The failure of Google Glass to ignite the public’s imagination, and the slow sales of first-generation smartwatches (like the Pebble), has led many to dismiss wearables as a booming category. But later-generation watches — like the Motorola Moto 360, which is fast becoming indispensable to me–have gained an additional boost by Apple’s announcement that it would offer the Apple Watch next year. Most e-watches double as fitness trackers, sales of which will double for the next three years, then subside as smartwatch sales pick up steam. Juniper Research says sales of fitness bands will reach 57 million in 2018 before smartwatches take over the function.
Wearables will also get a boost from the workplace, which will embrace the technology for its ability to enhance worker efficiency.
The rise of wearables creates a unique set of challenges for communicators. Now is the time to begin experimenting with the kinds of headlines and messages that will fit on a watchface and compel a user to tap through to a phone, where they can read more detail than the smartwatch interface allows. There’s also the potential to create apps for wearables, from branded watchfaces to productivity tools.
7. NEW VENUES FOR ACTIVISM
Your company’s critics are finding new channels for their activism, and you’ll need to keep a sharp eye out to spot where the attacks are coming from. Imagine Pepsi’s surprise to find it was being campaigned against in Amazon’s product reviews. The Rainforest Action Network targeted Pepsi’s launch of a new product to raise the issue of the company’s allegedly irresponsible sourcing of palm oil. Using the feature that lets shoppers ask questions, RAN asked questions like, “Is Pepsi Co. still destroying forests for palm oil? I can think of more environmentally friendly companies to get drinks from.”
As critics, dissatisfied customers, and activist groups get results from experimenting with these new venues, their use is bound to spread.
8. SOCIAL VISUAL COMMUNICATION
Spurred by the irrevocable shift to mobile devices, visual communication will find its way into more organizations’ content efforts next year. Instagram has become a social network in its own right and Pinterest is the fourth-largest driver of web traffic in the world. Including an image in a Facebook update ups the odds significantly that your post will find its way into users’ news feeds. Infographics are everywhere, as are image “memes,” which can–when thought through–convey more information in a glance than users can absorb from a long-form article.
Consider, for example, attempts to quell the Ebola panic in the U.S. Institutions published information designed to demonstrate that the incidence of Ebola in the U.S. was absurdly low and not worthy of concern, but the panic didn’t abate. But one image was spread far and wide: A photo of celebrity Kim Kardashian and the words, “More Americans have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died from Ebola.” That visual display of statistical information that could be absorbed in mere seconds most likely did more to calm people’s nerves than all the reports and articles combined.
Learning to tell stories and convey information visually rather than narratively should be a key goal for communicators in 2015.
9. BRAND AMBASSADORS
An ever growing number of companies are establishing ambassador programs that enlist and train employees to represent the brand in their social networks. At the same time, organizations are making it easier for workers to share company information, from posting sharable messages on the intranet to including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn share buttons under the headlines in email newsletters.
It makes perfect sense, given that frontline employees and internal subject-matter experts are more credible than paid spokespeople (like those in the PR department) or executives, according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer. As more companies turn to their employees to help get their messages out, communicators will have their hands full producing content for employees to share, communicating the company’s policies, and ramping up programs that enlist the most engaged employees. (PepsiCo won an IABC Gold Quill in 2013 — a Best of the Best, no less — for its employee ambassador program.)
If you’re not producing video for social media, you’re in the minority. According to one study, more than 80% of companies are producing video content for their websites and nearly 70% are creating video for social media and social networking. It’s not all YouTube, either, as Facebook drives higher levels of engagement, according to Socialbakers. Data shows more marketers are posting videos to Facebook either in addition to YouTube or, in some cases, instead of YouTube.
Add to that the growing popularity of short-form video–6-second Vines and 15-second Instagram clips–and it’s hard to deny the importance of video as part of a comprehensive communication effort.