Marketing Predictions and Digital Trends for 2018

Ten years into the great social media experiment and 2017 was the year we saw Facebook hit the 2 billion user mark, the proliferation of real-time video across social platforms and the continuing email renaissance. With 2018 coming up fast upon us what better time to reflect on the past year, to dust off the crystal ball and to predict what 2018 will bring for marketers.

This post is divided into five sections to mirror the disciplines Out-Smarts focuses on websites trends, SEO – getting found when people search online, email marketing, social media and overall marketing strategy.

Website Design Trends

We know that Google is going to continue to emphasize the importance of mobile in 2018 so expect to see function taking precedence over form with a focus on usability and minimalist site navigation and content proliferating. It’s going to be interesting to see how the content is king crusaders balance their obsession with publishing content with minimalism and mobile. Expect to see more valuable content related to buyer intent rather than simply content for the sake of putting something out there.

Will 2018 be the year when small businesses finally catch up? 50% of small businesses still don’t have a website; we’re hoping this new year will be the one the laggards finally catch up. It is interesting that social media adoption for small business is much higher than website adoption. The popularity of social media is likely because of a low barrier to entry of social platforms. However, it is important to consider that you don’t own your Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter pages (or any other social media presence you might have) the social media company owns it. What happens if they switch directions or go out of business? A website belongs to your business, not to a third party.

Watch out for more animation (logos in particular) and websites that incorporate GIFs in 2018 too – hopefully, they’re less cheesy than their Flash predecessors. Artificial Intelligence is going to be everywhere in 2018 too as enhancements make Chatbots get better and better at answering questions and simulating conversations with website visitors.

Search Engine Optimisation

Don’t let anyone tell you that keyword research is no longer important. It is and will continue to be, but there will be a shift in 2018 to focus more on semantic search, buyer intent and topics rather than specific keywords. SEOs will focus more on having their site show up at the right time when people are actually considering a purchase, rather than having the site show up to attract particular personas.

Another aspect that should be on your SEO radar in 2018 is voice search which means you need to hone your long tail keywords, i.e. keyword phrases that are hyper-specific to what you are selling.

Image search will continue to grow in 2018 so now might be the time to make sure all the images on your website have well thought out and optimized alt tags.

Email Campaigns

The email renaissance will continue in 2018. Get ready to watch videos embedded directly in email campaigns. Technological enhancements in email clients will continue to lead to more and more email apps that support embedded video. Right now less than half of all email clients can play embedded videos but thanks to Apple mail, iOS and Samsung this is changing. Up until now, most senders have opted to embed a fake play button in the email with a link to the video on a separate site or by GIF.

Including video in emails can lead to big increases in open rates – Campaign Monitor

Watch for more sophistication in list segmentation too. Segmenting campaigns so that specific audiences receive emails that contain content tailored to their unique perspective.

Social Media

2017 was the year of streaming video in social media; LinkedIn In and Twitter followed Facebook Live’s lead and began supporting live streaming video content. In 2018 watch out for growing adoption of these technologies and more creative live streams.

Over 8 billion videos or 100 million hours of videos are watched on Facebook every day (TechCrunch, 2016). – via Buffer

Not doing short video is not an option – Kat Hahn

In 2018 we will also see the increased adoption of short-lived content, content that’s only available for a short period of time before it disappears, – like Instagram stories and Snapchat. Marketers must start developing strategies to maximize the reach and impact of ephemeral content as well as considering tactics to get this content noticed.

On platforms like Instagram and Facebook, only a tiny percentage of followers actually see the content you share on your page. To get noticed in 2018, you will need to invest in ads on these platforms. Consider video ads to spice things up a little.

Social media analytics, measuring tools and management solutions will become more sophisticated in 2018 with an emphasis on enterprise social marketing integrating all platforms.

How Marketing Strategies will Evolve in 2018

2018

I am going to go out on a limb here and predict that 2018 will be the year that our obsession with all things digital and only digital will end. It’s also going to be the year we’re going to start calling our discipline marketing again (rather than digital). Marketing in 2018 will encompass all aspects of the marketing mix, both online and off and marketers will use the means most likely to help them attract their target audience.

