Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

There has been a massive shift in advertising content in the past few years, with brands often using a storytelling technique to relate their messages. It’s an approach that seeks to build relationships with consumers first and foremost, with selling coming second to that.

At the core of this shift has been the evolution of the digital world – a world that changes so quickly that marketers have quite a job on their hands just to keep up to speed.

There is a host of trends that will influence digital advertising over the next 12 months, says Serena Seunarain, head of reporting & research at Artifact Advertising. And Seunarain advises marketers to consider both the current digital landscape, as well as these upcoming trends when planning a digital strategy.

Such strategies need to be relevant to the target audience, and the brand needs to be seen on all relevant digital platforms. Without this, the brand risks alienating an audience base that is open to conversion – or, even worse, marketing to it in the wrong way.

Understanding your target audience and marketing yourself in a way that will resonate is pivotal to any successful campaign, Seunarain says. And bear this in mind: you don’t have to be everywhere, but you do need to be in the right place, at the right time.

Last year, video content came into its own as part of the 360° approach most brands are taking with their advertising. This year, Seunarain predicts that video content will enjoy continued growth. “My hunch is that video is far from reaching its sell-by date,” she says.

Last year, Snapchat selfie lenses and Pokémon Go brought all the possibilities of augmented reality (AR) to the fore. This year, Facebook will be the one to watch as a major player and leader in the AR space.

Use of Facebook’s search function is on the rise, with the social network’s second-quarter earnings last year showing that the platform receives up to 2bn searches a day. Seunarain believes tapping into this could be key to brands increasing their reach on Facebook and driving traffic to the content they post there.

The increased use of analytics is also a likely trend this year; Web and social analytics are set to become integrated across all channels and departments as brands turn to analytics to gather consumer feedback on products, services and marketing campaigns.

Interestingly, Seunarain predicts that 2017 is also the year in which organic content on Facebook will die. “This sounds like a dramatic statement,” she says, “but with Facebook announcing the change in news-feed algorithms that prioritises content from users’ friends and family over [that of] publishers and brands, it’s easy to see where this is headed.” She adds that while consumers may be able to “like” your brand, they will not automatically see the new content you publish. The only way to be seen will be to “put your money where your mouth is”.

Perhaps in line with this is the rise of “dark social” – content shared in a way that cannot be tracked by standard Web analytics, such as through an online chat or e-mail – which Seunarain sees as the future of social media. Dark posts may allow marketers to connect with a very specific audience while eliminating the tediously high numbers of admin posts that would otherwise spam audiences.

Knowing the trends and taking advantage of them provides marketers with the opportunity to be first to market new ideas. It also arms them with fresh ways to connect with their audiences, Seunarain concludes.

The big take-out: 2017 will be a year of shifts and evolution across most social media channels. Keeping abreast of these trends will mean audiences remember brands better.

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