10 Up-And-Coming Trends In Online Marketing

By: Jayson DeMers (Contributor)

The marketing industry changes faster than most fashion trends. Sure, there are some basic fundamental principles that are always the same—know your audience, measure your results, and so on—but the mechanisms and tools we use to speak to our audiences and get those results are in a perpetual forward momentum. This is accelerated, in part, due to the evolving nature of technology, but the fierceness of competition is another factor; companies are trying to one-up each other in a bid to give their customers the latest-and-greatest.

If you want to outpace the competition and guard yourself against this one-upmanship, you need to be on the forefront of the latest trends. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of 10 up-and-coming trends in online marketing:

1. Vertical videos.

Mobile is the future of marketing, but mobile devices have been around for a while and some major shifts have already come to light—like Google’s Mobilegeddon update last year. Still, we’re having trouble transitioning, with the majority of mobile sites and apps still just being “mobile versions” of what we’re used to. Mobile-centric platforms like SnapChat are looking to change that with vertical videos, which cater specifically to mobile users—and nobody else. Watch to see this trend develop substantially in the next few years.

2. Virtual reality (VR).

Oculus Rift is here, along with HTC Vive, and Sony Playstation VR is coming. We’re not all completely absorbed into a VR world, as some of the tech predictors might have told you a few years ago, but there’s no denying that the virtual reality momentum is starting to increase. Marketers haven’t taken the plunge en masse yet, but you can bet the first generation of VR marketers will hold a huge advantage over the latecomers.

3. App-based SEO.

Apps are projected to grow in popularity, while traditional browser-based Internet experiences are on a downward trajectory. Will apps one day replace traditional websites altogether? I’m not sure, but I am sure that Google will continue stepping up its efforts to provide better app-based experiences for users, including its app streaming technology. This may be the perfect time to start developing an app, or if you have one already, fleshing out your marketing of it.

4. Augmented reality experiences.

Google Glass never really caught on, and “true” augmented reality technology is still several years away from full development. However, consumers are already getting used to semi-augmented reality experiences, like QR codes, which blend the digital and physical worlds. Consider implementing something like this in your physical business, allowing users to interact with your online presence while simultaneously engaging with your “real” one.

5. Interactive content.

The days of one-sided content experiences are coming to a close. “Traditional” content involves such a one-way interaction; you produce a swath of material, a reader consumes it, and the transaction is done. Interactive content changes based on user inputs, personalizing and diversifying the experience. Today, you can think of things like calculators and quizzes as examples, but expect to see new and innovative forms of interactive content emerge in the near future.

6. User-generated content.

Brands are just now starting to realize what amazing power user-generated content holds. Through a platform, such as a user-contribution based forum, or a motivating event, such as a competition, you can encourage your users to create their own content for your brand and share it with others. This spares you the effort of creating the content yourself, but more importantly, helps you to establish a thriving community around your brand.

7. Social media aggregation.

Social media apps are trying to do more and more, and you can see this in the major players especially. Facebook’s Instant Articles have brought content experiences in-app, and its recently launched live-streaming video feature prevents the need to go to another app for such a function. Social apps are trying to become “everything” apps, and because of that, your presence there needs to become stronger.

8. Next-level personalization.

Currently, there’s a limited amount of personalization available in marketing and advertising. You might be able to use retargeting ads to customize ad displays for previous visitors to your site, or you might be able to customize your email marketing messages for different segments of your user base. Soon, this functionality will become more sophisticated (thanks to new and bigger amounts of user data), allowing dynamic new forms of content personalization.

9. Extreme automation.

We currently have access to a host of automated tools in marketing, from ones that help us syndicate content posts to social media, to ones that build display ads automatically for us. Marketers are still hungry for more automation, and in the near future, we’re going to get it. Just be careful not to automate your campaign too much, or your users will be able to detect it.

10. Data visualization.

I’ve written about data visualization recently, as a way to glean more intuitive insights from complex and numerical data patterns. I expect more marketing tools will offer visualization in the coming years, and it’s going to become more important to understanding your audience needs and demands. The only downside here is that over-reliance on visualization could lead to biased conclusions, or stifle our creativity as marketers.

Take inspiration from this list, but recognize that not all of these trends may seize hold. Some may fizzle out before they fully catch on. Some may undergo evolutions and developments of their own. But at least a few of them hold tremendous promise, and because of that, you owe it to your business to pursue them. It’s a bit of a risk, yes, but that’s why you’ve got safer anchor strategies, like content marketing, serving as your foundation. You have a lot to gain, and not much to lose.

The Evolution Of Marketing: It's Not Limited To One Department Anymore

ByJohn Hall - Forbes Contributor

Bryan Kramer once wrote, “Communication shouldn’t be complicated. It should just be genuine and simple, with the humility and understanding that we’re all multi-dimensional humans, everyone of which has spent time in both the dark and delightful parts of life.”