Consider this, there are 65 million business pages on Facebook, 90% of businesses use social media. These are substantial numbers, but for marketers this means that it is becoming increasingly difficult, not to mention more expensive, to get noticed. If you want to attract your target audience’s attention in 2018, then widen your horizons and consider sending them a direct mail piece (depending on the audience) in a nice coloured envelope with handwritten wording. It will likely be the only physical mail the recipient gets that day (or maybe that week or month!), they’re going to open it, and if your copy is effective they will act on it!

Conclusion

2018 is going to be an interesting year; technological advancements will continue to speed up. To be effective as marketers, it’s going to be important not simply to jump on the bandwagon of the next big thing but to consider options strategically and with your target audience in mind (rather than from a product or service-centric perspective). That said, video popularity has been growing year over year and won’t stop. Cisco predicted that video would account for 80% of internet traffic by 2020. So if you do nothing else, consider how you might incorporate video into your digital approach in 2018.


How To Use Hashtags To Grow Your Online Social Presence

Hashtags are a really useful tool for small businesses. You can use a hashtag to extend your social media reach and to engage prospects and like minded networkers. Used right they will help you build your following, your posts will reach a far wider audience, you will get more leads, and boost productivity. In this post, you will learn how to use hashtags to grow your online social presence.hashtag, hashtags

What is a Hashtag?

In social media a hashtag is the hash or pound sign (#) followed by a word or key phrase that is used to categorise what your post is about. For example, if you are posting about social media, you might use the hashtag #socialmedia or #socmed. When you post to social networks using a hashtag, this then becomes searchable i.e. you can click on it to see all posts that use the same hashtag and it makes it more likely that people will find your post.

A Few Things to Know About Hashtags

  • Never include a space in your hashtags. If there’s a space, then it won’t be searchable.
  • You can include numbers and capital letters in hashtags. Capitals often make the hashtag more readable and understandable.
  • Use hashtags that are short and sweet. Trying to fit a whole sentence into a hashtag makes it incomprehensible and reduces its reach.
  • You can (and should) have your own hashtag. One that you use to brand your posts.
  • Hashtags are hugely important on Instagram and are key to building your following.
  • Be extra careful when using hashtags on Facebook. Don’t use too many (2 is enough) and don’t use them too often.
  • Don’t use made up hashtags that mean nothing unless you are trying to be funny (this can backfire and be a waste of your time).

Hashtag Data by hashtagify.me 

To decide which hashtags to use, first think about what you are posting about and then consider which words you would use to describe your post. For example when we share this post we might use hashtags like #socialmedia and #marketing.

Once you have determined the most appropriate word to use you can dig deeper using tools that help you to determine the most popular ones to use.  Hashtagifyme allows you to search for a hashtag and view related hashtags and their popularity. Choose the ones that are most popular to get the widest reach.

hashtag, hashtagsInstagram Hashtags

Using hashtags is a central component to building your following and engagement on Instagram. This app allows you to use up to 30 tags – if you try to use more you won’t be able to share your post.

The optimum number will depend on your audience and your posts but a general rule of thumb is to use between 5 and 10 (test and try this to see what works for you!). Upload your photo then enter your hashtags in the caption area.

More sophisticated users often enter a few tags in the caption area then more in the comments (there’s also a way to hide them to make your posts look cleaner but still make them searchable by adding line breaks). It’s a good idea to save a list of hashtags you frequently use so that you can simply copy and paste them from your phone. Instagram has a useful feature when entering hashtags that allow you to see how often these terms are used.

Twitter Hashtags

Twitter can be a really confusing network and most people really aren’t sure how to use it effectively. Hashtags can really help with that as they help to organise constant streams of updates and help you (and your audience) find the nuggets of information they are really interested in. Use a relevant hashtag before relevant keywords to help your Tweets show up better in search. You can use them anywhere in your Tweet and popular hashtags often become trending topics. A general rule of thumb is to use 2 – if you use more then engagement will decrease.

