As we settle into a New Year, it’s time to move forward with your plans to market and promote your small business. The digital landscape is constantly evolving, so you want to make sure you’re concentrating your energies in those online spaces that matter most right now.

With that in mind, here are the 2017 digital marketing trends you really want to know about:

Authenticity Rules

The number one, single most important thing you must do - on social media, on your website, just everywhere – is be yourself. Customers of every generation are looking for reality. Your real personality, conveyed through genuine, unique content helps you appeal to customers. Authenticity is consistently ranked among a brand’s most important qualities by Gen Xers, Millennial and Gen Z customers.

Platform Awareness

Consumers expect content to be appropriate to the platform it appears on. A fantastic Instagram post may fall flat on Facebook, and vice versa. Most small business owners who are doing their own marketing don’t have the available time or resources to shine on more than one platform: it’s better to choose the one most relevant to your customers and focus your energies there. With that in mind, take the time to make sure you know the best practices for posting content and engaging with other users – things like having the right number of hashtags can make a meaningful difference.

Social Selling

Social selling continues to grow, as companies learn how to convert interest into sales via social media and messaging apps. Selling is the third most important thing you can do on social media: the first is to maintain an authentic presence, and the second is to listen to and engage with your customers. Keeping everything in proportion will ensure you’re not seen as too pushy or overly commercial on social media.

Influencer Marketing

Influencers are those individuals people listen to online: they tend to have large followings on at least one social media platform, and they may have their own YouTube channel. In influence marketing, you pay an influencer to talk about your company, and they do so as part of their regular content. Choose an influencer to work with based on the size of their reach as well as their relevance to your customers. Top influencers command top dollar, but you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money to cash in on the influencer marketing trend: particularly for those businesses that depend on local traffic, look for up-and-coming aspiring influencers in your market – just make sure to check out their content prior to signing any deals!

Livestreaming & Video

Facebook has made livestreaming video absolutely mainstream: users have broadcast everything from surprise marriage proposals to natural disasters in real time. Look for ways to use livestreaming to promote your business: retailers who have livestreamed crowds waiting for the doors to open for a sales event have seen traffic spikes as a result. Not all video needs to be live, either: for service companies and B2B firms, informative, instructional video will continue to be a very powerful marketing tool.

Voice Search

The popularity of Alexa, Google Home and other digital assistants makes it crystal clear that every website must be optimized for voice search. Google tells us a full 50% of all searches happen on mobile devices, and of those searches, 20% are voice searches. Think about how a customer would ask Siri to find a business like yours, and make sure those terms are featured strategically throughout your content.

Data Driven Marketing

Almost every major digital platform has increased the number and robustness of their analytical tools over the course of 2016. Take advantage of these tools to deepen your understanding of who your customers are. Data is valuable, but it also has its limitations: as a business owner, you have to apply your own perspective and insight to the numbers. For best results, you want to look at your data regularly. This will allow you to spot trends faster, making you more responsive to your customers.

Automation and Chatbots

The last trend is one that will actually make small business owners’ lives a little easier. Automation allows you to schedule content, advertising and other digital assets to appear specifically when and where you’d like it to. Dynamic advertising will show customers the specific products they’d been browsing on your website while they’re on other platforms: it’s often the extra nudge they need to buy. Chatbots are basically pre-recorded messages you can set up to reply to common questions that may come in through a messaging app, such as what time your business opens or a returns policy.

Ready to Rock?

Reading the trends list can make digital marketing seem a little overwhelming. The key is to remember to be yourself, pay attention to how the tools you’re using work, and let data guide your decision making process. Applying those three principles consistently will serve you well throughout 2017!

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Shaheen, Technology Therapy Group

Jennifer Shaheen is a small business owner who understands what it takes to start and run a small business. Her technical prowess, entrepreneurial insight and marketing acumen provide a unique perspective to help clients use technology to market and manage their businesses.

President, Technology Therapy Group
trends 2017