Marketers! Here Are the Must-Know 2017 Digital Trends: Part 1

Ying Yi Wan
09 Jan 2017

2017 is finally upon us!

As usual, around this time, people are gazing into their crystal balls and identifying the key trends that will dominate their fields this new year. It’s important to stay updated regularly, but we know that it can be hard to keep up with what’s new. With so many predictions being made left, right, and centre, it can also be challenging to know what truly matters.

We’ve got you marketers covered! We’ve scoured the web, read what thought leaders in several key digital fields have to say, and identified the 2017 digital trends that marketers need to know. At the end, we’ll give our take on how marketers can stay ahead in a dynamic digital world. 

Consider this post (and the upcoming part 2) a roundup of 2017 digital trends.

What Marketers Need to Know About SEO in 2017

SEO trends in 2017 

What’s hot? 

2017 is going to be the year of 'I told you so' in mobile. Basically, if you’re not there and sorted, you’ll start feeling the pinch in a real way. Traffic, ranking, commerce…if you’re still ‘thinking about mobile’, consumers won’t be thinking about you.” ~ Duane Forrester 
  1. Mobile. Mobile search has grown so rapidly in recent years that it can no longer be treated as a mere specialisation of SEO. Google, for one, is taking mobile search seriously. Since it announced in 2015 that mobile search has surpassed desktop searches in its search engines, Google has taken various steps to prioritise mobile search. One recent move is its announcement in November 2016 that it is beginning experiments to make its index mobile-first.
  1. Voice search. Voice search has become one of the fastest growing search options. In 2016, Google announced that 20% of all its searches have voice intent. This proportion is expected to grow over the next few years, as speech recognition error rates continue to improve. Marketers would be wise to think beyond text-based queries from 2017 onwards.
  1. Machine learning. This relates to the earlier point about voice search technology improving. Tech titans like Google and Microsoft have been developing technologies that go beyond recognising words, to encompass understanding natural language. This includes understanding metaphors and the context of a query.

Read about these predictions in detail over at Moz, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Journal.

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What these mean for marketers 

  1. Mobile friendliness is now an integral part of your prospective customers’ experiences. If they find surfing your website on their mobile phones frustrating (e.g. slow load times), they might just give up and leave. Time to prepare a mobile version of your website if you haven’t, and ensure that the content in both mobile and desktop versions is the same!
  1. The rise of voice search and machine learning means that understanding how your prospective customers speak and the intentions behind their searches is now more important than ever. You can’t just create pages that are highly optimised to specific keywords to rank high in search results. We suggest speaking directly to customers, or colleagues on the front line like customer service and sales. Then you’ll have a clear picture of what drives your prospective customers.

What Marketers Need to Know About Social Media in 2017

Social media trends in 2017  

What’s hot 

Social media is just becoming another paid media.” ~ Jeff Bullas 
  1. Paid social. As more and more individuals and businesses participate in social media, organic reach has grown increasingly difficult and competitive. Soon, you may have no choice but to pay for visibility. Castrol Moto’s experiment with growing their social media reach organically, versus with the help of paid social campaigns, illustrates this starkly:

Castrol Moto's paid social experiment results 

  1. Influencer marketing. Aside from using paid social to improve their reach, businesses may also increasingly turn to developing relations with the movers and shakers of their fields. In fact, 84% of marketers said they plan to launch at least one influencer campaign within the next 12 months
  1. Video, particularly live video. Live video is trendy, according to many social media practitioners and thought leaders. Snapchat’s meteoric rise and the success of Instagram Stories prove that there is demand for such raw, in-the-moment footage. Rival social media giants are also paying close attention to video, with Mark Zuckerberg even talking about “becoming video first”.

Read about these predictions in detail over at Buffer, Search Engine Journal, and Jeff Bullas’ blog.

What these mean for marketers

  1. Reaching your prospective customers is now harder than ever. Prepare to “pay to play” on social media, either through social media ads or collaborating with influencers to produce sponsored content. 
  1. That said, there are (free!) ways to capture the attention of new audiences and live video is a HUGE opportunity. Businesses used to be iffy about producing videos because of the costs, equipment, and heavy editing involved in producing quality video. The good news is that the popularity of live video means that all you need is a phone with video-recording capabilities and perhaps some wacky ideas:
  • Take a leaf from Buzzfeed’s experiment to find out how many rubber bands it takes to burst a watermelon. They recorded it on Facebook Live and 800,000 people tuned in to watch. 
  • Other great (and less messy ideas) for live video include: off-the-cuff interviews, behind-the-scenes tours, and exclusive announcements.

What Marketers Need to Know About Content Marketing in 2017

 Use augmented reality and virtual reality in content marketing

What’s hot?

Brands need to start creating incredible content or else consumers are going to tune out completely. Tomorrow’s marketer will think of herself as the director, the Spielberg or Lucas sent to craft the narratives that are 10 times better than her zombie competition.” ~ Shane Snow
  1. Creative and groundbreaking storytelling. There is so much content out there competing for attention, that even sites with strong content foundations like Buffer, Copyblogger, and Moz reported that social shares of their content have decreased. Businesses need to think beyond written content types if they want to stand out. Some growing opportunities to tap on include visual content and video. 
  1. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Here’s a largely untapped opportunity for content marketers: creating content optimised for AR and VR. Pokémon Go and Snapchat’s selfie lenses brought AR to the forefront of global attention in 2016. Mark Zuckerberg’s take on the future of AR is smartphones—rather than hard-to-obtain AR headsets and glasses—will be the device to scale AR and make it mainstream.
  1. Going niche. With the content landscape expected to remain competitive, Rand Fishkin of Moz encourages content marketers to “get more niche—serve smaller and smaller interest groups.” This does not just mean serving a very specific audience, but also creating intensively researched content for them.

Read about these predictions in detail over at Content Marketing Institute, Contently, Convince and Convert, and The Next Web.

What these mean for marketers  

Whether you go niche or pull out all stops with your creativity or do both, remember that:

  1. You will need to invest significant resources to make them work. This may mean growing your creative team, investing in AR or VR technology, sponsoring research, or conducting original field studies.
  2. Never forget your audiences! At the end of the day, your audience does not care about you or your product. Whatever content you serve them should speak to their dreams and desires. The one question you’ll need to answer is “what does (your product) mean for me?

Staying Ahead in a Dynamic Digital World

If we had to sum up everything up, all these trends and predictions boil down to two key takeaways: 

  1. The digital arena is expected to grow even more competitive in 2017. It will be more challenging than ever for your content to rank high on search engine results pages or for your organic social media posts to be seen.
  2. But there are cool, in-demand, and new opportunities that you can tap into. These include live video, AR, VR, and optimising for voice search. 

Daunted? John Maynard Keynes once said that “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones”. No matter what new developments await us digital practitioners and marketers, the best way to stay ahead is to keep an open mind. Learn new skills. Explore new technologies. Get creative.

Exciting times lie ahead! 

Need Help With Anything Digital? Talk to Us!

Wait, there’s more! In Part 2, we cover three more digital trends that marketers must know in 2017: UX, eCommerce, and big data.

Image Credits & Sources

Header image: Pawel Janiak
Body images: William Iven, Bradley Hook, WDnet Studio

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