Using hashtags efficiently and effectively can be a great way to increase your social media productivity. Remember to use them efficiently and effectively according to which platform you are on.

This post is an adaptation of a blog post that Mhairi Petrovic of Out-Smarts Marketing wrote for SMEI


Conversations are Key to Small Business Success on Social Media

Social media is so mainstream, you would think by now that we would have grasped how to use it properly. Instead businesses fall back on bad habits and focus on the old push model – pushing out content (the more the better) and hoping that some of it sticks (or that somebody (anybody?) notices). If you log into your Twitter dashboard right now, the chances are that the majority of the Tweets you see are links to articles written by someone else and in many cases the original article titles are still intact with no value add and there’s no mention of the originator.  Little wonder then that 75% of our time spent on social media is wasted, all we are doing is rehashing other people’s content and poorly at that.

In 2014 if your small business isn’t having conversations in these networks then why bother?

Non BroadcastLet me ask you this. Would you go to a networking event and stand in the corner of the room and shout ‘I’ve a great deal for you’ or ‘Have you read this bla bla bla?’  at the other attendees? Of course you wouldn’t so why is it that you think it is okay to do this on social media?

Successful social media participation is a lot like attending a networking event, you have to start conversations and interact in order to make the most of your time there.

Don’t be shy. Here are five quick tips to help you kickstart social media conversations.

1. Who is it you waMulti-ethnic group portraitnt to have conversations with? – Most likely your partners, clients, business contacts, people of influence in your community, other businesses you would like to have as clients, media types and service providers who can bring you business. Make sure you are following them on Twitter and have liked their business pages on Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest (this will depend on which networks you use).  Make a list on Twitter if you like (to help you track them more easily).

2. Listen well – You’ve followed the right people, now what? Get into the habit of listening (watching) out for their updates and replying, responding and sharing when you have something positive of valuable to add. Do this daily and remember that this is about them not you. Be authentic.

3. Get social in real time – Rather than simply scheduling posts, get into the habit of using these tools in real time. When you post, take a few minutes to hang out and wait for responses so that you can have real time interactions with your connections. If you don’t have time to do this then monitor your feeds (most social apps facilitate this). Thank people who share your posts (if you do they will be more likely to do so again). Remember your manners.

4. Find ways to start and stimulate conversations  – If you are linking to articles remember to include the @twitterfeed of the original source – that helps you build new relationships.  Tell people what it is about the post that is interesting / adds value or you disagree with. Include a call to action. Share pertinent articles that you think will be of specific interest to your network and, even better, share directly with individuals in your network.

5. Integrate online and off – use social media as a tool to augment your in person business development.  If you are attending conferences or events, look for your fellow attendees in advance and connect with them online so you can meet break the ice before meeting them in person. Get into the habit of connecting on social media with people you meet at networking events then go back to steps 2 and 3 in order to enhance your relationship with them.

How do you start and maintain your online conversations?  What works for you?  Let us know.

Other Out-Smarts Blog articles you might like:

The top 10 social media mistakes businesses make

Using social media to maintain and grow your network

10 Ways to Kickstart your Tweets

 



Top 10 Tips to Boost Social Media Productivity

Social Media ProductivitySocial media has become an important marketing tool for small business. If you use it effectively, you can build brand awareness, generate leads, boost customer loyalty, drive traffic to your website not to mention enhancing mind share.  What’s more, a social presence is becoming an expected norm if your prospective customers are below 45.  For younger audiences, if they don’t find you on social media, they simply don’t do business with you.

The challenge for small business looking to implement effective social media campaigns is that we all have limited time and resources, not to mention the fact that we don’t have bottomless pockets. So how can we take advantage of social media in a way that makes sense given these potential barriers?  Here are 10 tips that will boost your social media marketing productivity.

1. Don’t spread yourself too thin – there are thousands of social media tools.  You can’t use all of them effectively, so choose up to 3 (no more) and make those the tools that your customers are most likely to use and that you will enjoy using. For example, if your target audience is the professional business type, build your presence on LinkedIn and focus on that network rather than trying to have a presence on Facebook, Pinterest et al.

