By Katie Englishmen, Social Media Strategist & Derek DeVries, Director of Digital & Social Strategy

What agency blog would be complete without our predictions for 2020 trends in digital marketing? After another year in the trenches, these are the trends our digital strategists have their eyes on for 2020 and what you can do to implement them.

Trend 1: Increased Regulation/Moderation

Over the course of the Internet’s history, governments have had a comparatively light touch when it comes to regulating commerce and behavior online, but the calls for sweeping changes are getting louder (even if the politicians making them aren’t any savvier about how things work).

Privacy will continue to be a big priority, but the push for anti-trust measures against the tech giants will have a larger impact.

How You Can Prepare:

  1. Make sure you’re balancing your investment in shared channels with your own channels (i.e., your website and email marketing) so you’re not caught flat-footed if a tectonic shift in the social media landscape closes one or more of the platforms you rely on.
  2. Observe best practices for customer/stakeholder data collection and management (i.e., double opt-in list-building, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) disclosure compliance, and strong data storage security protocols).
  3. Pay attention to coming changes in policies/processes announced by PPC/social platforms to avoid interruptions when a new requirement goes into effect.

Trend 2: Disinformation and Hoaxes

The current social media landscape can make it difficult for users to differentiate fact from fiction, and bad actors continue to amplify misinformation. This long-observed phenomenon is made worse by:

  • The social networks’ mostly hands-off approach to fact-checking.
  • Online “news” outlets with shoddy journalistic practices.
  • Greater incentives to spread mis/disinformation that has attracted more well-resourced Purveyors (including world governments).

Consider a few recent occurrences: a comedian pretending to be an intern for the Bloomberg presidential campaign duped both users and news outlets with a viral video; a Kansas police officer fabricated an anti-law enforcement message on a McDonald’s coffee cup; and a selectively-edited video clip of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was widely-shared despite the easy availability of the full context of the comments.

If someone posted a hoax about your brand—how quickly could you respond to counter that message? The only real defense against a viral hoax is reacting quickly.

How You Can Prepare:

  • Consistently monitor your brand’s social media properties and watch for mentions of your company on social media so you’re aware of threats as soon as they emerge.
  • Check your policies and processes for escalating threats to decision-makers to ensure you waste as little time as possible evaluating and crafting a response to a threat.

Trend 3: Stories

The antithesis to the disinformation and hoaxes covered in Trend 2, stories can be seen as a breath of fresh air and a way for brands to be truly transparent and authentic with key stakeholders. With a reach across both Facebook and Instagram, stories have quickly become one of the most popular outlets to post ephemeral content, with the number of daily active users only growing year over year (300 million to be exact as of 2019).

This highly engaging and creative vertical allows online audiences the opportunity to interact with their favorite brands. On the flip side, it allows brands to stay top of mind and maintain visibility through content development, storytelling, thought leadership, blog posts and a smorgasbord of other shareable content features.  Genuine, unfiltered content will be key as we move through 2020, as consumers’ distrust of social networks and online advertising continues to gain momentum.

How You Can Prepare:

  1. Ask yourself some questions in order to create a “story strategy.” What type of content would you like to promote on Stories? What goals are you looking to accomplish by sharing these stories?  What is the cadence of that content?
  2. Once you have an idea of the content you wish to share, make sure you build out a calendar to organize your content ideas. Behind the scenes, special announcements, UGC content, promotions and evergreen material should all be thoughtfully laid out ahead of time (keep in mind any holidays, social trends, etc. that might be upcoming).
  3. Practice posting on your own story account (if you have one!). It’s a great way to get familiar with the ins and outs of posting as well as all the filters, gifs and features that are available.

Trend 4: Live Video Content

A natural follow up to the authenticity and story-telling feature of stories, live video content across other platforms and networks will continue to gain speed in 2020.  As larger platforms like Facebook and Instagram have already learned, video is king and excels at driving engagement and interest for brands. Live video takes it a step further with real-time updates, connections and a feeling of community built around video content. The use of live video content is mutually beneficial, as it allows not only the brand to hear directly from their audience in real-time, but it also allows for key audiences to know they are being heard through interactive experiences such as fireside chats, Q&A sessions and product demos or releases.

Not to be outdone by the social media giants of the world, LinkedIn is stepping into the mix as well with the launch of LinkedIn Live. This invite-only, video streaming service allows companies the capability to stream long-form live videos on their LinkedIn channel.