Content is the key to this kind of communication and your company’s fuel for building connections with these multi-dimensional humans in your network — and that stems far from a marketing-only initiative.

One of the biggest mistakes I see companies continue to make is believing that quality content should be created, distributed, and used only by the marketing team. This belief is not only false, but it’s also a dangerous mentality that dramatically limits your long-term growth.

Content Marketing Institute reported this year that almost three in four B2B marketers still don’t believe their organizations are effective at content marketing. As I’ve discussed in a previous piece on content marketing trends, we’re starting to see new strategies emerge for utilizing content and improving its effectiveness. A trending strategy that brands need to take advantage of now is the use of content by teams outside the marketing department to accomplish more goals.

When you break down and take a closer look at what’s at the core of a successful content campaign, it’s the experiences, stories, and expertise of the company’s key employees — and that’s not limited to only marketing. Those ideas are the heart of your company, and they should be used across departments to communicate and influence the different audiences you want to develop relationships with.

There’s tremendous value in leveraging your content across multiple departments. Here are four key areas brands need to be integrating content into if they want to stay competitive and increase their content’s effectiveness:

1. Sales

With 22 percent of marketers saying that sales teams are roadblocks that rarely contribute to the content marketing value chain, it’s obvious some companies still aren’t getting the message of the value of content in the sales process.

Everyone is naturally turned off to being sold to all the time, and most of us are starting to consider the typical “just following up” sales emails and calls to be on the same level as the iconic used-car salesman of the past. (That greasy, pushy guy is not a welcome mental picture at all, I know, but that’s where we’re at.)

This is because of our need for humanization and personalization. We need to establish trust with everything in our lives, whether that’s with our friends and family or our clients, partners, and prospective customers — and the sales process is no different.

I’m rarely impressed by sales processes (or sales in general), but I was recently by Mike Barbeau who leads sales and marketing at Ethology. Mike completely understood that content is great fuel for touchpoints that his sales people can use every two to four weeks to stay top of mind with prospects. Your potential customers are searching for content to gather info when they make purchase decisions, and to Mike’s point, if you are the company consistently delivering content, consumers don’t need to search for so long for other options (and you’re the source for information that they trust).

Content is critical to building that trust, overcoming sales objections, and closing deals, but in order to use it effectively, your sales team has to be able to connect the dots for your prospects and clearly show, not just tell, how your product or service adds value to their lives. For a list of possible reasons your sales team isn’t already using content (and tips for empowering them to take advantage of it), check out this blog post.

2. Employer Branding

Your employees are your brand’s greatest advocates, and if you’re not already investing in them and including them in your content marketing, you’re missing out on some serious gains.

And at a time when 63 percent of consumers rank a “person like yourself” higher in credibility than a company’s CEO, empowering your employees to take active roles in content creation and distribution can make a huge difference in your content’s ability to reach and impact your audience.

Russ Fradin, co-founder and CEO of Dynamic Signal, one of the companies we partner and work with, summed it up well when he said: “The individuals who comprise your company have independent, trusted, and diverse audiences of their own. Tapping into those audiences opens up an entirely new distribution channel for your content, generating more impressions and reach and resulting in more leads and revenue.”

Your employees are the life of your company, and their networks are your networks. Engage them in your content marketing by explaining how important of a role they play in creating and distributing content and by making your team’s content centrally located and easy to access.

Take it a step further by actually involving various team members in your content creation. Encourage employees to work with your marketing team to develop content, and use a knowledge bank to streamline the process and kick off that collaboration.

3. Investor or Potential Acquirer Relations

Attracting attention, securing funding from new investors, and maintaining solid relationships with current ones is no easy feat for any company, which is where content steps in. The opportunity to impress and nurture investors is consistent over time, and regularly published content allows you, as a leader, to showcase your expertise, build influence, and demonstrate the value of your company to your audience — all of which are important to your investor relationships.

A common misconception is that if you aren’t looking for money or don’t have any investors, maintaining these kinds of relationships is unnecessary. That couldn’t be more wrong. There are always potential acquirers or partners keeping an eye out in the industry for up-and-comers and leaders, and you don’t want to miss out on creating an opportunity by staying in the shadows. You never know what might come your way if you use content to consistently create touchpoints and stay top of mind with this audience.

4. HR and Recruitment

Top talent looks for top companies. So by publishing content in places your ideal hires are reading (and by boosting awareness of your business and its leaders), you increase your chances of reaching and engaging highly talented employees.

Using content to share insights about your company culture, your practices, philosophy for success, and other views and stances on industry news can attract the right employees to your company — the employees who are interested in and excited by exactly what you do and what you stand for. It also works to weed out candidates who don’t know or really care about what makes your company, your culture, or your team awesome, which saves time on interviewing or even hiring the wrong fits.

