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2016 Social Marketing Planning Guide

Start 2016 off right with everything you need to tackle the challenges in the year ahead. From a planning checklist to analysis of the latest trends, 2016 Social Marketing Planning guide will help you shape your brand’s social strategy for success.

  • Read on 2016 Social Marketing Planning guide to discover:
  • Which trends won’t survive 2015 and which ones you should plan for
  • How to kick off the planning process (planning checklist included)
  • 2016 predictions from top social media influencers
  • Some examples of common social objectives and KPI’s for major brands
  • A list of resources to consider as you develop your 2016 strategy including Top LinkedIn Groups to Join, Best Twitter Lists to Subscribe to
  • …and more.

A Look Back: The Trends of 2015

Before we look forward, let’s take a look back and find out which 2015 trends are going strong and which are on their way out.

Video Is the Most Popular Kid at the Party

As Mary Meeker reported in her annual 2015 Internet Trends Report, video consumption is growing steadily. The growth rate of consumer Internet traffic slowed between 2013 and 2014 (from 24% to 21%), but global video consumption makes up 64% of that traffic as of Q1 2015. These findings are backed up by Facebook Industry Report, which revealed that video sharing increased by 43% among top brands in Q1 2015. Facebook, where videos are greatly favored in the newsfeed algorithm, has seen especially high growth in the video category.

Video consumption shows no sign of slowing, and will continue into 2015. Brands are beginning to understand that they have to use high-quality multimedia to cut through the social noise and grab attention.

In 2016, Brands will continue to raise the bar on creativity as new technologies become available to them, debuting engagement-generating campaigns like Target’s spooky YouTube 360 video and Broadway’s backstage content.

Speed from Ads to Buying Increases

Social networks like Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter are continuing to bake stronger call-to-action buttons and conversion mechanisms into their products.

Pinterest has partnered with e-commerce software providers Bigcommerce, Magento, IBM Commerce, Shopify, and Demandware to give merchants the ability to sell products through Pinterest’s Buyable Pin program (available only on iPhone and iPad as of now). These partners make software that businesses use to set up and run online stores, allowing Pinterest to sign up way more merchants than it could on its own. Pinterest says there are now 60 million pins displaying products that can be bought right on Pinterest, from merchants big and small, including Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.

Facebook has put a real emphasis on enhanced CTA buttons for ads in 2015. Along with adding a relevant headline and ad text based on what you want people to do after seeing your ad, you can also include a call-to-action button and choose from the Sign Up call-to-action button delivered a 2.5x higher conversion rate versus other comparable social placements aimed to drive new user acquisition.” five actions: Shop Now, Learn More, Sign Up, Book Now, or Download. According to Brian Kim, Director of Acquisition at Dollar Shave Club,

Over the course of a three-week test, the Sign Up call to action button delivered a 2.5x higher conversion rate versus other comparable social placements aimed to drive new user acquisition.

Twitter doesn’t just want to be a communication platform: it wants to be a shopping destination. In June, Nike, Target, HBO, and other brands set up mini e-commerce landing pages with pricing and research information. Later, Twitter expanded its “Buy” button capability by making a deal with digital payment company Stripe to power mobile commerce for brands including Warby Parker and Saks Fifth Avenue. In fall 2015, Twitter began using e-commerce payment companies Shopify, Bigcommerce, and Demandware to empower shopping-enabled tweets from major retailers eager to drive holiday sales. Best Buy, Adidas, and PacSun signed on immediately.

In 2016, This trend will only grow stronger as brands (especially retail and e-commerce brands) request a shorter distance between their social content and a purchase point for social users, and social networks will expand features to accommodate them.

Pinterest Growth Continues to Be Strong

2015 was a great year for Pinterest growth, both in terms of new feature releases and usage, and 2016 promises to continue the growth that this blooming social network has seen.

In 2016, Pinterest will expand the brand usage of its “Buy It” button, make greater use of its location data from Place Pins, and find additional ways we can’t even think of right now to increase revenue and hit the goal of $2.8 billion revenue by 2018 that the social network has set for itself (according to TechCrunch).

