Biggest Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018

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It’s December – you know what that means. Everyone wants to talk about the new year.

I guess you can include me in “everyone”, because my main goal this December is to get you and your marketing strategy ready for 2018. We’re going to kick it off by talking about marketing trends we expect to see in the coming year.

Some of these are general marketing predictions for 2018, while others have a specific local focus; still, they will all probably affect your business in some way.

So, read on to learn about the biggest marketing trends we expect to see in 2018.

Video Will Be Essential

Let’s face it: video has been the top-performing content type for a while now. As online users spend more and more time watching video, it’s more important than ever to be the brand creating that high-quality content people are looking for. Social networks are optimized to share video content now, and if you didn’t get on the video train in 2017, you really should board this year.

AI Chatbots Become More Advanced

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has been a buzzword popping up in these marketing trend blogs for a few years now, but we’re finally starting to see it become much more functional and advanced. Expect more brands to use AI-powered chatbots on their site to help answer visitors’ questions and better service their customers.

Voice-Optimized Content for Search

SEO has been making a shift towards long-tail keywords for quite some time, but as more and more search queries come from voice search, it’s even more important to create content that’s optimized for your persona’s natural language. Voice search technology is helping make searches much more accurate today—lowering the word error rate to as low as 8% today, compared to over 20% in 2012. This has helped increase the usage by today’s searchers, who now use voice search for 20% of their mobile search queries.

Client Experience Marketing

With HubSpot rolling out their experience platform sometime in 2018 it will become a key focus area, especially in the inbound world. Even outside of the inbound community, the focus on customer experience is increasing. Nearly two-thirds of marketers in a recent SalesForce survey said they will be launching customer experience initiatives in 2018, with about as many buyers saying they’ll switch vendors if the seller doesn’t personalize their customer experience.

Analytics Become More Valuable

How can analytics possibly become more valuable? Well, with more and more data at our fingertips and new analytics tools constantly in development, 2018 will be positioned to leverage that data even more than we previously did. By understanding how different KPIs impact each other, marketers and sales professionals alike will be able to adjust and leverage that information to grow their businesses.

LinkedIn Finally Adds Video Hosting to Company Pages

It’s about damn time LinkedIn joined in on the video fun, right? While they added a feature for uploading videos directly to personal profiles in 2017, they have yet to add the feature to company pages. According to this TechCrunch article in August, however, those features will be “coming soon.”

Mobile Video Consumption Will Grow

If your website, and your marketing strategy more broadly, isn’t optimized for mobile yet in 2017, 2018 is the year to start. Put simply, search engines will penalize you if your website isn’t mobile friendly.

Besides, it’s no secret that consumers spend much of their lives staring at their phones.

In 2018, mobile video consumption is expected to grow by 25% (and video consumption is supposed to decline on laptops and desktop computers for the first time ever), so get ahead of the competition now by planning a mobile video strategy.

Live video (see above) is a great place to start if you’re a DIY kind of business owner.

Customer Experience Marketing Will Increase

Customer experience marketing is exactly what it sounds like – making sure the customer has a good experience when you market to them.

And, it’s gaining popularity; 68% of marketers say their business is increasingly focusing on customer experience in marketing.

Customer experience is hugely important. Customers see your business or brand as the sum of experiences they’ve had with you. This could be anything from in-store customer service to finding your local listing online or seeing one of your business’s ads on Facebook.

Creating a great experience for the customer is more likely to help you gain brand loyalists. If they search for you online and find two different listings, or they receive bad customer service while making a purchase, they’re just not going to use your business again.

Get Ready for Mobile Everything

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this yet, but mobile is kind of important.

But don’t just listen to me droning on like a broken record, here are the statistics:

  • Mobile is the most popular way to browse the web (51.4%)
  • Laptops come in second at 43.4%
  • Somewhere around 70% of searches are projected to come from mobile next year, so if you’re not working on your business’s mobile presence, you’re only marketing to 30% of those searches

Content Marketing Will Become Even More Important

Content marketing isn’t a trend. At least, I hope it isn’t. If it is, I’m out of a job when the fad dies.

