Podcast: SEO with Matthew Barby (Global Head of Growth & SEO at HubSpot)

What are the most effective SEO plays today and what are the best tools available?

If you’re running a business, how should you build your SEO strategy and hire talent to execute it? In this episode, we sit down with SEO expert Matthew Barby to discuss the tactics that he’s seeing work best and where he believes SEO is going in the future.

One link from Entrepreneur literally may be better than 1,000 links from other random websites. Because if volume mattered, we’d just build new websites every day and not care about them. They wouldn’t get any links. They’d be nothing. But it’s just be a volume game. That’s how Google used to work.” Matthew at 17:55

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5 Social Media Trends That Will Dominate 2017

Social media is one of the fastest changing industries out there.

Sometimes a cutting-edge technology changes the social game, or an old idea (e.g. virtual reality) gains viral popularly. Either way, the results always have a huge impact and 2017 will be no different. Here are five social media trends that will dominate 2017.

Pexels.com

Pexels.com

1. Social messaging

When people discuss social media, there always seems to be more focus on social networks than social networking. That’s pretty strange, considering that messaging apps have a much wider community of users than social networks. In fact, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber and WeChat together have more users than the big networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Over-the-top (OTT) messaging and SMS messaging are millennials’ preferred form of communication. Sixty-two percent of millennials are more loyal to brands that engage them via those channels and an estimated two billion users will be messaging through OTT apps by 2018. Why is this so? Millennials want the personal touch, transparency and collaboration that the one-on-one communication allows.

Businesses are already taking advantage of the huge audience base on social messaging platforms — on Facebook, you can click on an ad and it takes you directly to a chat window with the brand. As more brands start to realize the value of social messaging compared to regular social networks, they’ll make even more efforts to have a presence there.

2. The fight against fake news

Every year, more and more people, especially millennials, are turning to the internet as their main news source instead of TV, newspaper, or radio. As a result, there’s been a rise in “fake news” from sites that deliberately publish and circulate inaccurate information about current events.

We saw the worst of it during the 2016 presidential election — fake news about both candidates was shared widely across Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms. Now, Facebook is already taking steps to curb fake news appearing on the site. These “news outlets” are no longer allowed to advertise on the platform.

But the fight against fake news isn’t likely to stop there. Germany is already considering legislation to fine social media sites that let fake news proliferate. That’s bound to catch the attention of all the major platforms. Millennials are tech-savvy, get their news predominantly from social media and value honesty, so they’re likely to investigate and verify news they see, push for more transparency from media outlets and reward factual reportage by sharing such content.

3. Authentic content (a.k.a. live video)

YouTube was built on a foundation of videos that capture real, unfiltered moments. Now social media is taking it to the next level by offering the content in real-time. Live streaming video was first made popular by Twitter’s Periscope. Now Facebook Live has launched. Social videos have much more engagement than any other content format, and have been responsible for a lot of growth on Facebook. Even news sources are citing Facebook Live videos when covering major events. The world of media is changing thanks to live video.

Instagram is now testing their own live video option, and they won’t be the last platform to implement live streaming video. Social media is becoming fascinated with live, authentic content. Millennials love video content and are the most active video viewers of any age group in the U.S. in 2016 and they’re not likely to slow down in 2017.

4. Augmented reality

Snapchat selfie lenses brought the idea of augmented reality into the social sphere. Pokemon Go (arguably a social media app) turned it into a sensation in 2016.

So you can’t expect the other social platforms to not jump on the bandwagon in 2017. Mark Zuckerberg has confirmed that Facebook is already experimenting with augmented reality. They recently acquired Masquerade, a live filter and selfie app for live streaming video.

Augmented reality is actually an old technology that’s started to go viral thanks to social media. While Snapchat has come a long way since puking rainbows (their first filter), there’s still a lot of room to expand on the concept in 2017. And just like live video, augmented reality create new opportunities for brands to connect with their audience by sharing experiences, rather than just information, on social media. Almost 75% of millennials are interested in virtual reality, and 2017 may just be the year they blow up the idea of self insertion into media.

5. Chatbots

Chatbots are a kind of artificial intelligence that can have a conversation with someone. Facebook had integrated them within Facebook Messenger, and businesses are now using them to communicate with customers.

Chatbots are already helping businesses improve customer service by quickly responding to their comments and questions. You can only expect the tool to become more popular in 2017 — especially since social media sites are doing everything they can to keep people on their platform instead of navigating away to a business website.

It’s still early days, but chatbots already have the intelligence and ability to help people consume content, answer questions, and complete transaction. More than a third of people already prefer social media over a phone call for customer support. Millennials want self-service and like to resolve their customer service issues mainly technology as it’s fast, efficient, and brief. Soon, brands might not bother having a website at all, and conduct all their customer relations through social media.

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7 Trends That Will Change Social Media in 2017

7 Predictions for Social Media in 2017

1) Live video content will become even bigger.

Live video content is on the rise — in fact, 14% of marketers experimented with it in 2016, according to Social Media Examiner, and 43% plan to use interactive video this year, according to new survey data from Wyzowl.

While there are a ton of streaming sites and platforms out there, both Periscope and Facebook Live are among the most popular — and they have the numbers to prove it.

In its 2016 annual recap, Periscope noted that users watched 110 years of live video every day using the app. And just this New Year’s Eve, live streaming on Facebook reached record-breaking numbers around the globe:

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Source: Facebook

In addition to Facebook Live and Periscope, Instagram and Twitter launched their versions of live video streaming in November and December 2016, respectively.

So where should you be planning to focus your live streaming efforts in 2017?

Good question. First and foremost, you’ll want to consider where your audience already spends time on social media — and try to connect with them on those networks.

As for what to broadcast, there are a lot of brands out there that are nailing this strategy across several use cases. For example, many brands are using Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to live stream events. This approach aims to keep your followers engaged with your brand by bringing an event they otherwise might not be able to attend directly to their screens.

At INBOUND 2016, HubSpot shared Facebook Live interviews with speakers so our followers who couldn’t join us in Boston still had the opportunity to learn from the experts:

Brands can also use live video for customer service by hosting Q&A sessions and product demonstrations. These videos drive engagement because hosts can ask for comments, questions, and feedback from the audience.