User-Generated Content Is a Social Marketer’s BFF

In 2015, UGC (User-Generated Content) has dominated across all channels, from reporting news, to giving reviews, to writing/blogging, to audio content (ahem, SoundCloud), to even video gaming on networks like Twitch. Social media is the ideal medium for sourcing and then spreading UGC. The brightest brands on social are continuing to find novel ways to encourage social followers to submit their own content by running successful contests and hashtag campaigns, and engaging back when followers do engage.

Real-Time Access Is Top-of-Mind

If the rise of Periscope, the sustained popularity of Snapchat Stories, and the new, well-received Twitter Moments have taught us anything, it’s that social users want access to information and events as they are unfolding.

In 2016, Brands are going to continue to take UGC further, designing UGCfostering apps like DeBeers did and driving downloads of those apps through social campaigns.

In 2016, Brands will continue to see their audiences wanting (and expecting) unprecedented real-time access. Brands will also expand their offerings to meet the other major audience desire: optionality. Social users not only want real-time access, they also want the ability to choose exactly what they’re accessing, and they want to have many different content types to choose from.

More time will be spent by consumers across social platforms in 2016, requiring brands, publications, nonprofits, and government agencies to invest in experiences native to each channel instead of using these networks to solely drive traffic to owned properties. Marketers in the coming year will have to get better at being where the customer is most active. – Brian Honigman, CEO of Honigman Media

Serious social marketers have seen the light. They know how consistent benchmarking and a holistic view of their own campaigns and their competitors’ campaigns on the relevant social channels can help them make better business decisions, and they’re putting these lessons into practice.

In 2016, Social marketers will ask for more budget from CMO’s and other executives so that they can deliver on their promises to the larger business. This means that social teams will have to be clearer than ever about the goals and results of their campaigns, which will, in turn, prompt a deeper investment in more sophisticated social analytics solutions, providing social marketers with the answers they’re looking for.

Social listening and proactive community management will become increasingly important for brands looking to grow, nurture and reap the benefits of an engaged community. Social will no longer be driven by the quantity of your social audience but the quality of its members instead. – Jacob Curtis, Marketing Director at CON2R

Influencer Marketing Continues to Grow

Influencer marketing has shifted from a successful strategy employed by visionary marketers to a mainstay in the field of social marketing. It has been proven in study after study that people look at fellow consumers–instead of directly at companies–to inform purchasing decisions, which means that companies must use influencers on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest to gain the traction they’re looking for.

In 2016, Influencer marketing will continue to be the fastest-growing online customer acquisition method–and the most cost effective method. Techniques to cross-collaborate audiences will expand as 2016 influencers move beyond blogging to become ultra-active on social.

These techniques will include Instagram takeovers and releasing product lines, like Emily of Cupcakes and Cashmere did in 2015 with her home decor line and YouTubers did in 2015 with book deals and makeup lines that let them tour the country with stops to meet their fans.

Influencers will also deepen their forays into event hosting, bringing audiences to meet bloggers and social stars in real life. This is a win-win for everyone involved because the store that hosts the event brings in store traffic, the blogger gets paid to host the event and/or gets an outfit for the event, and fans get to meet an influencer and get a discount on in-store retail that night only.

So Over

Follower Count as Your Primary KPI

Promoted Accounts on Twitter (where your account shows up as a suggested account to follow) have fallen by the wayside. This is symptomatic of a larger change: marketers have moved away from caring about follower count as a primary KPI, unless their business goals are directly tied to audience size. For instance, if you are a blogger who gets paid to wear clothes and post pictures on Instagram, then Instagram follower count still matters because that’s how you sell ads. But follower count just isn’t as important anymore, so people are less willing to pay for followers because they’re finding more valuable areas to invest that ad spend in. For example, Senior Marketing Manager of Paid Media Danie Zaika shares:

We don’t do Promoted Accounts anymore, because if I have $10k to spend on Twitter Ads, I’m going to put that into promoted tweets to generate engagement and/or leads for the Sales team, rather than just get more followers.

Facebook TechWire

Facebook’s attempt to become the primary resource for technology journalists never really took off. While still active, FB Techwire didn’t pick up the steam we all expected it to, probably due to the already-saturated space and sources which tech journalists generally turn to. However, following the same initiative to hold your attention and become your primary media resource, Facebook has been busy establishing itself as not only a place for people to post relevant links to news articles, but as a place for media organizations to publish original content: to be the place where content lives. By building tools for publishers and entertainers, Facebook is looking to bring videos, photos, and articles inside its own walls.

