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The Digital Communications Hype Cycle 2019

Which comms tech are hype or here?

Last year I put together the Digital Communications Hype Cycle using the hype cycle model by analyst firm, Gartner.

The Digital Communications Hype Cycle aims to showcase where which digital comms are on the adoption curve.

It includes both the emerging and established tech, tools and platforms in digital communications and their current place within the ecosystem. Or, rather, my perception of where they currently place within the ecosystem.

Usage of communication technology is often cyclical. What works today may not work next year and vice versa. In other words, it’s in a constant state of flux.

The Digital Communications Hype Cycle has no affiliation with Gartner Inc and I don’t claim any connection to the firm. The hype cycle model has been used purely for illustration purposes.

Caveat: This is a hugely subjective area and rates of adoption differ depending on industry and company. I make no claims about its accuracy.

You can find the chart below and below that is my short commentary on each one. Any feedback, good and back, is appreciated.

digital communications hype cycle
Click for a higher resolution

AI: There is a lot of discussion and predictions around artificial intelligence within the communications industry but not many real examples of it being used. It also needs clarification as to what the definition of A.I is. Is it machine learning? Algorithms? Or something more ‘intelligent’?

AR: Another technology that has received a lot of discussions but other than Pokémon Go there have been very little by way of practical examples. Magic Leap is still yet to launch despite being announced in 2010.

Automation: Many social networks like Facebook and Twitter are beginning to thwart the use of bots and automation tools particularly after 2016. Consumers increasingly want more personalisation which automation struggles with. Automation may come in useful for streamlining workflow but when it comes to engaging people want real people.

Blogging: In an era where social networks come and go, blogging has stood the test of time. If you’re starting a blog today understand that it could still be going strong in ten years time. Can you say the same about any social network? That said, growing a blog will take a long time so you have to have both patience and something valuable worth saying.

Chatbots: Once lauded for their exceptionally high open rates, chatbots have taken a bit of a backseat as more people and companies kill their own. Do consumers really want to talk to a chatbot all day?

Engagement: Does engagement as a metric really matter anymore? What matters is the business objectives not how many people tapped a like button or made a one word comment. Increasingly engagement is seen as nothing more than a vanity metric when real business results count.

Facebook groups: Mark Zuckerberg has gone on record to say he is focussing on creating close-knit communities using Facebook groups and supporting people to create their own within the group platform. We’ve seen Facebook pivot before so Zuckerberg’s words are usually not set in stone.

Facebook pages: When organic reach is almost zero, some people are questioning whether it’s worth having a business page at all these days. While this is true, Facebook could still revamp the page experience for the 60 million active pages still on it.

Growth hacking: “Growth hackers are the new marketers” some used to proclaim and while they do have tech and data skills that put most comms people to shame, most lack the experience of marketing and communications. Most ‘growth hacks’ like scraping and automation generally stop working as the social networks become wise to them.

Influencer marketing: The hype continues to grow around influencer marketing as more influencer marketing platforms are introduced and as more brands invest in it. Has it reached its peak? Not yet but already there are growing pains around influencer fraud and ROI.

Instagram: Still the darling of consumer social media since 2016 and the platform of choice for social media influencers and Instagram influencer marketers. While the Facebook-owned Instagram will continue its meteoric rise for the foreseeable future there may be some bumps along the way.

LinkedIn: For most people, LinkedIn was nothing more than a glorified online resume. Now, however, it’s a powerful (and the only) B2B networking platform that can land you a new job and connect you with new clients and suppliers in a few clicks. Expect better quality content to be created for the LinkedIn platform.

Live video: Facebook pushed it heavily and even said the Facebook algorithm would prioritise it but live video across all platforms hasn’t been as popular as initially anticipated. The issue is there are limited situations where live video is better than the pre-recorded kind.

Messenger: Once lauded as the evolution of chatbots, Messenger works much the same as the other Facebook-owned messaging app, WhatsApp. It’s probably why Facebook is considering integrating it with WhatsApp and Instagram messaging.

Native Advertising: Once considered the saviour of advertising until it was realised that it’s not scalable. But when a brand can be part of the story it’s still a powerful way to advertise.

Newsfeed: Is the newsfeed almost dead? Perhaps. Stories are now where the action is at with the newsfeed being a bit of a relic from the past. It will continue to have a use but will be nowhere near as powerful as it once was.

Newsletters: Both the open rate and click-through rate on newsletters have decreased over the years but there is still a lot of value in owning an email list including not being at the whims of the social networks with them.

Paid social: Facebook ran out of ad inventory two years ago and prices have risen steadily since. What was once considered cheap and a good deal is becoming increasingly expensive and competitive.

Podcasts: We’re in the second era of podcasting (the first one being in the mid-noughties) and everyone is creating them and therein lies the problem. There has been an over-saturation of podcast shows and not enough listeners but now the cream is beginning to rise to the top as many podcasters are beginning to professionalise with advertising.

Push notifications: Most websites you land on have the push notification acceptance box. The problem is most people accept them without understanding that they’ll be notified in their browser each time the site is updated. Users will grow wary of them.

SEO: SEO is a long-term play and has taken a back seat to the more sexy and immediate social media in recent years. That’s beginning to change however as communications professionals understand that good SEO can last for years unlike social which is fleeting.

Snapchat: Ever since Instagram copied Snapchat’s features and after a redesign disaster user numbers have tanked. It’s a trend that looks set to continue and it’s still unclear whether Snapchat will survive in the long-term.

Stories: Ephemeral stories on Instagram and now Facebook have blown up. Instagram recently announced that 500 million people use stories every day, up from 400 million in June 2018. Expect to see a lot more growth in this area with an emphasis on monetising them.

TikTok: The new kid on the block and massively popular with Gen Z. In December alone it added 75 million new users. Want to watch as it rises.

Twitter: It’s had a battering in recent years but Twitter seems to be on the up and is now consistently profitable. While it’s still a fairly niche platform, if you’re in the business of politics and media you can’t not use Twitter.

YouTube: Growing a YouTube channel in 2019 is difficult. There is simply too much content and competition to compete. On top of this, YouTubers are unhappy that many of their videos are being demonetised. While the platform is great for a viewer it’s not so good anymore as a content creator.

Viral Content: ‘Going viral’ is almost impossible in this post-clickbait era where the social networks have tightened their algorithms and prefer you to stay on their platforms rather than leave.

Voice: Voice is predicted to be the next evolution of search engine optimisation. Instead of tapping a search in our keyboard we’ll speak it into our Echos and Siris though I’m not so sure. Jury still out on this one.

Virtual reality: VR has a lot of promise and the experience of wearing a VR headset is like no other but for now the processing power still isn’t ready yet. Will it be big? For sure. When will it be big? Not yet.

WhatsApp: With over one billion users, business accounts rolling out and with terrifically high open rates, WhatsApp could be the next communication tool for organisations large and small.


Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

Written by Ste Davies

Ste is a digital strategist. You can work with Ste or contact him here.

2 Comments

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  1. Could you please classify the subjects to me as tech, tool and/or platform? as i do reserach in this area and i want to understand the differences between all those topics.

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