2. Schedule social media time into your day just like you would for any other business activity. Stick to your schedule and don’t get distracted.  Social media can be a big time suck, don’t let it.

3. Use productivity tools like Hootsuite to schedule posts and to manage your networks effectively (Hootsuite supports LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, WordPress and more). If you have different team members managing your social presence, Hootsuite let’s you see at a glance who is responding so that you are all on the same page.

4. Install and use apps on your phone so that you can check in on your social feeds and respond accordingly on the fly.  All of the major social networks as well as third party tools like Hootsuite have iPhone and Android apps although some are better than others when it comes to functionality.

5. Your social presence is an extension of day to day business.  You don’t need to come up with a whole new story for your social media updates and you shouldn’t.  Think about your to do list for the day and how you can reflect your daily activities online. Hosting an open house or event? Make sure attendees can interact with each other in the appropriate channels.

6. Reuse your existing content – to find great content to post on your social networks, use content that you already have (white papers, marketing materials, case studies etc) and adapt it to your needs.

7. Find new content use content tools: my favourite us Zyte which is an app I use on the iPad that allows me to subscribe to fresh new content based on topics and categories I’m  are interested and I can then easily share it on the networks as required.

8. Be an editor – blogging is often a central component to a company’s social strategy but blogging takes time. Build a blog editorial schedule so that you know what to blog about and when, and remember that quality beats  quantity when it comes to blogging.  If you hate to write then consider other options like video or photo blogs that make it easier for you.

9. Consider outsourcing part of your social media to a firm like Out-Smarts that specialises in social media, but be very careful if you do do this.  Make sure that the company you work with takes time to understand your organisation inside out so that they can represent you in an authentic way online.  And never outsource your social media then forget about it.  The best partnerships are those where your social media partner firm manages your day to day and general posts whilst you or your staff augment and humanize your presence when time permits.

10. Get lean – quality is much more important that quantity when it comes to building your following.  Save yourself some time and don’t follow everybody and anybody.  Instead take time to determine your connection startegy i.e. who you will most benefit from connecting with.  This will likely be different for each social network (if you are doing it right) you use and might include industry visionaries, your ideal clients/prospect, partners and related pages.

At Out-Smarts we provide professional, dedicated and timely social media marketing services managing Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube pages for our clients.  Why not focus on what you do best and let us focus on what we do best.  Call us today to find out  about our services


Social Media – A Component of Your Online Presence

Social media is a component of your Internet Marketing and overall marketing strategy and should be treated as such but many small businesses fail to understand this. Instead, they consider social media on its own as a stand alone activity that has no connection to anything else. It is hugely important that your online marketing activities all reflect, augment and complement each other. If your ducks line up (so to speak), you’re more likely to succeed.

The components of an online marketing strategy:

Website  – your website is the backbone of your online presence.  Make sure that visitors to your site can easily find your social network presence too by adding social media widgets front and centre.

Email Marketing – more people still use email than any other online communication tool.  Those that subscribe to your newsletters often have an existing connection  (clients, partners etc etc) so be sure to use your newsletters to allow this network to connect with your social networks too.

Digital Marketing – more people access the Internet by phone than by PC these days so it’s important to consider your digital approach.  At the very least your website should be accessible to people on their phones and they should easily be able to click through to find your social pages and connect with you there too.

Search Marketing – The keywords that you use on your website content and META should be the same keywords that you use frequently when posting social media updates.  Online ads such as as Google Adwords or Bing Ads are a great way to try out words to see if they resonate with your audience. Once you find words that do, use them consistently in your social networking.

Measure – you shouldn’t just measure your social media progress on its own. Consider how it impacts your other online activities.  Does it drive traffic to your website?  If you Tweet about your newsletter do you get more subscribers? If you take time to measure these you can then tweak and adapt to improve and build your success over time.

Social Media – the best social media presences are those that reflect not only your online activity and strategy but also your offline.  Use your social presence to encourage people to sign up for your newsletter, to read your latest blog posts and to visit your website or to network at in person events.

