Ten years ago, PR pros never dreamed of creating warping facial filters for Instagram Stories or geotargeting users with video on Facebook. But as technology evolves rapidly, so does the ability to enrich storytelling, and stop scrollers in their tracks.
Content will remain one of the most important strategies for brands to engage users and stand out from a media deluge. We reached out to several innovators to discuss brands' content strategies for 2020.
Instagram and Facebook continue to provide a unique, direct way of delivering messages.
“Brands should develop solid Instagram Stories strategies," says Kat Lapelosa, creative strategy supervisor at Praytell. "Now that the likes are gone from Instagram feed content, it's clear the more ephemeral posts will play a larger role. Facebook Story features and multi-platform integration also will become a bigger focus as a result."
Cameron Uganec, VP, marketing, at Later.com, notes that 'authenticity' remains more than a buzz word. “In terms of content, authenticity is everything," he says.
"In 2019, we saw 19 percent growth in caption length, which signals a rise in storytelling. Two years ago, in 2018, the average caption length on Instagram was 281 characters. This year it was 336." In 2020, captions will get even longer, to a projected 405 characters, he says, based on research from Later.com's report with Fohr.com.
Captions across all social media platforms traditionally were short. These shorter captions often outperformed in terms of engagement. "That’s not the case today with Instagram, as the longest captions had the highest engagement percentage this year,"Uganec says. "We expect that trend to continue.”
Ashley Felts, VP of digital at Murphy O'Brien Public Relations, suggests moving away from a platform-first content approach and focusing on the customer journey.
"Content map across all key customer touch-points and maximize content exposure across all relevant channels," she says. "Pivot toward a more collaborative process, where all relevant agencies (PR, social, digital, SEO, SEM, creative) are working against one macro content strategy to drive ROI from each brand asset that is generated.”
Video will continue to grow on social platforms, even on sites you might least expect.
Justin Buchbinder, director of social media at Finn Partners, believes that video will become even more of a king in 2020.
"As social networks provide tools to their users to easily create videos, even the smallest of businesses will begin to dip their toes in the water," he says. "We’ll see an increase in consumer video use. Especially as there’s more pushback/disinterest in the perfect/flawless brand look."
Adds freelance filmmaker and content strategist Clancy Calkins, “People are hoping to expand into new forms of content, but video still isn't going anywhere."
"It's just becoming more bite-sized and accessible, and more consistent. FB and IG have been big for a while, but LinkedIn is starting to up its game. One thing you'll probably see in 2020 is native video posted to LinkedIn. Right now people are doing tons of links (which usually are hosted on FB or YouTube.) LinkedIn wants to change the algorithm so you're hosting/posting directly on the site.”
Nathan Burgess, editor and publisher of PRBreakfastClub, says we can't forget Tik Tok, which will shift its focus on video to higher quality output in 2020.
"Personal output (Instagram Live, Snapchat, long-form YouTube video/vlogs) is great, but not always of the 'theatrical’ nature that Tik Tok demands," he says. "Unfortunately, that means a bit less individual expression in the output as it's primarily been parody and pure entertainment."
Diverse voices producing content mean more ideas and unique storytelling perspectives.
“In 2019, we saw more women claim their power and more brands and newsrooms turning their attention to diversity, equity and inclusion," says Laura Brusca, VP, corporate communications at Forbes.
"As we look to a new decade, content creators and storytellers need to continue to tell stories from every point of view to ensure an equal representation of voices – from speakers at live events, choosing their sources and more. As communicators and PR practitioners, we should be thoughtful of ensuring that we’re guiding our clients as it relates to this. The voices we hear, images we choose, or leaders we champion should be top-of-mind always.”
As another divisive presidential election year builds, communicators will benefit from taking extra care to review their content strategies in relation to current events, whether or not brands wish to be a part of the conversation.
“One defining factor of 2020 content will be the U.S. elections," says Tyler Menzel, head of editorial at GIPHY.
"Memes and moments from the upcoming campaign trails, debates, and conventions will come at us fast and furious. Politics will take over entertainment's most reliable sources of GIFs, like Saturday Night Live and late night talk shows. Be prepared for plenty of parodies, remixes and mash-ups. (However), with the overwhelming amount of 'seriousness' in the culture, it wouldn't surprise me if there was a doubling down on humor as well."
“Since it’s an election year, you’ll see a lot of brands playing in the 'what brings us together' space," adds Bethany Evans, director digital marketing and loyalty at The North Face. "Which is good, as long as it’s sincere."