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7 Digital Marketing Predictions for 2017

Brennan White
January 23, 2017

Every year, with the introduction of new social platforms and apps, brands face increased challenges of reaching their target customers. In addition to pivoting to keep up with changes to existing platforms, digital marketers have to create new strategies around emerging digital marketing trends.

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Luckily, along with new social media networks, technology advances enable the development of tools and software to improve digital marketing efforts. Industry leaders are seeing the opportunities and benefits of emerging trends for social media and content marketing.

Here, we have identified what we think will be the 7 biggest trends to impact digital marketing for 2017.

1. Social Media Platform Melee

Throughout 2016, we saw several of the major social media platforms introduce new features (either by development or M&A) that were strikingly similar to the features of competing networks and apps.

Facebook is trying to become more like Twitter and Snapchat with trending topics. Instagram is trying to become more like Snapchat with Stories (which they are not monetizing a la Youtube). Snapchat is trying to become more like instagram with Memories.

Which social network will rule them all?

In 2017, we expect to see the users decide. Consumers tend to be fickle, and each new generation gravitates towards the shiny new technology. Time will tell if one platform can provide the best experience of the most popular features.

Seems like we should all watch out for The Circle becoming a reality. 


Image recognition continues to improve every day. This year consumers and brands will be able to seriously capitalize on those improvements.2. Image recognition and augmented reality will have a powerful role in reaching consumers


Instagram can benefit from Facebook’s image recognition capabilities to provide better experiences for their users (especially discovery) and improve advertising capabilities. Augmenting the user information they have via Facebook connect with data about content users post and engage with will allow them to gain a very deep understanding of their audience. Brands and advertisers can also use that in-depth user information to create super-targeted, super-relevant ads and content.

Pinterest has also used image recognition to finally let users shop for the items they pin, including multiple items within one photo. This opens up the potential to let users upload photos of objects they like and find places to buy them.

Augmented reality will build upon the functionality of image recognition.

Using augmented reality, brands and advertisers can introduce virtual sampling within social media in addition to their own websites and apps. For example, beauty brands, like Maybelline, can create Snapchat filters to apply different “looks” to users faces.

Pinterest will likely work toward enabling users to see how furniture and other items will look in their home. Bespoke suit brands, like Blank Label, will be able to let users virtually “try on” clothes within Facebook.

3. Even more emphasis on using data to validate and improve marketing strategies

While content may be king, data is the king’s hand. Marketers will become more data-driven to become more effective in all aspects of their jobs.

With more advertising spend going towards social media every year, CEOs and CFOs are going to demand evidence their efforts are paying off. Not only will more companies and brands expect to see the ROI and data behind their marketing efforts, but they will shift towards more agile marketing methodologies.

The last few years have seen a shift from direct or network advertising towards RTB and programmatic advertising. Letting machines take over and use data to better place ads so they actually reach the right audience makes sense.

As Benedict Evans explains,

“Machine learning as the foundation for matching the right ad with the right person at the right moment, creating a virtuous cycle of better results for marketers, better monetization for publishers, and fewer (but more impactful) ads for consumers.”

4. Virtual assistants will take on more advanced tasks

Virtual assistants are going to make everyone’s, including marketer’s, job easier. Thanks to advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP), we now have a multitude of tools available to handle the tedious tasks nobody wanted to do with just a few keystrokes or a vocal command.

“Computers in our hands and on our heads will start to shift via true AI and voice recognition to provide a higher level of digital assistance that truly understands our contextual experiences,” predicts Bryan Kramer.

Siri has been helping us remember to buy milk, tell us what time the Patriots are playing, set up meetings and more for a while now. But now we have a suite of enterprise tools to make work run more smoothly and efficiently.

Talla can help manage a team, keeping everyone in the loop and guiding new hires through onboarding. Need market research? Want to know what your competitors are doing? Wondering how much traffic your website got last week? Instead of asking an intern, you can use GrowthBot.

In 2017 we expect virtual assistants to get even smarter, learning to understand information on websites instead of just finding it based on keywords. Rather than returning all the related information when you ask a question or give a command, virtual assistants will have the exact answer you were looking for.

5. AI will become your intelligent software coworker

In addition to virtual assistants, CMOs will implement automation and machine learning procedures to increase their competitive advantage. There is no reason to spend any amount of time manually doing a task that a computer can be programmed to do automatically. Pretty much any task that you do on a regular basis, whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly or annually, can be automated.

For example, using CRM software to automate the task of importing lead contact information from a database into an email system (and then initiate a drip campaign to nurture those leads) wasn’t always the norm. In the early days, you or someone on your team would have to access the database, download all the data into a .csv or excel file, and upload it into your email management system.

Marketing automation exploded in 2016. NLP improvements have enabled marketing software to generate copy, automate sentiment analysis and more. Machine learning can take over the job of scanning through excel spreadsheets of data to find meaningful insights.

While we agree with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose that content marketers should have the foundations of digital marketing down before focusing on high-tech trends. We also respectfully disagree that technology trends are “a bunch of hoo-ha” and buzzwords.

Over the next year, digital marketers will come to rely on machines not only to do any number of tedious tasks, but to improve them. Artificial intelligence systems for marketing take social media insights, website analytics and other marketing data and apply them to processes. For example, Cortex can predict the best days, times, frequency, keywords, advertising spend and more to publish on social media. Agilone learns how consumers behave online and adapts messaging based on what they are going to do next.

AI is like a digital employee who continues to do his or her job even when the office is closed.

6. More high touch customer service from chatbots

In 2016, we saw a large number of companies adopting chatbot technology to assist with customer service. You may even have interacted with a robot without realizing it, which is a great thing for brands and marketers.

It means customers can get answers to their questions and concerns at any time, without companies having to employ additional customer service representatives.

Chatbots not only improve the response time to consumer questions, they will enable those purchasers to have a more direct exchange with the brand, leading to better customer relations and brand loyalty.

7. Robot takeover

Okay, that’s a joke. Machines have a LONG way to go.

The robots are still controlled by the people who design and build them. Therefore, the ability for robots to take over the world is dependent on an evil engineer giving it that purpose.

The show Westworld is a great example of this. !!!!!!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!

The “hosts” think they are becoming autonomous and acting of their own free will, but it turns out they have just been reprogrammed.

In conclusion, these are some of the major trends we anticipate for digital, content and social media marketing in 2017. Have you started to consider how your marketing team will adapt and react to them? What are some of the other predictions you have for 2017?

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With the focus of marketers set on creating content, AI is the perfect team-member to find new and interesting marketing/advertising opportunities.

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