Brands can also stream multiple live videos in a series, providing more opportunities for engagement, which Facebook said happens at a rate 10X higher with live videos. Here’s an example of a weekly series from Allure, where hosts demonstrate and review a new type of lipstick and ask the audience for questions and what they want to see in the next instalment:

This year, keep an eye out for new features rolling out to the different live streaming platforms to amp up your video strategy. For example, Facebook Live is launching 360-degree capabilities, which would be a neat way to record a crowded event, a beautiful landscape, or a behind-the-scenes tour.

(Read more about successful strategies for Facebook Live in this blog post.)

2) Brands will lean on messaging apps more than ever.

If you’re only thinking about messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat as alternatives to traditional text messaging, think again — messaging apps are used by 4 billion users worldwide, and there’s tremendous opportunity for brands to leverage this presence.

More specifically, many brands are using messaging apps to communicate one-on-one with customers, which is completely changing the way customer service gets done. These apps provide a faster and easier way for customers to get the assistance they need, rather than being placed on hold or waiting for a returned email. Deploying messaging for customer service is more scalable and cost-effective for businesses, and by providing a better experience for the customer, brands can solve their problems quickly and retain them more easily.

For example, Hyatt uses Facebook Messenger for 24-hour customer service, where guests can make reservations, ask questions, and get recommendations for their trips:

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Source: Digiday

HubSpot Vice President of Marketing, Meghan Keaney Anderson, predicts that messaging apps will eventually become a part of every online interaction. “Maybe we shouldn’t be thinking about messaging in terms of apps at all,’ Anderson notes, “but rather as an evolving infrastructure.”

So far, Anderson’s theory is well-supported by the stats: A quarter of all apps that are downloaded are abandoned after just one use — except for messaging apps. In 2017 and beyond, marketers should anticipate less social networking and more messaging for instant, real-time connection with audiences.

3) Social media ecommerce will become a powerful avenue for sales.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest offer ways for users to purchase products from directly within their apps, and Snapchat started testing and rolling out ecommerce features in the spring of 2016. Check it out below on Instagram:

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According to a survey from Aimia, 56% of consumers said they followed brands on social media to browse products for sale, and 31% of online shoppers say they’re using social media specifically to look for new items to purchase.

Brands should leverage these shopping habits when thinking about their social media strategy for 2017. People come to social media to interact with interesting content, so instead of sharing a photo of a product on Instagram with a “Buy Now” call-to-action, share gift ideas and product trends (24% and 16% of survey respondents relied on social media for these, respectively) and encourage online shopping without directly asking for it.

Another idea? Product demonstration videos on social media. According to research from Animoto, 4X as many customers prefer to watch a video about a new product, so share them on social media to encourage online shoppers. Here’s an unconventional “Will It Blend?” product demonstration from Blendtec to get the wheels turning:

4) Virtual reality will find its way into more and more marketing experiences.

Virtual reality is still new to the marketing scene, and in 2017, we predict the market will get even more popular. What’s unique about virtual reality is that it encourages engagement by offering an immersive, memorable experience unlike any other medium — and brands are quickly recognizing that value.

For example, TOMS uses virtual reality to shed light on the mission and impact customers are having. Its mission, “One for One,” refers to its pledge to match with each pair of shoes purchased a new pair for a child in need around the world. While visiting children who received new shoes during a trip to Peru, TOMS shot the following 360-degree virtual reality video to create a firsthand account of the impact this initiative is making:

What’s so great about this video is how transportative it is. Most customers might not be planning a trip to Peru, but all of them can see the direct impact of their purchase. The experience is improved when they use a VR headset or viewer, but the video is still viewable on mobile or desktop devices, so the brand can effectively share its story.

This year, video streaming will represent almost 75% of all internet traffic, and since audiences want more video content, brands should continue experimenting with different formats — including virtual reality — to see which audiences respond best to.

5) Ephemeral content will continue to find its place and purpose.

HubSpot Social Media Marketing Manager Marissa Emanuele artfully coined the term “Frankenfeatures,” which are born when a social media platform launches its own version of another platform’s successful feature.

One example? Snapchat started the ephemeral, or disappearing, visual content sharing trend, and Instagram recently launched a similar disappearing video feature — but with the ability to share live ephemeral video, too.

We’re not suggesting that you abandon professional photography and marketing video production, but ephemeral content on Snapchat and Instagram is a great way to showcase the “other side” of your brand’s personality with authentic, unscripted, unpolished content. Content ideas for ephemeral stories include:

  • How-to videos
  • Behind-the-scenes looks
  • Contests and giveaways
  • Recipes
  • Interviews
  • “Takeovers,” or when a different user chooses what content to share
  • Live events
  • Daily or weekly video series
  • Holidays
  • Announcements or product reveals

“The most important part of ephemeral content is to be human. This is a unique opportunity to show an unpolished, lighthearted side to your brand, so don’t be afraid to share content that’s humorous or otherwise ‘flawed’ in some way,” urges Emanuele.

(For more ideas on how to brainstorm ephemeral content ideas for Snapchat or Instagram, here’ a roundup of some of the best brands on Snapchat right now.)

6) Many brands will make the shift from Snapchat to Instagram for Stories.

Instagram introduced its Stories feature in August 2016. After just two months, BuzzFeed News reported that Instagram Stories were experiencing 100 million daily active viewers — this represents two thirds of Snapchat’ total user base, period. For this and other reasons, Emanuele predicts that brands will start transitioning from Snapchat to Instagram for sharing Stories (photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours).

At 600 million users, Instagram offers a vastly bigger audience than Snapchat at 150 million users. And because Facebook owns Instagram, Instagram advertisers can target based on Facebook and Instagram insights, which means there is a bigger target audience on Instagram than Twitter.

Not to mention, Instagram lets users publish photos and videos in a permanent portfolio in addition to ephemeral Stories, so users can more easily share content with their friends.

BrandFire CEO Adam Padilla agrees with Emanuele’s prediction, also noting the adoption of Instagram by a larger number of celebrities and public figures, and a slicker Instagram interface.

