Media Matters: Digital Marketing Trends for 2016 and Beyond
Skip the hype and focus on the trends that have proven to yield results.
There are plenty of tricks in digital marketing you can try, but chasing every shiny new gimmick can turn into a snipe hunt. You may remember when QR codes were supposed to become the “killer way” to promote your business; despite all the hoopla, the strategy fizzled when the general public could not be bothered to scan the symbols with their smartphones.
There are, however, a few trends in digital marketing worth paying close attention to this year… and likely for the future.
Trend #1: Video remains the medium to beat.
The reason video advertising is a mainstay for reaching people is, frankly, that the public consumes video whenever they can. Thanks to smartphones and tablets, video can reach target audiences when they are mobile. According to a recent study conducted by Google and YouTube, more than 50 percent of global viewership on the video app comes from mobile devices.
Timm Chiusano, co-founder and vice president of Kernel, the in-house creative agency of Time Warner Cable Media, says the presence of video is so ubiquitous that sometimes people do not realize how influential it is.
Chiusano adds that capitalizing on this trend with video marketing is more accessible than ever before for companies of all sizes. Small business owners have an opportunity to take on a larger voice through video marketing, Chiusano says, because of the scalable options for placing their content in the digital world. “When it’s done the right way—and it’s entertaining along with being something that resonates with consumers—you’re taking your brand messaging to another level,” he says.
Getting the most out of the versatility and accessibility of video, though, means tailoring it to where the audience will view it. Content intended for mobile devices obviously should be suited for smaller screens, and cut to a length that makes sense for an audience on the go. “It’s about shorter videos, shorter than 30 seconds—even 15 seconds,” says Phillip Hammond, owner of digital advertising and ad buying agency PH Consulting & Media says. There is even a market for 7-second Snapchat ads. “People are scrolling through feeds and don’t have a lot of time,” Hammond says.
While new types of digestible media emerge all the time, it is nearly impossible to replicate what video can do. “GIFs and memes might come close, but you really have to stretch your imagination to find a comparable product,” Chiusano says.
Business owners should map out how they will use video based on ways they already reach their customers with other content, including their website and social media feeds. “Once you see how your story comes together as a cohesive unit, you can wrap your head around how video can flow through all of those mediums,” he says.
One medium for video marketing is on cable television, where a small business can place their :30 video advertisement alongside great programming content from networks like ESPN, USA, Oxygen and AMC.
“TV is after all a digital channel,” says Chiusano. Advertising on cable television offers small business clients an opportunity to tell their story on-air and drive customers to their websites.
Trend #2: SEO is evolving into content marketing.
Matthew Barby, a digital marketing consultant and the global head of growth and SEO at HubSpot, says search engine optimization is still a substantial part of digital marketing, although these days it sometimes is rebranded as content marketing. “The reality is that with the majority of websites, the most sustainable traffic source comes from the likes of Google,” he says, due mainly to content created specifically around frequently used search queries.
Luring more traffic to a website is only part of the marketing strategy, Barby says, with more companies looking at ways they can optimize their sites to generate more leads and increase engagement with their audience. Companies with e-commerce websites typically already weigh such considerations, but now many other marketers put those elements in perspective, he says.
Google Analytics data can show what performs well online; however, there are other metrics to consider beyond how visitors come to a page. “What companies now need is a deeper insight into what people are doing when they are on the site,” Barby says. That can include the amount of time spent looking at individual pieces of content, or the ratio of people who share content with their online followers.
Trend #3: Digital marketing gets more personal.
It is important for business owners to personally cultivate a recognizable social media identity via LinkedIn or blog posts that reflects the brand. Jasmine Sandler, digital marketing strategist, says it is crucial for small and medium-size businesses to develop a social customer or client care team. “With a solid strategy and execution here, companies can use social media marketing to grow their customer base tremendously,” Sandler says. That includes creating guidelines for the company’s voice in social media and measuring sentiment.
More companies are also giving ads inserted into social media a try—although their mileage varies depending on the network. In some cases, this also points back to the power of video. “Facebook is leading the way,” Barby says. “Twitter’s ad platform still has a lot to be desired.” The personalization of ads seen on Facebook, he says, targets people in new ways with multimedia content and video ads they can interact with. “With Facebook’s acquisition of the Oculus Rift virtual reality platform, that is only going to increase over time,” Barby says. With this new virtual reality capability, companies can put customers and prospects in the middle of an experience, taking video from a spectator to a participant medium.
While these three trends impact marketing success in very different ways, each one can be implemented quickly and with limited resources.
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