But, it’s getting bigger, and it’s no wonder – 70% of people said they’d rather learn about a business through an article than an ad. And, content marketing is cheaper than many other forms of marketing (plus it can produce more leads).

Remember, content marketing can take many forms – from blog posts to videos and infographics.

It’s kind of hard to do it all yourself while running your business, so if you don’t have time, consider outsourcing your content creation to streamline your process.

Voice Searches Will Continue to Grow

Consumers can use voice search just about anywhere now: phones, smart speakers, laptops, tablets, desktop computers. Seriously, it’s everywhere. And, by 2020, 50% percent of all searches will likely be voice searches.

Optimizing for voice search tends to include long-tail keywords and conversational phrases (‘best pad Thai in Columbus’ vs. ‘Thai Restaurant Columbus’) that people would be more likely to say out loud.

Content marketing makes optimizing for voice search a little easier because it’s not as hard to work those conversational keywords into a blog post as it is to try and stuff them into your website content most of the time.

The Surge of Advertising on TV (but not TV as we know it!)

It’s television, but not as we know it.

Facebook, YouTube and Amazon (among others) have their own TV series’ now. Netflix and Hulu have exclusive shows you can only see on their platforms. Television streaming services keep winning Emmy awards.

And, since we know that people are watching video on their mobile devices, we know that people are seeing these shows. And, there’s more to come in 2018.

What does this mean for the future of television advertising? Well, as TV migrates to the digital world, so will savvy business owners, opting for social media and YouTube ads rather than local TV commercials.

Strategic Social Media Will Become Your Best Chance at Reaching Followers

It gets harder and harder to reach your intended audience on social media, with updates and changing algorithms. And, honestly, no business is safe – you’ll have to fight for your social presence.

That’s why 2018 is going to be the year for strategic, actionable social media plans for local businesses and large brands alike.

Get started by building a solid social media base so that you can amp up your social strategy in 2018.

We’ll Be Marketing to Generation Z in 2018

Everyone loves to hate marketing to Millennials, but Generation Z can now start taking some of the heat.

In 2018, lots of businesses will want to start focusing on Generation Z marketing, so you might as well get started now, because the generation spans almost 20 years. We’ll be marketing to these consumers for decades to come.

Transparency Will Become One of the Most Crucial Elements of Marketing

Transparency and trust are already a big deal when consumers look for local businesses.

Everyone reads reviews. They search for your social media profiles. They Internet stalk you because they want to know everything they can possibly know about you before they come to your business.

And, the Internet is catching up. People can leave reviews on your social pages and profiles. Google recently added an extra layer of verification and trust to home services businesses with its Local Services Ads.

You’ll probably see more acts of transparency in 2018, so beef up your review marketing strategy and start giving consumers a behind-the-scenes look at your business. Add a human element to your marketing so that you’re more than a logo, a product, a service. Bring the transparency in 2018 and you will be rewarded.

Personalization goes to the next level.

A key tenet of account-based marketing (ABM) is providing content tailored to specific accounts or account types. As ABM principles go mainstream, look for content personalization to proliferate. Platforms provided by Adobe and Optimizely make it possible for marketers to recommend specific pieces of content similar to the way Netflix suggests shows.

Brands start to develop voice-optimized content.

Last year 20 percent of online searches were conducted through voice search. By 2020, that number is expected to increase to 50 percent. Just as marketers have optimized content for web 2.0 and mobile, they will start optimizing content for voice search as well.

For example, because voice search is easier than typing, searches tend to surface more long-tail content. By comparison, text search tends to surface sorter phrases.

Privacy protection becomes a major selling point.

There have been a number of high-profile data breaches in 2017. From the DNC email hack to the Equifax breach, cyber security has had a considerable impact on many aspects of our world. Moving forward, consumers will begin to favor products that protect their privacy.