Despite its rapid growth and sheer volume of content being shared, Snapchat offers fewer means of measurement and analysis for social media marketers, so Instagram may offer greater ROI in 2017.

7) Mobile advertising will grow more competitive.

In 2017, marketers should expect greater investment in mobile advertising. Here’s rundown of what that will look like on some of the largest social networks:

Facebook is the behemoth when it comes to social media ad revenues, bringing in more than $7 billion last year — 80% of which came from mobile ads. Facebook’s News Feed algorithmic changes now prioritize content from friends and family first, so the 75% of brands on Facebook that pay to promote ads will have to get creative and design visual, engaging ads to get noticed first.

Twitter’s ad revenue is increasing, especially in the mobile format, and in 2017, they’ll likely continue experimenting with visual content, such as sponsored hashtag icons and stickers, to provide a variety of ad options to users.

As we’ve discussed previously in this article, Snapchat and Instagram will be competing for a lot of attention this year, and advertising revenue will be no exception. Where do they stand in terms of developments? Well, Snapchat recently launched a new advertising API that makes it easier to buy ad space, in addition to a greater variety of video ads and sponsored filters. Instagram, on the other hand, is doubling down on ecommerce with the introduction of Shoppable Instagram, a feature that lets users buy products directly by clicking on a CTA in the app.

According to an Adweek survey among millennial Snapchat and Instagram users about their experiences with ads, the results are roughly split — with a few noteworthy distinctions. While a greater percentage thought Instagram ads were more memorable than those on Snapchat, more millennials loved Snapchat ads than Instagram ads:

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Source: Adweek

In short: Marketers should experiment with ads on different platforms to see which perform better among their audience and take advantage of the cool new features each rolls out.

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5 Changes I’m Making to My Social Media Marketing in 2017

If there’s one thing you can rely on, it’s change – especially when it comes to social media. It seems like every day there’s some new feature or new technology that is taking the digital landscape by storm.

And social media is’t showing any signs of slowing down yet. Today, one-third of the world’s population uses social media networks on a regular basis.

With so much constant change, it’s the brands that can keep up and roll with the punches that are going to be the ones to succeed on social. But to keep up and stay ahead of the competition, businesses must understand the latest trends and how to use them effectively.

If your brand is still stuck using Google+, it may be time for an upgrade. Here are five of the latest social media marketing trends that I want to incorporate into my strategy this year – you may want to consider them for yours, too.

1. Live Video

In 2016, 14% of marketers experimented with live video, and that number is only going to climb this year.

We saw live video come on the scene last year with Twitter’s Periscope, and soon after, Facebook followed with Facebook Live, bringing livestreaming into the limelight. Instagram has also launched its own live video feature, and other social networks will likely follow suit in the near future.

It’s no secret that audiences love video content. YouTube has been a successful platform for years, and Facebook users watch 100 million hours of video every day. But live video takes video content to the next level.

Audiences crave authenticity, and that’s exactly what live video provides. With no editing or scripting, going live presents your brand in a more personable and genuine way.

Incorporating live video into your social media strategy is easy to do – especially if you’ve already been creating video content. “First and foremost, you’ll want to consider where your audience already spends time on social media – and try to connect with them on those networks,” says Sophia Bernazzani, staff writer at HubSpot.

Once you’ve chosen where to post your video content, you need to decide what to post. If you have an event going on, have a member of your team livestream it. Consider providing a behind-the-scenes look at your office and operations. Try hosting a Q&A with a special guest or demonstrate how to use one of your products.

2. Paid Content

If you’re publishing a Facebook post and just hoping someone will see it, you aren’t doing enough. With more and more changes being made to social networks’ algorithms, the chances that your audience will see your content grow slimmer and slimmer.

While these algorithms serve to ensure the platform’s users are seeing content they actually enjoy, there’s no doubt they make it harder for brands to get noticed.

Plus, other brands and consumers are sharing and publishing more content than ever, so competition for attention is fierce. In the past two years, content consumption on Facebook has increased 57%.

So how do you cut through the clutter? The answer is: you must pay for it. Organic traffic on social can only get you so far. But paid content is well worth the investment.

Promoted posts and native advertising allow businesses to narrowly target a specific audience, so you know the right people are seeing your posts. By paying for it, you can ensure that your posts actually show up on your target audience’s feeds.

3. Interactive Content

While I’m on the topic of grabbing your audience’s attention, it’s also critical for you to take an honest look at the content you’re putting out on social. With so much content online already, doing the same things as everyone else isn’t going to make your brand stand out.

Consider spicing it up by creating interactive content. Eighty-one percent of marketers say interactive content grabs attention more effectively than static content. Interactive content could be a quiz, game, calculator or similar.

“Brands not only want consumers to recall [their brands], they want them to be excited and share the content with their friends,” says Russab Ali, founder of SMC Marketing. “They can then ‘compare results’ with friends.”

It’s not enough these days for your audience to just click on your posts. You need to get them to engage, too. By making engagement intrinsic to the content, you’ll increase the likelihood that your audience will do just that.

4. Customer Service Chatbots

When you need customer service, you don’t want to wait on hold for hours on the phone or for a representative to answer your question on social media. Good customer service is fast, but most brands can’t keep up with the demand.

This is where social media can step in and give customer service a boost. Chatbots are a type of AI that can interact with customers via social messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. Think back to the days of AOL Instant Messenger and SmarterChild – but don’t worry, we’ve come a long way since then.

Using social messaging apps is a smart choice for marketers. In fact, 20% of marketers plan to add messaging apps to their content strategy in the next year. “These apps have a wide audience and offer several attractive features to brands for e-commerce and client support, for example, which allows for economies of scale and the creation of new types of user experience,” says social media strategist Isabelle Matthieu.

Chatbots can guide customers through completing a transaction, answer a question or point people in the right direction. They offer fast, one-on-one service without the need for additional employees. Plus, your customers are a lot happier when their problems are solved right away.

5. Employee Advocacy

There’s a powerful social media marketing tool hiding right under your nose – and it doesn’t cost a penny. It’s your employees, the people who support and work for your brand every day. Why wouldn’t you leverage them as part of your marketing strategy?

