We're only a week into 2016, and we already know it's going to be an interesting year to be a marketer. Hopefully you're feeling holiday-refreshed and ready to take on the year with what I hope is at least a modest budget behind you. Try not to blow it all in the first quarter. And as you're charting your professional course this year, resolve to do the following.
I will get out of the office more.
OK, it's not just marketers who need to do this. It's everyone. But for marketers, it's more important -- or at least useful -- than ever. We've digitized our communications to the point where an actual handshake has become a secret weapon. Don't get me wrong: I love digital communications. I despise unnecessary phone calls, and I get as irritated as anyone when people refuse to work via email. But I've also come to realize that the people we look in the eye are often the ones we do business with for the long haul. So get out, shake hands, and buy drinks. It's one of the few areas where going old-school will make you seem innovative these days.
I will get on Snapchat.
Snapchat isn't going anywhere. I'll admit I initially didn't think Snapchat had what it would take to stick, but it proved us all wrong. So if you're one of the many holdouts on Snapchat (i.e., you're over 25), it's time to give in, sign up, and play around.
You might find that Snapchat doesn't have a place in your brand's social arsenal. But at least make sure you understand the platform in a way that allows you to answer that question properly. And whatever you do, don't be the marketer who scoffs and waves away the question of whether you're on Snapchat as an absurdity. You need to know this one even if you decide you don't like it.
I will assume everyone hates my display ads and plan accordingly.
Ad blocking is real, people. People hate display ads, and it's all our fault. If you think that's dramatic, it's not. The IAB even admits it.
"But our ads are different," you say. No. Stop right there. They're not. No matter how sexy you get with your display ads, people will continue to block them at an increasing rate. So if your display budget represents a serious percentage of your overall marketing efforts, you need to go back and rethink your strategy.
I will take the Internet of Things seriously.
You're right to be initially skeptical of silly phrases with odd capitalization. IoT qualifies. But, like Snapchat, you can't dismiss it forever. More and more, devices and objects beyond our cell phones and smartwatches are talking to each other, and they have a lot to say. The amount of data that these conversations are going to start throwing off will change everything in marketing, particularly as it relates to consumer patterns and preferences. So sure, you might not ever buy an ad on someone's Nest. But you need to be closely following IoT developments all the same. Speaking of data...
I will try to make my big data a hell of a lot smaller.
You've got a lot of data. Congratulations. You might have even found a solution to capture and organize it, and that's great. But now it's time to stop trying to wrap your head around all of it and make some smart decisions. Not every metric and chart on your dashboard should or can be acted upon. By all means, keep capturing and organizing that big data. But this year, be sure to know which numbers are the ones driving your marketing progress and dig deeper on those. You might find that some of those expensive third-party data sources are going to waste if you're not even properly understanding your own first-party figures.
I will rethink what I know about Twitter.
Twitter made headlines this fall when it announced it would be laying off about 8 percent of its workforce. Many take such announcements as signs of tough times, and I won't argue that Twitter's road toward sustainable relevancy isn't a potentially rocky one. But what's obvious is that big changes are happening, and as marketers, we can't assume we have our Twitter bases covered if we aren't paying attention.
Twitter's World Series TV ad was all about attracting younger users, and that's one of new-CEO Jack Dorsey's strategies to grow the brand. The simple fact that Dorsey, a celebrity CEO, has stepped up to take charge marks a move in the right direction for Twitter, in my opinion. But beyond that, consider new features like Moments, which act like news streams. They have an expiration date so users' feeds don't get cluttered after that particular news event is over. This feature changes Twitter fundamentally and capitalizes on the platform's biggest strength, which is instant news and information.
Less dramatically, Twitter recently changed "favorites" to "likes" -- so the star changed to a heart. This seems minor, but I would argue that it's actually big news. It means that Twitter identified a feature of itself that people never quite understood and sought to correct it. Any social platform showing new signs of self-awareness is one to watch.
I will rethink what I know about video ads, too.
Yeah, video ads are important, on the rise, yada yada. You already know this. But in 2016, things are going to get wild. Some industry observers are pretty sure Google is going to upend traditional search marketing (again) with the introduction of video-based advertisements in search. Google won't be the first, but it could end up being the most important as it relates to reinforcing the importance of video ad budgets. Regardless, you're going to continue to see video ad options emerge where none existed before, and if you move quickly enough, your results with test campaigns in these new outlets can benefit from the novelty wave.
I'll adapt my SEO to the new ways people are searching.
Specifically, more and more people are searching with their voices. That's a trend that doesn't get terribly much attention, but it's one that could dramatically change search marketing. As spoken queries become longer and more conversational, your "long tail" content marketing strategy is more important than ever.
I will automate something new.
I don't care what it is. But find at least one thing in your professional life that sucks up your time and figure out a way to automate it. A weekly metrics report, an email reply you feel like you give 10 times a day, weekly reminders to team members that their project updates are due -- anything.
Can't come up with something? Automate something in your personal life. Do you buy a bag of pretzels every week (because pretzels are delicious)? Subscribe to that shit on Amazon and save yourself a walk down the snack aisle.
I will use the time I saved by automating something new to be a better leader to my team.
Hug an employee. Unless your HR director frowns on that, in which case, give them a high-five. No matter how attentive a team leader you think you are, you know you can do better. Thank someone for making your job easier. Compliment someone on a well-written email. Show just 1 percent more appreciation to the people who really move your organization, and they will unconsciously reward you by pouring 10 percent more enthusiasm into their work. And everyone is happier.
Drew Hubbard is a social media and content marketing specialist.
"Worker covering his face with 2016" image via iStock.