud right now).

Have you noticed you’re more likely to read tweets or Facebook posts with a pic attached? Images simply increase engagement – they attract consumers more quickly; make blog posts more inviting to read; increase social media engagement; increase reach and sharability of your brand, and to be honest make your brand a little more human. They can even boost your search rankings. Just make sure your imagery works for your brand and target audience.

Content driven apps are on the rise/becoming the norm. Last year saw the rise of short form video applications such as Vine, Instagram and Snapchat. Instagram launched in-line with game 7 of NBA Finals, a perfect way to get people sharing content whether at the match or at home.

2014 will see brands using short form videos and promoted video posts to increase brand salience and awareness in their markets.

The three platforms offer brands the opportunity to reach and engage with younger audiences, who they may not have had access to before. Short form video is not only a great way to engage your audience but it’s a fairly cheap option at the same time.  As a very smart man once said in a meeting “What’s your Vine Strategy”. I think its time agencies and marketers started exploring short form video strategies  and let creativity come back to the table.

Content was always going to be the largest part of this article; if you look into the two suggestions above it’s a great start to your content strategy.

5. Mobile optimised content (Mobile first)

Smartphones have taken over the world and definitely taken over our lives, you’re probably reading this article on one now.  This year all brands need to ensure that all content that relates to their brand is mobile optimised either by creating an mobile optimised site or a responsive design website and sometimes and App where appropriate.

I really just wanted to put this in because I have read for the last eight years that it’s the year of mobile and have always wanted to write it myself. So how about this year is the year of  “Get mobile optimised or get left behind”, Hopefully this catches on.

To sum things up….

This is the year when technologies become an actual part of us and create even greater integration into our lives, content will become the most important thing to find on your device and marketing will become faster, more targeted and hopefully much better and creative.

The technology we have available should allow us to bring a whole new level of creativity to the table for brands and consumers. And this year I expect that marketers will be impacted less by innovative new services, and more by creative opportunities on the amazing services we already have: which consumers adore.

Grant Flannery
BY Grant Flannery ON 13 March 2014
Grant Flannery is digital planning and social media director at The Monkeys. An award-winning advertising strategist, he helps clients realise what it takes to create a world-class interactive experience that influences online and offline behaviour to drive business revenue and innovation. For more frequent updates follow him on Twitter @grantpat.