We’ve barely had enough time to break our New Year’s resolutions yet and it’s already clear that some big changes are going to happen in the marketing world this year. Small businesses (a.k.a. those of us with marketing budgets that are missing a few zeroes) aren’t immune to these changes, either. The plates are shifting and the easy, cheap marketing wins we’ve enjoyed over the last few years could disappear.
Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement the other week about changes coming to Facebook’s News Feed got me thinking; what does 2018 have in store for us? Is it all going to be doom and gloom, or could there be some lessons in it for all of us? If you missed my video about Facebook’s changes and what they mean for you, you can catch it here.
Now, as much as I try to make that squinty face a la That’s So Raven, I can’t quite see the future. So, this article is me throwing a few predictions against the wall, in the hope that something will stick. Only joking. The predictions below are educated guesses, based on trends I’ve noticed over the past little while.
Whilst these predictions may not all come true, it’s worth thinking about how you can be proactive and stay ahead of everyone else in your industry.
1. Social media will be more of a branding exercise than a sales one
We’ve been so very spoiled to get so much organic traffic for free from social media over the last few years. The problem is that now the popular platforms have reached saturation point. This means that either organic social media starts becoming less effective, or we need to find a new platform to try out.
It’s pretty clear already that the effectiveness of these platforms is decreasing. Only a few years ago, businesses could rely on their Instagram following to bring them solid, consistent sales. These days, starting a business with no existing Instagram audience is a bit like swimming upstream in the Brisbane river. After a storm.
But, does that mean that social media is completely done and dusted? Over? Finito?
No freaking way.
Think back to the last major purchase you made online. Maybe it was a physical product; maybe it was a service. Did you do your research before you bought it? You didn’t dive straight in and hand over your credit card the first time you “met” the business, right? (If you answered “wrong”, we need to talk because I have a lot of stuff I can sell you).
Social media is part of your business’ online presence. Sure, you have your website, but it’s not uncommon for people to check out your social media pages before buying. Don’t let your business show up to the social media party wearing pyjamas and a messy bun. Spend a little time getting your social media content just right and make sure that your business is always putting its best foot forward.
2. Ads will get more expensive
I mentioned this in my video about Facebook’s new changes and I’ll say it again: your ads are going to get more expensive. Not just your Facebook ones either – I predict that Adwords, Linkedin Ads, Pinterest Promoted Pins, and just about any other online ads you’re running will go up in price.
The democratisation of online advertising has been great for small businesses – you can reach millions of people from the comfort of your living room (or, if you’re like me on a Monday, your bed). However, it also means that there is increasing competition to show your ads to your chosen audience. Without overcomplicating how the pricing of these platforms works, typically increased demand = increased price.
How can you protect yourself against the increasing cost of ads? Firstly, you can make sure your ads are high quality, relevant and well targeted. Secondly, you can take advantage of any new ad formats or placements as they are introduced – and before everyone else starts using them.
3. Websites that aren’t mobile friendly (or take too long to load) won’t get sales
This isn’t really anything new to most of us, but it’s going to become even more important in 2018. Google has been warning us about the dangers of not designing “mobile-first” websites for a while.
Rather than worrying whether your website looks pretty on desktop, spend that energy checking your page load time and checking how it looks on different sized mobile screens because, yes, there are people out there still using an iPhone 4.
This is particularly important if you’re driving traffic to your website from Facebook Ads or Google Adwords. If your page takes too long to load, you’re pouring money down the metaphorical drain. Those visitors who just cost you real money will exit before they’ve even had a chance to see your beautiful but oh-so-slow high-resolution hero image.
4. Content saturation – focus on quality over quantity
This isn’t a 2018 trend, per se, but it’s going to be a big issue for everyone using content marketing to grow their business.
There is so much content out there on just about every topic you could dream about. Want to learn about the heavy metal subculture in Botswana? The internet has you covered.
It’s almost a given that your business will be producing content in order to stay afloat. The problem is, there’s so much out there that it’s causing overwhelm.
You know when you open up Netflix and there’s just so much choice, so you end up choosing nothing? This is starting to happen with content too.
Content is going to hit saturation point soon, so your content better be a helluva lot better than your competitors’ content. Rather than just producing content for content’s sake, focus on quality. Make sure all the content you’re putting out there is aligned with your strategy.
If you’re a little stuck on your content strategy, click below to download our free 20-Minute Content Strategy Workbook and get super organised for 2018.
4. Realness will win over the “highlight reel”
I hate the word “authenticity” as much as the next person, so I’m not going to use it here. But, if 2017 was the year of highly edited social media perfection, then 2018 will be the year people start to get real.
Rather than being “perfect” all the time, I predict that small businesses will get vulnerable with their audiences and share their failures, as well as their successes. And, rather than running to their seemingly perfect competitors, I predict that customers will actually love it. That it will go a long way towards building brand loyalty.
5. Influencer marketing is going to change
Gone are the days when you could send your product to an Instagrammer with 100k followers and you’d be guaranteed a truckload of new followers, customers and brand cred.
People are a little smarter these days. They know that Insta babe is being paid to promote that protein powder and it’s going to take a little more than just one photo of her holding it to convince them to buy it.
Rather than the spray-and-pray approach that has worked in the past few years, we’re going to need to get a little more targeted on exactly who we partner with. We’re going to have to think about how well their audience and their brand aligns with our own.
And, rather than picking 100 different influencers, I predict that the focus will shift towards brand ambassadorship. What do I mean by this? I mean that the influencer posts regularly about your product. He or she doesn’t just pose with the protein powder – they share posts actually using it. They write about how much it has improved their lives. They truly believe in your product and if someone asks them publicly what protein powder they use, they mention your brand.
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