Another new year is upon us, and 2017 promises to bring an ever-increasing number of social media developments that’ll reshape how you do business online. Developing an integrated digital presence is no longer a nice-to-have — it’s standard operating procedure. To help marketers stay abreast of emerging technologies and tools, we’ve put together a list of five digital marketing trends to watch in 2017.
1. Social video matures.
Social video was 2016’s big winner, but it’s no passing fad. At least 100 million hours of video are watched on Facebook every day1, and users are viewing 10 billion videos per day on Snapchat2.
As the format evolves this year, we’ll see an emphasis on real-time, hyper-relevant content. Lest they fall victim to the video fatigue of their audience, brands will be forced to become better digital storytellers and should also begin experimenting with expiring content and immersive shooting styles (e.g., POV, circular or 360-degree). Similarly, expect additional location-based augmented reality games, like Pokémon GO, to attract attention.
Just as Facebook now favors videos in the News Feed, live broadcasts and ephemeral content will be awarded preferential positioning across networks. Watch for Snapchat to cash in on this trend by expanding its ad options.
2. Brands continue to consolidate in light of redundancy.
As the digital behemoths continue to grow, they’re faced with a conundrum: How do they both stay relevant with their core product and expand their domination of the interwebz? For many, the answer lies in acquisitions, such as Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in 2012 or Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn this past year. If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em, right? For others, it means tasking developers with “adopting” their competitors’ touted features — such as Facebook’s foray into the news world with its Trending Stories amid Twitter’s proposed shift to being “the people’s news network.” If you can’t buy ’em, then destroy ’em.
Slews of small apps — many focused on a one-to-one conversation model — will launch, as always, but additional, more established platforms will also shut down in the tussle, as Vine did. Expect to see even more competition for a stranglehold of popular features, as we’ve experienced this year with Instagram Stories and Direct, Snapchat Memories and masks within Facebook Live.
3. Data drives business decisions.
Marketers love to complain about the difficulty of measuring social media’s ROI. “It’s like trying to assess the worth of your logo!” we lament. That era is coming to a close.
Robust but cost-effective analytics are readily available to the average brand, increasingly on the native platforms themselves. With that comes the ability to collect, analyze and act upon large data sets like never before — and, by extension, more accurately measure how social impressions drive sales offline. While 2016 signaled a shift in focus from vanity metrics (e.g., impressions) to engagement outcomes, 2017 ought to deepen the attribution conversation by demanding the measurement of audience, brand and sales outcomes as well.
4. Personalization guides — and automation enables — the humanizing of digital marketing.
Given this advancement in analytics, brands now have constantly updating, rich data sets from which they can mine the interests, interactions, influence and intent of their fans. Marketers must use this data to tailor their messaging — not just to the platform but also to the individual — with precision targeting. Relevance is the key to sales enablement: You must create a dynamic, authentic brand experience to cut through the noise. To do so, prioritize meeting the needs of prospects at every stage of your customer journey, using conversion pixels, Custom and Lookalike Audiences and trigger email broadcasts, at minimum.
More broadly, the integration and refinement of artificial intelligence and “machine learning” will continue to cause headaches, such as this year’s switch from a chronological to algorithmic feed on Instagram and Facebook’s news controversy, while simultaneously offering astounding insight into consumer behavior.
Speaking of AI, chat bots will establish a new kind of engagement. You’re no longer limited to only one-to-one or one-to-many; instead, you introduce person-to-brand. While some applications of the technology are kitschy (Miss Piggy, what is the meaning of life?), business applications include helping users shop for shoes, schedule appointments or order takeout. For the business, that equals scalability. For the consumer, that equals immediacy.
5. Native advertising and influencer marketing gain traction.
Social media marketing will continue to blur the line between personal use and e-commerce, changing the way we shop. What’s inconvenient for marketers is that this creates pressure to develop destinations and experiences for prospects; displaying a catalog of objects is no longer distinguishing or compelling. The good news, though, is that a comprehensive, integrated digital experience reduces friction on the path to purchase. As the ad space gets more competitive and brands fight to stand out in noisy social feeds, look to experiment with native advertising and influencer marketing as opportunities to impact content consumption and sharing.
In terms of native advertising, you’ll see the application of the old-school product placement strategy in digital content. They’ll try to get their books featured on Hank Green’s bookshelf or their food eaten by Miranda Sings.
Still, though, you don’t just want eyeballs — you want qualified eyeballs. Let’s say a stationary company, for instance, collaborates with a celebrity with 2 million followers. Yes, they can reach a large audience, but what percentage of that audience is actually interested in their products? They’d probably see more success engaging a core group of 25 calligraphers in sponsorships whose vast majority of followers are likely prospects. Move over, Kylie Jenner.
The best marketers have three things in common: They react quickly, they aren’t afraid to try something new, and they hold a deep understanding of their target audience. With that in mind, how do you plan to integrate these trends into your 2017 marketing plan? Share your ideas in the comments below.