4 Ways to Get Ahead of Digital Trends in 2016: It’s All About Simplicity. Except When It’s Not
A look at the landscape of digital marketing reveals that the complicated things are getting simpler, and it’s time for the simple stuff to get a little more complicated.
A Return to Simplicity
The digital community is turning away from the complexity of native mobile apps and infographics as the go-to solutions, in favor of SMS interactions and short, thoughtful content.
1. Kick it back to the old school with text message campaigns before (or instead of) apps.
Let me be the first to say that mobile apps are great and they aren’t going anywhere. But they aren’t always necessary in order to reach people with dynamic, interactive content. Building them the right way can be resource- and time-intensive, event with a lean Agile approach, so an increasing number of products are launching without interfaces.
It’s a smart move, considering that a recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that text messaging is the most commonly used feature on a smartphone regardless of age. So if you have a campaign or product that needs to reach a broad target of users for real-time interaction, launch with SMS first and then use what you learn from that early market entry to inform the app interface you roll out later.
2. Big, heavy infographics are over. Just deliver the insights.
With the ever-increasing availability of data points big and small to inform every decision we make in life, those of us in the business of communicating are trying to keep pace with how to best package and deliver that information to meet our goals. For the past few years, there’s been a rush to visualization – just make the data pretty and people will “get it.” That led to a whole lot of content put out there on the internet being over-designed and under-considered.
In this world of data and facts, researchers have also recently found that, actually, facts alone don’t change opinions. In many cases, simply presenting factual data even causes a backfire effect. But if facts don’t work, what does move people? We as a society haven’t quite figured that out yet, but The Gates Foundation and USC are working on it. In the meantime, we can stick to the words of Albert Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
So instead of focusing on revealing the data, it’s time to focus on what it all means and what people can do with it. To paraphrase Nicholas Felton: you don’t need to see a weather radar if all you really want to know is whether to grab your umbrella. That’s a binary question, so just give a yes or no answer. That means using charts and graphs only when they are really necessary, and using illustrative visuals to deliver short, simple insights wherever you can.
Digging into the Data
While a look ahead at 2016 promises a reduction in effort for some of the things that have been hard to do in digital marketing so far, a smart digital marketer will re-focus that saved energy on digging into the details in other places.
3. Wrap your head around some basic technical concepts.
If John Oliver has taught us anything, it’s that we can no longer afford to be ignorant about the increasingly complex issues facing the world today. This is particularly true when it comes to technology, and digital marketing is no exception. If you are responsible for putting digital content into the world, it’s time to get your Google on and brush up on some of the basics.
You don’t have to be a programmer to understand why the Heartbleed bug caused a panic, or what “the cloud” is. Knowing some basics about how your content lives on and moves around the web will make you better prepared to make smart choices about how to create and manage it. A great place to start is Google’s 20 Things I Learned booklet.
4. Focus on measurable results rather than deliverables.
In the olden days of content delivery, measuring output was the best way we could understand effectiveness. If your TV ad reached the right number of people, it was a success. Publications measured circulation size as their primary metric of reach, and political pundits looked at public opinion polls. It was a simpler time.
But this type of measurement just isn’t good enough anymore. We have a multitude ofways to measure the effectiveness of digital content, and they go far beyond just counting our social media followers and newsletter subscribers. If you are a marketer and you can’t trace a clear path between what you do all day and your employer’s actual bottom line, you’re missing a huge opportunity. If your competitors start optimizing their content based on the increasingly available data, they’re going to gain a huge advantage.
If you’re not measuring everything you can, it’s time to get the data rolling in. If you already have data, it’s time to invest in understanding it – so dive into those analytics dashboards. If you’re already analyzing your data but not doing anything about it, it’s time to experiment.