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Top Communications Trends for 2016

Our client, Sharp Communications, a NYC public relations firm that manages digital, social and events marketing for its clients, forecasts these trends for the upcoming year.

Original article here and below:

  1. New Roles for Influencers

One of the biggest buzzwords of 2015 was Influencer Marketing, and we’ve seen tremendous results in working with highly passionate engaged influencers on behalf of brands this year. As we look to the future, we see an expansion in the role of these folks (product development, new channels for engagement, new types of content being developed), and also the expansion of the term itself. In 2016 we’ll see new influencers rise to the surface as brand fans and enthusiasts get elevated to new heights.

  1. Content Creativity and Diversification

As the landscape for brand interaction continues to move beyond Facebook and Twitter, the requirements and opportunities for content creation grow even greater. New consumer tools are making content creation more democratic, with user expectations rising as a result. It’s increasingly difficult to generate that “wow” factor – but with 360 videoLive Photos, and Boomerang just starting to show their potential, we have no doubt that 2016 will be an exciting one for creators.

  1. Our Holistic Model

There has been even further blurring of paid/earned/owned media, and we’re seeing our friends at the publishing houses exploring new ways to tap PR, social and events to drive added value for their print advertisers. We will be developing new ways to meet these needs together and are excited about the expanding possibilities as we reach our clients’ audiences seamlessly across multiple touch points.

  1. Video goes LIVE!

Building on the success of channels like Periscope, Meercat, and even to some extent SnapChat, conversations and interactions on social media are increasingly going live. We’ve seen success in experimenting with these live feeds brining audiences behind the scenes at client events, and now with Facebook opening up its live streaming service to brands, we’re expecting to see more breaking news, product reveals, influencer takeovers, and more broadcast live to increasingly engaged audiences.

  1. Buyable Everything

This year, our social media efforts demonstrated an increased emphasis on supporting purchase, and a related emphasis on measurement and tracking pull through. Pinterest led the charge for “Buy now” buttons to appear across all social channels, new ad units surface entire product galleries (like on Facebook), and the line between social and commerce got even blurrier. As we look at 2016, the connection between intent and conversion across digital will be come even tighter and we’ll be putting increased emphasis on tracking and measurement to make sure that targeted programs are seeing the hard results they’re aiming for.

  1. Going Long

This year saw increased space across digital channels for high quality, thoughtful long-form content. This was prevalent in the rise of native advertising, the growth of Medium, and in LinkedIn’s shift into a full on content publisher (complete with top performing contributors). We even saw traction with high-profile email newsletters, like Lenny from Lena Dunham. There is a big role for PR practitioners, especially, as brands have the space to stretch out and really dig into storytelling.

  1. Messaging Apps Add Function

In 2015 we saw the rise of direct messaging products, both as new features to existing channels (like Instagram Direct, Tumblr Messenger, and of course the massive growth of Facebook Messenger), and also within entirely new products (like SnapChat, WhatsApp, WeChat, etc.). While these tools present new opportunities for brands to engage in highly personalized ways, we’re also excited about the possibility for new functionality. Looking to China as an indicator, and the recently announced Facebook Messenger/Uber partnership, as an example. We’re looking forward to seeing where this goes in 2016.

  1. Personalization On The Rise

Social platforms have long been lauded (or decried) for their status as the world’s largest-ever repository of consumer data. As consumers do more through social networks, and as these networks further evolve into sophisticated advertising platforms, brands will take advantage of highly targeted, personalized messages in 2016 in increasing numbers. Lexus recently created 1000 variations on a single Facebook video ad to support the launch of their new SUV, each one highly targeted – while this example may be extreme, we don’t expect it to be the last.

  1. Brand Storytelling

While the concept of brands as storytellers isn’t a new one, in 2015 we saw the channels for this type of communication and the interest level of our audiences growing and adapting. Increasingly, even the most cynical of audiences care about the people, principles and processes behind the products and services they buy and the organizations that they support. We see this in the interest in artisanship for clients in diverse fields of design and food and beverage and in the growing focus on socially conscious brands by millennials. The work of our Events team looked at the many ways an event experience can communicate a brand story, as events themselves become an opportunity to create an immersive experience. Our work for both Benjamin Moore’s Color of the Year launch and Whole Foods’ Whole Values initiative this year were bulls-eye embodiments of this approach and we look forward to building on this momentum next year.

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