2017 – the year of…?

Peter Shackleton

Rolling towards the end of November and into the almost daily updates to the kids’ Christmas lists, it’s that time when we start to look ahead to next year and think about the changes that we might expect to see over those 12 months.

It’s difficult to imagine 2017 bringing about the scale of social change we’ve seen in 2016. I can’t remember a year in which we have lost so many household names or seen our political systems endure such a ‘two fingered salute’ from the voting public − but how about our digital landscape?

Looking at the potential trends for next year, there was an overarching theme of change that jumped out: ‘quality over quantity’.

Brand communication

I need only look at one of several stats (such as Robert Allen’s below regarding the growth in online marketing tools) to know that the general sensation I have when I’m online is very much a reality. I’m getting bombarded! The volume of content and advertising being pushed at us all is overwhelming, and creating what is in effect ‘content shock’. There’s just too much to take in, and little of it stands out. The upside for brands is that a large proportion of that content is poor, and I expect in 2017 we’ll start to see the pendulum moving back towards quality over quantity in all aspects of a brand’s digital presence − from the content it creates to the consistency and memorability of the URLs it uses to deliver that content.

Social media

What’s been said for brand communication can also be said for social media. The traditional philosophy of using it “because it’s there” appears to be dissipating, and we’re seeing a trend of smaller, more engaged audiences and a more effective use of influencer outreach to engage with those social channels. Within that, it’s likely that the ‘Twitter fatigue’ we’re currently seeing will continue; the bite-sized updates have started to become excessive, and there’s a trend of users looking for bigger, more detailed but less-frequent options. Add to this the new areas of communication that are evolving − either from existing platforms moving into new areas (such as Facebook’s move into business communications) or new start-up platforms such as Anchor, Yo and Viber giving users new options on how they would like to digest content − and 2017 will pose a bigger challenge for brands in determining how to most effectively use the variety of social media channels to engage with their customers.

Localization

This is where I hark back to politics for a moment. Although digital channels are bringing us closer together, individuals and communities are fighting hard to remind us that they are just that: individuals and communities, and not just part of a ubiquitous global audience. People want to feel as if brands are talking to them personally and not spouting out generic communication, so 2017 should see more qualitative focus on localized content, language, phrasing, local search, effective use of country code and internationalized (script-based) domain names.

I’ll have to dig this Nostradamus-style blog out next November and see just how accurate it was...