2016 Predictions: Forrester Research

Mobile Marketing

With the New Year nearly upon us, we're running daily pieces from industry experts on the trends they expect to see in the coming 12 months. Today, Forrester Research analyst Erna Alfred Liousas look at how social media marketing will evolve in 2016.

Forrester Erna AlfredLouisasPeople love to use social media, and that won't change in 2016. Forrester’s research shows that, already, 62 per cent of EU online adults use Facebook monthly. Most consumers use social media to interact with or learn about brands: 76 per cent read peer reviews on products or services, 40 per cent use social media to get help with a product or service, and 20 per cent agree that social media allows them to show their support for their favorite brands.

Despite this, marketers still struggle to get value from the big social networks – for instance, senior marketers are only half as likely as social practitioners to agree that Facebook delivers value – and that won't change in 2016 either. So brands have to start using social media differently, and in 2016, canny social marketers will:

Prioritise emerging social networks over established ones to get better results
Marketers aren't going to stop posting on Facebook and Twitter, but the best-known social networks just don't offer the organic reach and interactions they used to. In 2016, marketers will put more effort into social networks like Instagram and Vine, where they can generate better results. For instance, Instagram ads generate almost twice the click-through rate of Facebook ads. Meanwhile, GE makes great use of Vine for brand awareness, including DIY challenges, and its #GravityDay campaign generated over 1,500 submissions.

Focus on branded communities and blogs to build profitable relationships
People who want to stay in touch with a company are almost three times more likely to visit the brand's site than to engage with it on Facebook. In 2016, social marketers will put renewed focus on branded communities and blogs. For instance, Autodesk has millions of Facebook fans, but its most important social channel is its own community, where 1.4m registered users visited 27m times last year. Likewise, Virgin Atlantic has 400,000 Facebook fans, but it's the airline's blog that's responsible for increasing customers' basket sizes by 20 per cent.

Serve customers better by handing more control to customer service professionals
Customers expect consistent service across offline and online touchpoints, including voice, digital, and social channels. In fact, 37 per cent of consumers used Twitter for customer service last year, up from 22 per cent in 2012. As more companies apply measurement discipline to social customer service to ensure that they meet response times and satisfaction metrics, service teams will demand greater direct access to their brands' social profiles. And as marketing teams focus their efforts elsewhere, they'll be happy to hand over the keys.

Improve social ad ROI by giving their budgets to the media team
Paid advertising now accounts for 83 per cent of marketers' social spending, and most companies hand their social ad budgets to social marketers. But media buyers are more comfortable with the ad models that social sites sell, and they consistently generate greater ROI from social ads than their social marketing peers. In 2016, social marketers will reluctantly hand over control of the social ad budget to their peers in the media team, and brands will benefit from improved performance.

As social marketers focus more on smaller social networks and branded communities and as they increasingly hand the reins to their colleagues in media buying customer service, they'll need tools that help facilitate these changes. In 2016:

The listening and relationship categories merge, making brands more efficient.
These vendor categories have seen increasing feature overlap in recent years – as well as several acquisitions – and by the end of 2016, they will irrevocably be one. In the next year, we'll see more acquisitions, but also more relationship platforms and listening platforms competing head-to-head for deals. This is good news for brands. As customer service takes a larger role on branded social profiles, they'll need tools that are as proficient at listening as they are at posting.

Better crisis detection tools make social less risky.
Marketing on more new sites and leveraging more employees could increase risk — but it doesn't have to. While brands can't prevent most social risks (e.g., rogue accounts, consumer vilification), they can shorten the time it takes to detect and respond to those events. For example, Delta Air Lines could have avoided a major PR issue if it more quickly identified an impersonating Facebook page promising its flyers cash and free tickets. In 2016, marketing and risk professionals alike will take advantage of advanced early-warning monitoring systems and new analytics techniques that more effectively identify social risks and automate actions to resolve those risks.

Erna Alfred Liousas is an analyst at Forrester Research, serving B2C marketing professionals with a primary focus on social relationship marketing.