As social media becomes one of our main modes of communication, consumers are demanding that brand marketing becomes more and more personal. At the same time, new automation and machine learning technologies are offering digital marketers the ability to alleviate some of their day-to-day tasks and streamline their interactions with consumers, without fear of losing their unique brand voices.
Without a doubt, digital marketing will continue to move toward these two poles in 2018 - on one end, hyperpersonal communication and on the other, an increased reliance on automating processes.
Here’s a look at what else lies ahead in the world of digital marketing in 2018, and how digital agencies can prepare.
1. Consumers are reacting more to unfiltered, authentic moments than perfectly designed content
Of course, the aesthetic of a sleek, professional photo hasn't lost its appeal, however generic stock images don’t help brands showcase authenticity, and as a result, consumers are seeking more authentic moments with brands on platforms - particularly through newer options like Instagram Stories and Snapchat.
Consumers are looking for honest insights about how brands operate, and they want to connect on a personal level to the brands they follow. Brands that share unfiltered photos and videos, which haven’t undergone heavy editing, can expect to receive more likes, shares, and clicks on their content.
Platforms like BrandFox, which enables Instagram users sell their photographs to brands, are worth exploring if you're in need of more authentic images for your campaigns.
2. Storytelling is more important than ever
The importance of content marketing is old news, but gone are the days when a brand could hire just any copywriter off the street. As the competition for attention online gets fiercer, many agencies are turning to professional storytellers, and even journalists to write their key material.
With traditional media outlets on the decline, journalists looking for content marketing jobs are out there, and agencies can benefit greatly from hiring writers with backgrounds in reporting and storytelling. Journalists can not only help brands create a personality and build trust in their stories, but they can also help brands solidify their authority with well-researched content.
The demand for high-quality and engaging content is growing yearly, and is expected to continue on this trend for 2018. Readers want to get unique value out of the brands they follow, and in order to compete, agencies will have to step up their strategies – which may mean bringing in more non-traditional talent.
3. Automation is here to stay
By mid-2018, machines may be generating up to 20% of business content for social media. Facebook's been using AI for years in its facial recognition software, but we'll see the technology go far beyond this in 2018.
The most important development in AI for agencies will likely be the widespread use of chat bots to provide quick customer service. Millennials have been the fastest to adopt this new technology, with 60% claiming they've already interacted with a bot when dealing with a brand. Chatbots can help automate processes, reducing workload for teams and allowing marketers to dedicate more time to creative projects like content creation.
Even top brands are using bots to automate their content - The New York Times admitted recently to using bots to help coordinate posts across their several pages. These bots may even do a better job of predicting engagement than their human counterparts, so expect to see them making a big impact on marketing in 2018.
4. Meaningful relationships with influencers matter
Influencer marketing is almost ubiquitous now. But with consumers all the more focused on the reputation of the brands they use, it's more important than ever that marketers work with influencers that are appropriate for their brands.
Consumers are not interested in seeing a random celebrity promote a product; they want to see real leaders in your industry talking about your product or service to give it social value. New influencer platforms are sprouting up every day and can help take care of many of the time-consuming tasks for marketers, including finding relevant influencers, managing influencers relationships, and measuring success.
Maintaining close relationships with key industry influencers will be crucial for marketers to keep their followers’ attention in 2018. Spend time researching who your audience trusts and follows before reaching out to build a relationship with an influencer.
5. Competition for video views will increase
Video is already the most consumed media type on social media, and 2018 will be no different. In fact, it's predicted that by 2020, up to 80% of online content will be video. Already in 2017, 90% of all content shared by social media users includes video.
Video's not going away anytime soon, but it certainly has become a more competitive arena. To make engaging videos that keep followers’ attention, marketers need to focus on the first three seconds, since that’s how long you have until a viewer keeps scrolling. Optimizing video content for viewing with sound on or off will also be important since most social networks automatically keep videos silent unless you click on them. The experience should be good for all viewers, whether they listen or not.
Finally, make sure to consider the reasons for making a video in the first place. Video is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Your audience will want to know how your video content can help them solve their own problems, so if they don’t see any value, they'll keep scrolling.
In 2018, marketers should be prepared to give all their content a personal, authentic touch, and also to take a more hands-off approach to social media by automating the mundane tasks as much as possible. Marketing teams that can find the proper balance between automating their processes and giving followers the inside-look they crave will find the most success in the new year.