6 Things We Learned In 2016

Greg Miles | 6 January 2017

As 2017 opens for business and we say adieu to the whirlwind that was 2016, most marketers peer into their crystal ball to predict the trends that will dominate the year ahead.

But instead of analysing how chatbots, AI and VR may or may not take over our lives, let’s instead take a look back at the key lessons we learned over the last 12 months and how we can use them to make better decisions moving forward.

The Power of Social Media

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The grand power of social media is now undeniable. Donald Trump’s US election victory shocked the world in November – not least because every major poll forecasted an easy win for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

But while most got it wrong, some social media analytics firms correctly predicted a Trump victory. Marketing analytics and data company 4C Insights turned its prediction models to the presidential race after correctly forecasting Brexit. Its analysis found that overall, Mr. Trump had more support on Twitter and Facebook than his rival.

In the vital month running up to election day, views of Donald Trump were 58% positive while views of Hilary Clinton were 48% positive. Social Media listening tools had heard the people, measured their sentiment and predicted the correct result.

Mr. Trump’s savvy use of social media meant that he consistently outperformed Mrs. Clinton throughout the entire presidential campaign in terms of social media engagement. His Facebook engagement, particularly that of live video, blew Hilary’s out of the water.

Meanwhile Clinton spent $156 million on TV ads compared to Trump’s total ad spend of $33.6 million. It was marketing of old vs marketing of new.

Social won.

Mobile First

mobile firstIn the same week that Donald Trump won the US general election, mobile overtook desktop as the most used internet platform worldwide. In 2010 just 5% of internet pages were loaded on mobile phones, but in October 2016 that number had increased to 51.3%,  surpassing desktop for the first time.

It must be noted that the figures vary on a country by country basis – desktop is still the primary mode of internet usage in mature markets such as the US and UK (only just). But that’s expected to change in 2017 and the data should be a wake-up call to businesses yet to adapt to changing internet habits.

It’s crucial that marketers think about mobile first and foremost. From the consumer mindset, to how the format works and what the messaging should be.

That said it’s important to understand that the overall consumer journey consists of many different touch points across several devices. Mobile strategy is just one part of a multichannel journey from discovery, through to consideration, purchase and advocacy.


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It doesn’t take Chewbacca Mom to show us how popular and effective video has become over the last few years. Videos received the most engagement out of all online content types last year, and mobile video ads are projected to be the fastest-growing segment in digital advertising through to 2020, with a compound annual growth of 30%.

However, some marketers are starting to act more like they’re in the movie business than the marketing business. Video, like all other content, must add tangible brand value rather than just randomly entertain people.

Instead of creating video solely to increase reach and engagement metrics, ensure that it contributes to real business goals and meets audience needs.

Live video in particular has had a huge impact online in 2016. And it makes sense when you consider the sheer amount of content that competes for our attention online every day. When a viewer has a million options of things to watch, knowing that the moment will be gone if you don’t watch something immediately helps to make the decision for you.


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Measuring the ROI of Social Media is one of the most heavily debated topics in marketing. In some cases, for example where a direct link to a product is used, it can be straightforward to track conversions from social channels. But the complexity of the modern consumer journey means it’s often difficult to identify the direct impact your social media activity has on your bottom line.

Facebook claims that 99% of sales generated from ad campaigns were from people that saw, but did not interact with, ads. That means reach drives revenue.

But using reach to measure the success of a campaign is like using the number of times you visit the gym to measure your fitness. It’s what happens in the gym that really matters, just like it’s what happens in the minds of your audience when they experience your content that drives real value for brands.

Brands should measure success in terms of actions, emotions and attitudes, rather than eyeballs.

One effective way of measuring social media ROI is to compare the attitudes towards your brand of consumers who are socially engaged and those who are not socially engaged. You can interview the two sets of consumers and generate a brand health score for each group. Comparing the two scores will reveal the contribution social media has on consumers’ attitudes and behaviour.

Paid Media

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Promoted posts make up 35% of all published content today, up from just 25% in 2014. But even though companies are promoting more, interactions have stayed about the same.

With so many brands trying to out-shout each other and fill the content calendar every day, many marketers are promoting weak content, often to meet engagement or reach benchmarks. If you tell a joke and nobody laughs the reaction isn’t usually to repeat the joke louder.

Likewise, paying to promote content for the sake of reaching more people alone is not a good strategy and will do nothing but waste your money and annoy your customers.

Instead, brands should use paid media more selectively to meet specific challenges. Amplifying content that has already proved to be effective in generating a positive reaction organically, messages that are critically important to your brand communications regardless of engagement, and content that is most relevant at a specific time (such as black Friday deals) are key examples.


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When compared with other forms of advertising, a recommendation from a trusted peer has by far the greatest influence on our purchasing decisions, as is noted in Nielsen’s Trust in Advertising Report. Today these recommendations are broadcast on social media, reaching thousands or even millions of individuals through shares, likes, comments, photos, reviews, and blog posts.

Social Media influencers became a hot topic in the marketing world in 2016 and research from Twitter has shown that people trust them almost as much as friends. The study found that around 40 percent of respondents said they’ve purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter, Vine or YouTube.

Other people can often tell your brand’s story in more compelling and authentic ways than your brand itself, but it’s important for marketers to understand the difference between influence and reach.

A celebrity with one million Instagram followers has huge reach, but they may not have as much influence over your target audience as an opinion leader – somebody who has a powerful impact on people’s opinions and choices in the category in which you operate.

Opinion leaders may only have a reach one 50th the size of a celebrity, but their stronger influence means the ROI is likely to be higher. The credibility of these influencers is built on authenticity so brands should partner with real brand advocates who can spread their story persuasively.

Brand advocates or ‘micro-influencers’ are people who share a genuine passion for your brand. These individuals may only have 500 Facebook friends – but they have incredible influence within their network, and brands can attain scale by amassing a crowd of them.

In 2017, smart marketers will map out a strategy that takes into account the role of each type of influencer and the value they can add to clear business goals.

Not sure how to tackle 2017? Let’s talk about your objectives for the year ahead.