What is the digital outlook in 2019?

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Dear PR Matters,

Your last article on what words and phrases to retire in 2019 gave me a lot to think about when crafting my next write-up, and also a lot to laugh about because I didn’t realize how using shopworn words can make you look dated or trying hard.

Since we are beginning a New Year, I would also like to know about digital trends that we can look out for this year.  This will be very helpful as while we usually have our planning sessions during the last quarter, the trends become evident at the start of the year.

Will appreciate your insights on this.

Sincerely,

Shirley H.

Dear Shirley,

Thank you for your letter and for the very insightful observation you made: That, while most planning takes place during the last quarter, trends usually emerge at the start of the year.  And yes, we have to be flexible when we implement our plans.

In an article in Inc.com, John Hall highlights “7 Social Media Trends to Prepare for in 2019.” He began by saying that, while business leaders usually have a solid strategy when it comes to the digital realm, we have to face the fact that “marketing in social media is an ever-moving target.”

That’s because the digital world is “always evolving, and what works now won’t work forever.” He recalled that “it already seems an eternity since Facebook only had one ‘like’ option and tweets were capped at 140 characters.”

With everything moving so fast, “growing audience engagement becomes impossible without keeping up to date with digital trends and changes.”

That is why Hall said that to stay ahead of the curve, “keep your marketing fresh, and make most of your content distribution efforts.” Keep these trends in mind as you prepare for 2019.

1.  User-generated content will make brands’ efforts more authentic.

With audiences craving for more authenticity, Hall said that “you can rely on user-generated content from your actual audience members to do the heavy lifting—and engage for authentically.”

Instead of spending hours crafting digital content in the hopes that your audience will like it, user-generated content “can help grow your base and give your audience a sense of connection.  At a time when organic social reach is on the decline, sharing authentic content straight from your audience members can help you connect with your followers and build a stronger relationship with them.”

2. LinkedIn Dynamic Ads are making ads more personal.

Hall cited recent research, saying that 66 percent of B2B marketers used paid methods to distribute content last year, and 80 percent said they used them to reach a new audience.  And “the last thing that you want to do to new audience members is to turn them off with impersonal, invasive ads.”

Enter LinkedIn Dynamic Ads where you can “personalize paid ad content and foster more authentic communication.  Personalizing content from the beginning breaks down trust barriers to make an impact.” This is certainly worth a try.

3.  Social listening will give brands an edge.

With all the noise and clutter around us, do we even take time to listen? The new digital dynamics say it will be good for us to do so.

Hall agreed.  “Engaging with your audience is Marketing 101,” he said. “But too many marketers forget the importance of listening to those audience members in that engagement equation.”

He went on to say that social listening involves analyzing specific conversations, phrases, and other details on your brand’s and even competitors’ digital pages, and it’s a growing component of competitive social strategies.

There are, he said, “social-media tools that allow you to identify patterns and collect meaningful interpretations of their data.”  Using these interpretations to your advantage “can greatly benefit your marketing campaigns in the future, and give you an edge over other brands that are using social media to blast their messages instead of engaging followers.”

4.  The Instagram Stories feature isn’t slowing down.

Hall said that, while only temporary, “Instagram Stories have become a popular way for users to consistently update their profiles, keep followers engaged, and in some cases, even increase followers.”

What makes the IS feature so valuable for brands “is that you don’t need to invest in a ton of video to make the most of it.  You can share pictures or behind-the-scenes videos that will give your audience a glimpse of your values and culture without spending a dime.”

More important, you can do so without overwhelming your followers with a half a dozen posts a day.

5.  Chatbots aren’t going anywhere.

Consider testing out chatbots of your own in 2019.  Hall said that “chatbots make it easy to quickly interact with your audiences in a way that feels personal. They help you deliver more customized content at the exact right time, provide better service, and increase engagement—and the barrier to entry is still pretty low.”

That’s because today, more people are using messaging apps than social-media platforms to connect with friends and brands. This limits your social strategy for updates on Facebook and Twitter, and you can find yourself missing out on valuable opportunities to be a helpful resource.

Thankfully for Hall, “chatbots offer a great way to use these platforms’s messaging features to your advantage.”

6.  Dark social will prompt marketers to look beyond social-share counts.

This trend brings together two new digital ideas—that there is a dark side to social, and that marketers should look beyond social-share counts.

“The downside of messaging apps’ popularity is the rise of dark social,” Hall said. “With more people sharing content privately, it’s become increasingly difficult to accurately track social-share counts.”

Likewise, the ways people are sharing your content are changing, and we must go beyond social-share counts. Hall advised that “it’s probably a good idea to adapt the ways you measure success. Ask yourself what goal you’re really trying to achieve and look for ways to measure the goal that paints a more complete picture of your progress.”

7.   Social CEOs will become the new norm.

Hall said that in 2019, CEOs and other company leaders may need to use digital media to share their insights, connect with the community and listen to their audience.

This can be a tool for communication, but do take caution.  Think of Elon Musk and the tweet that changed everything.

PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the United Kingdom-based International Public Relations Association (Ipra), the world’s premier association for senior professionals around the world. Millie Dizon, the senior vice president for Marketing and Communications of SM, is the former local chairman.

We are devoting a special column each month to answer the reader’s questions about public relations.  Please send your comments and questions to [email protected]

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