8 Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018

Content Marketing Marketing Tools & Tips Social Media Best Practices

Believe it or not, 2018 is right around the corner.

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy the clean slate that each new calendar year brings. It is a wonderful time to reflect on and refresh your online marketing priorities to reconnect with your target audience.

The end of December and beginning of January are a great time to research and experiment with new strategies. As 2017 fades into 2018, here are the top 8 trends to keep in mind for the New Year.

1. A Less Filtered Reality

Across multiple industries, a wide range of people (everyone from average social media users to celebrities) have voiced their desire for more realistic depictions of people in marketing and advertising. In 2018, expect brands to continue moving the needle in a more “real” direction.

As I have made clear so often in the past with every fiber of my being, I embrace my natural heritage and despite having grown up thinking light skin and straight, silky hair were the standards of beauty, I now know that my dark skin and kinky, coily hair are beautiful too. Being featured on the cover of a magazine fulfills me as it is an opportunity to show other dark, kinky-haired people, and particularly our children, that they are beautiful just the way they are. I am disappointed that @graziauk invited me to be on their cover and then edited out and smoothed my hair to fit their notion of what beautiful hair looks like. Had I been consulted, I would have explained that I cannot support or condone the omission of what is my native heritage with the intention that they appreciate that there is still a very long way to go to combat the unconscious prejudice against black women’s complexion, hair style and texture. #dtmh

A post shared by Lupita Nyong’o (@lupitanyongo) on

Savvy brands are catching on that authenticity is key when creating and distributing content. While audiences will always appreciate well-lit, beautiful imagery and video, we are seeing a surge in sharing more authentic, unstaged moments. This trend is largely used through live video, and audiences are responding positively.
I’ve written before about brands embracing this approach, like Aerie. As the cutting edge technique has caught on, more brands are working this angle into their intentional messaging.

Ashley Graham, supermodel and spokeswoman, is an example of someone who makes it a point to share untouched photos on her Instagram feed, Instastories and Snapchat on a regular basis. As audiences come to expect this level of transparency and honesty, other brands should steer clear of canned messaging. Viewers will see right through it, especially Gen Z.

2. Standing Up For Causes We Believe In

Speaking of messaging, inclusive narratives and cause marketing aren’t going anywhere in 2018. As the bright spotlight is cast on societal issues like equality, harassment and assault and more, it’s an opportunity for all companies to use their public platform for good. No matter if you are part of a big or small organization, marketers can follow in the footsteps of brands like HP who continue to act on their commitment to being a diverse and inclusive company.

Note: If your brand is interested in spreading the word about an important issue, it is always helpful to work with influencers to amplify your message far and wide. To discover influencers your brand can work with, check out our handy discover tool.

3. Human Interpretation

As much as technology plays a huge role in all of our lives, nothing can replace good ol’ human intuition. Over the years we’ve seen brands become reliant on data, but often forget to use this information to connect with people and address their innermost needs and desires. In 2018, more brands will step away from using data as a means to qualify their agendas, and instead, use data to shape their agendas.

Remember, data can’t accurately track emotions, so it’s up to you to create compelling content that tugs at your target audience’s heartstrings (and of course evaluate the results).

4. Livestream to Make Lasting Connections

Streaming live videos is one of the best tactics to connect with your audience. Whether addressing the camera candidly, hosting a Q&A session, or sharing footage of an exciting event, there are so many ways to lift your brand’s mysterious veil and give viewers a different perspective behind the scenes.

I connect best with those use live video through Instastories and Snapchat. By broadcasting daily glimpses into their lives and speaking without a script, it almost feels like checking in with a good friend. Once I decide that I like their online presence, I’m much more likely to buy something they recommend and take their point of view seriously (even if it differs from my own). But, don’t just take it from me. Did you know one-fifth of the videos shared on Facebook are live streams? If you haven’t tried it yet or thought it was a trend that would pass by now, it’s time for you to jump on the bandwagon. The live streaming video trend is here to stay.

5. Broaden Your Big Data

Brands are always looking for ways to increase their customer insights and predictive analytics. Many of you are likely using native data tools within your social media channels and Google Analytics to track your online performance. However, creating a well-rounded, big-picture view of your online landscape means incorporating additional tracking sources.

In 2018, resolve to use more tools (like Rival IQ!). A comprehensive tool like ours helps you evaluate your competition’s performance, understand what your audiences are talking about and doing online, and help you test messages to see what resonates most.

6. Automate: Your New BFF

While it may be uncomfortable to relinquish control, it’s in your best interest to establish a drafting, scheduling and auto-publishing system for your online content. While we would never suggest that you solely pre-plan and never introduce spontaneity on your channels, publishing tools create a much-needed solid messaging foundation (saving your time AND sanity). If this is new territory for you, start small by loading your approved social media editorial calendar into a publishing service (we like Buffer). From there, look for opportunities to automate other aspects of your marketing campaigns.

With the help of big data and artificial intelligence, leading companies are seeking opportunities to repeat redundant tasks and process large amounts of data. Relying so heavily on data is not an effort to avoid human interaction, but rather to enrich it.

The key is to audit your workflow, keeping your eyes peeled for activities you find yourself doing over and over again. There is likely an opportunity to automate an email response or auto-populate your Pinterest board, keeping you on track to engage with your audience while also giving you back the precious time needed to focus on other priorities.

7. Commit To Relationship Building

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been followed around the internet by a pair of shoes you looked at briefly on a website. How about the toy that you were just researching for your nephew? Why is it now haunting your sidebar while you’re reading a news article? This advertising phenomenon, called retargeting, is a symptom of our heavy emphasis on targeting buyers online.

In 2018, we are shifting away from this single-minded buyer focus, to joining the communities where our target customers work, play and most importantly, do their research. Forbes recently shared analyst Jon Reed’s perspective that marketers should be thinking regarding “buyer’s community” or “buyer’s network,” as “buyers aren’t always buying, but they are always learning.”

While we all love instant gratification, sometimes the best things take time. As we move toward 2018, it’s no longer a guarantee that dollars spent on one ad will result in an automatic customer conversion. It’s a lot more nuanced than that. Today’s shoppers are selective about the brands with whom they do business. The experiences they have (or don’t have) with brands directly inform their purchasing decisions. It’s critical to develop a long-lead strategy that will help you get to know your customers, and your customers get to know you.

8. Expand Your Content Team

While understandably some teams are small with significant budget constraints, it’s important to creatively staff your team with those who possess a variety of skill sets. It’s no longer enough to just employ good writers, as you also need all of the bells and whistles that data experts, advertising mavens, and creative wizards bring to the table. Neil Patel breaks down the dream team roles:

If nothing else, use this list as something to work toward in the future, even if it isn’t a possibility for your company this year.
Keep an eye on trends emerging in the market, but be selective about the trends you adopt for your brand. Always ask yourself: is this trend significant enough to warrant action on your part? That’s up for you to decide, and we’d love it if you’d let us know what you choose to do in the New Year. Cheers!

Katie McCall

Katie McCall is a strategic communications consultant, working with clients to establish trustworthy and engaging reputations, driving authentic communication with fans and influencers. She specializes in branding and positioning, storytelling and online advocacy networking. In addition, Katie is a lifestyle portrait photographer, serving clients in the greater Seattle community and beyond.

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