The digital marketing landscape continued to change and evolve in 2016, but with 2017 right around the corner we thought it would be useful to highlight some of the digital marketing trends we’ve spotted coming down the tracks.

  1. Ephemeral Content

With the rise and rise of Snapchat, marketers have huge opportunity to reach a young, creative audience through ephemeral content. While creating content native to Snapchat is a good start (think vertical!), the traditional methods of content creation and how to measure their efficacy has changed. Those who get their heads round these challenges are the ones who will cut through the noise in 2017.

  1. Live Video Storytelling

Live video really took off in 2016, with Facebook Live and YouTube live streaming the main platforms marketers saw success with. To break through in 2017, videos need to tell more of a story to capture audiences and engage with them on their favourite device: mobile. News organisations are already adopting the story-first video structure, as this is how they naturally structure their content. But other brands will have to tell more of a story in their videos if they want to engage. For causes, a “show not tell” approach is the way to go – take your audience to where you work, let them see you in action.

  1. Better Content Marketing

Content marketing shows no signs of a slowdown, with more brands jumping on the content creation bandwagon than ever before. In 2017 that marketers will need to create better content if they want to stand out. A 600 word blog post with one feature image no longer cuts it. You need to create the best content about that topic that is available, otherwise people will go elsewhere. A tall order, but a great challenge for 2017!

  1. The Fake News Fightback

Facebook algorithms, once the preserve discussion of an unfortunate few, are now being debated in mainstream media, as digital disruption continues to reshape our world. As old and new media grapple with the radically evolving news environment and all of us seek meaning in the ‘post-truth’ world, explainers, fact-checkers and myth-busting formats will be more popular than ever. If you have a cause to promote or an injustice to fight, helping your audience be informed through commissioning engaging, facts-driven content, could be some of your best communications investment. (Check out our client, the great First Draft News for the sharpest thinking on this.)

  1. Facebook Metrics

Facebook metrics have come under fire in 2016, and rightly so. On three separate occasions Facebook reported it’s metrics weren’t accurate. For average video viewing time, monthly page reach and reactions to live content. Marketers and publishers looking after a brand’s presence will want to know these glitches are fixed into 2017, and be sure they are closely watching the measures that matter them. As paid media activity on Facebook creeps into the budget of more small brands and causes, Facebook must ensure its metrics are accurate.

  1. Virtual Reality for Good

Virtual reality is best known for gaming and entertainment, but it has great potential for driving social change, with echoes of the way as the “show don’t tell” model of live video mentioned above, creates a more impactful experience. A Stanford University study showed VR driving empathy: in one experiment, the embodied experience of colour blindness meant participants were more likely to actively help colourblind people, than those who just watched a video. While not an easy investment for most causes at this stage, VR is a huge area to watch for cutting through compassion fatigue.

  1. Data Security and Encryption

The Investigatory Powers Act, which Parliament passed in December 2016, is the biggest change to surveillance powers in over a decade. It means the government has greater powers for accessing people’s data, technology and communications. Notably, the bill does not ban data encryption – something Whatsapp is well know for. Encryption may be something businesses and charities start to use, particularly campaigning and activist groups. Recent reports suggest the government may be able to demand surveillance backdoors, but encryption offers a sensible best-practice step

  1. Rise of the Chatbots

In an always-on digital world, we’re going to start to see text-based chatbots provide 24/7 customer service that doesn’t sleep. The growing popularity and exploration of bots by big players comes is at the intersection of three other trends: the growth of automated messaging for customer service, the improved functionality of AI services, and the fact that people are now unwilling to download an app for every service on their phone. For example – Facebook recently opened up its Messenger platform to third-party chatbot developers, in an attempt to push Messenger as ‘not only a platform for conversation but also a marketplace where business transactions can take place’. (For more perspective on this see Ogilvy UK’s marvellous 2017 Trends report by the great James Whatley and Marshall Manson.)

  1. Continuing Growth of Pay-to-Play

Organic reach can vary wildly from one platform to another, so in 2017, it is going to continue to be important to invest in paid social media content. Especially when you’re already spending money to produce great content and slick visuals, your best content should be supported by a paid media budget to ensure it’s being leveraged on the correct platform and targeted to reach the right audience. (Montfort can help you with this!)

  1. Influencer Advocacy

Another ramification of shrinking organic reach, audience fragmentation and pay-to-play, means influencer marketing will continue to mature as a solid route to eyeballs. Brands and causes struggling to reach young consumers especially, should invest in influencer engagement. Causes who can engage a sympathetic influencer, be ready to work creatively and provide them unique access to the issue, will develop unique and powerful new advocates.

Here’s to an interesting, interactive, challenging and stimulating 2017!