By encouraging and empowering your employees to spread the word and share your brand’s messages on social, your brand will be exposed to hundreds or even thousands of potential customers.

Your employees are powerful advocates for your brand. They offer validity and credibility to your brand’s messages. Your audience tends to trust messages that come from personal social media accounts over a brand’s social media accounts.

But you can’t mandate or force it. The employee’s support must be authentic or it will lose that credibility, and your brand will suffer because of it.

“A company’s social media must be -cool” enough for the employees to want to share it on personal platforms,” says Jake Messier, principal & COO of Mungo Creative Group.

Make it easy for your employees to get involved by providing them with easy-to-share updates. Simply ask them to share your posts, and see what kind of a response you get. Chances are you’ll soon see positive results.

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Digital Marketing Top Trends In 2017

We look ahead at what next year holds for digital marketing

As we look back over 2016, some clear digital marketing trends have been present throughout. The final third of the year saw mobile internet usage overtake that of desktop for the first time, a milestone in keeping with perhaps the year’s most dominant trend. Digital publishers and marketers alike have made mobile a priority, and though this won’t slow down in 2016, other specific areas like UX will take precedence.

Video, too, has been a major buzzword of 2016, with brands large and small looking to create video content to be shared across social channels. 2017 will see further proliferation of this, with live video and native advertising in broadcasting realising their potential1. So, as 2016 draws to a close, here are the top digital marketing trends to watch out for in the 12 months to come.

Less is more

One thing we can learn from Facebook’s recent algorithmic change, which favours user generated content over that of brands, is that persistent branded content is no longer welcome. The emphasis now is on quality. Content should offer real value to the customer in exchange for their attention, and brands are now spending more of fewer pieces of content. This shift will only intensify in 2017, with the crackdown on misleading content on social channels marking the beginning of an online clean-up.

Essentially, brands will be afforded less exposure by social channels. As a result, content will need a marketing budget behind and brands will have to be more considered in their approach. Churning out second-rate content for the sake of clicks will be less effective.

UX, UX, UX

A serious trend in the latter half of 2016, user experience (UX) will only grow in importance in 2017 whether it be on mobile, on desktop, or in store. You may consider UX more of a design issue than a marketing concern, but the area has progressed to the point where all interactions with a brand should be in keeping with its wider feel – even an email blast is part of the user journey, and brands should take into account how intuitive it is to navigate and how it connects with the website.

The focus on UX will also affect digital marketers looking to place ads on other brands’ websites or in-app. Such is the need for a smooth and pleasing UX that banner ads will become less and less available, with pop-ups all but disappearing across mainstream apps and websites. As a result, digital marketers should focus on native advertising in 2017, marketing that offers a value exchange to the user.

Smart home marketing takes off

Though the technology hit the mainstream somewhat in 2016 – think Amazon Echo or Google Home – the connected home is set to take off proper in 2017. Personal assistants and mobile thermostat controls are just the beginning, and some believe homes will one day be able to distinguish between family members and guests, using heartbeat rhythms, body temperatures and fingerprints to build a picture of who they’re serving.

As the technology grows, marketers will need to be cautious in how they exploit it. The home is a by definition a personal space, and users will reject any data collection or brand involvement that crosses the ‘creepy’ line. However, techniques like suggesting a particular brand of detergent when a user asks how to get a stain out of their clothes, for example, could give brands a way into the home that isn’t particularly invasive. 2017 will see smart home technology proliferate, and along with it opportunities for marketing.

Native advertising in broadcasting

Just as online, the public dislike of advertising in the conventional sense has become a problem for those marketing on television. TV advertising remains an incredibly effective – albeit expensive – method but broadcasters are experimenting with ways to increase engagement as many lose interest in the traditional ad break.

Fox Sports, for example, is doing away with the commercial break during games. In its place, the broadcaster is airing ‘commercial-free breaks,’ segments of analysis sponsored by T-Mobile. The phone network’s logo adorns the entire segment, it’s ‘brought to you by T-Mobile’ and the break ended with what Digiday called ‘a 30-second live read about the T-Mobile One campaign.’ Digital marketers should be aware of the opportunities native advertising may throw up, as more broadcasters experiment in 2017.

Live content improves

2016 was supposed to be the year that brands got live content right. With Facebook in particular pushing live content to its user base and encouraging its users to ‘go live’, brands had the opportunity to exploit the hype by creating their own live content. Very few have succeeded, though. Live content isn’t easy – the production value is often too low to wow customers and the content just isn’t interesting enough.

But live video is still on the rise, and brands in 2017 will be missing an opportunity if they don’t at least experiment with it. Experian, for example, holds live Q&A sessions with finance experts every week to discuss their customers’ financial worries. Live video is best when its interactive or unpredictable. Buzzfeed live broadcasted two of its employees strapping elastic bands around a watermelon until it spectacularly exploded, and the suspense and sense of occasion generated lent itself to a live broadcast. In 2017 expect to see not only the growth of live content, but the increase in quality.

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Top 10 Trends That Will Transform Digital Marketing In 2017

Social and digital marketing have hit their stride – and now that everyone is back from winter break and settling in to the new year, it’s time to review the lessons learned from last year, and look forward to what’s needed for your company to shine in 2017. From the evolving world of artificial intelligence to expectations of instant communications, Stacy DeBroff, CEO and founder of Influence-Central, shares her take on the social and digital marketing horizon, based on her research and work with over 350 national brands last year.

Digital Marketing Trends 2017 (Image: Shutterstock)

  1. New Products Roll in From the Brand Revolution

“As consumers – via social media – we all have a seat at the marketing table -by sharing our needs and priorities through direct feedback and our purchasing choices. We’ve seen the impact of the ‘brand revolution’ on key consumer-facing industries,” DeBroff says. “In the coming year, brands will become even more attuned to the needs and priorities of the consumer, and increasingly shape their product offerings around the latest lifestyle trends.”

