Most small businesses rely heavily on marketing strategies to retain current customers and attract new ones. However, the digital realm, including social media, is changing rapidly, and marketers must adapt their strategies quickly if they want to continue to reach their customers.
The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) named story-driven content, video, native advertising and influencer advertising as some of the top upcoming marketing trends to watch in 2017. Business News Daily spoke with some marketing experts to discuss the trends for digital marketing in the coming year.
Heartwarming and captivating stories help connect consumers to a specific product or service. The goal of story-driven content is to tap into consumers' emotions and make them feel something remarkable toward your brand. This strategy is particularly relevant to the millennial generation, which happens to be the largest target consumer demographic right now, according to Pew Research Center.
Strategic communication expert Supriya Venkatesan said stories are a major part of the future of marketing.
"The most effective content will be story-driven and match millennial values of doing social good — which is a relatively modern marketing trend," she said. "Platforms like Upworthy and campaigns like Dove Beauty are a huge success because they recognize that millennials crave authentic transparency and goodness."
However, a company's reputation can be jeopardized quickly if it relays the wrong value or message to its customers. For instance, Kirsten Clodfelter, co-founder of Rise Marketing, cited a 2014 incident when DiGiorno accidentally used a domestic violence hashtag to sell pizza.
"Businesses need to challenge themselves with really thinking about how to meaningfully engage using different social media channels in a way that's more significant than just using the latest hashtag or putting emojis in their post," she added.
Author and copywriter Brit McGinnis believes the future of marketing will be all about customization and understanding the complexities of a company's audience.
"Everything will be customized to find smaller numbers of more devoted customers," she said. This means methodologies will require less empirical analysis and more qualitative understanding of targeted consumers.
One way to capture an audience, for instance, is to create video content. According to HubSpot, videos often drive higher audience engagement online than other types of content, such as text and photos.
"Video marketing is a critical tool for businesses right now, whether you're looking at creating short, shareable content for social media or thinking about something more targeted, like recruitment strategy," Clodfelter said. She added that videos should also serve a culturally relevant purpose.
Native advertising is a unique type of marketing that matches the tone of the platform on which it appears. Many enterprises are investing in the native promotion of their content, CMI said.
"The concept of native advertising in the internet sphere is only a few years old, so it's going through many iterations — from simple blog-type posts, to video content, to promoted tweets and posts on all the major social media platforms," Venkatesan explained. "The future of native advertising is similar to the future of content marketing — it needs to be visually driven and compelling enough to grab the attention span of the modern consumer, which is getting shorter and shorter."
For example, websites and online publications like BuzzFeed and The Atlantic utilize native advertising amid nonsponsored content on their websites.
Influencer marketing uses specific people, typically those with audiences numbering in the thousands or even millions, to sell products on social media.
"Influencer marketing is absolutely the future, because it monetizes the trust of consumers," McGinnis said.
This method of marketing has a high return on investment, with advertisers seeing an average of $6.85 in earned media for every $1.00 spent on influencer marketing programs, according to a 2014 AdWeek report. Similarly to native advertising, ads using influencers can be disguised easily. Nonetheless, they can also be marked as sponsored content on social networking platforms.
As with more traditional advertising, some companies have even recruited celebrities to promote their brands, products and services. However, businesses should be careful to choose an influencer who aligns well with their brand and values, Venkatesan said.
"Social media stars will continue to rise, and their celebrity status will be used to promote products," Venkatesan said. "But many of these stars can't simply be bought and want to have a relationship with the brand. So again, story and matching of values need to occur."
Regardless of which areas of focus marketers pursue, experts agree that businesses need to be prepared to adapt to new trends and be on the lookout for new ones.
"I think marketing has already begun to change and will continue to, because with new technologies and ideas, lines continue to be blurred," said Geneva Gamblin, a record-label publicity assistant. "We're always looking to the next thing, and I think that marketers need to feel the same."