You came here to learn about the top digital marketing trends of 2018.
And we're going to talk about them.
However, I want to pose a few questions before we begin: How do trends happen? Who decides what's in? And why do we listen to them?
These are the questions I found myself pondering in line at the grocery store, as opposed to reading the latest gossip magazines. C'mon, those celebrities aren't really "just like us!"
Whether the topic is fashion, public policy, or digital marketing, a small number of people appear to dictate the direction of the majority. Of course, I'm not the first person to notice this phenomenon. During the 1940s, a group of social scientists came up with something called the Diffusion of Innovation Theory.
The theory breaks the lifecycle of a trend into five distinct phases, initially set in motion by 2.5 percent of the population. Despite the fact that the original study was based on the rise of agricultural technology, the theory can be applied to just about anything. So, how does it relate to online marketing?
By the time a trend is being mass-marketed — like many of the ones mentioned in this article — innovators are already experimenting with new strategies behind the scenes. With this in mind, it's important to keep trends in perspective by following the ones that compliment your business and continuing to experiment outside of mainstream practices. In other words, don’t overlook the possibility of starting your own trends.
Now, let's look at which marketing trends are gaining momentum right now:
The Top Digital Marketing Trends of 2018
Chatbots are computer programs that mimic human conversations through audio or text. As reported by NBC News, the technology has come a long way since ELIZA (the earliest bot) attempted to psychoanalyze people in the 1960s.
Today's chatbots are powered by artificial intelligence that allows them to become increasingly more effective over time. The more information the chatbot digests from customer conversations, the more capable it becomes at resolving complex requests.
An increasing number of businesses — Kik, Uber, Sephora — are now utilizing the technology to provide superior customer service. According to eMarketer, 1.4 billion people interacted with a chatbot in 2015. With that said, the capabilities of chatbots go beyond answering simple sales and marketing questions. The software can also be used to increase brand engagement.
Before releasing the movie Zootopia, Disney created an "Officer Judy Hopps" bot on Facebook Messenger. The goal was to generate anticipation for the movie, while creating an interactive experience. On average, users spent more than 10 minutes speaking with the movie character on Messenger.
Interrupting customers with boring, self-serving product pitches is no longer acceptable. Thus, it should come as no surprise that an increasing number of brands are turning toward storytelling. With that said, defining the practice of storytelling within a marketing context isn't always easy.
What kinds of stories are we talking about here? Tolstoy, Twain, and Hemingway? Disney movies? Not exactly. The idea is to illustrate how your organization's mission relates to its products and services. One company that does a fantastic job of storytelling is Texas grocery chain HEB. The organization is headquartered in San Antonio, which happens to be the home of the Spurs NBA team.
Over the past several years, HEB has produced several commercials starring Spurs players. Each video features a distinct theme and showcases the guys discussing the benefits of HEB-specific products, special services, and deals. The commercials are nothing short of hilarious, and they perfectly illustrate the company's tagline — No store does more — in a fun, down-to-earth way.
You may not have the budget to partner with professional athletes, but you can still become an awesome storyteller. Figure out why customers should care about what you have to offer and create stories that support those claims in an entertaining way. Other brands who are excelling with storytelling include Airbnb with its Stories content, John Deere with its farming community The Furrow, and the Nike+ Run Club.
3. Growth Hacking
This trend is kinda weird because it isn't a strategy as much as a mindset. The term growth hacking was coined by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sean Ellis when writing a job description in 2010. Ellis needed more than a marketer; he needed someone who could replicate the fast growth he had achieved as the first marketer at Dropbox, Lookout, and Xobni.
Interestingly, one doesn't have to be a traditional marketer to become a growth-hacker. What matters is the person's ability to quickly grow a company's customer base through the use of analytical, affordable, and creative strategies. You can even do growth hacking offline.
For example, consider McDonald’s positioning themselves at every interstate highway exit in the 1950s. The company realized that interstate highways were going to be hugely popular and set up shop where they knew large quantities of potential customers would be. Why are an increasing number of companies outside of Silicon Valley suddenly curious about growth hacking?
According to the 2017 Digital Advertising Report from Adobe Digital, digital ad costs are experiencing growth five times faster than U.S. inflation rates. Getting the attention of your target audience is expected to get more complex, competitive, and expensive in the years to come. Check out Neil Patel of QuickSprout's Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking to learn more about how to embrace a growth mindset.
4. User-Generated Content
Another way marketers are combating escalating advertising costs is by promoting user-generated content. Brands are now relying on micro-influencers, customer advocates, and celebrity endorsers to increase organic traffic on their behalf.
According to Sprout's 2016 Social Index, a whopping 75% of consumers report sharing a positive experience with a brand. These consumers are also 70% more likely to make a purchase with a company after a good interaction. So, how can you begin encouraging user-generated content?
The good news is it doesn’t have to be difficult. It can actually be as simple a simple as asking users for permission to repurpose their content for your brand. The process of being mentioned and having content shared on social media is a fun experience for many customers. The partnership results in an increase in audience exposure for both parties when done correctly.
Begin by telling your audience you are seeking user-generated content. Be clear as to which types of content you are looking for and which social channels will have the most impact. For example, Squarespace's strategy is to show off the photography skills of its users. Obviously, some brands lend themselves to user-generated content more than others. However, if you get creative, you can probably find a method that works to promote your brand.
5. Interactive Content
Have you ever bargain shopped for a plane ticket online? If so, you're probably familiar with the process of bouncing from one page to the next to compare prices. Orbitz is one travel booking provider that decided to do something about that.
The company recently created a quiz called ‘Is your travel partner a perfect match?’ The questions are funny and the potential variations of answers are charming. Expect to see more interactive content like this throughout 2018.
As reported by Content Marketing Institute, 81% of content marketers say interactive content gains more attention than static content. What exactly qualifies as interactive content? Any type of content that requires the participation of the site visitor.
The top five types of interactive content are:
- Interactive Infographics
Quizzes in particular work well because people love to share their results via social media. With that said, consider which form of interactive content would work best for your brand.
6. Video Marketing
Video marketing, again? We know, you're probably bored with hearing about how big of an opportunity companies have to make a splash with video. However, it's coming up again for a reason: Very few companies are wholeheartedly embracing video as a marketing strategy.
Psst: You could be the trendsetter within your industry. Understandably, the biggest hesitation companies have with video is the ole' "time vs. money" scenario. Should you spend an extraordinary amount of time (on top of your jam-packed schedule) to produce quality videos OR bring on a full-time video editor?
The medium is expected to represent more than 80% of all internet traffic by 2019. Another eye-opening statistic? Businesses using video grow revenue 49% faster than those who don't. So, how do you make amazing videos customers actually want to watch? The ingredients for video marketing success are good storytelling, professional editing, and relevance.
Here are some Lean Labs resources to get you started:
As you can see, we've written a lot about video at the agency. It's the trend we most want to embrace in the year ahead. Quite frankly, we haven't produced as many videos for ourselves or our clients as we would like. Again, it's that time vs. money dilemma.
Which Trend Will You Embrace?
As you know, it's impossible to follow every single marketing trend. However, consistently experimenting with at least one of the aforementioned strategies may give your campaigns a serious boost.
If you're looking for more targeted ways to increase growth, we recommend the Digital Marketing Mastery Course. Ryan Deiss and his team have synthesized everything they learned in conducting more than 600 successful digital marketing campaigns into repeatable steps. If you can't yet afford to work with an agency like Lean Labs, Digital Marketing Mastery is the next best thing.