Goodbye 2018: What the Year In Tech Could Teach Marketers and PR’s in 2019

When 2018 started, there was a great deal of confusion about what it could hold. Questions were everywhere, and while not many of them were truly answered, 2018 could hold lessons for marketers and PR’s who watched the tech front with intent interest.

Here are some of the biggest tech stories of 2018, and a look at what we can learn from them in the New Year:

1. Facebook: The King of Social, or More Fake News?

There’s no denying that it was an interesting year for Facebook. In no particular order: Zuckerberg went in front of Congress, to mixed reviews; FB wants to enter online dating; a report obtained by the Washington Post and released just before 2018 could end analyzed millions of online postings, showing the full extent of Russian meddling in the presidential election; and the online giant may be making moves into the cryptocurrency market.

Facebook faced enormous scrutiny for its handling of news. It was fair scrutiny, in light of sinking public trust in journalism, an America divided, and the apparent influence of a hostile foreign power. BUT despite all that, something interesting happened to Facebook: Ad revenue increased, and so did daily active users, according to the company’s 2018 report.

Beyond those inspiring statistics, there’s another one of note. According to Venturebeat, over 90% of the company’s advertising revenue now comes from mobile.

And with Facebook’s ownership of Instagram, running ads that see all corners of the internet has become, well, pretty easy. The lesson is this: Facebook has its problems, but those problems aren’t scaring away daily consumers. At least to this point, there’s no Facebook exodus, and consumers are on mobile scrolling away all the livelong day. Leverage that power, and use it for the good of your brand or business.

2. The Big “A” Acronyms Shoot for the Mainstream

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) were two huge components of tech discussion in 2018, and have been included on this list because each is likely to become part of the vocabulary of the modern marketer. These things are entirely different conceptually. They just both so happen to start with “A.”

Artificial intelligence is years short of the singularity, but 2018 witnessed as the technology made some inroads. Home speakers, like those made by Amazon and Google, were one of the year’s most popular Christmas gifts, but also of note is that AI doesn’t have to manifest physically, like a speaker with Siri in it.

Artificial intelligence belongs in the marketers’ handbook because it can impact so much of what you do in 2019, should you choose. Chatbots, intelligent lead generation, automatic personalization of marketing materials, and the list goes on. AI is easy to implement on some level, and as you witness its adoption, keep in mind what it can do for you.

Augmented Reality, the other “A” acronym, is a bit more untested. Besides the smashing (albeit brief) success of Pokémon Go, we haven’t seen a ton of other mainstream options highlighting the power of AR. But please, keep it on your radar, as it is almost unquestionably going to (eventually) remake “digital” product placement into AR product placement.

3. Fortnite and the Lessons of Free

You may not be expecting to see Fortnite in a roundup of some of the year’s biggest tech stories, but the fact is, it belongs here. Fortnite Battle Royale is a video game, wherein 100 players fight each other to the death. Its ascension to popular culture fame has been astonishing, but you’re likely wondering why I’m writing about it.

The wildly popular battle royale game mode in Fortnite is free to play. And at 80 million active users, there’s a lesson in there.

Marketers and PR’s have something to learn from Fortnite, in that the game developers are leaning primarily on the creation of an awesome product, and in a model not unfamiliar to anyone in media, they’re garnering revenue from other sources. In this instance, it’s skins for guns and characters, but the point remains.

One of our biggest charges as digital marketers and PR professionals is creating communities. Whether or not you choose to look at it that way, your charge in managing a social media account, or even working internally with brands is the creation of communities that work for your brand.

Fortnite is giving a pretty modern model of community building, by creating content its fans enjoy, releasing it for free, and then engaging them in the community aspect of the game. It’s that buy-in that ultimately motivates purchases. And in case you’re doubtful, don’t be: Nearly 70% of Fortnite players report to spending money on the game, and their average spend nears $100.

Cue the chorus: “But it’s free to play, dude!”

4. Honorable Mentions

Yanny vs. Laurel taught us that online viral videos can bring all of us together, if only for a day.

Elon Musk and “The Boring Company” showed us the side of new tech that appreciates things only for what they can do, and not the utility they may have. A hard lesson, but valuable.

Huawei entered the global mobile market in a huge way, showing that in fact, there’s room for others beyond Samsung and Apple.

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