Opting Out of Pay-to-Play

Brands no longer have the luxury of not putting serious dollars into social marketing. Most brands do not see a significant yield on major networks like Facebook and Twitter without infusing their accounts with ad spend. However, following the same initiative to hold your attention and become your primary media resource, Facebook has been busy establishing itself as not only a place for people to post relevant links to news articles, but as a place for media organizations to publish original content: to be the place where content lives. By building tools for publishers and entertainers, Facebook is looking to bring videos, photos, and articles inside its own walls.

2016 will be the year of Social Intelligence: brands are coming to grips with the (sad) reality that social is a pay-to-play field now, especially when dealing with competitors who may already have budget set aside for this. These brands will then start spending more and more on social (tools, advertising, marketing, etc.), and to justify the costs they’ll need tools to measure (1) how much is needed, and (2) the return on investment. Social ROI will no longer be the “dirty word” mentioned at conferences, nor will it be a mysterious formula anymore. – Ben Donkor, Social Media Analyst, Microsoft

Social Analytics as a Second Thought

This one fits in perfectly with our last “so over” trend. Social marketers can no longer consider social analytics a second-tier priority. To be taken seriously, you have to make social analytics a centerpiece of your social program.

You have to put analytics first.

The challenges identified from our survey of social marketers range from integrations, resources, content creation, and budget, to measurement, consolidation, and help with decision making. But these are just the symptoms of the real problems social marketers are facing.

PLAN: Analyze the landscape and craft a strategic content plan.
OPTIMIZE: Ongoing measurement fuels the planning process for future strategies.
MEASURE: Identify your plan’s progress toward success and it’s impact on the business.
EXECUTE: Implement the plan by simply publishing content across channels.

At our core, all social marketers want to be successful at their job. They want to fulfill basic needs of feeling accomplished and achieving full potential. They want to do their best work and get recognized for it.

The cyclical marketing process provides the framework for how marketers work, and how to improve, but there are still questions and problems that show up time and time again. As we talked to marketers and dove into this core focus of how they can do their best work, we started to see some key themes emerge. As we broke down every survey, conversation, and need we encountered, we saw these themes fit into four fundamental areas: “The Four Problems.”

The easiest problem to organize and solve is #4, improving workflow, but prioritizing this problem is dangerous. “Doing more” is something we fundamentally understand and can easily wrap our brains around. Social marketers prioritize publishing over analytics in order to increase efficiency in their high-volume roles. A bias for action causes them to ignore the need for informed decision making. Doing more for the sake of doing more doesn’t add value to your social programs. It just helps you create more problems, even quicker.

Problem #1: How do I get better result?
Problem #2: What else should I be doing?
Problem #3: How do I prove the value?
Problem #4: What do I improve workflow?

You may not be doing more, but you’re doing more of what you know works. And if you don’t know it works, you will soon, because you’re focused on insight instead of a quicker way to make the wrong choices. Complete analytics need to address needs throughout the full marketing process, not just the execution phase.

The difference between a successful social team and an unsuccessful social team is how smoothly it moves through the process of research, execution, and measurement. When done well, this process results in a flywheel effect of social momentum.

A complete social analytics strategy will help you understand everything from your audience and competitors to the impact of your brand activity on your audience and overall business goals, but this takes time. It’s important to focus on the areas that can have the biggest impact, and abandon metrics that don’t provide real insight.

Research: Competitors, Audience and Conversations
Measure: Brand Activities > Audience Engagement > Business Results

How is the Issue:

  1. Prioritizing Workflow
  2. An Efficient Way of Getting Things Done
  3. You Don’t Know if it’s The Right Stuff
  4. But It’s Been Done Well So You Keep Doing It

Here is the Solution:

  1. Prioritizing Analytics
  2. You Know What Works and What Doesn’t
  3. You’re Able to Plan More Efficiently
  4. You Work Smarter, Not Quicker
  5. You Make Decisions With Confidence

Fresh 2016 Trends to Think About

As with any new development, the key to success is testing and experimentation. Here are the fresh trends heating up in 2016, and some guidance on how your brand can harness them.

