Social Media and Content Marketing Predictions for 2016 [Expert Roundup]

Fa la la la, la la, la la.

Whether you celebrate Krampus or Kringle, Festivus or Feliz Navidad, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Solstice or Star Wars, we’re in the thick of the hap-hap-happiest time of year, you guys. Soon enough, we’ll see the fireworks sparking off in Sydney and not long after, that great big ball will drop in NYC, and we’ll toast the New Year. New Beginnings. Another Auld Lang Syne.

Father Time will plop that chubby little cherub, 2016, at our feet to do with what we will. And to do unto us.

It’s That Time of Year: Sugar Plums and Predictions

I don’t remember for sure, but I think it must have been Nostradamus who predicted the Y2K bug.

Eventually, after that was put to paid, there came the Year of the Blog.

Then the Year of Social Media.

Then the Year of the Social Media Metric.

The Year of the Social Media ROI, which is to say “the mythical metric that worked.” Or should have.

What does 2016 have in store for us, content marketers?

We asked our favorite content marketers, brand storytellers, and social media marketing experts to tell us that story. Predict and prognosticate. Give us your best social media and content marketing predictions, folks.

If anybody knows what’s coming down the pike, these pros do. Note, especially, where their social media and content marketing predictions overlap. Many common threads, which you may have noticed as well, run through our tapestry:

  • The power of conversation continues.
  • Mobile and big data aren’t going away.
  • Search technology is ever-evolving.
  • The call to craft and target high-quality content is getting louder.

After all, it’s about rising above the noise, as Dana Marruffo says. And, it’s really just good ‘ol word-of-mouth, on steroids, as Nando Cabán-Méndez reminds.

Social Media and Content Marketing Predictions 2016

Janet Fouts

Janet Fouts

CEO, Tatu Digital Media

We are going to see brands recognizing the value of mobile search and social platforms for SEO. As Youtube, Pinterest, and Facebook search become richer we will optimize content for these platforms in order to reach the market where they are looking for us. Reviews, comments, and social media discussions will play a bigger role in search results because they are more trusted (and therefore shared) than the company website.

David Meerman Scott

David Meerman Scott

Sales and Marketing Strategist

After growing interest for five years, 2016 is the year Newsjacking goes mainstream. For those who don’t yet use the strategy, Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story to generate tons of media coverage, get sales leads, and grow business.

Ferg Devins

Ferg Devins

Chief Conversationalist, The Devins Network Inc.

Holy Holy Holy, More Conversations Almighty!

Conversation remains core to social engagement. I strongly believe that many marketers and communicators in social channels have allowed themselves to lapse back into a “push” approach rather than embracing, sticking with, and building a truly dialogic model for their brand or business. In my humble opinion, I predict that the most successful brands or entities in 2016 will be those who find that magical balance between automation and conversation.

Mike Allton

Mike Allton

CMO, SiteSell

What I’ve been suggesting for a while now is that over the next few quarters, we will begin to see true attrition in the social media network space. Big companies like Yahoo! may shutter or sell off social properties, and startups like Meerkat or Periscope may wind down.

The fact is, the market is saturated with photo sharing platforms and live video streaming platforms and we will soon reach a point where sustained growth simply won’t be possible without a change in environment. The most likely scenario being mergers and acquisitions.

Amanda MacArthur

Amanda MacArthur

CEO + Content Director, BuzzFarmers

In 2016, marketers will need to embrace the evolution of what’s deemed high-quality content by search engines and users alike. Content marketing teams can’t hinge their efforts on catchy headlines and good ledes anymore. They need graphic designers who create custom social graphics for each article, and videographers to capitalize on Facebook video and other visually-centric networks. Good SEO and 800 interesting words are simply the fertilizer. It takes a lot more for content to take off these days than an interesting article. Even a really interesting article.

Jackie Dana

Jackie Dana

Copywriter, Editor, and Content Strategist, Watercolormoon

Every business with an online presence needs good content—blog posts, ebooks, white papers and web copy—but so few of them recognize the value of this content. This disconnect occurs despite ample data showing that original, well-written content boosts SEO, leads to more engagement, and helps build credibility and visibility for companies.

I predict that 2016 will be the breaking point for content creators and strategists. Finally, we will push back against those who expect us to work for “exposure” or are willing to pay no more than what we could earn at Dairy Queen. 2016 will be the year copywriters, editors, and strategists will finally say, “pay us what we’re worth” and mean it.

[Ed. Note: HUZZAH!]

Aaron Strout

Aaron Strout

President, WCG

We live in a world of unprecedented access to social and digital data. While some content marketers are either overwhelmed or choose to ignore this treasure trove of insights, the smart ones are tapping this data to better understand the who, what, where, and how of their target audiences. To that end, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when good content is further refined to better address key stakeholder’s interests, the results are positive.

In 2016, smart content marketers will begin to pull away from the pack and will start to dominate the landscape as less targeted content gets lost in the mix. Add the ability to better target through paid social and native advertising and now the “Davids” (nimble, data-driven companies) will begin to overtake the “Goliaths” (large and un-targeted) companies like we’ve never seen before.