2. A.I. Solutions Point to a Brave New World

2017 will be the year when we will look more to artificial intelligence to lend a helping hand. “This current trend with start-up brands, as well as data analytics, identifies applicable A.I. solutions as a way for consumers to navigate in an increasingly complex world,” DeBroff notes. “From advanced electronics applications, to pinpoint analytics that predict consumer needs as they arise, A.I. is on the way, in a big way.”

3. “Instant” Speeds up as the New Normal for Gen Z

What happens when you grow up surrounded by social media and technology? Expectations of instant communications and entertainment become inevitable. Generation Z consumers gravitate to instantaneous social channels such as Snapchat, Instagram, and the new social app Musical.ly. “The downside ?” DeBroff explains, “This generation has grown up with instant response as its baseline expectation. We can count on at least three platforms we’ve never heard of rising to social prominence next year that embrace faster, more pictorial, and more spontaneous ways for rising Gen Z to bond.”

4. Niche Curation Sorts Information Overload

“We find ourselves awash with more information than has ever been available to us as humans, and we simply can’t process it,” DeBroff concludes. “As a result, we’ve increasingly come to rely not just on curated information, but on the people we most trust to curate this information for us in a way that resonates with our lifestyle, interests, and values. In 2017, consumers will be on a mission to find peer specialists with niche expertise to filter recommendations that meet their needs in a customized way.”

5. Mobile Devices Forge On-the-Go Consumerism

In 2017, DeBroff predicts we will see the emergence of a new “electronics evolution” with innovative technology and apps for the mobile phones we keep tethered to our sides. “As these devices offer up smarter, faster, and more intuitive information, they will become even more ingrained into our daily patterns and connected culture – and dramatically influence consumers at the point of purchase. Mobile devices will emerge as shoppers’ most valued shopping partner, as consumers check them for recommendations from their network of trusted advisors while fact-checking product attributes and using online coupons,” DeBroff says

6. Social Influencers Diversify, Specialize, and Grow Exponentially

“We’ve never had more on-call peers to advise us – from peer advisors to specialists and trend-spotters,” DeBroff notes. As we move into 2017, she predicts we will “entrench ourselves more deeply within the social web, immersing ourselves in increasingly diverse and broadening circles of discerning opinions. These influencers will powerfully inform and guide us in our consumer decisions.”

7. Influencer Marketing as a Fundamental Brand Strategy

Many brands now recognized Influencer Marketing as the industry’s hot “go-to” strategy, but they struggle on how best to leverage it and measure it from the perspective of business results and attribution modelling.  “As we head into 2017, influencers will entrench as defining voices in consumer marketing, as brands concede advertising control and look to passionate brand advocates to sway consumers on social media,” says DeBroff.

8. Consumer Resentment of Intrusive Marketing Deepens

Op-ups, banner ads, and disruptive brand messages are all falling out of favour. Today’s consumers don’t want brands aggressively pushing their way into social media feeds, whether on Facebook, through promoted Pins or Tweets, or paid-for Snapchat stories. “As consumers seek to learn more about new products on their own time, expect continued resentment over intrusive marketing to deepen in 2017. Consumers will continue to vote with their feet… “walking” away from social platforms that inundate them with brand marketing,” DeBroff notes. Similarly, the tone and content of ads needs to be geared to the new Gen Z paradigm: fast, smart, sassy, and relevant.

9. Consumer Tethering to Mobile Devices Tightens

As mobile devices take over photography, replace alarm clocks, and provide on-the-go access to favourite social media platforms, as well as music and even audio books, they’ve transformed how consumers communicate and share information. Our smart phones and tablets have become 24/7 companions,” DeBroff explains. This year she says consumers will continue to ratchet up their mobile dependency as more usages emerge. Retailers that do not consider the impact of this sea change, and deal with it intelligently, will be left behind on shore.

10. Words Prove So Overrated: The Year When Images and Videos Rule

“Visuals and videos have truly surged over the past six months, and consumers – particularly those in the Millennial and rising Generation Z cohorts – have truly embraced pictures and videos as a way to gather and share information,” DeBroff says. “Look for new visual platforms to roll out in 2017 to accompany existing ones as consumers gravitate toward authentic, live-action, visual storytelling.”

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Digital Marketing Trends for 2017

The 14 top rated digital marketing techniques for 2017 according to Smart Insights readers

In this article, I’ll take an in-depth look at what I see as the most significant trends in digital marketing for the year ahead. But, it’s not only my view, since I have ‘crowdsourced’ the importance of the different trends rated by the popularity of each trend.

For all members of Smart Insights, we also have a more detailed free download of the marketing megatrends for 2017, which are 9 digital marketing and martech megatrends will help give you an edge in 2017. In the download we discuss machine learning and artificial intelligence, which for me is the biggest trend in marketing right now. Machine learning techniques apply across many of the techniques we discuss in this post including Big Data, Marketing Automation, Organic Search and Social media marketing. If you want to know more about the defition of digital marketing before starting on trends, see our post on What is Digital Marketing ?

To get our readers’ views on the most important trends at a top-level, we asked Smart Insights readers to give their opinion on the most important trends. We asked:

“Select one marketing activity that you think will give your business the biggest incremental uplift in leads and sales in 2017 (or your clients if you work for an agency or as a consultant)”.

Thanks if you shared your opinion, we had 2,352 responses from marketers around the world! Here are the results for 2017:

While this doesn’t have a controlled sample of our free research reports like Managing Digital Marketing, it does canvas opinion widely. Note that these trends aren’t necessarily the most important channel by volume of leads or sales, rather it is the tactic which will give the biggest increase in the year ahead, so it shows what is becoming more important. By asking for just one tactic, this helps shows the top 3, 5 or 10 top-level trends.