Other Out-Smarts blog posts you might enjoy:

The Social Biz: A Refresher on How to Use Social Media to Build Your Business & Brand

Here’s Why Your Social Media Isn’t Working

 


The Google+ Project

It’s been a couple weeks since giant Google launched their latest effort in social, Google+. The search giant has had a couple false starts in their attempt to go social with both Google Wave and Google Buzz failing to catch users’ attention. However, from the buzz around the web, Google+ might just have the potential to rival the leader of social, Facebook.

What is Google+?

In short, Google+ is Google’s latest attempt at a social network. The official Google blog stated that,

“Today, the connections between people increasingly happen online. Yet the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions are lost in the rigidness of our online tools. In this basic, human way, online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it.”

 

To facilitate ease of sharing, Google is integrating many of their current features and products into Google+ in the form of Circles, Sparks, Hangouts, and Mobile. They’ve also included a ‘Stream’, analogous to Facebook’s newsfeed or the Twitter stream – something social savvy users will find familiar. The constantly updating stream will aggregate updates and postings from all your friends in one place.

Circles

Circles are similar to Facebook lists, but easier and more intuitive. The premise behind circles is that people don’t want to share everything with everyone. For example, you most likely share different things with your friends than you do with you family, and you probably want to keep your weekend escapades separate from the information you share with your work contacts. You can easily do this by separating your contacts into different circles, such as ‘friends’, ‘family’, ‘work’ or a customized circle. To do this, simply click on a contact and drag them into the appropriate circle where they will only see the information you want them to see.

 

Sparks

Sparks brings content to you automatically based on whatever ‘sparks’ your interest. Maybe you’re interested in cycling, dogs, cooking, or you’re a car enthusiast – sparks collects interesting content from across the internet and brings it right to you, on a separate page for each topic. It’s easy get started with Sparks, you type a topic of interest, such as ‘social media’ into the search box and, if you like the content that appears, you can click ‘Add Interest’ and social media will be added to your Sparks.

If you later decide you don’t want to follow a certain topic, it’s easy to delete it from your Sparks – simply hover over the topic you wish to delete and click the X.

Hangouts

This is basically video chat, with an added twist of being able to have a multi-person video chat. You can choose which friends, or even entire circles, you wish to video chat with, and anyone in the Hangout can invite their own contacts to join as well.

Mobile

Huddle

If you remember group messaging from the days of msn messenger, you’ll quickly understand the Huddle feature. Instead of having multiple similar conversations, you can instead start a Huddle where everyone can chat together. This feature could be incredibly useful for trying to make plans to get any group of people to meet all at one place at one time.

Instant Upload

Photos taken on your mobile phone will be automatically added, with your permission, to a private photo album in the Google cloud. This way, you can share them straight from Google+, without the hassle of traditionally uploading them. Many users fear only having a copy of their photos in the cloud, which is why it’s easy to backup your online images to your home computer using Google Takeout.

Location

You can easily add your location to every post you make in Google+. Or not, the choice is up to you.

Privacy

Social networks, most notably Facebook, have been notorious for their privacy issues. Google has tackled users’ privacy concerns by making it easy to customize your Google+ profile’s visibility. Your name and photo (if you upload one) are the only things that are public on your profile, everything else can be customized to private. Or, you can assign different levels of profile visibility to different circles. Furthermore, the names of your circles won’t be disclosed, not even to the people that are in them. So, feel free to put someone in the acquaintance circle without worrying about insulting them!

As with Facebook, you can block people you don’t want to interact with, and choose whether or not your profile is indexed by search engines.

How to join Google+

Currently Google+ is in Beta testing stage and  can only be accessed through invitation from a current Google+ user. If you have a friend already on Google+, ask them to invite you! Or, you can sign-up here with your Google ID and be notified when Google is allowing more users access to the testing stage.

If, once you’re a Google+ member, you decide it isn’t for you; you can downgrade your account by following the steps in this guide. Deleting just your Google+ account will leave your other Google accounts unaffected, or you have the option to delete your entire Google Account and all associated services.

Have you tried Google+? What do you think of it? Let us know below in the comments section.