If consumers don’t prioritize privacy, some government associations will, and many are already doing so. For example, a new law passed by the European Union called GDPR will have a major impact on what businesses must do to protect user data. Because of a confluence of factors, marketers will begin using privacy protection and data security as a value proposition across industries.

Instagram becomes a more valuable channel than Facebook.

Instagram is growing at an incredible clip. In 2017, Instagram announced that approximately 800 million people use the platform each month. Their latest tool, Instagram Stories, became more popular than Snapchat just one year after going live.

Since brands tend to see better engagement on Instagram than any other social media platform, and because of great advertising controls, Instagram is poised to become the go-to channel for brands interested in social media marketing.

Leading brands invest in live events.

Approximately two-thirds of marketers say that they will increase the number of live events they host in 2018. This is because marketers recognize that live events are one of the most effective marketing channels.

There is a reason that some of the world’s most successful organizations, including Salesforce, Airbnb and Google, host an annual event designed to bring existing customers, prospective customers and the press together under one roof.

10. B2B marketers create multichannel cold-outreach campaigns.

The average cold email response rate is low, and it will continue to decline as email clients get better at filtering out junk mail. The best marketers develop integrated marketing campaigns that use a combination of email, digital ads and other channels to engage prospects in new and exciting ways.

For example, by using Twilio marketers can send text messages in addition to email. They can then retarget highly qualified prospects with custom audience ads offered by platforms like Facebook and Google AdWords.

Twitter dies a quiet death.

Twitter has been unable to grow users in 2017. The platform has focused on user acquisition rather than on making improvements to their ad platform. As a result, marketers are already using other social media platforms to connect with prospects. This trend will continue in 2018 as Twitter continues to struggle.

LinkedIn sees new life among B2B marketers.

While Twitter struggles, LinkedIn has made a number of great improvements to their platform. A site-wide revamp refreshed the LinkedIn user interface in 2017. The platform also saw good improvements to the LinkedIn ad platform. Thanks to these and other changes, B2B marketers will utilize LinkedIn more in the coming year.

Machine learning changes how marketers manage ads.

Why pay a digital marketing agency thousands to manage ads when a machine-learning platform can do it better? New platforms like Acquisio and Trapica promise to optimize ad spend through advanced machine-learning algorithms. Marketers simply need to set basic campaign parameters, and the platforms then do the work of identifying ideal audiences and effective creatives.

Predictive lead scoring makes marketers rethink lead routing.

Using predictive lead scoring, marketers can identify the prospects that are most likely to convert to customers. All that’s needed is an email address, and tools like Infer crawl the web looking for buying signals. Leads are then scored and sorted, so that only the most qualified people are passed to sales.

Virtual reality is called into question.

A few years ago, virtual reality was predicted to be the next big thing in content. While VR is popular in the videogame community, it has not gone mainstream. This is probably for the best, as it can be difficult for brands to produce content with a controlled point of view. Instead of virtual reality, augmented reality is slated to make waves next year. Look no further than Apple’s rumored AR glasses.

The Digital World Will Continue to Go Hyperlocal

Local: everybody’s doing it and so should you.

No, really. The digital landscape is making it easier than ever for local businesses to interact with consumers. Google Posts rolled out to all businesses in 2017. Facebook Local gives consumers a more localized social platform.

And those Local Services Ads make it easy to prove you’re trustworthy. Let’s hope we see more of this local focus in search results and social media in 2018 and beyond because this gives local businesses the chance to compete with even the biggest brands for consumer attention.

With all these local advancements, I’m predicting that big brands will focus on local marketing – getting all their locations ranking in the local pack in search results, local events, local social media pages, etc.

That means local businesses will need to be more on top of it than ever. You might be able to compete with big brands, but you’ll have to fight for it in 2018.

So, make 2018 the year that you build your best digital marketing strategy.

Lay the groundwork for a better future online by anticipating some of the trends.

Think local and digital and you’re off to a good start.

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