Dana Marruffo

Dana Marruffo

Principal of Buzz Public Relations, LLC

Big Data Will Be Required To Drive Consumer Loyalty

Most brands appreciate the need for and benefits of Big Data to better understand target audience behaviors. This isn’t to say data and analytics has lost its luster as being part of a social media marketing strategy—but gone are the days of knowing and partially doing—or worse yet, not doing at all. Rather, in the year to come, it will be a requirement for brands to deep dive and segment every inch of data to rise above the noise to convert — and keep — consumers as loyal advocates and maintain a competitive edge.

Quicker Turnaround On Content Delivery

Digital will aggressively drive content strategies thanks to new technologies, mobile consumption, and real-time developments requiring brands to be agile and creative on the spot. While an editorial content roadmap will still be relevant, brands will have to implement ‘on the fly’ content as moments happen, and deliver that content at a faster pace. RollingStone is an excellent example–within hours of the announcement of the unfortunate death of Stone Temple Pilot’s frontman, Scott Weiland, the publication posted a feature-length article on its website, pushed via its social channels, and distributed the story as a headline in its daily eNewsletter.

Mobile Shopping Will Become The Norm

Mobile payment avenue, Apple Pay, and location-based service, Apple iBeacon, are new technologies driving consumer shopping behaviors and for mobile marketers to stay in tune with reaching, servicing, and converting consumers into loyal online buyers. Mobile marketers will have to take advantage of big data to provide true interactive experiences via demographically-driven promotions and deals, support easy pay with a push of a button, and make the mobile shopping experience a convenient medium overall.

For example, on Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend, some 103 million Americans shopped online, while slightly more than the 102 million went out to physical stores, according to a report from the National Retail Federation as reported by the New York Business Journal. For 2016, expect mobile shopping to move beyond the holidays and become the norm.

Nando Cabán-Méndez

Nando Cabán-Méndez

Writer, Consultant at

I think (hope?) we’re moving into a post-online-marketing-hype era.

On the one hand, the technology (machine learning algorithms, semantic markup, etc.) is driving what works and what doesn’t. That means the tricks of old won’t work anymore, and hopefully demand for them will decrease. On the other hand, enough businesses have been burned by the snake oil salespersons–promising the social media marketing panacea of tens of thousands of “likes”, for example, or the mythical “first page of Google” of unethical SEOs. They’ve also been burned by what I call the romantic–promising the over-inflated expectations of “deeply engaging conversations” of content and social marketing–to bring a more judicious approach to the whole thing.

I think we’re getting really close to a time when smart business owners will realize all these tools at their disposal: mobile, websites, social media, email marketing, pay-per-click, apps, beacons, should be but an instrumental part of their overall marketing mix. Hopefully they’ll realize this all amounts to good ‘ol word-of-mouth, on steroids. When they start treating them as such, we’ll have a mature market, ready to reap the benefits. I’m betting on the fundamentals (websites, email), the technology-driven (geo-marketing, local SEO, semantic markup, beacons), and the business trends (paid advertising) to bring the value on the long term.

Here’s to the end of snake-oil salespersons.

[Ed. Note: Hear! Hear!]

Tanya Roberts

Tanya Roberts

Word Wrangler, Bluefinch Creative

Robots & Time Machines

What will unfold on the content marketing scene in 2016? Well, if I had a crystal ball (and a time machine), I’d transport myself to Pike Place Market to invest in the first Starbucks. Alas, I am yet a humble copywriter. Still, my intuition is usually spot-on. Here’s what I think 2016 will bring:

Content-Slinging Robots

Forbes tells me that content-crafting algorithms will soon threaten the livelihood of freelancers everywhere. According to Wired, AP already uses software to auto generate stories about sports. But if we’ve learned anything from Robocop, we know that machines aren’t exactly creative or fun. I predict that “click bait” and boring, quickly-churned-out content will be further commodified, driving prices and engagement down. Like a fine gravy, entertaining, search-centric content will rise to the top.

Visuals & Search

The content marketing space is saturated, and visitors demand bite-sized, easily digestible pieces. The proliferation of video and sparkly graphics will sit in line with this trend. I also anticipate more tightly-themed, search-centric content, and less of a reliance on social networks for organic engagement.

The moral of the story? Videos and graphics are good, robots are bad, and we should all say “no” to snooze-worthy content.

[Ed. Note: There’s a Doctor Who angle here somewhere, what with the time machines and the Dalek content farmers.]

Whatever 2016 Brings for Online Marketers…

As the American public finally goes into the actual election year, as the violence of this world continues to lead the news cycle more often than not, as divisive rhetoric calls for “othering” our brothers and sisters, as refugees raft treacherous seas to flee civil war and barrel bombs–may our content be our contribution. No matter if we write or market B2B or B2C, SaaS or CPG, may our content elucidate, enlighten, inform, connect, and contribute.

May you and yours know peace, ease, and light in the year ahead.

Featured Image Credit: WikiMedia Commons, by Frances Brundage, copyright 1910 (expired), Public Domain