With 2016 officially in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to start thinking about how your marketing strategy will evolve in 2017. It’s a good idea to step back for a moment, assess the success of last year’s marketing campaigns, and consider ways to evolve your digital strategy in the year to come.
Overall, 2016 was a year filled with changes and advancements in the digital space. We saw the introduction of ephemeral content on Instagram, changes in Google AdWords, innovations in live streaming, algorithm updates, and an overall increased focus on unique, creative content marketing. It may seem like a lot to stay on top of, but the good news is that 2016’s advances mean there are many ways to get inspired to better your strategy, test new tactics, and engage your customers on an even deeper level this year than you did last.
As you put together plans on where to focus your efforts in 2017, here are five marketing tactics to test if you want to take your strategy to the next level.
1. Live Streaming
2016 was a big year for live streaming. Facebook launched their live streaming service, Facebook Live, and after partnering with a handful of publishers, rolled the service out to all users. Twitter also upped the ante on live streaming in 2016 with a handful of impressive partnerships of their own -- notably, the Democratic and Republican conventions and, early in 2017, the Golden Globes. Twitter made live streaming easier for its users by allowing them to begin a stream directly from the Twitter app, where previously beginning a stream necessitated accessing Periscope. With these two major social networks making live streaming easier than ever before, now is definitely the moment to test it out for your brand.
If you’re just getting started with live streaming, you first want to brainstorm some ideas for content your brand can realistically create in a way that will feel spur of the moment and authentic. Some ideas might include:
How-tos: teach users all the ways they can use one of your products or show them how to maximize their use of a specific product.
Q&A: host question and answer sessions with brand experts. You can source questions from your audience in order to enhance engagement.
Events: broadcast an event your brand is hosting or taking part in to make it accessible to people who can’t be there in person.
Behind the scenes: take users behind the scenes at special events, offering them a glimpse into a world that’s usually closed to them.
Demos: teach users a new skill. If you’re a real estate company, for example, you might host a series teaching users how to stage their home to sell.
Tough Mudder is a perfect example of a brand that uses live streaming initiatives to help connect with their audience. As a brand in the health and fitness sector, going live on Facebook to provide viewers with helpful tips to get in shape after the holidays is a perfect fit.
Don’t forget to announce your live stream in advance of when you actually plan to go live -- you want to make sure your users don’t miss it. And capture those users upfront by writing a compelling, descriptive introduction to your stream so they’ll be more likely to stop scrolling and tune in.
2. Ephemeral Content
Expect to see a lot more ephemeral content this year. What’s ephemeral content? It’s limited life posts that disappear after a set period of time. And if you thought disappearing posts were only a thing on Snapchat, think again. Instagram launched their own ephemeral content feature, Instagram Stories, in the summer of 2016 and by extension, introduced the concept to a whole new audience (ie; anyone not also on Snapchat).
Creating content that is going to disappear after 24 hours might seem like an unattractive proposition to most marketers, but if that’s where your users are, that’s where you should be too. The good news is that Snapchat and Instagram Stories are both designed for content that feels spontaneous and grounded in the moment. The last thing you want is to post content that appears overly edited, formal, or stiff. That means you shouldn’t be spending hours filming or designing studio-quality sets -- you should be creating quick, casual, bite-sized content that costs nothing (or almost nothing) to make. Focus on reflecting the human qualities of your brand. If your brand is new to ephemeral content, try starting with behind-the-scenes gifs or videos, brand announcement teasers, or snippets from events.
3. Snapchat Advertising
Snapchat rolled out two big advertising innovations in 2016, and they’re worth trying out if you’re considering broadening your ad buys across platforms. That said, Snapchat isn’t the right platform for every brand -- it skews younger than most social platforms, and it lends itself best to content that is at least somewhat playful. Still, there are advertising opportunities to be had for brands that fit the bill.
Snapchat introduced the ability to create sponsored geofilters which allow brands to design their own geofilters and choose the when and where to enable them.
With sponsored geofilters brands can use logos and trademarks -- something that has not previously been permitted with community geofilters.
Snapchat also launched ads (or “stories”) that appear between users’ stories. The sponsored stories are full-screen and play sound automatically if the user has sound turned on. Advertisers can send users to longer videos, articles, or an app install directly from the ads. Though users can skip sponsored stories if the wish, the ads are still new and different enough to have a bit of an edge when it comes to user engagement.
4. Influencer Marketing
The popularity of influencer marketing is definitely on the rise. According to eMarketer, in 2016 brands spent somewhere north of $570 million on influencer marketing on Instagram alone.
Not sure what all the fuss is about? Basically, it’s all about word of mouth. We all know that word of mouth marketing is the best form of promotion. We are inherently more likely to trust the opinion or recommendation of someone we know. Think of influencer marketing as one way to get that word of mouth promotion online rather than in person. Sure, influencers aren’t usually actually friends with the people who follow them online, but they have nearly the same influence. Influencers are trusted thought leaders and trendsetters, and their followers respect their recommendations because they look up to them. Partnering with the right influencer can be tremendously beneficial to your brand if you’re looking to be introduced to new audiences.
Oftentimes brands imagine going after big-name celebrities as influencers, but the truth is that working with those people will cost a fortune. It’s better to focus on finding niche influencers who have interests or specialties that are in sync with your brand.. Not only will it be more cost-effective to work with them, they’re also the type of people who have audiences that are likely to be interested in your brand.
5. Content Innovation + Personalization
You probably already know that how important it is to be investing in content marketing, so this recommendation may not feel like a particularly exciting one. However, content will be more important than ever in 2017 and it’s critical to keep it top of mind. The key thing to note is that as more and more brands start investing in creating new, interesting content, the playing field this year will become much more crowded. That means it will take even more effort to make sure your brand stands out, which is why we recommend focusing on content innovation in 2017. Maintaining an active blog is a great -- and necessary -- first step, but it won’t necessarily be enough to set you apart. Instead, it’s quickly becoming the bare minimum. 2017 is the year to start focusing on how your brand can create content that feels fresh and exciting.
One key way to be innovative with your content is to work on ways to personalize it. The internet becomes more sophisticated every day, and users grow ever more sophisticated along with it. Over time, they also grow less patient with content that isn’t relevant to them. Personalization is key to connecting with users and increasing the odds of a conversion because it helps ensure those users’ needs are met. If you haven’t done so already, make sure your analytics are set up to allow you to glean as much useful information about your users as possible. You can use this data to segment your users into groups who can be spoken to on a more individualized basis.
Your Digital Marketing Strategy in 2017
From a digital marketing perspective, there’s much to look forward to in 2017. Recently added features, functionalities, and services have opened new doors for digital marketers looking to engage with users to influence the bottom line. From limited-life content to advertising with new platforms, and extending content efforts beyond blog posts to new initiatives like live streaming and influencer marketing, the options for success in the year to come are numerous.