What’s Next for Digital Marketing in 2016? 4 Trends to Watch in the New Year

In about two weeks, we will be saying goodbye to 2015… But don’t get out the streamers and bubbly just yet. There is still a little time left before we ring in 2016––why not use it to start forming your digital strategy for the new year?

Below, we outline four trends that we see impacting digital marketers over the next 12 months. Keep these in mind as you’re celebrating the coming holidays… And maybe revisit them after the haze has worn off.

Where Marketers Will Be Spending: Social to Take Away from TV, Search

We all know that digital (specifically social) advertising has grown into a fierce competitor in the ad-spend arena. Even as recently as a few years ago, social media was barely a priority, its seemingly unquantifiable results too much of a pain point for many marketers to consider incorporating it into their strategies. Today tells a different story, with social networks taking in 18% of all US digital ad spending in 2015, and slated to represent 1 in 5 digital ad dollars in 2016.

So, we know that there will be more spend on social––but where are those ad dollars coming from? Social has been a bigger source for referrals than search, and there was even a SXSW presentation this year (maybe a few) that label search as a dying breed when it comes to discovery. However, the big shift that we’re looking at, for 2016 and beyond, is the move from TV to social. By 2019, eMarketer predicts that digital will outpace TV, taking the lion’s share of total media ad spending––see below.

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Advice for 2016: With budgets shifting and the pendulum moving further toward digital/social media, the already crowded space will become even more competitive. In addition to increasing spend to keep up with the trends, we recommend really drilling into your paid social strategy in the new year. Ensure that your ads are the best of the best so that they will have a chance to perform successfully and achieve optimal results.

Social Networks Building Momentum: Instagram, Snapchat, and More

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are generally thought to be the “Big 3” when it comes to social advertising. But with APIs opening for Pinterest and Instagram within the past year, that could easily change. As more users (and advertisers) permeate the space through avenues like Pinterest and Instagram, the atmosphere could change drastically. Instagram, for example, has grown to 400 million users this year, which is larger than either Twitter or Pinterest.

When Snapchat first came out, it’s doubtful that anyone expected it to come as far as it has. More than 60% of US smartphone users between age 13-34 are Snapchatters, and the app drives 5+ billion video views every day, according to U.S. census and internal data. Brands are starting to take advantage of the large, young audience at Snapchat’s fingertips, and even using the app to drive in-store sales.

Advice for 2016: If you haven’t already, we recommend incorporating Pinterest and Instagram into your digital strategy… but why stop there? Other rising social networks might have a place in your brand’s marketing dashboard. With standout apps like Snapchat coming out of the woodwork regularly, the new possibilities are endless.

More Than a Passing Phase: Influencer Marketing

As roadblocks like ad blockers and ad-averse consumers become more frequent, influencer marketing is a great way to infiltrate the news feeds of hard-to-reach users. This method uses word-of-mouth from high-profile social media users like celebrities (see three Pepsi-themed Instagram posts from Beyonce below), athletes, or super-users that people might trust more than information that comes directly from a brand. 

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“We really increased our influencer program in 2015, and going into 2016 we are likely to increase it even more,” says Nick Bianchi, AT&T’s Director of Social Media. “I think you’ll see more brands doing that as customers become adept at automatically blocking out ads and as platforms continue to increase the number of ads they deliver.”

Advice for 2016: Since only 14% of social media professionals worldwide don’t plan to use influencer marketing, it’s likely that you’ve already had some experience with it. Still, what about trying a different perspective in the coming year? Approach a new type of influencer, or, if possible, shift budget resources to try out a more high-profile celebrity.

What’s Next for Video: Live Streaming Continues to Grow

Video has been a frontrunner in social advertising for some time… but what’s next? It is clear now that users are receptive to branded video across most of the social channels, with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all incorporating autoplay video in their ads. What is the next frontier? We are seeing more and more brands incorporating live-streamed video into their strategies, whether it’s on Facebook’s “Live” stream, on Twitter’s Periscope, or a live story in Snapchat.

Spotify, General Electric, and Red Bull have all used Periscope to engage with their fans, with behind-the-scenes content like interviews and merchandise previews. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes even more mainstream for big brands. Once consumers “start to feel that there is this consistent environment where [livestream] video exists, and it’s reliable and engaging, then I think we’ll see it start to scale,” according to Mindshare’s Search & Social Director, Diana Gordon.

Advice for 2016: Live streaming has its more obvious uses––the events, the interviews, the deeper looks at brands and what goes on behind the scenes. Over the next few months, find some new ways to embrace the live streaming trend. Maybe you’re documenting a product launch, or maybe you want to give an insider’s look at your company with an Employee Takeover. Whatever the approach, try something new in 2016!


Of course, there is plenty more to look out for in the coming year—cross-device tracking, messaging apps, increased mobile commerce…Check back here for coverage on all of that and more in the new year.