Recently, a potential hire mentioned reading more than 100 of our team’s articles before our interview. I love to hear things like that, because it not only helps candidates really understand our culture and industry more — which makes for better interviews — but it also operates as free training that will help a candidate hit the ground running if we decide to hire him or her.

And that leads me to my next point about content’s role in HR: onboarding new hires. During the first couple of weeks and months after an employee’s been hired, it’s so important to educate her on the industry, internal communication, and to help her feel comfortable in her new role.

Unless you’re a small team, you won’t be able to personally meet with and train every new employee you hire, but content helps you connect with new employees. By incorporating your company’s content in the onboarding process, you’re not only helping set up the employee for success, but you’re also saving resources for the HR department.

There is no denying that the benefits and effects of content marketing stretches far beyond the marketing team. From better enabling your sales team to enhancing a new employee’s first few weeks on the job, sharing and repurposing your content can be incredibly valuable and increase its effectiveness. All you need to do now is educate your team about its value and provide them with the content resources needed to be successful.

John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a company that specializes in expertise extraction and knowledge management that is used to fuel marketing efforts.

Have PR and Marketing Suddenly Become the Same Thing.

By Wendy Lindars - Business 2 Community

I was having a discussion with one of my oldest and closest friends the other day about his career. He wants to go farther in the world of public relations but doesn’t quite know what he needs to get there. So, as an enterprising go-getter, he started making connections and asking other PR pros what he needs to know in this day and age to get ahead of the competition. What one professional told him made me laugh and then made me think.

“To get ahead, you need to know two things: Google Analytics and SEO.

This kind of stopped me in my tracks. Yes, analytics and SEO are extremely important in the digital world. They go hand in hand – one promotes your website while the other tracks how you’re doing. For instance, you can be at the top of the rankings for a key term, but if your bounce rate for that page is insanely high, you might need to change some things. SEO only gets you the attention you need; analytics will tell you exactly how long and what happens after the user sees your page.

But what shocked me is that it wasn’t a marketing executive that was telling my friend how essential these tools are, but a public relations professional with many, many years in the business. So has public relations and marketing suddenly become the same thing? I remember when I was in college for my masters, I took an internship in the PR department at a museum in Harrisburg. I shared an office with the marketing intern and although we had separate duties

- wrote press releases and tracked media coverage, she worked on advertisements and video

- did seem like our jobs were very similar.

However, PR does differ from marketing. Public relations strategies are more concerned with the reputation the brand has with the public. Unlike marketing, where you are promoting the brand in order to get the customer to buy, public relations is more about information – we want to show you how wonderful this brand is, to make you trust it so when you do buy it, you know that you made an excellent choice. Yes, they are very similar but their final goals are different. For marketing, it’s to make people buy your brand. For PR, it’s to build a relationship between you and the public.

So what can PR possibly need to know about SEO and analytics? It made me scratch my head but I think I got the answer. It’s more that they need to understand the importance of it. For instance, when writing a press release, you usually put in the contact information of the brand, such the website. This a valuable backlink for your brand and you must make sure not only to include this information but that it’s correctly optimized.

In addition, your website and your PR teams need to be on the same page. If a major press release is going out at 9 am to all media outlets, you need to make sure your web developer has that press release up on the site and fully optimized for search engines at the same time. A PR professional can also help with sharing content as well. For example, someone in marketing creates an infographic, and the PR team can take that infographic and pitch it to media sources to create links.

Instagram is Finally Giving Marketers Analytics Tools That Are Useful

By Erica Perry - Social Media Week

You’ll be able to see where your followers are located, their gender, age, as well as post analytics such as impressions, reach, website clicks, and follower activity.

Instagram is rolling out new analytics features to provide more information to marketers on user insights, follower demographics, and post analytics (via Later.com).

You’ll be able to see where your followers are located, their gender, and their age. This is important for marketers because it can help them better understand the breakdown of their audience, and whether the timing of their content should be adjusted based on time zones, for example. Essentially, Instagram is getting a little taste of Facebook Insights.

Instagram’s post analytics will also provide data on impressions, reach, website clicks, and follower activity. Impressions reveal the total number of times your posts were viewed, while reach will tell you the number of unique accounts that saw your content.

Website clicks allow you to keep track of the amount of users that clicked the link in your profile, and for follower activity, you’ll be able to see when your followers are most active on Instagram to help you make smarter decisions on optimal times to post.

Another feature that’s part of the new “post analytics” is the ability to categorize top posts by impression, either from the past week or past month. With a quick glance, you can gain fast and easy insights on which types of photos or videos performed the best, and whether your followers are looking at old posts or focusing strictly on your new uploads.

An Instagram spokesperson said, “We are testing new business tools coming to Instagram in a few months.”