Micro-Communities are the Next Big Thing
“The past decade has seen an exponential growth of social media platforms. Currently, more than 2.5 billion people use social media, and this number is set to exceed 3 billion in the next couple of years. As the number of social media users increases, so too will the number of platforms looking to cash-in on the social media gold-rush. With more platforms vying for dispersed attentions, I predict a rise of niche sites establishing micro-communities. This is when people with similar interests and opinions interact more exclusively with each other. While this establishes a communal attitude, it also imposes the phenomena known as the ‘filter bubble’ whereby users enshroud themselves in networks of confirmation bias. Even larger social media platforms will develop more micro-communities as users will seek to surround themselves with likeminded individuals on established sites.
The rising popularity of the micro-community will most likely result in fewer broad publicity techniques, instead seeing more targeted marketing campaigns intending to spread virally within micro-communities. This specific line of marketing will result in greater success as strategised campaigns will see a greater ROI as the number of wasted impressions drops. However, micro-communities are notoriously introverted, and one wrong step could result in coordinated wrath of an entire network. So, if you plan to work with micro-communities in the future, make sure that your content is relevant and engaging.”
Planting the Big-Seed
“Celebrities with high follow counts can be construed as a form of “big-seed marketing”. This is a marketing technique that manifests frequently within contemporary social media. Big-seed marketing contributes to the spreadability of marketing content by harnessing the power of large numbers of social media users. The success of this technique does not depend on paid advertising. Instead, relying on the organic reach of big-seed marketers, or influencers. The past several years has seen the role of the influencer develop into a key factor of marketing.
Indeed, the rising reliance on social media has encouraged internet celebrities to financially benefit from their status as big-seed marketers. This is because big-seedmarketing, combines viral-marketing tools with old-fashioned mass media in a way that yields far more predictable results than purely viral approaches like word-of-mouth marketing. The predictability of this marketing technique is success. Indeed, as celebrities have consistently high follow counts on social media, their posts are more likely to go viral due to direct diffusion to their fans online. This acts like word-of-mouth marketing, but with greater rates of diffusion. One thing that you should note before utilising big-seed marketing is that sincerity sells. It’s no use getting a celebrity to flog your product if they don’t like it themselves.”
“I think as we move into 2020 and the so-called ‘post-truth’ era crystallises, we will see the PR industry come under more and more scrutiny – and not without good reason. The impact that campaigns of disinformation have had in mature democracies from the UK to India to the United States in recent years is undeniable. The fact that people in the political sphere whom this has benefitted continue to vehemently deny it, presenting these blatant mistruths as necessary part of political discourse means the process of ‘spinning’ a story will be looked at with an increasing mistrust by people hoping to make sense of the world around them.
This means PR people who are providing legitimate services to businesses simply trying to educate their target audiences must conduct their business with the values of openness and integrity at the heart of what they do.”
“The way in which news and content is being consumed is changing. For the PR industry, this will mean a shift from the “traditional” towards a more diversified and creative way of conceiving, creating and distributing content. For instance, the number of podcasts, and podcast listeners, is likely to experience an even bigger upturn in the next year and beyond. Visual and more digestible media forms around social media “stories” will also become more prominent. To keep pace with these changes, PR agencies need to adapt by offering these services and the necessary expertise to create the fresh and compelling content that clients need and the media, and its audiences, want.”
“As society evolves, and more and more of the population rely on their mobile phones to source and consume information, people’s capacity to concentrate will continue to decline. If the PR industry wants to continue generating coverage, placing content and engaging with the right audiences, it will need to evolve in-line with this shift. This will mean content – press releases, case studies and articles – will have to change in tone and become more concise, digestible and, as a result, engaging. Eventually, long-form content will die out.”
“As brands find themselves becoming influencers within their industries simply by having a social media presence, it’s only a matter of time before PR shifts entirely towards digital media landscapes and strays away from more traditional media. PR, at its core, relies on the media, in all its forms, as a vehicle for brands to grow their presence and present their news to the masses. I think there will be a power struggle between traditional PR agencies wanting to do what they know, what is comfortable and what’s always worked, and the need to stay relevant with the changing digital landscape. That model will be extinguished.”
Will 2020 be the year that PR stops operating in a silo?
“As the internet expands and the importance of social media grows with it, PR professionals are no longer responsible for mere “media outreach,” and those that do continue to rely on this “traditional” approach risk being left behind. However, that isn’t to say that every agency must expand and make itself a one-stop shop. Rather, agencies should improve their knowledge in areas like SEO, digital marketing, social media, podcasts and video production so they can continue to work productively with, and meet the changing demands of, their clients’ in-house teams. This symbiosis will enable the agency and client to work together to create meaningful campaigns that resonate across all platforms and audiences and help the brand to grow.”
Too-big-to-fail: 2020 and crisis comms
Crisis communications has always been a crucial part of any PR strategy, but 2019 has been a particularly bad year for PR disasters. Nike had to deal with its shoe falling apart during one of the biggest basketball games of the year, as President Obama was watching and was recorded muttering the words: “his shoe broke!”. Boeing desperately tried to keep its planes flying after two deadly crashes, pretending in press conferences and interviews there weren’t safety concerns prior to the incidents. H&M failed to recognise that its ad campaign was racist and offensive.
When it comes to image, there is no too-big-to-fail, and 2020 will see PR professionals occupied with preparing detailed 24/7 response plans to face any incident scenario. Apologising and taking ownership of the brand’s mistakes seems to have worked better than blatantly denying any wrongdoing, but formulaic excuses and excessive virtue signalling have worked poorly, too. I guess we will have to wait and see which company is going to be next!
2020– Moving towards creating more meaningful conversations
I would hope that 2020 and the next decade will result in PR becoming a tool to create meaningful conversations in the traditional press and new digital media. It seems now that its more important than ever to create thought-provoking discussions and content. Furthermore, the way we communicate and create discussion will also continue to change. Whilst it is likely traditional media will continue to take centre stage, virtual reality, video and social media will become the new interactive way of sharing messages.