In 2016, it was clearly the year of social media. However, not all social media channels were proving to be worth the effort as seen in the latest research from Pew Internet. As of December 2016, Facebook ruled the digital wave followed closely by WhatsApp with over 1,590 million and 1,000 million users respectively. Instagram, which is still popular landed well below with 500 million active users. More interestingly, a business targeting the US market would have struggled more if they chose to use Instagram because 80% of Instagram users are not from the U.S. Of US users, there were more women than men using this social media platform.

What does this all mean?

When creating your marketing plan for 2017, social media will still play a critical role in marketing but knowing what social media channel to pour more attention and budget into will affect the results of your marketing strategy.

The key word in social media marketing for this new year is: Messaging.

Marketing is basically communicating the right message to the desired market in a manner that prompts the preferred actions and results.

Creating a Social Messaging Strategy for 2017

  1. Start by reviewing your content from the previous years. Is your content one-track on the same topic or worse yet – duplicated from other websites? You need to look at your content from the point of view of a search engine and visitor. Too much information on the same topic or same content will lead to a drop in interest in your site. For instance if you are selling a product as an affiliate or trader, you might have just copied the product description from the manufacturer without making any changes – this will lump you in with all the other entrepreneurs selling the same product.
  2. Focus on the journey of your visitors or subscribers. For instance, not everyone who goes to your website is looking for a particular product. Some may be in search of DIY answers, repairs, insights, new technology and news, historical data, or prospects on the future of your product. Have content that will address every possible need and demand.
  3. Clearly you will have to engage and use the social media platforms. However, unlike 2016 where there was a trend towards posting and top social media platforms, this year it is predicted that the focus will shift on messaging apps rather than social networking. Last year, WhatsApp shot up to second most popular social media channel with Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Viber following suit. These messaging apps were able to overtake Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn in terms of number of users.

In addition, the use of Over-the-top (OTT) messaging skyrocketed and is estimated to be the preferred choice of more than 2 billion by next year.

  1. Step away from posting content that is even slightly false. The world has become weary of fake or inaccurate news and information. And it has become so much easier to validate any information you post especially among Millennials who relish the idea of investigating further to verify what they read before sharing or “Liking” content.

In 2017, marketing has to focus more on providing a “personal touch” with as much transparency. This means it is not good enough to just post your content on social media; you should be ready to chat and engage with anyone who expresses an interest in your business. Consider using chatbots and augmented reality to enhance your social media marketing – and see the amazing response from users!

A survey given to professional marketers in the United States reveal that in 2017, the most crucial digital marketing investment to seriously consider is a brand website. More than 62% say that having a website is the most effective way to reach your target market although one must not exclude email marketing and the use of social media. This three-prong approach is, by far, a must-have when defining your marketing goals for 2017.

The Unbranding of a Brand Website

There is nothing new about having a brand website. It is a long-term investment that demands time, resources, and fresh dollops of creativity and uniqueness in order to attract your desired market. Probably the main reason why anyone would balk at creating a brand website is the overall cost. In 2017, the trend will be to “uncommercialize” your brand website so you focus more on the soft sell rather than the hard sell. It will still require some investment and possibly a mindset adjustment.

Fortunately, there are ways to build your brand website without spending a fortune or making ghastly unbranding marketing errors. The basics of branding for 2017 include:

  • Branding is constantly evolving, a mental perception others have of your business
  • Effective branding will sell your business as one of the – if not the go-to website – in your respective industry
  • Subtle digital branding affirms your credibility and boosts loyalty

Branding should supply the following answers:

  1. My business is known and appreciated because ______.
  2. People share and talk about my product because _____.
  3. My products can influence the positive actions of others because _____.

Your brand website should be able to establish a connection between you and your customers. If you can do this, you will make it easier to realize your 2017 business goals.

Enhancing your eMail Marketing Plan

Still connecting to the trend of humanizing business in the global market is the new trends in email marketing. Instead of trying to solicit interest and business by sending out digital flyers through the email channel, the idea is to tell a story without misleading or falsely representing your business.

Today, people would rather follow an unknown brand that is truthful and transparent but able to emotionally connect with its visitors than follow a brand that is cold and demanding. Thus, instead of flashy advertising and marketing gimmicks, consider real tones from real people veering away from the strategy of “Buy, buy, buy!”

Focus on the value rather than the quick sale.

Social Media in 2017

This year will be the year of personalized content.  This will require the intense use of analytics and profiling to get the marketing mix right. Businesses with a defined market (doctors, architects, mothers, students) will have an easier time finding the perfect content compared to businesses that cater to a wider spectrum. However, with good organization, personalized content is very manageable.

At the same time, there is a move towards more interactive content which should help tremendously in building brand awareness.

