The Top Behaviors You Absolutely Have to Pay Attention To In 2016

December 28, 2015, by , in Blog, no comments

Instead of looking ahead at what will be through the usual lens of predicting hot items or following release dates of apps and tech, we thought we’d take a different track and talk frankly about the Top Behaviors You Absolutely Have to Pay Attention To going into 2016.

  1. We Have To Stop Underestimating Older Audiences In Social
    It seems amazing in some respects that this is still an issue in 2016, but last year we still saw an incredible amount of initial cynicism in whether “older” audiences are as active in social online circumstances as others. No, they aren’t on SnapChat 24/7 – but we have now seen so much evidence of audiences 40+ using peer advice for everything from work-related troubleshooting to medical-condition storytelling, that for some segments they are actually the most active generations socializing (which I guess I have to cope with being an “older audience” seeing as I turn 40 this year). This underestimating plays into the B2B trend we’ll get to in a moment…
  2. We Have To Stop Overestimating Younger Audiences In Social
    This isn’t just knee-jerk cynicism talking – this is a blunt, “don’t believe the hype” call to arms, that we’ve got to stop following the media’s lead in assuming that young people are some ravenously fickle creatures that have no loyalty to platforms or channels. Just because you didn’t see SnapChat coming doesn’t mean it came out of nowhere – it’s been here for years now and the under-30 crowd has now been using it steadily for years. But also don’t buy the shiniest-object syndrome habit of assuming that because they’re in SnapChat that they’ve abandoned other platforms. In fact, their use of other platforms has increased these past few years (Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger topping all social apps – even more than SnapChat – in 2015). Some of these behaviors, like Instagram, are firmly ingrained. They simply use them for different reasons. And they are absolutely no strangers to web-based channels and forums, using them effortlessly to gather info, participate in conversations, and just hang out. Point being, they aren’t so singularly focused that they’re treating social media like it’s a color in fashion – so stop overestimating their attitudes for dropping habits.
  3. The Reality of B2B Social Is Becoming More Important Than Ever
    A few years ago we warned that underestimating B2B use of social media risked meaning you were locked out when they became savvy enough to lock you out – and the hard truth is that prophecy has come true in nearly every industry. B2B is now ingrained enough in social that many segments are locking out public eyes (read: vendor eyes) or just becoming savvy enough to hide from them. We’ve seen projects in the last year where physicians eluded head-hunters, financial advisors skirted employer eyes, and engineers sequestered themselves among like-minds – all to talk candidly to one another in more private – or at least more peer-filled – spaces.
  4. Gut-Checking Personas Against Real Behaviors
    One of the more encouraging asks of our research in recent years has been to take Personas or Archetypes developed internally (or by consultants) and check them against the actual behaviors around peers. This allows us to suggest tweaks to their criteria and characteristics, identify undue influence between them, and in some cases introduce all-new players/personas in the space that you might want to pay attention to (or have to). This will continue to be important as marketing continues its “toward-an-iceberg-in-slow-motion” admission/convergence in acknowledging the power of integrated strategies. Especially since the power between these multi-screen approaches lies in admitting the end-audience’s power and perspective – not just how clever one particular execution is.
  5. The Fate of Twitter in the United States
    The tale of Twitter as a company has its own ups and downs: Is it profitable? Do these ads really work? What do you mean you want to change things to be more like Facebook? But the tale told by the behavior on Twitter is perhaps the most telling. Against all odds for a social network that is in theory one of the important channels, we have not seen the growth or the engagement truly soar. Brands seem content with pumping out content and not engaging; which is its own problem, but what’s possibly more sad is the lack of engagement by even the average user on Twitter. Some behaviors speak for themselves: It remains a channel that is predominantly full of readers, not posters; hashtags are fine for an instant but for meaningful engagement over time it’s a sea of noise; at its worst it’s merely an echo chamber. But even at its best, with its blink-and-you-miss-it relevancy, Twitter is having a hard time being a channel many are really embracing like they once did. Now that we can see analytics for our Tweets, I can understand why they waited so long to let us – it’s depressing to realize the actual impact of a realtime network (i.e. it’s low – which is why they’re toying with the idea of tweaking chronology of viewed Tweets in the feed and why Moments is curated). We’re seeing it used more frequently as customer service, and its focus on events and singular Moments is important and can ultimately save the channel. But we’re talking about an entire channel that, in terms of meaningful engagement between peers and influence on decisions, has hit a low point no one wants to talk about. And there are so many other channels – even much older ones – where engagement is having a much more potent effect. It’s important to note I’m limiting this Trend to just the US because the global Twitter behavioral trends are all microcosms that at times operate radically differently than in the States. But in the US Twitter is one to watch in 2016 – and not for reasons they (or their investors) are probably happy about.

And finally…

  • HONORABLE MENTION: Benchmarking, Monitoring, and Paying Just The Right Amount of Attention to Micro-Trends
    More than ever, it’s important to look at the actual context and content of how you engage and who is engaging with you (and numbers often don’t tell the story). Furthermore, careful monitoring – even simple supplemental monitoring for trends and behaviors – can be incredible ways to energize and target your content development throughout the year. And on a larger scale we are being asked to do more and more benchmarking studies where we take a comprehensive look at an industry, region, demographic, etc. and document where they are and how they got there behaviorally, so that we can come back on a quarterly or annual basis and show whether the actual efforts of a strategy truly moved the conversational and behavioral needle.

We raise a glass to all in 2016, clients new and old, and look forward to watching these trends for and with you!

by: Dean Browell, Executive Vice President and Founder