Top PR & Social Media Trends for 2013

Here are 6 big trends set to shape PR, marketing and brand communications in the year ahead.

1. Personalisation

If there’s one keyword for communications in 2013, it’s personalisation. This is not just about customisable product options or dialogue-driven social media streams but real one-to-one communications thanks to the mass generation of sophisticated measurable data that is now available.

What does this mean? that communications can offer relevant content delivered to the right target audience, increasingly in real time. It’s about being more precise with messaging off the back of greater understanding of who your consumers are, what they’re looking at, where they’re going and ultimately what they want.

A recent study by Accenture states that; 61% of shoppers say they’d swap privacy for personalisation, and this is the year to jump on that. Add other words like “mobile” and “context” and it’s a trend that feeds through all of the rest of this 2013 list too.

Burberry is an example of a brand already experimenting with personalisation. It sent personalised invitations to consumers for them to watch its spring/summer 2013 show, then embedded a panel of their Facebook friends alongside the live stream to encourage further sharing. Expect more of this to follow, but with greater focus on automation, behaviour triggers and ever-increasing real-time relevancy.


2. Social sophistication

In 2013 consumer engagement via the social space is likely to be more sophistacted than ever before.  The rise of sites like Pinterest and Instagram over the past year, not to mention Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have all heavily impacted every industry. There are still some who are lagging behind, but there is no doubt those who are not engaging within the social space by the end of 2013 will be missing out.

It is expected that this will be the year that social media is met with greater consideration from the boardroom (if it’s not already), alongside the more experimental approach that’s often taken. That’s not to say spontaneity will be by any means irrelevant, but that content strategy will be fine-tuned across the platforms that actually achieve results.

For some that might mean streamlining social presence, for others it will be about treating each platform more distinctly. This will not only maximise scale but enable meaningful brand KPIs (key performance indicators). Either way, integration will be the keyword in this space as social gets increasingly weaved throughout the user experience, across web, email and mobile channels, as well as in-store. The result will see more effective campaigns with higher engagement and longer-term consumer loyalty.

3. Big data

Behind the increasing call for personalisation is of course the data that enables it. As insight and analysis becomes more cost-efficient, not to mention more sophisticated, companies are gaining deeper understanding of how their consumers engage across all touch points. No longer is the term “big data” just about volumes of numbers and statistics, but details that can actually be tied to individuals.

The amount of global digital information created and shared grew nine fold to nearly two zettabytes (that’s two trillion gigabytes) in the five years to 2011, according to market intelligence firm IDC. That figure is expected to be just shy of four zettabytes in 2013, and nearly eight zettabytes in 2015. 2013 looks set to be the year companies figure out what to actually do with the information, and accordingly place it more centrally in their communications strategies.

The focus therefore is on process and action, and due to newer technologies, on real-time responses too.

4. Real-time bidding

Data is also enabling greater audience targeting and automated (or programmatic) buying of online display ads. Known as real-time bidding (RTB). This is where ad impressions are bought and sold one at a time, based on the user and their browser, and within the time it takes to click on a page. The result creates an efficient and important way to create relevancy for consumers.

In other words, marketers such as Amazon and eBay (both big users of RTB already), are no longer just buying banners on specific sites but targeting consumers across the internet based on their profiles and behaviours. It’s about personalisation and scale again.

Backing from both media buyers and publishers (including Facebook with its new ad exchange, FBX), is leading to enormous growth. According to a report from eMarketer, RTB accounted for 13% of all US display advertising spend in 2013, more than triple that of 2010, and a 98% increase on 2011. Growth for

2013 is expected at 72.4%. By 2015, it will account for a quarter of the display market in the US. The inclusion of mobile and video in this space is also expected to significantly increase spend.

5. Pictures

The rise of infographics, photo sharing, and visual storytelling will push PR pros and their clients to deploy messages visually in order to compete in a crowded content market. All Things D reported that in August, smartphone users spent more time on Instagram than on Twitter for the first time since Instagram launched in 2010. This is indicative of a broader shift toward visual content in the digital space. As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words”; more important, it might also be worth your customer’s attention.

6. Reputation and Crisis Management

As everything social grows, crisis management and online reputation management are key areas of focus for business. The past year was riddled with examples of organisations/businesses with no clue on how to conduct themselves during a crisis situation. Reputation and crisis management is not new, but with brands adopting social media as a large part of their communication with customers and audiences, corporate mishaps that could once be hidden or buried on the back pages of newspapers, can now trend as hashtags on Twitter.

A lack of preparedness and a propensity to outsource scheduled, canned social media posts can land a business/organisation in very hot water. Handle your brand with care. People expect businesses/brands to have a handle on the temperature of topics affecting popular culture. If high profile events have caused distress or irreparable harm, people do not want to see brands ignorant or unaware of current affairs. Nor do people want to see brands trying to capitalize on vulnerable parties. Empathy and sensitivity are proving essential for smart brands going the distance these days.

What about you?

Are any of these trends among your communications plans for 2013? Is your current website, blog or online store able to be viewed on mobile platforms?
Have you secured your Instragram name and account? Do you have a crisis communications plan?

Have you got any examples of brands already promoting their brand or service in a personalised way?
Are you still ignoring Twitter and hope it will go away?
What trend intrigues you and how can you tap into that in 2013 that grows your business?
Look forward to hearing your stories in the comments below.


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