“If you like numbers, then you’re in for a treat.” – Simon Kemp, CEO of Kepios; the State of Digital in 2019
With the first quarter of 2019, Hootsuite hosted the webinar “Digital in 2019: The Themes and Trends That Will Shape Digital Marketing Over the Coming Year. The primary speaker was Simon Kemp, founder, and CEO of Kepios, a marketing consultancy company that has worked with multiple brands across the globe. He describes important trends defining the state of digital marketing in 2019.
Rise of Other Social Apps
One important avenue for digital marketing is social media. When done right, social media provides businesses with a lot of exposure and audience reach. Marketers are now familiar with a lot of the traditional mediums like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter but other social apps are also on the rise.
For example, TikTok, a Chinese video-based app, has reached 1 billion downloads across Android and iOS. If one is to just look at the numbers, it can easily be seen as a new opportunity for engagement. In fact, some marketers have now started branding TikTok as the “next big thing” in social media.
But is that really the case?
Data from Hootsuite’s report shows that search for the platform peaked around June 2018 before dropping until its next spike on January 19. What this insight reveals about its predominantly young audience is that they are really only using the app on their free time, on spring break and Christmas break. They hardly use it during the semester. Fancy that. App downloads from the store had actually dropped in the first quarter of 2019.
Social apps will come and go. The key takeaway for marketers here is to not jump on the bandwagon immediately. Take the time to understand their audience’s interests and behavior. It is a much better use of time and resources than just jumping all-in to a strategy that may not be compatible in the long run.
“Do not jump on the next big thing hoping it will be magic because chances are, it’s not.” – Simon Kemp
Making Sense of Stories
Across a wide variety of social media, people are taking to using “Stories” formats over feed for sharing content. Stories like Facebook Stories and Instagram Stories are projected to be the next “big thing” in social media for 2019. After all, stories are more personal and less social. It offers a glimpse into something more “raw” within a person or organization.
Good news for marketers looking to use this feature is that marketing can be a lot rawer in Stories. There is no need to have slick production values of a video ad. Do note that as more and more marketers take to using stories, the cost of social media ads through stories could also increase.
However, beware of the apparent hype. As a marketer, the goal is to create brand value and not to immediately jump on bandwagons. Research and try out if stories do indeed work for you and your audience first.
‘Sharing’ as the New Word-Of-Mouth Advertising
Elaborating more on the use of Stories, there is a need to understand how stories work. The first person narrative of stories is very different from the news feed. The current news feed or timelines are all about engaging around 3rd-party content. People share blogs, links, and journals. Marketers rely on this digital word-of-mouth in order to promote their brand through content. Stories, however, are a lot more personal. It is about the individual. It is about their story.
There are five primary ways of how content is discovered on the Internet:
Adverts – Paid placements that push content at the user.
Word-of-Mouth – Referrals and sharing such as newsfeeds.
Search – Content that is hosted on organized systems that allow users to find what they really want.
Discovery – Content users stumble upon without specifically looking for it such as browsing.
Serendipity – Content discovered through happy accidents or through a series of fortuitous events.
Stories are less encountered through discovery and serendipity and the reason for this is because of Messenger apps. People are now sharing things among their peers privately. In March 2019, Mark Zuckerberg announces plans to make Facebook a bit more private and this is not an unfounded prediction. People have been sharing Stories privately for years and Facebook is just leveraging on that fact. Marketers looking to use Stories for their brand would do well to start looking into Messengers.
The task now is to drive more organic reach through Messenger. To understand that, there is a need to address the challenge of a deficit.
Marketing as a Service
Attention Deficit: Is it real?
Worldwide, there is what marketers call an “attention deficit”. The average human supposedly only has the attention span of 6-8 seconds. That is shorter than a goldfish which has an attention span of 9 seconds. But is this a true story? Measuring the time spent on the Internet reveals some startling data.
The global average is 6 hours and 42 minutes of time spent on the Internet. The Philippines alone spends an average of 10 hours over on the Internet. The average user spends 40% of their waking time on the Internet.
Take Netflix. People binge-watch shows like Stranger Things late into the night. They stay up late on Mondays so productivity takes a hit the next day. This says a lot about the average attention span. There is no attention deficit. There is just as much attention as ever.
A Matter of Value
The problem is not the attention deficit. For example, between marketing content and say, the next episode of Game of Thrones, which one will average users choose to direct their attention to? The rise of adblocker use probably answers that question enough. The problem for marketers is a value deficit. Most marketing content is simply not valuable enough for users. It is now up to marketers to create content that people will turn their adblockers off for.
