Over the years we have seen a lot of online trends come and go, and the last year has been no exception. So I thought it would be good to look at some of the recent trends that came into fashion, got popular, and then failed at some level. It is important to note that these technologies are not intrinsically bad, but when they became a fad the hype led to poor application and wrong thinking.
With the rise of mobile, it seemed everyone thought they needed an app a few years ago. While apps are required for certain functions, for most companies an app is a needless expense that does nothing for engagement. And they are platform-specific, so if you go down that road you have to have different apps for iPhone, Android and Windows phone support. A better solution for most clients is to create mobile-friendly websites that are much more universal than apps, and are just part of your normal online user experience. And with HTML 5 and other technologies, mobile sites can be very app-like in their functionality.
Brands are always looking at ways to engage their customers, and social media sure seems like a great way to do that. And that is completely true – social media is a fantastic channel for the right brand and the right engagement. But is just that, and only that – a channel. Instead, think about providing value to your audience through the creation of interesting, useful content and meaningful engagements. Social media could certainly be a huge part of that, but it in and of itself is not a successful strategy.
Of course search engine optimization is vitally important to online brands. But many SEO firms have sold services designed to “game” the system through tricks and shortcuts, and charged big money to boot. Those techniques don’t work in the long run, and can even kill your SEO results if you break the rules. Fortunately, marketers have become savvier about what gets good results in the search engines. Good, solid SEO is not magic, and there is no secret process that gets long-term gains. The best SEO is strategic and analytical, uses good content to attract an audience, and straightforward techniques for developing traffic through engagement and proper link building tactics. It’s hard work, but it pays off.
Facebook promoted the idea that sharing should be frictionless — in other words your online activities should be just automatically shared with your network. This is an annoying trend that has given rise to meaningless posts about what you are listening to and what you are reading, as if someone cares. While making sharing easy is terrific, making it thoughtless also makes it meaningless. The value springs from the effort it takes to decide something is important enough to share. Without that, sharing becomes noise.
Counting your “likes” and “follows” on Facebook and other social media is closely related to the old goal of getting your page hit counter numbers up. And to some extent this is a valid stat. However, when marketers beg and pander to drive up their engagement metrics, it’s just noise. Contests, surveys, and funny videos can drive your “talking about” metrics, but unless it has some relevance to your brand it doesn’t do anything to promote it. The goal isn’t to get likes, it is to build your business.
If there is a common thread about all of these trends that jumped the shark it is this – meaningful engagement. All of the mistakes I’ve listed are, at the core, misguided attempts to drive traffic without providing real value.