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I write about digital strategies and communications — and their intersection with culture, politics, journalism and social activism.

Wednesday
Dec172014

Crystal Balling—7 Trends for 2015

This is the season of predictions, something I am not very good at except when it comes to plot developments in television shows—but that's another story.

Rather than embarrass myself in 2016 with prophesies I made about the social web in 2015 that spectacularly missed the mark, I've assembled a list of seven predictions made by others that could come to pass.

Podcasting

Podcasting, more active than many think, won't find new legs just because 'Serial' has been successful according to blogger Doug Haslam. The show is not a game changer just a shape-shifter—professional production values fused to a popular delivery platform.

Interest-Based Networks

Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes thinks we'll see the continued growth of new networks "that map onto strong existing communities or interests (interest-based networks, as opposed to Facebook-style people-based networks)."

The implication is that networks similar to Ello (as simple, beautiful and ad-free as it is) may pop up, but if they aren't bonded to a core interest then they will never get the critical mass to even come close to Facebook's diffusion.

Visual Narrative

Shel Holtz and others are hypothesizing 2015 will be the year that "Spurred by the irrevocable shift to mobile devices, visual communication will find its way into more organizations’ content efforts next year." If 2014 was the year of storytelling and 2013 big data, then 2015 will be the year of the visual narrative.

Visual Listening

Related to the visual narrative concept, Will McInnes of Brandwatch thinks we will see a leap in visual listening

Today there are a handful of standalone listening and analytics tools for networks like Pinterest but, on the whole, today’s social media listening and measurement platforms are built for a textual world, with limited abilities to fully register the nuances of visuals. This means there’s an enormous chunk of visual Web content that is not being fully “heard.”

Some visual social platforms like Pinterest have analytics built in, but there aren't yet many dedicated visual listening and analysis tools for our strategy armory. Will 2015 be the breakout year for them? 

Instagram as a News Source

As we learned at the end of 2014, Instagram leap-frogged Twitter in the size of monthly active users. More than that it has become a news source, long Twitter's territory. Instagram cofounder Mike Kreiger in a Jessi Hempel Wired article admits that in 2015:

(T)he service will be focused on helping users figure out what’s going on. I asked him if he considered Instagram to be a news service. “Of course!” he said. “A lot of the photos people post are things that are breaking news.”

Two things will have to change with Instagram in 2015 according to Hempel: a better search function and a shift in its algorithm "to help users discover photos on its explore page" since currently it only surfaces "content based on pictures users have posted in the past."

Year-of-the-Reader

In a bit of wishful thinking perhaps (and a hope I share), executive producer and senior editor for digital news at The Washington Post Cory Haik argues 2015 will be the 'Year-of-the-Reader'. She believes that:

People are reading lots of news…on their phones. Mobile traffic is up dramatically across news organizations. And that growth seems to be increasing overall news consumption"

Although intended for journalists, this year-of-the-reader concept says something to bloggers and content strategists alike about the value of "good content and good experience".

Hashtag Activism

The hashtag will continue to move offline according to Sarah Kaplan in The Washington Post: Think #Ican'tBreathe on Twitter AND poster boards in demonstrations. This was inevitable. But the importance to activism has been underestimated until now:

A pervasive hashtag such as #BlackLivesMatter helps connect the digital dots between incidents. Created in 2012 in response to the death of Trayvon Martin, its use surged after grand jury decisions not to indict the officers involved in the deaths of Brown and Garner.

This is the hashtag as the glue between digital and street action . . . and goes even further in putting the lie to the dismissal of 'slacktivism'. The year 2015 will see more coordination between online campaigners and real world activists.  

And then there will be the . . . 

  • enduring growth of social ads
  • use of paid media to hasten content distribution
  • continued flight from hardcore social selling
  • necessary improvements in the user experience on many apps

and dozens more ontogenetic changes for better or worse in the 2015 social ecosystem.

And there are those platforms, apps and strategies that will thankly whither away out of user boredom.

But there's one thing I do hope dies a sudden death early in the new year—listicle headlines like the one I created for this post.

Wednesday
Dec102014

Social Analytics: Knowing What We Don't Know

Vision Critical yesterday released a study co-authored by my friend Alexandra Samuel that answers the question: What can social media analytics not tell you?

If you accept the study's definition of the three distinct types of customer on social . . .  

and I see no reason not to, my conclusions from the analysis below is not that you need to "pump up the volume on your invisible audience" but do more to convince lurkers and dabblers of the pleasures to be had from social—to become enthusiasts.

How can you do this as a company? Don't think assembly-of-content-for-the-purpose-of-marketing, though. Nobody likes to be blatantly sold stuff even if it's by way of a 'cute' cat video (The single quotation marks are purposeful—I think cats are stupid). It's the fear of being sold to that encourages people to lurk and dabble—and legitimate concerns about privacy or social risk.

Think instead of narrative, emotion, things we care about and should care about, good stories well told or shown . . .  

The authors probably agree since they point out "Once you look beyond enthusiasts, it’s clear that funny/human interest content and online games are the two Facebook activities that are most likely to earn the attention of the social media audience as a whole."

Actually, with respect to the first, it's also what most social 'enthusiasts' like about the social web . . . which analytics can tell us.