Marketing in 2017 should also include venture into virtual reality or the 360 degree video. Using one of the GoPro cameras (or its equivalent) makes it easier for small to medium business owners to improve their content with quality videos.

Finally, Livestreaming has taken a life of its own as more and more people are using it to market their brand. This option makes it easier to “tell your story.”

If you are planning your marketing for 2017, do consider these ideas and add them to your goals for the year. These are certain to help you develop deeper relationships with existing customers and expand your customer base by offering value over the typical hard sell.

Most businesses go through at least one period a year when sales are low and there is hardly any activity in the office or store. The dreaded off season is a challenge not only in trying to stretch your dollar to meet all financial obligations and business overhead expenses, but in staying busy and keeping the business from looking like a 24/7 graveyard shift.

There are four goals you can work on during off season which will pay huge dividends for when your sales start to pick up. In fact, it is even possible that by achieving at least one of these goals, you will be able to cause sales to pick-up and shorten the off season period!

Goal Number One: Start working on upgrades and/or renovations

If your business sorely needs a facelift, this is the time to do it. You will have to plan this carefully during your peak season so your cash flow does not suffer.  Although if you want to work on upgrades right now because it is your off season, start with low-cost changes. These could be:

Goal Number Two: Expanding your network and database

The time to grow your database is when you don’t have to go heavy on marketing. Build your email marketing list, convert visitors to your website to subscribers, get in touch with previous buyers and remind them you are still around, and push hard on new and valuable content to generate leads.

You can also work on improving your calls-to-action or CTAs with a blog or tempting offers. Basically, you have to work on improving traffic and quality of traffic. You want to get the right people to your business site; potential customers or clients.

Goal Number Three: Solicit Reviews and Testimonials

If you have been in business even for a few months, you will be able to gather reviews and feedback from previous customers. Just be careful not to overwhelm them with requests for reviews or you could get tagged as a spammer. This is a critical phase in any business because today’s consumers are using reviews to help them decide on a purchase. Around 70% check online reviews before buying while 88% say that reviews have changed their buying decisions.

There are different ways to generate customer reviews:

  • Chat with them if possible through email or when they are on your website
  • Make it easy and simple for people to post reviews
  • Post comments and thank those who offer reviews. In fact, answering negative reviews show a pro-active stance of a business owner who is not close-minded and willing to listen

Goal Number Four: Keep your social channels active and dynamic

There is one huge misconception about social media. A report released last September revealed that Millennials are not shopping through their social media accounts! However, this does not mean that social media should be abandoned. On the contrary, social media is all about branding and brand awareness. Thus, keep working on your social media marketing because consumers are learning about exciting products and promotions through their social media accounts – and they are on their social media accounts at least one hour a day.

 

 

Robot Running FastWhen we hear the phrase “artificial intelligence,” what comes to mind is often the stuff of science fiction movies. Robots that take over the world, computers that drive cars, and robots that become our friends.

In the world of business, however, artificial intelligence is the next big thing in digital marketing, but its uses are a little less romantic. First, what exactly is artificial intelligence? According to Wikipedia, “Artificial intelligence” (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines…. when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving.”

So what are a few ways AI is used in real-world marketing?

  1. Chatbots, or bots, are basically computer programs that allow people to chat with computers. Businesses can use them to provide automated, human-like customer support, e-commerce recommendations, and other interactive experiences. One bonus is that it’s available any time of day or night. The bot can be programmed to provide product suggestions based on the conversation, or even display relevant ads during times when the “agent” is “researching” an answer to a question or finding a solution to a complaint.

 

  1. Speech recognition is something AI can be programmed to do, which can translate (pun intended) into widening a company’s customer base. When more people can talk to a search engine or communicate with customer service using their native language, business can be enhanced.

 

  1. If you use Facebook, you’ve already likely noticed ad targeting. Advertisements relevant to your last comment or “like” almost magically appear in your newsfeed. AI is used for ad targeting, and Facebook is just one platform where it’s used effectively.

 

  1. Website design is an exciting, new way that artificial intelligence is being used by businesses. One company, Grid, boasts that companies can have a website that builds itself and evolves as content is added over time.

 

  1. Finally, and maybe obviously, AI is put to good use via search engines. Users are just regular people asking regular stuff, and they may not know the most eloquent way to get good results. Artificial intelligence can help figure out what people are trying to ask, and can quickly get them the search results they probably need. This technology can help businesses when they use search engine optimization (SEO) to build their sites. And with websites that build themselves, SEO is seamlessly integrated.

 

Want to take your company to the next level? Spend some time researching artificial intelligence and how you can apply it to your marketing ventures. If you don’t, you’re sure to miss out on this soon-to-be essential digital marketing tool.