To help the decision on which technique to choose, we expanded upon the short labels you see in the graph to help scope the response more carefully. For example, ‘Big Data’ is a nebulous term, but when we expanded the definition to include insight and predictive analytics, it shows the value of the specific marketing techniques for Big Data and this help explains why this is in position number two.  Here is the full listing of digital marketing techniques:

  • Big Data (including market and customer insight and predictive analytics)
  • Content marketing Communities (Branded niche or vertical communities)
  • Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) / improving website experiences
  • Display (Banners on publishers, ad networks social media including retargeting and programmatic)
  • Internet of Things (IoT) marketing applications
  • Marketing Automation (incl CRM, behavioural Email marketing and web personalisation)
  • Mobile marketing (Mobile advertising, site development and apps)
  • Paid search marketing, e.g. Google AdWords Pay Per Click
  • Online PR (including influencer outreach)
  • Partnerships including affiliate and co-marketing
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO or organic search)
  • Social media marketing including Social CRM and Social Customer Care
  • Wearables (e.g. Apple Watch, activity trackers, augmented reality)

In our Digital Channel Essentials Toolkits within our members’ area and our Digital Marketing Skills report we simplify digital marketing down to just 8 key techniques which are essential for businesses to manage today AND for individual marketers to develop skills. This visual shows the core techniques which will drive more leads and sales for you, but within some sectors, techniques like using AI, IoT, Wearables will be more important. 8 core digital marketing activities

The Top 14 marketing techniques in 2017?

Let’s now drill down into the key tactics and marketing technology within each of these tactics which will be important in 2017.

1. Content marketing trends

Content marketing has been in the top 3 for the last 3 years we have run this post, so we focus a lot on how to create an integrated content marketing strategy through advice in our content marketing toolkit.

Our research with HubSpot, illustrated in the Competing on Content infographic, shows that more businesses are now using a strategic approach (40%), so this is a trend we can expect to see continuing in 2017. We can also expect that there will be more focus on Measuring Content Marketing ROI as the cost and competition within content marketing increases.

At a practical level, Martech Guru Scott Brinker has talked about the 4th Wave of Content Marketing and I’m seeing more and more examples of interactive marketing apps – like our capability graders and also personalisation tools recommending content. Read his article, introducing it, a great read and you can check out the ionInteractive examples of interactive content marketing.

4th_wave_content_marketing_600

2. Big Data

As defined in our question, Big Data marketing applications include market and customer insight and predictive analytics.

The 3Vs of Big Data show why this is a key trend selected by many, who have experienced the increase in volume, real-time data and data formats in their business and want to exploit the value to increase sales through personalisation on websites and through email marketing through predictive analytics – a topic we have covered many times on our blog. It’s also closely tied into machine learning where Big Data is mined to identify propensity to convert given different customer characteristics and behaviour.

Big Data

Image original source from Diya Soubra in a Data Science blog – The 3Vs that define Big Data

3. Marketing Automation (including CRM, behavioural email marketing and web personalisation)

Like content marketing, marketing automation has been in the top 3 for the last 5 years we have asked this question. Many businesses still have potential for improving their automation as our research on the State of Marketing Automation shows.

To help with this knowledge gap, I think I have given more webinars and talks on Marketing Automation than on any other topic in 2016. The most common questions at the end are ‘where do we start’ and ‘how do we get to the next level’. These questions are answered in our Email marketing and marketing automation toolkit which includes a free interactive capability review to score your use of email marketing automation. As businesses progress up the learning curve I expect more businesses to be putting lead scoring in place, or refining it and learning the best places on the journey to feature content through predictive analytics.

4. Mobile marketing (Mobile advertising, site development and apps)

Mobile was in the top 3 three years ago, but as more companies have adopted mobile responsive web design and email templates they have seen less need to focus on it, or at least there are fewer opportunities for growth.

However, research shows that retail conversion rates are significantly lower on smartphone, so there is work to be done for many businesses to optimise conversion on mobile, although they will likely always stay lower than desktop.

Mobile also has a large impact on search marketing as Google vigorously follows its mobile first mantra. To me, it’s a somewhat misleading mantra, since the reality is that many web users are still using desktop, laptop and tablet devices and there is a danger with mobile responsive designs that conversion on higher resolution screens may fall if mobile optimised. Instead, leading companies are looking at adaptive mobile design approaches which have the benefit of serving more relevant, contextual content and CTAs for users and reducing load times.

‘Mobile first’ is also misleading if we look at the overall customer journey since often different devices may be involved at different points. So a better vision for mobile strategy is treating it as part of a multiplatform or multichannel strategy. As this data from comScore highlighted in our mobile marketing statistics research shows, the multiplatform ribbons for all countries are much broader than users who are mobile only or desktop only.

5. Social media marketing including Social CRM and Social Customer Care

When I meet marketers at events and training I find there is still huge interest in social media, thanks to its reach and options to engage audiences and encourage advocacy or ‘social media amplification’ to give it the full treatment.

Our social media research statistics summary shows continued growth in social media usage overall, but with reduced popularity of some social networks in some countries. For example Twitter and Facebook are in decline or plateauing in many western markets while Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest are still growing in usage.

Trends in social media marketing are often controlled by the efforts of the social networks to monetise and this has seen Facebook and Instagram, in particular make changes such that businesses now need to ‘pay to play’ to get the reach needed to have an impact. They have continued to innovate in their targeting and remarketing options. Jason DeMeyers has these interesting views on social media trends for 2017.

6. Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) / improving website experiences

This is the technique I selected a year ago as the way Smart Insights would see the most growth from in the year ahead. It’s higher in popularity than previous years, but I still wonder whether many businesses are missing out on a more data-driven approach to increase leads and sales from their websites.

I saw this chart of the volume of structured tests presented by a major multichannel retailer who wanted to scale the number of tests they were running. It a great way to show the need to test extensively since only a third have a positive test. It also shows how competitors may be getting ahead if they are testing more extensively.

7. Internet of Things (IoT) marketing applications

IoT is one of the most important marketing technology applications of the last 2-3 years, but it is of most relevance to devices makers and retailers, so it is relatively high-up in this ranking of priorities.

There are expected to be 75 billion connected devices by 2020, meaning there will be ten times as many devices able to talk to one another as there will be people on the planet! The implications are huge and far ranging. All this sharing of data will transform the way we live our lives.

Our article covering opportunities and examples of marketing applications of the Internet of Things has this useful summary of alternative applications:

Smart Products Road Map

8. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO or organic search)

Mobile marketing SEO techniques will be particularly important in 2017 with Google’s recent announcements about the mobile index and AMP. We have seen huge increases in AMP smartphone traffic since September 2016 when Google rolled AMPs out beyond Google News. AMPs are targeted at publishers, but should be considered by businesses with an active blog too in my opinion.

