This article first appeared on Inc.com.
As 2015 comes to an end, organizations are taking a look back at the year and planning for the next one. When it comes to business planning, much of the blueprint for success for 2016 is in the top trends, successes and failures of the past year. Below is your guide to successful planning for 2016, with a special emphasis on social media and content marketing to start if off.
Hone your social initiatives and content
The past year has shown that it is even more difficult to grasp the attention of target audiences–and even harder to keep it. There are two important ways that companies should plan for this in the upcoming year.
One way is to focus on improving the quality of content. Content needs to be more interactive and relevant to audiences. There are thousands of other organizations vying for their attention, so it is up to companies to outshine the competition. Visual content is crucial to engaging audiences, especially video. For example, the average person will spend 88 percent more time on a website that has videos than one without.
Secondly, it is more important to have strong social communities than dozens of mediocre initiatives. I always recommend having at least one social presence that you truly enjoy and which sees strong engagement with the community. I have found this to be much more effective than spreading yourself thin on the many networks, without making much of a connection on any of them.
Thirdly, more social networks are shifting to the “pay-to-play” model. Networks like Facebook and Twitter have gone through several algorithm changes in the last several months, making it even more difficult for companies to reach audiences. They want your ad dollars because they have shareholders to please.
Average Facebook posts only reach about 16 percent of their audience. Improving content quality and defining social initiatives are tried-and-true ways for companies to enhance their marketing efforts.
Improve your customer experience
In the past year, the walls between brick-and-mortar businesses and their digital counterparts kept falling. In order to be successful in 2016, companies will need to further improve their customer experience. According to Accenture, improving the customer experience is the number one priority for businesses in the next 12 months.
For many consumers, a better experience means having personalized options and flexibility. Not only do more consumers expect to have mobile and online options, but they want those channels to be integrated seamlessly with their in-store experiences.
From the beginning to the end of the customer journey, businesses need to take steps to shape it into a positive one. This means devoting more resources to personalizing efforts and communicating with customers on multiple channels.
Value your employees
Amidst an ongoing battle to keep employees interested, 2015 was full of initiatives to engage the workforce. One report from Deloitte says that employee engagement was the top challenge facing companies in 2015.
One thing to keep in mind as you discuss this issue is to think about your company mission. Is it something that employees know, understand and can get behind? More and more I hear from people that they want to work for a company or product with a mission they can believe in. If not, you may be at risk for high turnover in the new year.
One of the keys to engaging employees is to find out what they value most. Once organizations know what their workforce values, they can develop smart, personalized engagement initiatives. In 2016, organizations will take these initiatives even further by developing more defined methods to track how they are affecting key performance indicators.
Mobile is a necessity
Mobile efforts will determine the success or failure of businesses in the coming years. According to Google, there are now more searches on mobile devices than desktops. Gartner says that a tablet or a smartphone will be the first go-to device for all online activities by 2018. What does this mean for businesses?
Businesses need to plan for a workforce that will be increasingly mobile, but they also need to change the way that they communicate with audiences. Since more people prefer mobile options, organizations need to focus on them.
The staff over at Google has also continued to adjust their search algorithm, further increasing the value of sites that are mobile-friendly. This has had the effect of forcing more sites to offer mobile. Organizations that do not plan for a mobile 2016 will set themselves up for failure.
Planning for the next year will require organizations to reflect on the challenges and trends from 2015. For most companies, mobility, employee engagement, content and customer experience will play a strong role in their planning meetings.