Nike is a popular marketing example because of its messaging. They do not just tell users to go out and “just do it”. They organize events that create communities. Sure, exercising can just be done on a gym but attending these events allows users to feel like they belong to a community. This is how they add value and builds goodwill.
The Implications of Voice
There are two important takeaways for the state of digital in 2019. The first is the voice.
Voice-based search is helping drive Internet penetration to non-English speaking communities. Much of the content on the Internet is in English. So for non-native English speakers, the value of this content is worthless. With voice, these people now have the opportunity to access this wealth of information in their vernacular.
However, marketers need to understand that in a voice-based environment, the rules change. To illustrate this point, Simon recalls an anecdote about his wife asking him to buy three things: beer, chips and ice cream. He notes how his wife never articulated these items as Heineken or Lays. That is because nobody really speaks in “brands”, even marketers. People speak in categories and generics which adds a layer of difficulty in brand marketing.
Recently, Google partnered with Walmart to implement voice-based commands for shopping. A user can instruct the device to “buy beer” and it will automatically add the last item of that category that the user purchased. For users, this is convenient. For marketers, this can be a nightmare. When people fall into routines, it is much harder to get people to try something new.
The good news is this is not going to happen overnight. It will happen but it will happen over time. Therefore, marketers looking to integrate voice now will gain a competitive advantage once it becomes the norm.
The second takeaway is privacy.
A Solution to Privacy
There is no way to discuss the state of digital without discussing privacy. Privacy is still a headline even in 2019. Approximately 2/3 of the world’s users do not trust how corporations use their data at all.
To address this deficit, decentralization projects like Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Social Linked Data or Solid, is being developed. The program aims to develop a platform for linked-data applications that are completely under the user’s control. This also aims to make it easy to move data across the different platforms like say, Google and Facebook.
It is hard to immediately implement these since it will completely disrupt Facebook’s and Alphabet’s business models. With businesses pouring in trillions of dollars into this model, it could result in mayhem should these systems collapse. There is too much money invested in this by important people that makes discarding this old system more difficult.
Even for users, this will have negative effects. Picture a scenario where Instagram shuts down overnight. The speaker believes that this could result in riots for taking away certain “liberties”.
As of now, there is no clear answer as to yet. It is now up to marketers and businesses to work together to find a satisfactory solution to the matter of privacy.
To summarize, the webinar concludes with these six takeaways for marketers to think about:
- Build marketing plans around careful research, not sensationalist headlines.
- Explore stories formats within a balanced approach to social content and platforms.
- Prepare for reduced third-party sharing by building activities that are deserving of Word-of-Mouth.
- Engage your audience with value-adding activities.
- Start preparing for voice marketing today.
- Keep a close eye on the developments in privacy.
The Q&A was integrated into a panel discussion. Jonathan Weber, Global Industry Editor – Technology from Reuters was selected as moderator for the panel. Joining Simon Kemp and Roger Graham were Eunice Yap, Chief Marketing Officer for The Esplanade Co. Ltd. and Tim Sharp, Regional Head of Integrated Strategy, Design and Creative – Asia from GrowthOps.
How the panel’s respective companies have integrated social media into their marketing strategy.
Although there were some slight variations in the answers such as Sharp’s example of Carlsberg’s strategy of using criticism of the beer’s taste, nearly everyone agrees on basing their strategy on the audience rather than spreadsheets. There is also a need to tailor engagement depending on the nature of the brand. Nobody wants to have a conversation with a shampoo company every day for one. Listening to feedback places marketers in a better position to adapt accordingly.
How stories can be used for B2B brands.
Simon Kemp addresses this with another question: “Do you have to?” He advises not to focus on the medium too much and focus more on where their audience is hanging out. It does not mean only staying on a platform like LinkedIn but if there is strong data that indicates that B2B audiences hang out on TikTok and Instagram then go for it. Just take care not to follow Tim Sharp’s example of a helicopter engine company marketing on Instagram. Channels are not the answer; it is merely the medium for delivering the answer in the digital age.
The data challenge now is there is too much data and not enough analysts to act on that data. There is no need to waste time chasing every “shiny new thing” right now. Analyze and get feedback from the target audience. And then form strategies around metrics that really matter. After all, that is what marketing should be about, according to Simon Kemp. Experiment, learn and move on.
Citations: Figures can be found on Hootsuite’s Global Report here.