We have been covering these announcements and improvements in our other alert posts:

  • How Google’s mobile-only index will change search in 2017
  • Google to start penalising sites that use pop-ups
  • Stop everything and implement AMP pages

9. Wearables

Wearables are one of the hottest consumer consumable commodities (e.g. Apple Watch, activity trackers, augmented reality)

10. Paid search marketing

Google AdWords is the most important form of Pay Per Click and here Google has been pursuing their ‘Mobile-first’ strategy by building out these features.

11. Online PR (including influencer outreach)

Online PR today is inextricably linked with Content marketing, SEO and Social media, or it should be. But this doesn’t get a top rating since the others are important.

12. Communities

These are branded niche or vertical communities.

13. Display advertising

This includes banners on publishers, ad networks social media including retargeting and programmatic.

14. Partnerships including affiliate and co-marketing

A neglected aspect of digital marketing, perhaps unsurprisingly unsexy.

Other trends

This is an interesting category since readers can tell us what we’re missing. Suggestions here include:

  • Account Based Marketing (ABM) – relevant for B2B marketers targeting large accounts we have a new guide in our B2B toolkit on this early in the new year.
  • Digital OOH (Out-of-home) – A surprising one for the number one technique
  • Employee advocacy and feedback – interesting to see the internal marketing perspective – again surprising to see as the main growth point
  • Machine Learning – as mentioned at the top of the article
  • Omnichannel and multichannel attribution – both good for reminding us that it is the way that these channels work together to support each other that is often most important – the reason why many members are looking for advice on an integrated marketing strategy.

Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Digital Marketing Campaign

In this era of immense competition, digital media is playing a crucial role in the corporate world.

Research shows that 64% of people use social media channels to find inspiration for shopping. Thus, designing a top-notch digital marketing campaign is essential for both newly emerging and well-established brands.

Even the best marketing connoisseurs can sometimes derail the entire campaign by making seemingly harmless mistakes that don’t go down too well with their target audience.

The internet never forgets. When digital marketing goes awry, your brand is tried in the court of public opinion. IHOP made such a mistake when they compared their product to breasts! Needless to say, Twitter exploded.

The Twitterati was so outraged, IHOP had to issue an apology.

While digital marketing provides endless opportunities to grow, companies need to treat it carefully, as their reputation is at stake.

With the boom of digital media channels, online marketers need to know the pitfalls of implementing ineffective, or worse, shoddy campaigns.

Many businesses have faced great losses due to this carelessness. Therefore, we are sharing 7 mistakes that companies must avoid when planning their digital marketing campaigns.

1. Allowing the boss to set your company’s digital marketing strategy


Bosses are not always right. The boss can be anyone, an investor who is waiting for his returns, a CEO who is focused on increasing sales and cutting costs, or a manager who wants to show commendable performance to the top level management.

All these bosses are only interested in making money. Their sole aim is to get maximum returns and nothing else. But as a digital marketer, your aim is to get maximum returns while keeping all other strings attached, like branding, audience expectation and long term goals.

As a digital marketer, you must not let them ruin your digital marketing campaign. Do your research and prove the effectiveness of your ideas with data, instead of gut feelings.

2. Setting campaigns and goals without understanding your target audience


Understanding your target audience is of prime importance. From budgeting and planning to implementation and results, everything depends on your target audience and their preferences.

Knowing the likes, dislikes, demographics, race, color, income, education and other important information related to your market segment lets you design a powerful marketing strategy.

Some marketers are of the view that their brand is for everyone. However, this approach is wrong. A good example here is Crystal Pepsi. This cola did not contain caffeine. But they also did not study their target market well. Since people weren’t as health-conscious and aware as they are today, Crystal Pepsi failed to create the impact that they had hoped for.

David Novak, Crystal Pepsi Inventor and retired Yum Brands CEO, said he learnt a valuable lesson due to this failure.

Every brand has a target audience and understanding this segment is essential for crafting a campaign that nails it. Dove declares that beauty is for every woman. It targets women of all ages and says that there is no age limit to enhance a woman’s beauty. Put simply, Dove understands the psyche of their target audience, and owes the success of their campaigns to this understanding.

If you are a new brand planning to add some explainer videos about your product, understanding the pain points of your target audience will inevitably help you create work that speaks directly to them.

A good example is the Dollar Shave Club that came up with attention-grabbing videos and created a billion dollar business in less than 6 years. The new player grabbed a big share of men’s razor market, and most of the credit goes to their intelligent digital marketing campaigns.

Products have to be innovated as per the market needs and the taste of people and all of it is only possible with thorough research about a target audience.

Let’s say you have a very innovative and interesting campaign on a particular social media channel but you aren’t getting as many followers or discussions as you had expected. You keep pouring resources into the campaign only to realize later that your target audience is active on a different social media channel. Thus, you’ve squandered your resources.

This is why understanding your target market is the foundation on which you can build a solid brand and reputation.

3. Ignoring data


Charts and reports might look dull but they can do wonders for your business. Every social media channel like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram provides comprehensive analytics whenever someone engages, interacts, likes, or dislikes your page.

You can even get data on your profile visits or the viewers of your recently shared video. These numbers are of immense importance. For instance, you will be able to see which age group or which nationality is most engaged with your videos.

Similarly, the number of shares can tell which videos are most liked by people. This data helps many companies revise their marketing strategies to be more impactful.

These analytics also guide your future marketing strategies.

4. Ignoring technical SEO aspects


One cannot stick to old school SEO principles such as spamming through guest blogging and keyword stuffing. Since Google is changing its policies, we need to keep a keen eye on our SEO strategies. What matters the most is offering quality to our audience.

The number of backlinks or the number of likes and followers will not make a big difference if you are not using a smart strategy. Fake likes and links from PBN might give you short-term results.

By creating content that is meaningful to your audience, and also search engine-friendly, you will notice a growing trend in your interactions with the customers.

