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In a recent post, we asked six US-based marketing experts to predict the key digital marketing trends they expect to see in 2017. When we published their answers, we were curious whether the trends highlighted by the experts were universal. The UK is one of our leading markets and we wondered how digital marketing trends in the UK differ from those in the US. After all, while some businesses focus on a specific geographic market like the United States or North America, many businesses, including crowdSPRING, have a global focus. For example, crowdSPRING works with clients from over 100 countries and creatives from nearly 200 countries.
In many respects, marketing is marketing, whether in the US or across the pond. Much of the digital marketing conversation last year, in the US and in the UK, focused on content marketing. In fact, there were globally, probably more posts published in 2016 about how to do content marketing than actual content marketing posts. We wrote a few popular posts about content marketing in 2016 on the crowdSPRING blog: How To Create Content Marketing Unicorns, A Mile In Their Shoes: Framing Your Content Marketing Strategy, and Repurpose Great Writing With Visual Content Marketing.
But beyond content marketing, everyone – from entrepreneurs to experienced marketers/CEOs have had to rethink the way they approach marketing, at home and abroad. While most marketing trends impact businesses and marketers around the world (after all, there aren’t really any borders on the Internet), some trends impact different geographic regions in disparate ways. In today’s noisy world, it’s more important than ever to understand not only the big picture but also geographic marketing trends.
After recently publishing an article about 2017 digital marketing trends from six U.S. marketing experts, we reached out to six UK marketing experts to see whether marketing trends in the UK mirror those in the US for 2017. Here’s what UK marketing experts had to say:
As a highly respected digital marketing influencer, Sam Hurley knows a thing or two about digital marketing trends in the UK. In fact, as an influencer, sometimes he even helps set those trends! In 2017, Hurley believes that there will be four majors factors that impact marketing: highly enjoyable user experiences, owned influencer marketing campaigns, “pay to play”, and private social channels. While the first factor is more self-explanatory, Hurley emphasizes the idea that more competition means an increased demand for anything that cuts through the noise:
Everything is pushing marketers towards advertising on Google and social. Social Media ad budgets alone have doubled worldwide over the last 2 years — going from $16 billion in 2014 to $31 billion in 2016. The only way to beat that is through solid presence built through stand-out personal branding and relationships with those of high-status…but with wide-spread use of intelligent programmatic ads on the horizon, ads should certainly be part of ANY strategy.
Whether it’s paying more than your competitors in ads, “buying” exclusive rights to an influencer or even targeting customers through unique social apps, Hurley says that tailored outreach will become more important in 2017:
Facebook Messenger, Slack, WhatsApp, WeChat and now Google Allo…these are the apps of the future, holding colossal advertising potential. Closed social is the new kid on the block and it isn’t going anywhere. 1 in 7 people are active on WhatsApp – every month. Expect to see ultra-targeted promotion within such platforms, completely tailored to personas through monitoring of your conversations and phone calls. Facebook already began using WhatsApp data for ad targeting, which is a clear indication of what’s to come.
It seems like 2017 will mean a more tailored, potentially more time-consuming approach as customers realize they have lots of options- forcing the companies to go directly to customers.
When talking to Snapapp, Tony Wood cautioned that some of the trends we saw develop in 2016 will be broken in 2017. For example, Wood says that social media and content marketing will see a new twist or reversal of trends because marketers have taken social media and content marketing too far. The graph below from Google Trends confirms Wood’s prediction. According to Google Trends, interest in “content marketing” in the UK fell flat in 2016 and has yet to recover.
Wood similarly predicts that the types of content shared by companies will change in 2017. According to Wood, the shorter content we saw in 2016 only made it harder for companies to differentiate. Wood predicts that in 2017, companies will resort to more detailed, longer blog posts and brand messaging in an attempt to capture the customers who truly care.
The trend to bite-size content to appeal to ever-shorter attention spans and crowded schedules may seem unstoppable but my belief is that the pendulum has swung too far. There’s still a place for more in-depth, considered thought leadership content and this should be seen as a source of differentiation…especially when savvy B2B marketers know they can actually have the best of both worlds with a single, high-quality white paper spawning multiple blogs & articles and countless social media posts.
We’re definitely seeing this trend in early 2017, in the UK and US.
Wood also predicts that while Twitter and Snapchat will stay hot, LinkedIn will gain some more attention with their sponsored updates:
LinkedIn sponsored updates have been around for a few years now and they should be at the heart of every B2B marketer’s social media marketing strategy. Pinpoint audience targeting, payment by results and direct access to the best-quality B2B audience by a country mile. What’s not to like?
