DigiStar Media CEO Robin Colner.
As the new year begins, I want to share with you my thoughts on the direction that digital and social media marketing will take in this year and provide you with practical tips on how to best leverage these trends to realize your business goals.
1. Incorporate live-streamed video in your communications while continuing to produce other forms of engaging content.
Live-streaming video will continue to be an area of focus and development for businesses and organizations. While you employ live video effectively, it is also important to create and share a variety of content formats that deliver value to your community of customers and fans.
Live video content works well when used to:
– Introduce new products and services with a buzz-worthy demonstration
– Provide tutorials on complex products and services
– Present real-time reactions and testimonials related to an event, announcement or speaking engagement
– Capture speaking engagements that can be repurposed and distributed through social media channels
– Offer behind-the-scenes, exclusive views of a business or event
– Highlight the culture of an organization
– Answer customer service requests
– Respond to a communications crisis
I expect to see individuals and businesses experiment with live-streaming video through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Periscope. Right now these platforms reward producers of this content by showing it to a higher percentage of followers. Facebook anticipates that a majority of content created for the platform will be video-based content within a few years.
However, don’t put all your eggs in the live-streaming video basket. Be sure to create a content marketing strategy that also includes long- form written content that can be repurposed and distributed through social media channels. Search engines and prospects still appreciate and use case studies, podcasts, blog posts, interactive infographics, and webinars to aid them in researching business providers and solutions.
2. All professionals, organizations and businesses should maintain and grow their current presence on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
The consolidation of social media channels began in 2016. As the pressure increases to monetize the traffic on existing platforms, the proliferation of new social media applications will decline. The most inventive and popular apps will be gobbled up by one of the big three sites. In fact, Facebook already owns five of the top 10 mobile applications: Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, What’sApp, and Facebook Groups.
Facebook has more than 10 initiatives in development to expand its reach into our online activities. These initiatives include Facebook at Work, Uber Connect, Facebook Professional Services Search, and Facebook Fundraising Tools. Ready or not, Facebook aims to become the digital hub to support the functions of our daily lives. Following its acquisition by Microsoft, LinkedIn is positioned to become the digital command center to support our professional lives. I expect that the features and data currently available at no charge on each site will soon have a fee associated with them.
3. Expand advertising on social media platforms to include A/B testing to get smarter about how to target the right message to the right person at the right time.
Marketing budgets will be adjusted to shift more dollars into remarketing and targeted advertising through social media sites. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter will continue to move businesses towards paid social media advertising by improving their targeting algorithms and access to third-party customer data. Location- based ad serving through mobile phones will also accelerate. As consumers, we can expect to be served ads within stores as well as when we travel on a street in order to motivate us to purchase something from a nearby vendor.
Note: Beware of hyper-targeting your social media advertising so that it sacrifices your ability to reach a larger customer market. Also, remember that Facebook’s data is not always reliable. Focus your advertising efforts on tracking actual conversions using a lead magnet offer.
4. Develop systems to capture and analyze customer data to improve marketing communications.
Data-driven decision making will become even more relevant during 2017. The retailers and service providers that spend resources on delivering a seamless, omni-channel, personalized experience to customers based on the capture and analysis of behavioral data will be the ultimate winners.
It will be important for all managers and marketers to not only capture data but to interpret it to improve their digital interactions with customers/clients as well as to fine-tune their content marketing efforts. Break-through “creative” that incorporates an element of surprise will be even more important in the upcoming marketing cycle. I hope that the creative teams will still have a place at the marketing decision tables along with the data scientists.
5. Increase the use of interactive messaging to support customer service and expand commerce opportunities.
Social media engagement is changing as people are becoming interested in communicating with friends and professional peers in smaller, more private channels. The most popular social media platforms will provide options for private and small group communication. The messaging function within the sites will be expanded to offer businesses the opportunity to communicate with customers and solve service problems with the use of chatbots. The Chinese site WeChat offers the best vision for combining a social media platform with private messaging and commerce functionality.
I anticipate that Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn will continue to develop these functionalities as well as offer advertising opportunities through these channels.
Good old-fashioned email is not dead yet, and smart marketers are turning to software to automate the process of nurturing customer leads through the buying cycle. Marketing automation solutions such as Drip and Infusionsoft have been introduced to help small- to medium- sized businesses create and execute drip-marketing campaigns to a segmented database.
6. Grow and reward your organic fan base.
These advocates will carry an authentic message to their networks.
Influencer marketing will reach new heights by the end of 2017. Global brands are paying significant sums of money to social media influencers with large followings. Numerous agencies and platforms have been launched to broker talent to the brands. However, I expect that consumers will become less moved by the celebrity influencers and more aware of the messages from close friends and trusted advisors. Therefore, don’t forget to integrate fan appreciation campaigns into your marketing plans to empower your alpha fans in their advocacy efforts.
7. The proliferation of mobile devices has led consumers to expect all organizations and businesses to provide a mobile optimized website and interactive digital experience.
Mobile search for local businesses continues to offer opportunities for advertising through Google’s mobile ad network. While it was popular for brands to develop mobile apps over the past several years, there are now more than 2 million applications in the IOS and Android App Stores. Therefore, it is increasingly difficult to attract customers to discover and use apps. More and more consumers have turned to the mobile web to interact with businesses. This will continue as we see the next stage of development in the “Internet of Things.” Be sure to optimize the user experience on all devices. This will include providing customer reviews and accepting mobile payments.
I expect to see growth in the number of ways smart devices and appliances can communicate with us. I look forward to one day owning “smart jeans” that will remind me to stop snacking on candy and nuts and a refrigerator that will alert me when it is time to buy more kale and avocados. While these functionalities are welcome, the ice cream will have to be stored in an “unconnected” device so that my health insurance provider does not receive information on my eating habits that will lead to an adjustment in my premiums.
Another caveat: our connected devices offer numerous opportunities for our data to be hacked both illegally and legally. One day I fear Alexa (Amazon Echo) will capture my private conversations with my spouse, and who knows if and with whom that data will be shared.
Robin Colner is the CEO of DigiStar Media, a Harrison-based digital and social-media marketing agenct. She is also Director of Fordham University’s Digital and Social Media Certificate Program.