For the last five years, I've shared my digital marketing predictions for the proceeding twelve months, and while some of my prognostications have been dead on, others - not so much.
We won't know till this time next year if these estimations are any good or not, but in the vein of tradition, here are my top six bold predictions for digital marketing in 2017.
1. Credentials, training and college courses
Next year will be a banner year for professionals looking for training and credentials in digital marketing.
More and more I'm seeing my industry colleagues being recruited to teach at Universities around the U.S., whether online or in person. Add to that courses being taught by HubSpot, Content Marketing Institute, LinkedIn's Lynda.com and others - and there are several others in the planning stages of online course creation right now.
More opportunities for training will be available in 2017 than at any other time in history. As a result, breaking into this business should be easier than ever for new graduates and aspiring marketers.
2. Native advertising technology companies will start to cater specifically to content marketers
This is the biggest growth opportunity for native ad tech (as well as the actual publishers themselves). Most are built to cater to the media buyer that's used to paying for impressions and clicks. If native ad tech wants to tap into its greatest growth opportunity it must cater to content marketers' KPIs. This is the year they do it en masse.
This is a pretty comfortable prediction after witnessing the growth of the Native Advertising Institute in 2016.
3. Dozens of big brands will invest a lot of money in virtual reality (VR)
This prediction makes it sound like VR could be a mainstream channel for marketers in the not-so-distant future. It's not meant to be.
The fact of the matter is that the brands that go big in VR next year will only get one benefit out of it - earned media. As long as consumers have to put a contraption over their heads VR will never be mainstream.
The real future is in augmented reality (think Pokémon Go or the movie The Minority Report). Unfortunately, very few brands will pursue augmented reality investments next year.
4. Native advertising technology companies will look to integrate in-feed video
Facebook has proven that in-feed video works - in fact, it's gone so far as to train consumers to expect the video to run (on mute) the moment they get to the video in their feed. This makes video integration a no-brainer for the networks and managed services technology companies.
Look for a majority of native ad tech companies to offer this - if they're not already - next year.
5. Live-streaming will remain in its infancy as a marketing channel
While it's true that many folks are personally and professionally striving using this technology, it's also true that not many major brands have adopted it.
The biggest winners when it comes to live video will be individuals and media companies. I don't see many brands going live next year.
6. Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and natural language processing will become household names for marketers
Some of the biggest names in marketing technology have released (or are about to release) their flavor of AI. Guess what? The big names aren't the only ones in this space.
Many agile startups backed by venture capital and other investors are all over it, so much so that my friend, Paul Roetzer, founder of PR 2020, launched the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute this year. He sees the writing on the wall - AI has so many applications in marketing, communications, and advertising.
Many of the conversations we marketers have with mature and startup marketing tech vendors next year will include mentions of AI, machine learning or natural language processing, thus, making them household names.
Those are my 2017 marketing pontifications. Will every one of these predictions come true? Possibly, but we'll have to wait until this time next year to find out. Undoubtedly, digital marketing in 2017 will be even more thrilling than it was this year.
Agree or disagree with any of my predictions? Have any predictions of your own? Feel free to leave a comment below and we'll discuss.