Snapchat and Periscope Should Be Taken Seriously

In 2016, What were once considered “fringe” social networks will continue to expand and have direct use for marketers of all stripes. Snapchat and Periscope are terrific examples of social networks that will go from experimental to established in 2016.


Use Cases to Inspire You:
General Electric uses Snapchat to connect its social audience with Bill Nye the Science Guy
CoverGirl uses Snapchat to connect its social audience to its website and larger digital campaign
Sony Pictures uses Snapchat to connect its social audience to a one-off event, the release of the new James Bond movie
Burberry uses Snapchat to preview its new collection ahead of London Fashion Week


Use Cases to Inspire You:
Horror movie producer Jason Blum uses Periscope to debut
Fifteen, “a live horror experience.”
Royal Caribbean uses Periscope to target millennials
Doritos uses Periscope for a limited-time, 12-hour campaign
BMW uses Periscope to debut an interactive live-action adventure

B2B Marketers Will Have More Ad Options

In 2016, Social ad platforms are going to get more focused on B2B. Twitter and Facebook are going to focus more on B2B ad products. B2B marketers will have more options that align with their business goals in 2016.

Facebook and Twitter will be rolling out more B2B ad products because there’s a huge market of advertisers that are already using social ads and an even bigger market of advertisers who would use social ads but are hesitant because of the inherent B2C nature of most social ad products. A lot of marketers are hearing, for example, “Facebook ads don’t work for B2B,” so they’re not even trying. B2B is an untapped market for social networks, and a significant opportunity to generate more ad revenue.

What Your Brand Can Try:

If you’re a B2B marketer, experiment with new offerings from social networks in 2016, even if you haven’t been successful on that network in the past. Remember that channels, platforms, and tactics that were unsuccessful for other or even most marketers might be your bread and butter. When you hear “X doesn’t work for B2B,” immediately add it to your list of things to test. A lot of “big wins” come from channels where there aren’t a lot of other B2B advertisers (more for you!).

Brands Will Have Expanded Reach with Facebook Search

Facebook’s new Search FYI leverages the over 1.5 billion searches per day and over 2 trillion posts in their index to help Facebook users find out what the world is saying about various topics. What does this mean in layman’s terms?

  • Better search suggestions: Facebook now offers timely, personalized search suggestions to highlight what’s happening right now so users can follow popular stories as they unfold.
  • Public posts + posts from friends: When users search, they’ll now see the most recent, relevant public posts, along with posts from friends.
  • Find public conversations: Users can now easily find public posts about a link and check out an aggregate overview of sentiment.

Social ad platforms are going to get more focused on B2B. Twitter and Facebook are going to focus more on B2B ad products. B2B marketers will have more options that align with their business goals in 2016.

What Your Brand Can Try:

Just as we recommended in our 2015 planning guide when it came to taking advantage of Facebook Trending Topics, if you’re a B2B marketer, you can leverage Facebook’s expanded search feature by jumping on breaking news and giving your own brand’s spin on what people are talking about now.

There is significant opportunity for expanded reach with this developing feature.

Get Started Today Checklist

  • Set your objectives. For example, to increase brand awareness or drive web conversions
  • Choose your KPI’s. For example, if your objective were “brand awareness,” a KPI could be: generate 3,000 impressions per day by EOQ. If your objective were “drive web conversions,” a KPI could be: drive 2,000 visits to our campaign landing page by 3/1/16.
  • Pick your tools. Choose which solutions you’ll use at every stage of the REM cycle–research, execution, and measure–and become comfortable with them.
  • Have lunch. Take your mentor and/or other people in your industry out to lunch and ask them how they’re thinking about the year ahead.
  • Start creating content. It’s never too early to create content for a campaign you know you’re beginning in 2016. If there’s a lynchpin blog post or webpage integration you’re going to need, contact the relevant teams to get the ball rolling.
  • Begin a microcampaign. If you have some innovative ideas for 2016, put together a microcampaign to test them before you begin executing it in 2016.
  • Follow and sign up. Take advantage of the resources we’ve listed in the previous section so that you’re well informed throughout 2016.

Download 2016 Social Marketing Planning guide at Simply Measured

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