Both internal and external communicators are turning to their audiences to generate content. The use of user-generated content is on the rise with the practice of soliciting content becoming more common. It’s not just for advertising, though the use of hashtags to inspire customers to share photos the company can use is certainly on the rise. But consider hotel brand Marriott, which asked employees to submit pictures of themselves at work, which are being used on the company’s job listings page.
By the end of 2015, crowdsourcing for content will be so common that it will be a standard tool in most communicators’ toolkits.
12. SOCIAL BUSINESS
Remember when email was new? Only the early adopters used it, while resistance from employees comfortable with interoffice memoranda and voice mail was common. Today, email is a routine business tool.
That’s exactly what’s happening with social channels, including social networks and collaborative work environments. While some companies still block employee access to social media, others are recognizing that these are just the tools workers use to do their jobs. One study found that almost 80% of professionals use professional social networks (like those listed earlier in this column) for work purposes either daily or several times per day. They’re getting answers to questions and solutions to problems, which should be viewed favorably by companies, since the time it takes to get answers and solutions it the single biggest drain on productivity among information workers. They also use these networks to help make a decision, identify trends, and stay current in their fields.
In 2015, companies will finally wake up to the fact that social tools are more efficient than email and begin encouraging staff to adopt these tools, even providing training and other resources to make adoption even easier.
The coming year will see significant growth in the number of companies that target marketing and other communications to specific people, ensuring that those who find the content relevant are those who will see it. We’ll even see more marketing to an audience of one, in which a message is crafted for one individual with the expectation that it will have a ripple effect, generating respectable numbers of impressions and bolstering favorable perceptions of the brand.
Consider Warby Parker, the online retailer disrupting the eyeglass industry. Questions submitted by customers — via Twitter, by email, or any other channel — are frequently answered by a customer representative in a brief YouTube video. Consider a question submitted via Twitter, which the company responds to with a link to the fresh video content. Not only does the person who asked the question see the video; so do his Twitter followers. If they share the video, it’s amplified even more. Some Warby Parker videos recorded to answer a single person’s question have been viewed thousands of times.
In another example, British bank NatWest has produced a series of Vine videos that answer commonly asked customer service questions. Whenever someone asks the question, NatWest responds with a link to the appropriate Vine, invariably resulting in far more views than from just the customer who posed the question.
14. BLOGGING AND PODCASTING
Blogging and podcasting are both resurgent, and communicators would do well to pay attention to the trend. Podcasting is getting a lift from a number of sources, especially the ease of access to programs through mobile apps. The podcast “Serial,” from the producers of “This American Life,” has attracted over 1 million listeners and the audience continues to grow as the buzz spreads. Meanwhile, Edison research notes that 2% of the total time spent listening to audio is devoted to podcast listening. In addition to producing podcasts, some marketers are considering the programs as a potential venue for their advertising dollars.
As for blogging, one study reveals that nearly 70% of marketers plan to increase their use of blogging. Social Media Examiner reports that “over the last two years, the importance of blogging has incrementally climbed from the number-four spot in 2012 to number three in 2013 to number one in 2014.” Imagine what that means for 2015.
15. THE INDIE WEB
The concentration of online activity in a few places–Facebook in particular, but also Twitter, LinkedIn, and other popular sites–is producing a backlash. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web, has called for the “re-decentralization” of the Web. That is, we need to stop letting someone else host our content; we should own it ourselves.
This belief has given rise to the Indie Web movement, guided by the POSSE philosophy: Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. Services like Known allow you to own a site and all the content you publish there, and push what you post to services like Facebook and Twitter.
As privacy and other issues continue to attract more attention, the idea of complete control over content will appeal to a growing number of users. While this won’t be mainstream by the end of 2015, it’s new enough now that next year should see a massive growth in awareness of the Indie Web’s potential and significant adoption of the tools individuals and start-ups are creating in response.