2016 saw perhaps more convergence in social media channels than ever before:
Instagram adopted features previously unique to Snapchat, and Facebook began to come into its own as a legitimate competitor to YouTube with its video options.
Facebook Live emerged as a viable alternative to Twitter’s Periscope, even as Twitter announced it was discontinuing Vine (many of whose stars had already moved to Facebook).
With 2017 now upon us, here are 10 digital marketing trends to watch this year.
Digital Marketing Trends
1. Video is Paramount
Whereas the shift toward visual communications is now several years old, 2017 will be dominated by increasing video production. No longer does everyone have just a camera on their smartphone, but the also the ability to shoot and distribute decent-quality video in real-time.
Two telling statistics:
- 74 percent of all internet views in 2017 will be video.
- Facebook is heavily pushing video, trying to gain market share from Google’s YouTube, the current online leader.
2. Email Marketing is Still Effective
Despite the massive growth in social media channels over the past few years, the basics still matter – and email marketing is about as basic as it gets.
- Email marketing averages an ROI of $38 for every $1 spent.
- For 89 percent of marketers, email serves as the primary channel for lead generation.
These two statistics alone emphasize the advantage of regularly communicating with customers and prospects via email, as well as the need for organizations to nurture and grow their email lists.
3. Live Video is the Next Frontier
Last year saw the rise of Twitter’s Periscope for the live mobile video streaming. This year, Facebook Live has emerged as a legitimate competitor.
Facebook is betting so heavily on live video, that analysts say Facebook Live videos currently receive on average 40 times more views than traditional videos posted to the platform.
4. Google Is Shifting From “Top 10 Answers” to “Single Best”
For years, companies and marketers alike relied on the “front page” of Google as a goal for their SEO practices – that is, getting your content to “rank” in the first 10 answers that appear in Google.
That emphasis is changing however, as web consumers move from traditional desktops to mobile devices and, increasingly, to voice-activated ones.
This shift is profound, because it means as adoption of such voice-activated search engines as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Home increases, fewer people making Google queries will even be in front of a screen.
Instead, they may be jogging, driving, or multi-tasking in their living room when they need the quick answer to their question.
5. Rise of Voice Search
Part of the shift toward a “single best” answer for Google and Bing is the rise of Voice Search, through such platforms as Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Home.
The next big driver of Voice Search and the quest for “single best” answers will be the advent of connected cars. While driving, consumers are far more likely to want the answer to their question rather than a menu of the best possible answers.
A big takeaway here is to pay particular attention to the titles of your content, be it blog posts, videos, or even podcasts.
As Google shifts to finding the single best answer for queries, the content that most exactly matches the long-tail keywords in the query will have a distinct advantage over content with similar but less precise matches.
6. DIY Ethos
An overall theme of the conference was that the digital marketing landscape is changing so fast that even the best professionals are having trouble keeping up.
Consequently, advanced social media marketing is still a bit of the “Wild West,” where experimentation and iteration is encouraged and often rewarded with increased views and virality.
Along with this, though, is an emphasis on a rough, “Do-It Yourself” (DIY) look – where Vines and videos shot with hand-held smartphones are often as or more likely to achieve viral status as the highly-produced and designed videos of yesteryear.
This goes to the highly-touted principle of “authenticity” – that customers still value (and buy from) people, not brands. Rough cuts that show personality and entertain can have generate more emotional resonance than highly-produced, slick packages.
This DIY ethos also means there’s an increased emphasis on creativity and experimentation.
7. Rise of Augmented Reality
While Google Glass was discontinued before it achieved the tipping point of widespread adoption, augmented reality (or “AR”) reached mainstream acceptance this year through such applications as Snapchat Filters and Nintendo’s Pokémon Go game.
Here, AR refers to the overlay of a digital information layer in a user’s real-world surroundings.
What started as a simple Snapchat filter that overlays a user’s real-life photo will soon explode to hundreds of pieces of data that can be fed live directly into our devices.
The takeaway for content strategists is that content will only increase in digital complexity, with visual and interactive solutions (such as 3D maps or location-based information) slowly supplanting traditional desktop-based content like blogs.
8. Agile Content Marketing
A primary theme touched on by many speakers at Digital Summit DC was the need to embrace agile content marketing.
Essentially, because the arena digital and social media is changing so fast, even the world’s top experts can’t tell which content will go viral.
The answer, then, is to embrace short turnaround times and focus on quantity.
Many companies today spend weeks (or months) to perfect a single piece of “killer” content – like an e-book or a wonderfully-produced 4-minute video. They are then left with few options if that particular content falls flat.
Since it’s unlikely that any one piece of content will perform exceptionally well, the better alternative to produce lots of short content – blog posts, videos, Tweets, etc. quickly.
You can then measure what’s most popular or garners the most engagement and adjust accordingly.
9. Real-Time Marketing
Real-time marketing is becoming increasingly important, as this year alone events such as the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the 2016 presidential debates, and the first appearance of the Chicago Cubs in the World Series in more than a century provided new cultural moments shared throughout the country.
The savviest marketers will react accordingly, keenly attuned to ways to leverage these shared moments to reinforce the brand message.
The classic example of this was Oreo Cookies’ Tweet during the sudden blackout that occurred in the 2013 Super Bowl.
The difference between then and now is instead of just Twitter, we now have live video streaming available via channels such as Periscope and Facebook Live.
10. Results Takes Time
A continual challenge for marketers is in conveying to clients the relatively long timeline it takes for a properly-executed content strategy to begin to pay dividends and show a proper return on investment (ROI).
Effective digital marketing campaigns take a minimum of 6-9 months before results can be properly shown and measured.
As marketers, a key part of our job then, is in properly communicating this timeline and setting expectations to our clients at the outset, the better to define success.
While these are the top digital marketing trends I’ve observed for this year, are there any key ones you think I’ve missed?