Brands are also flocking to TikTok as a more informal, fun outlet to reach consumers. This type of unedited, transparent and live streaming content is crucial for marketers and brands, as it allows the opportunity to interact with key audiences in unique and exciting ways.

How You Can Prepare:

  1. Brainstorm and designate possible events or activities you would like to share live and ensure your audience knows ahead of time you will be going live.
  2. Engage with your audience as much as possible through responses and comment moderation during your live broadcast. This assures everyone in attendance that you are present and invested.
  3. Go live as often as you can and remember to be creative with your live posts. Measure each event and analyze what type of live content were hits and misses. This will inform your content moving forward and help you improve as you go!

Trend 5: Amazon as an Advertising Platform

No longer just a popular online retailer, Amazon is now a powerhouse with tentacles throughout the tech world covering cloud services, original streaming content, building devices and more. They’re so big, they now have their own holiday (Prime Day)! In the process, they’ve even cultivated a huge audience they’re now serving up to brands as a programmatic advertising channel, which rivals the other social media giants.

Even brands that operate their own e-commerce platforms find it valuable to duplicate their product listings on Amazon for the ability to access this new source of ad inventory. To wit, advertisers are expected to spend over $16 billion on Amazon ads in 2020 (up from $2.5 billion in 2016).

As if that weren’t enough, Amazon also has its own influencer and affiliate marketing ecosystems to capitalize on the influencer economy brands increasingly rely on.

How You Can Prepare:

  • Ask yourself this question: “is it likely someone would search for the product/service my company sells on Amazon?” – If so, you’re likely missing conversion opportunities. Also, consider that a growing share of customers are avoiding grocery stores to buy Consumer Product Goods online.
  • If your organization already has a mature digital marketing program (search, social, and PPC), Amazon should be the next platform you consider as an investment.

Trend 6: Automation

The relentless march of ad optimization has taken us from targeting by demographics to interests to algorithmically powered custom and lookalike characteristics. Our next opportunity to improve the relevance of marketing messages is to tailor them to each individual user.

In practice, today’s advertiser might serve ads to an audience of people who fit the profile of previous visitors to the company’s website. Those users will see different ad messages and creative content selected from a pool of options, as algorithms predict which are most likely to elicit a response: one user might see a product photo with a message about price, while another might see a lifestyle photo with a social proof message.

  • Google and Facebook have stepped up pressure on advertisers to develop multiple versions of ad copy with the goal of creating dozens of options to be individualized to each user.
  • Programmatic ad platforms are increasingly leaning on dynamic ads to make it easier to fit them in multiple placements.
  • Facebook continues to grow its offering of free ad creation tools to ease the task of turning still images into video (with apps like Ripl) and beefing up the Creative Hub platform.

How You Can Prepare:

  • Cultivate the sources of your audience and the means to measure performance. This means installing tracking and analytics scripts on your web properties and nurturing customer lists. This data is the basis for more cost-effective ad campaigns.
  • Invest in creativity. You can use as many photos, videos and taglines as you can produce.
  • Get out of the 19th-20th century advertising mindset by realizing you don’t need to winnow your ideas down to the top 1-2 – you can (and should) test all of them.

Trend 7: AR/VR

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are viewed by some experts as “the next iteration of storytelling.”  Like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, VR and AR are making a splash in a number of industries, including marketing and public relations. While virtual reality immerses users in a completely virtual world (think of experiences seen through headsets such as the Oculus Go or HTC VIVE), augmented reality enhances the real world using digitally produced perceptual overlays (Pokemon Go is a good example of this type of technology).

While AR and VR are still in the early stages of development, make no mistake that these technological advancements will prove to be excellent tools for marketers and brands. The ability to provide hyper-engaging and intuitive content with immersive video experiences could allow consumers the opportunity to interact with a product, giving them a true sense of how a product might actually work for them.

How You Can Prepare:

  1. Start learning how to best utilize AR and VR technology using currently available apps and tools such as Snapchat Lens Studio and Facebooks’ AR Studio.
  2. Educate yourself on this immerging trend and how it relates to public relations through research and documents written by industry leaders in this space.
  3. Brainstorm some clever ways you could leverage AR or VR for your brand or clients. If the capabilities aren’t there internally now, it doesn’t hurt to jot down a few notes and revisit them when you feel more prepared to dive in.

Katie Englishmen is a social media strategist, and Derek DeVries is director of digital and social strategy at Lambert.