Digital marketing trends to watch for in 2018

2018 digital marketing trends

As December rolls around each year, you probably set aside some time to reflect on your wins and failures for the year. (We sure do.) It seems like there’s a new platform, tool or technique launched every day that you absolutely must have/buy/do, so taking a hard look at your digital marketing plan should be on every business owner’s to-do list this month.

To help you cut through the noise and plan effectively, we’ve compiled our annual list of predictions to help you prepare for the challenges and opportunities small business marketers will face in 2018.

Trend 01: Video reaches saturation.

Video has been all the rage for about two years now, and it’s not going anywhere. That’s no surprise; video has proven to be an excellent way to communicate your value proposition and build relationships with customers and prospects alike. Fortunately, while we’ll reach saturation in volume this year, there’s still plenty of potential to capitalize on video’s benefits.

With the integration of augmented and virtual reality to the video mix, we’re in for even more captivating content in 2018. Look for brands to continue experimenting with shoppable videos that feature swipe-to-buy CTAs, helping them collect leads and drive conversions. Live-streaming, 360-degree video and personalized video will also increase in popularity.

What does this trend mean for small business marketers?

The demand for video content only continues to increase. By 2020, online video will account for more than 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic. So, if you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon or don’t (yet) feel comfortable in front of the camera, use 2018 to catch up.

Doing video is a far cry from doing video well, and this is where the opportunity lies. Your audio quality and camera focus must be satisfactory, but forget about the fancy production process. Engage your customers with storytelling — raw, real and authentic. Beyond standard product demos or explainer videos, try broadcasting via Facebook Live or adding videos to your Instagram Stories.

Trend 02: Facebook advertising costs increases.

The heyday of cheap Facebook advertising is coming to a close. The Newsfeed is now oversaturated with content from businesses, leaving organic reach at an all-time low and the ad space more competitive. Like Google before it, Facebook will likely offset declining ad impressions with higher prices over the next several years. And, given the 1.37 billion daily active users on the platform, business owners will have to (begrudgingly) knuckle under.

For their part, though, Facebook still offers excellent value for smart advertisers. With staggering geographic, demographic and interest data at its disposal, Facebook’s custom-targeting options remain second-to-none. Look for them to push Instagram and Messenger ads and experiment more with video pre- and mid-roll ads this year to keep you forking over your advertising dollars.

What does this trend mean for small business marketers?

Budgeting for social advertising remains a major hurdle for small businesses. Let us repeat: Simply boosting your posts is not a profitable advertising strategy. As Facebook ads become more competitive, business owners will need to create full-funnel campaigns with intention.

By all means, use an ad to send prospects to your menu — but don’t just dump traffic on your website. Once they’re there, prompt visitors to order online or offer them a deal in exchange for their email address.

Lead forms are great! But a lead who’s not ready to buy today shouldn’t just sit around, collecting dust. Support your lead-gen efforts with an email drip campaign to nurture warm leads and guide them through the customer journey.

As such, social advertising is going to begin requiring more dedicated resources to maintain a positive ROI. Consider investing in in-house marketing talent, professional ad-management tools or outsourcing your advertising — even if you excel at your own content creation.

Trend 03: Brands are flocking to Instagram.

Over the past year, Instagram has seen exponential growth. With its deluge of new features, including Live Stories, multi-photo galleries, a paid partnership tool and polls, the app has attracted a massive user base, many of whom spend hours scrolling within the app per session.

Of course, businesses have begun exploring ways to engage these users and turn them into customers. In 2017, we saw jumps in the number of businesses using Instagram (25 million, as of November) and advertising on the platform (2 million, as of September).

This year, look for Instagram to continue their efforts to cater to businesses with more sophisticated advertising options. As Facebook exceeds its advertising capacity in the Newsfeed, businesses will turn to Instagram as the best alternative. We can only hope — fingers crossed! — that this revenue potential will incentivize Instagram to invest in upgrading their subpar business analytics.

What does this trend mean for small business marketers?

Your Instagram strategy should be two-pronged: build visibility and produce quality content. Several of Instagram’s moves in 2017 indicate they’re prioritizing content discovery, namely their switch to an algorithmic feed and their quiet feature tests of a native regram button and the ability to follow hashtags. Your follower count just isn’t worth what it used to be.

Instead, focus on engagement. Use advertising, hashtags and tags wisely to attract the right eyeballs and post content — organic and paid — that’ll stop users in their tracks. Instagram is perfect for connecting with users on the go and in the moment, but with an infinite stream of eye candy, you need give them a reason not to scroll right past you. It’s the only viable method of monetizing your efforts on the platform.

Trend 04: Influencer marketing is no longer just for big brands.

Audiences are experiencing advertising fatigue. Plus, as ad blockers rise in popularity and TV viewership continues to shift to streaming services, there are fewer opportunities to place traditional ads in front of prospects. So, what’s a business to do?

Many are turning to influencer marketing; its rise in 2017 served as proof of concept for marketers. Partnering with content producers lets you reach new audiences and comes with a powerful de facto recommendation from the influencer. Essentially, you’re formalizing the creation of social proof and user-generated content.

What does this trend mean for small business marketers?

For small businesses to succeed at influencer marketing, we suggest going local and niche. Kylie Jenner may be an excellent partner for international skincare brand Nivea, but she’s not the right fit for you. Micro-influencers, those with small but dedicated audiences, are key. Look at the content producer’s engagement — not reach — and audience fit, when searching for partnerships.

Start with loyal customers. Who’s already spreading the word about you to their sphere of influence? Reach out to formalize the relationship, making them a brand ambassador.

Trying to entice an influencer to come aboard? Communicate the value you provide them. A free meal at your restaurant? A free six-month membership to your gym? Lots of swag?


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