This article written by Emma Koehn originally appeared on SmartCompany here, featuring commentary from Good Things Marketing's CEO Helen Ahrens.
How will you portray your brand in the year ahead? Now is the time to develop that marketing blueprint for 2018, and no matter what your budget, our experts say results can be achieved if you simply plan for the year.
Will you pour resources in developing a content hub or throw out the line to find influencers who fit with your brand?
We’ve asked the experts for where they would put their focus in 2018 — here are their best bets.
Video trumps all
Social media platforms are fast becoming an endless stream of moving pictures, with even the previously text-heavy LinkedIn jumping in on the video action this year.
Director of Good Things Marketing Helen Ahrens says it will be impossible to ignore video as an option to get your brand noticed in the year ahead.
“Video is the best performing content for social media with it outperforming the rest nine times over. Try out Facebook Live to launch your next campaign or integrate Snapchat into your marketing mix,” she suggests.
Social media expert Dionne Lew agrees businesses will be expected to use video to give an insight into their business operations over the next year, but warns that with dwindling marketing budgets, punters need to know what they want to get out of it before hitting record.
“If you know your strategic intent ahead of time then what you decide to say and share will be strategically aligned with your aims,” she says.
Crunch the numbers
Businesses have more data at their fingertips than ever before, and that doesn’t just mean you can track how many people are engaging with your brand — it should also mean you’re ruthless with what you spend time and money on.
“We will see a focus on ROI [return on investment] campaigns in 2018 — no longer are big budgets thrown around but cut-through strategies that meet identified targets,” director of InsideOut PR, Nicole Reaney, says.
Brand communications expert Kirryn Zerna has written on this subject earlier in 2017,and says businesses looking to create their marketing blueprint for the next 12 months should also sit down and work out how each piece of their marketing plan fits together, rather than thinking of each Facebook post or customer event as separate items.
“Crafting up an annual plan focused around key themes including integrated engagement that includes distribution ideas with a mix of emails to your database, social media posts, webinars and regular blogs or podcasts will go a long way for brand awareness in 2018,” she recommends.
Head of communications agency Antelope Media, Ralph Grayden, says at this point in time, small businesses should have a handle on data driven content marketing.
“For instance, Facebook advertising lets you target people based on pretty much anything, including interests, demographics, life events, location and more.
The aim is to think about who would be interested in content you’re putting out about a business, and using social media settings to feed this directly to those demographics.
“You’re seeing many small businesses adopt very tight content targeting strategies using this.”
Elevate the conversation
From finding a community of influencers to endless calls to start a blog, small businesses and startups are constantly told to build a community around their products, rather than just a brand.
Over the next year, it will become more important for companies to frame marketing material in the broader social context, Grayden says.
“Most small businesses start with their product as the selling point for content but the best content marketing always connects a product or service with something bigger,” he observes.
While tying your product to a broader idea isn’t a new concept, Grayden predicts early stage companies who will succeed next year will have found a winning formula to tell a broader story about what they offer, whether that’s through engaging with their industry or interests of their community.
“More small businesses are doing the same and becoming publishers in their own right, attaching what they do to a broader topic and even using a separate magazine-style website to do so.”
Lew agrees, advising businesses take the tact of being “useful, not boastful” and thinking about ways they can discuss what they offer while also genuinely sharing their expertise with an audience.
“Be helpful. Think about 100 questions they may have about your area – what you sell – and answer their questions through micro-content above,” she suggests.
Zerna observes when it comes to building a conversation, influencers still also have a role to play — but maybe not in way brands have previously approached this area.
She suggests startups and SMEs search for a pool of people who might be able to collaborate with the brand to engage with it, but suggests companies search the smaller end of the Instagram follower count in order to find voices that will count.
“A micro influencer may not have the millions, but their tribe of 3,000 to 30,000 to 300,000 are very engaged and at times hold even more sway than the big name celebrities,” she suggests.
Reaney agrees, saying when it comes to brand awareness over the next year, the trend will be to find many faces to promote it, rather than one key ambassador.
“Influencer engagement continues to grow and companies are investing in a diversity of up and coming social influencers rather than necessarily one major core celebrity,” she says.