4 Digital/Social Media Trends Influencing Communications Strategies


What a difference a year makes. Last year, the digital/social media trends  we focused on included building influencer relationships, telling “micro” stories and  evolving the content pipeline. While we are still talking about influencers, we’re much more targeted on the “power middle,” zeroing in on digital return on investment, marketing to Gen Z and the rise of AR/VR.

The “Power Middle”

Who are the “power middle”? These are the influencers that are most like your target audiences. They typically have between 10,000 and 100,000 followers who routinely engage with the influencer’s content. They aren’t A-list celebrities who have millions of followers. Instead, they are real, honest and engaged people who have nurtured relationships with their followers. These influencers tell it like it is, and when partnering with a brand they want to ensure their true selves are represented so their followers see authenticity in every post.

Think about the people you follow on Instagram: who do you connect to most? Is it the top tier celebrity promoting any and every product or the “power middle” influencer who provides you with helpful tips and tricks that apply to your everyday life?

Consider this. A health and wellness organization that is looking to promote a new product that helps people eat better, get active and relax. Some might instantly think about Jillian Michaels for her role on The Biggest Loser or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, host of The Titan Games. Yet they might find that a “power middle” influencer, such as Jules Hunt, who is passionate about connecting with individuals on the evolving journey through health and wellness, more effectively reaches and engages their target audiences.

Focus on Return on Investment (ROI)

With the changes in search and newsfeed algorithms, it has become harder to find success with just an organic social campaign. Earned, shared and owned social content will always play a role in the social environment. However, social media has primarily become a pay-to-play landscape for brands. Paid strategies ensure you are reaching people within your target audience that have a proven interest in your content. While measuring ROI is important in everything you do, you’ll want to keep a particularly close eye on it for a digital campaign so you can quickly assess and adjust targeting to achieve your goals. Measuring your digital ROI can be as simple as tracking purchases, if that’s the objective you set out to achieve. However, to get a bigger picture of your ROI, you also need to understand overall engagement, brand impressions and website visits.

Marketing to Gen Z

By 2020, Gen Z will account for 40 percent of all consumers. Born in the late 1990s, Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with the Internet as a regular part of their everyday routine. For many, social media has been a part of their lives for as long as they can remember. And, while this is primarily the Instagram generation, they also turn to YouTube and Snapchat for their news and information, and to connect with friends, family and brands.

For brands that are looking to reach Gen Z, they will need to move away from strategies that primarily focus on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. While we don’t recommend completely abandoning those platforms – there is a time, place and audience for them –brands should spend more time where their audience likes to be.  For Gen Z, that includes Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat.

There is still a lot to learn about Gen Z. However, the one thing we do know is that Gen Z values sincerity. CNBC reported that authenticity is important to Gen Z, with “67 percent of those surveyed agreeing that ‘being true to their values and beliefs makes a person cool.’”

The Rise of AR/VR

Artificial reality and virtual reality have been on the horizon for several years. Now that the technologies have become much more affordable and accessible, we’re seeing increased usage especially within paid social media campaigns across Instagram, Snapchat and now Facebook.

The first brand to take advantage of the AR platform on Facebook was Michael Kors. They allowed users to virtually try on a pair of sunglasses and make a purchase as part of the experience. Mobile Marketer noted that “while the results of the Michael Kors campaign are unknown, other AR ads, like Saban’s 25th anniversary of ‘Power Rangers’ campaign, produced a click-through-rate (CTR) of 2.1%, outpacing the industry benchmark of 0.08%.”

As with any trend, whether related to fashion or technology, it is important to consider what is best for you and your brand. Just because your brand’s competitors are using AR doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you – but it is worth at least considering.