Valerie Jennings, CEO of Jennings Social Media & MarTech, Details 2017 Digital Marketing Predictions

By Valerie Jennings

As 2016 draws to a close, a year of opportunity is on the horizon for brands in 2017. Will the rapid growth of live mobile video continue? Will Snapchat prove its worth to major brands? How big will virtual reality’s impact on digital marketing really be? Read on as I review some of 2016’s most popular trends and make a few predictions for the digital marketing landscape in 2017.


Stale stock art images are out for 2017. Branded images are fine, but original photos are best. However, most of what we see performing well on social media today are mobile video uploads, live videos, 360 degree videos and GIFs. There is a swing back to “in the moment marketing,” which makes some brands nervous because they cannot always control the content. That is why it’s “in the moment” and not staged. Facebook Live video in particular is becoming very popular as well as mobile videos. Authentic, personal videos that are no more than 30 seconds long are performing very well on social media. We are seeing an average $.02 cost per view on mobile videos that are promoted as FB ads and pushed into users’ newsfeeds as content.


Branded content versus ads. You can still advertise on social media, but your offer needs to be tied to something inspirational, fun and/or emotional. Visuals set the tone, so to capture your audience’s attention, you need a great visual and then great copy to support it. Digital storytelling starts by telling a story and then introducing the offer or promotion. If you don’t have an offer then a soft call to action is fine. Creative hooks help, but be careful not to take it too far or it will create issues for the brand. We have found that by dedicating a small $10 – $20 budget to promote a post helps it reach a targeted audience and greatly increases the engagement. It’s “pay to play” on social media and brands are competing to have their content seen across channels.


Ad-blocking is causing problems for the business-to-consumer market. Approximately 20 percent of people actively block digital ads. They find them to be annoying and just don’t want to see them. In response to this issue, we’ve been encouraging clients to incorporate their offers into the social media content and then push the content out into newsfeeds instead of using a standard ad product. The A/B testing has proven successful and the cost per click data is much lower that the standard cost per click on regular social media ads. This also requires brands to use branded content that is social media appropriate instead of an ad you might see on TV or a billboard.


A second effect of ad-blocking, which is an old trend that’s resurfaced, is influencer outreach. We used this tactic in the early days of social media when we pitched bloggers and influencers story ideas or asked for product reviews. I remember about six years ago when this was one of our most popular services. However, guaranteed content delivery due to social media ads sort of stole the thunder away from influencer outreach. We are seeing a trend to revert to this oldie, but goodie. We have a client in particular that uses influencer outreach because it is a highly effective sales tactic. Ads don’t influence their typical buyer so this has always been a constant. Influencer outreach is very labor intensive, but incredibly effective and sticky.


Conquest marketing and intent to buy data is maturing across ads platforms. Conquest marketing allows brands to advertise to competitors’ customers. There are many digital and social media advertising products that allow brands to do this by utilizing various targeting options. These may include mobile ads that use location-based targeting along with consumer data. Consumers want to be spoken to on a very personal level. By utilizing geo-fence technology to target them via their smartphones, on location in a store or at a competitor’s store, marketers and brands can deliver messages to the right audience. While location based mobile advertising is still evolving, marketers and brands will continue to adapt to and develop from it. In time, they’ll undoubtedly mature this great digital advertising tactic to drive sales, foot-traffic and more.


You can also combine conquest marketing with intent to buy data and behaviors. For example, you can target people on Facebook who have an interest in buying a new car in the next six months or a competitor’s car in the next six months. On YouTube, you can choose similar targeting from a list of various items specific people have expressed an “intent” to buy.


Social media marketing is rolling out some new bells and whistles that are worth testing such as Facebook Canvas, Snapchat, Instagram Stories, social media messenger ads and chatboxes.


Facebook Canvas is for brands that want to create a customizable digital flipbook to tell a story. You can create several of these per product or service.


Snapchat will be a force to be reckoned with in 2017. While it’s hard to imagine that creating content that’s meant to disappear is a marketer’s dream, it’s true. Brands that utilize the available location-based filters can create customized branding opportunities for fans.


Instagram Stories allows you to share all of the moments of the day including photos and videos in one slideshow.


Messenger Apps including Facebook’s Mobile Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat are being called “the last frontier of social media monetization.” According to Venture Beat, there is a growing wish among consumers to communicate directly outside of public social network pages.


Chatboxes and the age of artificial intelligence (AI). As reported by Business 2 Community, chatbox is moving in to aid companies that can’t always be right there to answer all customer questions on social media. Chatboxes are designed to simulate intelligent conversation without a human being present.


Virtual reality is here and it’s starting its official introduction with Facebook 360 video. Although 360 Video is not a VR product, it’s the start of a panoramic experience. We have the capability to film 360 degree videos which Facebook now supports.


If you’re interested in learning more about VR, here’s a blog post we wrote about it. Brands that want to illustrate how something works before it is built or provide an experience to a customer, will want to test VR.


Your marketing needs to be functional. For business-to-business clients in particular, we still want to target and support your lead generation activities including tradeshows, events, sponsorships, targeted emails and case studies. We are not shifting away from this custom-tailored approach. It’s hard enough to stand out from the crowd in the B2B space and track leads. Search marketing and high quality website content are important strategies that get you in front of your decision makers. At the end of the day, we need to stay focused on supporting your sales team with content, marketing materials and targeted activities that engage your B2B sales efforts.


As we head into the new year, I can’t stress enough that entrepreneurs and brands alike should feel excited, not intimidated. With more digital tools at our disposal than ever before, 2017 is shaping up to be digital marketing’s best year yet.