Similarly, if you are guest blogging only to generate links, and your articles are not providing quality information to readers, soon enough they will be flagged as spam by search engines.

Semantic SEO should also be kept in mind as Google is now becoming a platform where we cannot just discover information but we can order it, too. If you overlook these technical aspects of SEO, you are making a big mistake!

Video marketing is a great option, but remember that a video should not take too long to load otherwise customers won’t think twice and leave.

These days, animated marketing videos are widely used by various brands and these videos are generating great traffic. This animated video called The Scarecrow by Chipotle Mexican Grill was viewed millions of times on the internet and was hailed as innovative marketing and a beautiful piece of art.

Here’s a guide explaining how you can create your own professional animated videos.

5. Using social media for conversions


Gone are the days when people used social media for conversions. This practice only provides short-term results.

The main purpose of being active on social media channels is to get feedback from clients to improve your product or service, and build and maintain close relationships with existing and potential customers.

One cannot answer all queries in detail if the basic aim is conversion rather than relationship building. Social media channels are a great platform for taking reviews from clients. Brands like Nike, Adidas and many others have built a strong customer relationship by being active on social media.

On the other hand, social media gives an opportunity to potential customers to read reviews of former clients and develop trust. In addition to this, a social media platform is also used for increasing connectivity among clients. Here are some ideas on gathering more testimonials.

6. Not scaling campaigns and channels


Scaling is of utmost important when it comes to designing a digital marketing campaign. When resources are limited, we need to maximize the output in a smarter way.

For instance, if the budget is low and a company’s target audience is mostly active on Facebook, they should direct a part of their marketing resources to creating content that resonates with a Facebook audience.

Here’s a guide to help you scale your digital marketing campaigns.

7. Running organic and paid parts separately


Whether we are talking about organic or paid channels, both of them are important. But, it also depends on the nature of your business. If you’re running a social service, organic will play a vital role because users will have a hard time trusting you through a paid advertisement for community development.

In a digital marketing campaign for a company, one needs to align both organic and paid aspects of the campaign to get maximum results.

If your organic results are awesome and you are not active in paid ads, it is likely that your business won’t show on Google’s top searches. Google is now showing ads in the top 2-3 searches.

This means one cannot stick to just organic if you want greater visibility for your business. A quick search for social media management software on Google shows this:

On the other hand, having only paid ads with no presence in the SERPs is also a big drawback because most people won’t rely on paid ads, particularly if they aren’t already aware of your brand or product.

In short, digital marketing campaigns are the lifeblood of brands. A few factors such as scaling campaigns, conducting thorough researches, using analytics, keeping expectations realistic and using the latest technology are sure to give the results you need.

As we assessed different digital marketing campaigns, we found mistakes mentioned in this article to be common in most of them.

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7 Super Tips for Creating Powerful Infographics

With the rise of the “visual web,” content marketing is becoming more image-centric.

As we embrace this trend of marketing without words and communicating visually, infographics have become one of the most effective ways to share your message, establish authority and drive traffic and shares across social platforms.

Not merely restricted to Pinterest, infographics are proving to be a powerhouse form of content marketing for businesses across a range of industries, with the most popular infographic topics being technology, business, social media, economics and health

But what makes for a knockout infographic? What elements need to come together in order for it to get shared, and drive quality traffic back to your website?

This infographic from Socially Sorted highlights seven elements, or “superpowers,” to consider when planning, creating and sharing infographics that get shared and drive traffic on the visual web.

Click to Enlarge+

7 Super Tips for Creating Powerful Infographics

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Strategies for using Story features on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook

Tell your story: Strategies for using Story features on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.

It’s no secret that the competition between social media apps is reaching a fever pitch. Last summer, Instagram stepped into Snapchat’s territory by creating a Story feature on their app – a blatant copy of Snapchat’s core feature. This past month, Facebook also introduced Stories to its app. Understandably, Snapchat isn’t happy.

However, for social media marketers, this could be great news. After all, Snapchat is geared towards a young demographic that doesn’t fit within many brands’ marketing strategies. Facebook and Instagram, on the other hand, are popular with a wider range of users. Now, more marketers have reason to get in on the Story-telling action.

If you’re unfamiliar with Stories, in a nutshell, they allow you to create a sequence of pictures and short videos for your followers’ viewing pleasure. The catch? Stories disappear after 24 hours.

While the concept behind Stories is simple, we’ve listed a few crucial tips to help you get started. If you’re looking to experiment with Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook’s Story features, here are a few tips for doing so the right way.

Tips for using social media Story features:

  1. Tell a story. Stories are a great way to set up a narrative for your brand. What events are you attending? What’s your company’s day-to-day like? By giving your followers a glimpse behind-the-scenes, you can humanize your brand and show off your social media skills.

  1. Be in the moment. Timing is key when it comes to Story features. Your content doesn’t have to be airbrushed and perfectly curated; on-the-fly posts are a major component of the Story experience. As long as your posts are on-brand, you should be able to avoid social media fails.

  1. “Fun” is the operative word. Having a sense of humour is so important for creating a good Story. After all, Snapchat’s most popular features are its goofy facial recognition lenses and location-based geofilters – and Facebook has followed suit. These filters change every few days; there’s always new inspiration available. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

  1. Know that Snapchat isn’t for everybody. If the concept of off-the-cuff, light-hearted content truly clashes with your brand’s values, then Snapchat might not be the best fit. Not every platform works for every brand. The most important thing to keep in mind is your target audience – if they prefer Facebook or Instagram, then it’s best to post your stories on those apps instead.

Story features Facebook

via Social Media Examiner

Finally, here’s a bonus tip for Snapchat users: Promote your Snapchat account on your other social profiles. Searching for users on Snapchat isn’t as simple or intuitive as it is on other social media apps, and this can impact your follower count. Luckily, Snapchat is perfecting its search bar to make it easier for users to find Stories, though this feature is currently only available in select cities. For the time being, try promoting your Snapchat account on your other social platforms to attract followers.

And there you have it! If you’re looking to have fun and get creative with social media, Stories – via whichever platform you choose – provide endless opportunities to do so. Keep our Story tips mind as you embark on this new leg of your social media journey!

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