Social Media Battles
Daniel Knowlton, a digital marketing influencer and co-founder of a UK digital marketing agency predicts that 2017 will be the year of intensified social media battles. Knowlton emphasizes the importance of social media in a company’s connection to its customers, talking about how it adds to the narrative and creates a perceived dialogue. But with so many platforms, customers will choose- and nobody wants to be the next Myspace of social media.
2017 is going to be an intense social media features and functionality battle. Platforms will continue to go head to head to outdo one another’s storytelling, video and creative feature capabilities. As an example, take a look what happened at the end of 2016 with Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and even Facebook Messenger. They continue to clone each other’s features; it’s almost as if we’re heading into a direction where every social platform will have every feature you can imagine. To me, this is brilliant. Why? Because this increased competition means every platform will work even harder to ensure they are ‘the chosen one’. This means better features, better UX & UI, more value for users, better customer service – the whole shabang! Right now, Instagram is bringing out some incredible features which Snapchat users have been waiting years for. Who wins this epic battle in 2017? The market will decide.
So in 2017, keep an eye out on what the different social media platforms are doing- even if you aren’t using one of them. Make sure you know the changes- because it seems like they’ll probably end up your platform of choice anyway!
Content marketing expert Loz James says that in 2017, varied media content is going to be extremely important in executing effective content marketing strategies. James explains that it won’t just be enough to release videos on YouTube or audio bits on SoundCloud. Companies will have to carefully think through and leverage several audio/video platforms in order to create high-quality content and attract large audiences.
Leverage the power of online teaching through video – consider platforms such as Thinkific and Teachable to get up and running quickly. Also, go all in on podcasting – the interest in podcasts is evergreen and continuously growing, and in my experience there’s no better way to build your brand authority. But remember to be usefully original when creating your content- add some unique research into your content and develop a consistent style signature so you truly stand apart.
Another UK marketing influencer and business owner, Peter Masters, told us that what we’ve seen in marketing in the past few years won’t go away. Instead, Masters said that marketers will have to work harder in 2017 at being more original and pushing their level of quality to be even higher. So while content marketing, social media, and video will continue to grow- just jumping on the bandwagon isn’t a good enough strategy anymore. Only having “high” quality content won’t cut it either- the content has to be focused, specific, and helpful based on the industry and customers.
When I say ‘Content marketing’ I mean good blog posts, good Tweets, good LinkedIn articles, good Facebook posts, not just half hearted, predictable efforts. I’m getting 50 clicks a day and more on one of my most recent blog posts, this is great website traffic. If I’ve got 20 posts, that’s a lot of clicks over the course of a month and will help our Google page ranking for sure. But the quality has to be good. People MUST keep their websites and blogs looking contemporary, loading quickly and responsive to mobile telephone connectivity. It’s 2017, and speed will be a huge factor- as well as improved social media connectivity. So many people ignore these things and send 3 Tweets a week, wondering why Twitter doesn’t bring them any business. Or they post irregularly and leave their blogs slow and difficult to read. It’s the same on all platforms; it’s time to get real, learn what works best for you and focus on that. You’ll never do well trying to use all the platforms, there’s too many!
Masters also continues to believe that video will be very valuable to businesses. He says, “All communication adds value”, but still emphasizes that the video content has to be well done. Even though video can be cheap and can be filmed with a simple mobile phone, there has to be some added value for the customer for video content marketing to succeed.
Back to the Basics
As a marketing trainer and expert, Nigel Temple says that for the most part, what we saw in 2016 will continue to grow and be amplified in 2017. His main focus areas were social media platforms and original content- nothing new from last year. Temple does caution that smaller businesses will not be able to simply work harder and break beyond the barriers that large companies set. He breaks it down into three, simple trends that UK businesses should monitor:
1. The advent of Google semantic search means that top rankings will go to enterprises that share their expertise, in considerable depth.
2. The number of promotional channels continues to rise. If you engage with more channels, you will reap greater rewards.
3. You can’t bore customers to death. 2017 marketing needs to be even more creative and engaging in order to get attention
It’s clear that 2017 will be the year where companies demonstrate just how serious they are about bringing additional value to their customers. As a bonus, Paul Lancaster, author of Small Business Marketing For Dummies and founder of Plan Digital UK, gave us a hint at the additional value people in the UK will be looking for:
Personally, I think the two biggest trends in 2017 are a wish for more ‘Localism’ and ‘Authenticity’ in the UK and it would seem in the US too. Although ‘Brexit’ and the election of Donald Trump were a shock to many media commentators they make sense when you understand the growing resentment towards Globalism and a concentration of money and power away from communities that are still suffering a hangover from the decline in heavy industry. Any business that offers ‘Handmade’ or ‘Local Made’ goods and services should do well in 2017 and beyond if they make a point of highlighting this on their marketing materials, both to a local and national audience. This is one of the reasons I created the #ThisIsMINE (Made In North East) campaign to promote things that are unique to the North East of England.
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