5294747832_fd9d5f7641_mConsumer-driven marketing trends dominated 2015 – and will continue to do so in 2016, but not in the way you might think. “Marketing” to consumers will not cut it, no matter how much you fine-tune those personas.

Content, the deposed King, is still a member of the Marketing Tactics Court, but its battle to remain there is fierce. Consumer, the new King, has a very short attention span, and correspondingly little patience for content – unless it’s directly relevant to them right now, “in the moment”.

Marketing campaigns now live and die based on momentary consumer whim that changes instant by instant. So accurately understanding your target consumers’ sentiment, passion, focus, predilections, actions (in short, how they are responding to the world right now) at near real time speed as it changes, is critical to survival.

In 2016, we’ll all need to be keenly aware of how this looks – and of ways to keep pace with it.

Multi-dimensional consumer view

Enterprises have become savvy participants in the social space this year, and understand the need to possess a sophisticated, holistic view of their target audiences. The most successful among them are using social analytics tools to:

  • Identify, then pinpoint consumer segments beyond demographics
  • Obtain a near real time, 360-degree view of multiple, narrowly-focused audiences
  • Deliver a customized and highly-personalized “conversational” marketing approach
  • Pivot marketing programs of all sorts in response to new information in near real-time

We saw this with Taco Bell, who used our Audience 3D™ product to launch their new app. From a vast audience of 3.5M people on Twitter they discovered 90 feel-alike/do-alike segments. And by engaging them with narrowly targeted messaging, they extended their campaign reach by 4X.

But the journey is far from complete. Brands and marketers must continue to evolve, as the businesses we’ll see booming in three years have not only embraced advanced, near real-time analytics to power their day-to-day operations, they are also keeping a close eye on internal and external innovation. To do this, accurate information combined with appropriate visualizations are key.

Visualizations powering operations

Where accurate, near real-time pertinent visualizations and operational business knowledge meet, companies can constantly create in-the-moment marketing opportunities, enterprise-wide alignment – and impactful action. And execs in decision-making positions with access to this information are powering it.

Social analytics is set to offer increasingly effective creative marketing opportunities for the agile enterprise:  Businesses that trust the insight their data offers, for example, will tweak marketing strategies in response to real-time consumer data literally as it happens. And they’ll pivot to capture unexpected opportunities and avoid unforeseen pitfalls ahead of the competition.

It’s happening already. Brands around the world have been capitalizing on Star Wars fever, by looking past misconceived assumptions, and believing what the social data tells them: The Star Wars audience is both age- and gender-agnostic, and more powerful than they could have imagined . . . without social insights telling them so.

Audience visualizations have transitioned away from PowerPoint (thankfully) to real-time dashboards – almost seamlessly. Savvy enterprises use these visualizations to shape consumer conversation ahead of crises – and also to communicate ROI. That previously fuzzy metric is now both provable and measurable with quantifiable analytics that create stunning marketing communication that aligns whole companies.

The tools to create these are equally impressive. Steep learning curves for tools are no longer acceptable. Offering a variety of sophisticated tracking options capable of drilling down to a granular level and capturing it all in intuitive dashboards poses a challenge. And it’s one we’ll see solved in the coming year, particularly as many analytics firms are already delivering initial versions of these.

But beyond all of this, the true test is still to come.

Deciphering Big Data

The tendency with Big Data though has been to both over-obsess and under-plan. BIG, Big Data is the sleeping giant who just started to wake up in 2015.

Analysis of Big Data will move beyond near real-time and even in-the-moment insight, to predictive capabilities. And sentiment, passion and activity analysis will remain on the cutting edge of this understanding, offering consumer insight and creating unlikely connections that brands would otherwise miss.

This analysis will herald the dawn of the next generation of smart analytics, a true AI-supported option that combines unstructured data streams with real-time social data and creates a level of personalization, at scale, that we’ve only seen in SciFi movies.

The most awesome brands of 2015 have proven the value of intelligent social listening. By being highly selective in the social analytic tools they are using, brands have taken a page from the consumers’ playbook and are demanding advanced capabilities. In 2016, only the top listening tools will survive. Choose wisely.

Image from Sarah Connors