Updated: Nov 4, 2019
“How do you keep up with it all?”
It’s a question we’re often asked by clients when we discuss new features and emerging trends happening online.
The simple answer? Well - it takes lots of research, trial and error to understand how to market businesses on the ever-changing internet. Working in many different industries and on many different platforms, we’ve come to understand that in the world of digital marketing, you’re constantly learning and adapting your skills as technology evolves. We read newsletters, attend webinars, source articles, conduct research and take courses to ensure that we are constantly up-to-date on what's trending in the digital landscape.
Below, we’ve compiled a few interesting trends that we think are key to marketing online right now, and that will be important to keep an eye on heading into 2020.
1) Major Changes to Instagram
While Instagram has evolved a lot since Facebook’s acquisition of the platform in 2012, the past few months have brought forth an exceptionally big platform shift. Features such as hidden likes, accounts specifically for “creators,” dark mode, and shoppable posts have emerged this past year and aside from bringing exciting new possibilities, they’ve also affected the way the platform works. The majority of users have reported less engagement and reach on their posts, and this is because the algorithm has adapted to the new features - focusing on sponsored and collaborated content. The bottom-line? Instagram is turning into a pay-to-play model, where brands will have to spend money to get their content seen on users’ feeds.
Luckily, ephemeral content (anything you post that disappears after a short period of time) seems to be a rising star. Consumers want to see that the dialogue isn’t one-sided, and that brands genuinely care about their contribution to the conversation. Businesses should use this to their advantage by posting stories and live videos, which can trigger immediate reactions and boost audience engagement.
2) Shoppable Posts
A sub-point of above: social commerce is quickly rising to the top as a convenient, visual and exciting way to shop online. Instagram broke barriers this year as the first platform to connect e-commerce, and it’s likely only a matter of time before other traditionally “social” spaces follow suit. Brands can upload catalogues of their offerings, and then users can purchase products and services without ever having to leave the app.
Instagram’s algorithm also collects data on who users follow and what content they interact with, so a brand posting their products on Instagram will have direct access to highly targeted audiences, who may be ready to purchase just from seeing a post. The platform says that 130 million people tap on these tags each month, so for e-commerce businesses big and small, a social media content strategy that incorporates tags on their products and services could be key in driving sales.
3) Voice Search
One commonality amongst all these trends is the push for convenience - we are constantly multi-tasking and whatever can be done on-the-go, usually is. Siri revolutionized smartphones’ capabilities in 2011 with the potential to complete tasks by voice-activation, and more recently, similar technology has come into our living rooms with the Google Home and Alexa units.
Consequently, search engines are having to adapt in many ways - including improving the recognition of various accents, and needing to consider user intent, not just the literal phrase they are searching. When planning content online, brands should consider the broader context of the queries as well as the many different ways to say a similar phrase. As algorithms continue to improve and respond to voice, we can expect a smoother and more intuitive search process.
4) The Rise of A.I.
It’s pretty incredible how integrated artificial intelligence has become in our everyday lives - both on the business and the consumer side of things. Customer service chatbots and various social media algorithms have been part of consumers’ lives for awhile, but more recently, A.I. has taken on outbound advertising too. For content writing, software like Grammarly, Shosho and Ink help writers with their tone and searchability. JPMorgan Chase, the largest U.S. Bank, has recently implemented A.I. to write the taglines in its ads, after a test revealed the content generated by a machine yielded 5x better results than those crafted by humans.
A.I.’s main goal is efficiency, and it’s exciting (and also kind of terrifying) to be in an age where machine interactions are nearly indistinguishable from those with humans. It will be crucial for businesses to thoroughly understand all the ethical considerations when working toward a machine-centric business model, before diving head-first into hiring robots for their projects.
5) Tik Tok - it’s not just for Gen Z anymore
Much like its short-form video platform predecessor Vine, teens have flocked to Tik Tok for its quirky, authentic content. With over 500 million active users worldwide, this app may be the gateway to reaching broader targets online.
Brands need to get extra creative if they want to hit the TikTok audience with their messaging. The main demographic of users are born after 1995, making them part of Gen Z. They are digital natives - and therefore - they are used to turning a blind-eye and scrolling right by ads that don’t interest them. The key to sticking out is raw, unfiltered content that can be replicated by other users - and you’ll need to figure out how to do so in a very limited amount of time. Brands should keep an eye out to see how marketing tactics that are typical to Instagram (like influencer marketing) succeed on this new platform.
The truth is - even fool-proof tactics from a few months ago have become obsolete as online platforms evolve. The digital landscape is rapidly changing, and as marketers, we’re constantly needing to expand our toolboxes and sharpen our skill-sets to adapt to these changes.
Think your business might need to update its marketing strategy to better accommodate emerging digital trends? Get in touch for a consultation and we’d be happy to chat about what a digital marketing strategy may look like for your business. Coffee’s on us. :)