In a year characterised by ‘fake news’, filter bubbles and the demise of the ‘expert’, and in which events have proven that the disconnect between what the ‘mainstream media’ and comms professionals think and what the public actually do is greater than ever, what can we learn from 2016 and what can we predict for 2017?
The first learning, surely, is that predictions are a mug’s game and we should probably steer clear of them (you hear me pollsters?). The second, however, is that there is only one game in town when it comes to getting a story out there and into the public gaze – Facebook, which this year grew to the point where one in four people on the planet are users, is THE media gatekeeper of the 21st Century.
It has never been easier to publish one’s thoughts online – from using Medium to build a personal brand as one might have done with a blog a decade ago, to firing off Tweetstorms about the latest contentious issue, to recording yourself on YouTube or Periscope or Instagram Stories or Snapchat or any of the other seemingly infinite platforms.
Getting those thoughts seen, though? Considerably harder. Twitter is great for exposure, but drives no traffic (ask any large-scale publisher about the differentials in readers coming from Twitter vs Facebook), getting picked up by an online national helps…but who visits newspaper website homepages these days to browse around (answer: not many people)?
You want people to see a story or watch a video? You need Facebook to drive numbers, and if you need Facebook you need paid-promotion – there’s no such thing as organic virality anymore for publishers and brands, or even organic reach. Sorry.
What this means for Comms is a complicated series of recalibrations. All campaigns can and should have paid promotion put behind them if they are going to scale; this applies not just to Facebook but to any and all social activity. When considering campaign planning, we now need to factor in which sites get the largest number of likes and shares on their Facebook posts – which means considering media we may never have previously thought of as being vital to a campaign’s reach (Ladbible, anyone?). Not least, there’s been a shift back to a gatekeeper model of communications – the idea of a new, intimate communications landscape with brands and consumers in happy, unfettered dialogue has been neatly debunked by the Facebook pay-to-play model.
This is not to say that content and self-publishing for brands are no longer important – quite the reverse. It is simply that rather than the long-stated and oh-so-stale canard that ‘content is king’, any effective communications setup needs to focus equally on distribution if it is going to achieve cut-through; meaning intelligent, data-driven media planning is more than ever a core part of the reputation management landscape.
This article featured in the December 2016 issue of the Lansons quarterly newsletter. You can sign up here.