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The 3 Digital Marketing Trends You MUST Watch in 2017
With 2017 almost upon us, let's take a look at the three digital marketing trends you should know about in the coming year ...
Even more mobile content
Making things easy for mobile users is something that every digital marketer should be familiar with by now, but in 2017 the stakes are rising higher than they've ever been before.
Mobile is now the world's most popular way to browse the net.
Towards the end of 2016, it's come to light that mobile browsing has finally surpassed desktop in terms of overall worldwide traffic. Mobile is now more important to Google than desktop, too. This indicates that if you're not taking mobile seriously in your digital marketing strategy, then you're probably already beginning to flounder.
In 2017, improving your users' mobile browsing experience should be at the very top of your agenda. It's time to go beyond simply having a mobile-friendly site or making other minor improvements to satisfy those browsing on a small screen. Mobile users should be at the heart of everything you do.
The rise of the Amazon Echo, and its onboard 'virtual assistant' Alexa, tells us that not only are we as consumers hungry for the next electronic gadget, but also that we are becoming increasingly connected to the digital ecosystem, even when we are away from our computers.
To put that in perspective, as of November 2016, two versions of Amazon Echo (the Echo and the smaller Echo Dot) currently outrank Amazon's most popular pack of AA batteries in its consumer electronics bestsellers chart.
Amazon's Echo is enjoying widespread popularity in the UK.
No matter what your particular niche is, now is the time to ensure your mobile experience is fully optimised. Whether that means designing a purpose-built app, ensuring that mobile users can access your content instantly through Google's AMP project, or some other technique, will depend on your line of business.
Resources need to be allocated effectively, or any attempt to encourage mobile traffic will be undermined. Ask yourself honestly whether the world really needs another app. Could it be that your time and money would be better spent on a site-wide redesign? Unless you've got a truly game-changing idea, then it's quite possible that this is the case.
Innovative new ways to use social media
Another old but good one. As of 2017, if you haven't got your social media in order from a marketing perspective, then you should be asking serious questions about what you are doing.
For those of us who haven't been living under a rock for the past decade, 2017 could be the year of innovation as far as social media is concerned. Who thought that a straight-laced finance newspaper could be a runaway success on Instagram? Or that a building society could produce a Tumblr people actually want to use? Clearly, it's time to think further than just traditional social media.
Pretty soon you could be right on the front barrier at a headline gig without the hassle, expense, or risk of getting doused in beer that it usually entails.
After the upset of Brexit and the shock election of a certain billionaire to public office, it's safe to say that the world has changed in some unexpected ways recently. Brands need to keep on top of an ever-changing news landscape by utilising social media in whatever way suits their purpose best.
The days when it was enough to simply post the odd tweet, Facebook update, or LinkedIn article and hope for the best are long gone. If you want to stand out on social media in 2017, you're going to have to innovate. This is about far more than just counting meaningless likes and comments.
Our predictions for social media this year? Well, live video streaming is a big one. This is making huge inroads in some sectors, and it shows no sign of slowing down - especially now Facebook has joined Periscope's party and started offering it. A great example of how live video is being implemented comes from Unilad - who recently started streaming MMA fights live over Facebook.
Live video could get your audience closer to the action in 2017 ...
Now, if you do it wrong, then there's a real danger that your live video offering will look like a particularly trite bit of bandwagon jumping. Done right, however, live video has the potential to help you engage with your audience like never before, and open up a new dimension in the methods you use to communicate with them. Just make sure you've got a decent angle before you begin.
Social media purchase buttons
If you're in e-commerce, then another big one this year could be the ability for your followers to make purchases directly through social media by means of 'buy' buttons.
Although these things have been around for a while with little in the way of uptake by users, there is evidence to suggest that 2017 could be the year of the 'buy' button.
Why, you might ask? Well, big retailers are really beginning to get behind this concept now, which can only lead to further standardisation, and therefore acceptance by the market.
It makes sense too. How many times have you been browsing Pinterest during an idle moment, when you've found an absolutely perfect piece of furniture that you simply must put in your home immediately? Then you spend the next 10 minutes doing Google reverse image searches and trawling comment threads looking for a UK retailer who stocks it.
With a purchase button, the job could be done in seconds - and your only problem then is how you are going to restock the contents of your wallet. While Pinterest has actually had this feature for a while now, we think that 2017 could be the year it really takes off. After all, people like clicking on buttons ...
Using VR for marketing
People on LinkedIn will delight in telling you that Pokemon Go was a flash in the pan. The monster-duelling augmented reality (AR) game was a big hit when it first came out, but the crowd around the local Pokestop dwindled quicker than the number of politicians willing to take responsibility for Brexit after the vote, and nowadays it's reported to be more of a niche pastime than a game-changer.
VR has moved on slightly since Battlezone arrived the first time round ...
If you're old enough to remember the 1980s, you're bound to remember virtual reality (VR) the first time round. A neon-shrouded vision of the decade's over-ambition, the first incarnation of VR was ultimately doomed to prove little more than a high-tech toy for a generation of early adopters.
But VR is back - with avengeance. If you don't believe us, then just consider some of the names involved this time around. Google, Sony, Samsung - as well as newer players like Oculus all have products to bring to the table, and the list of compatible software just keeps on growing.
You can probably see why VR would be great for people who want to drive tanks, fly spaceships, or become the dark knight himself, but what does it mean for digital marketing?
VR hardware is becoming cheaper, lighter, and sleeker by the minute ...
Well quite simply, VR makes all the same promises it did back in the 1980s - but this time the technology's actually there to deliver on it. When you think about classic applications like high-end teleconferencing, or working on confidential documents in privacy while on a crowded jumbo jet, it's easy to see the attraction. But there are even better ways to use VR when you start to think about digital marketing ...
Consider a large purchase like a factory-fresh car, or a new build house? It can be as nerve wracking as it is exciting to spend tens, or even hundreds of thousands of pounds on something that you haven't even seen in the flesh yet.
But this is as frustrating for the seller as it is for you - because they know it's a major speed bump in parting you from your cash.
VR could help you to buy an Audi R8 ...
Help is at hand in the form of VR. This technology is already in use with brands like Audi, who have used it to create a virtual showroom for their R8 flagship, and Sotheby's - who are using it to sell luxury houses.
Above we mention how Unilad are using live video to get their social media followers closer to major sporting events - but there's more than one player in this arena. In fact, firms like Laduma are already beginning to use VR to do a similar thing. Front row tickets for Wimbledon Centre Court? No problem - just don your headset, and you're 'there'.
VR could be massive for live music broadcasting too. Pretty soon you could be right on the front barrier at a headline gig without the hassle, expense, or risk of getting doused in beer that it usually entails.
How to do digital marketing in 2017
As you can see, 2017 is going to be an interesting year for digital marketing. But the devil is in the detail. The key with all of these things - be it mobile user experience, live video streaming, or VR implementation, is to tailor it to the particularities of your brand.
Just as a silent Facebook page can speak volumes about a company, a 'me too' implementation of any of the technologies described here risks painting your brand in a really bad light.
As with anything new, the trick is to get back to basics and ensure that you know your audience like the back of your hand.
The theme for the year is very much about 'being there' - whether it involves being with your audience when they're away from home (in the case of mobile), or bringing distant events to them in the case of live video or VR.
We can hardly think of a brand that doesn't want to be there for its followers, so there's something for everyone in this year's lineup of hot trends.
Written by Matt Atkinson