With the New Year under way, business owners are looking at marketing trends that deliver a measurable return on investment (ROI). It’s easy to spend money and time on endeavors that seem all the rage but when the efforts fall short of their investment, it’s time to reconsider. While new technologies and innovations are sure to be unveiled throughout the year, here are 5 of marketing trends to incorporate early into your 2018 marketing.

  1. Facebook organic reach has dwindled to an estimated 2 percent to 3 percent. This means that for all the time your business applies to crafting clever Facebook posts that spur users to take action, astonishing few people will actually see your posts. Reports indicate that in some countries Facebook has already eliminated free reach in the Newsfeed. Instead, Facebook has moved to a pay-to-play platform much like TV, radio and print advertising. The advantage to advertising through Facebook is that the platform can target very specific demographics that help your business reach your ideal customer. This said, if you don’t yet have a budget for social media advertising, see which dollars can be re-allocated to this marketing channel so you don’t miss out on the opportunities at your fingertips.
  2. Facebook Polls: In late 2017, Facebook added the ability to ask your fans a question in poll format, listing two possible answers from which to choose. Using Facebook’s poll feature allows businesses to engage with fans, secure feedback and incorporate that information into strategy and actions. This is a great tool to continue using in the New Year as an informal way to secure and incorporate customer feedback into your product/service development.

Let’s look at an actual example of how a business can use Facebook Polls as an innovative and inexpensive marketing tool. This example shows how the restaurant industry can use Facebook Polls to fuel its marketing. Restaurants typically do quite well on Valentine’s Day, targeting lovers who dine out. However, Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday in 2018. We wondered if Houston-area couples would stick to dinner out despite the holiday falling on a work day OR if most lovers would opt to celebrate this Valentine’s Day the following weekend. We took this question to the Facebook Poll to help influence how one of our restaurant clients would prepare for Cupid’s holiday. Knowing which day most of the restaurants’ fans would celebrate would allow the restaurants to plan special offers for larger crowds, remind people to make reservations (even if reservations aren’t typically needed on Wednesdays) and staff accordingly. Visit La Escondida Missouri City and La Escondida Friendswood on Facebook in early February to see how the poll engages the restaurants’ fans.

An early depiction of this poll is shown in the below graphic. We also recommend adding a GIF or other image to each of the two possible answers since people are more inclined to respond to posts with images.

3. Across all social channels and beyond, people are moving faster than ever online. Expectations around how fast a business will respond to a customer/prospect inquiry is higher than ever. In fact, “the average response time for a brand to reply on social media to a user is 10 hours, while the average user will only wait 4 hours,” according to Sprout Social. Meeting customer expectations clearly has higher demands today than in the past. Whether your business has an employee or team dedicated to social media or you outsource social media and PR to a marketing agency, be sure to establish a process for replying to interactions over social media promptly. One idea is to develop a list of common questions for your company and then develop the answers with your communications team. These approved answers allow your social media representative(s) to reply quickly to standard questions and to let inquirers know that some answers may need more time to research but that someone (include the person’s name, if at all possible) will respond within X hours. Of course, that means your team member is on the hook for following through on that commitment.

4. Another continuation from last year is Instagram’s tools to share experiences, rather than just simple snap shots. There are three ways in Instagram to do this and they are all fun. Let’s first take a look at Boomerang. Instagram describes it as: “Boomerang from Instagram makes everyday moments fun and unexpected. Create captivating mini videos that loop back and forth, then share them with your friends.” What’s more is that businesses can use Boomerang to draw in Facebook fans as well and do so in a cost-effective manner. There is no cost to download the Boomerang app, nor is there any price to create Boomerang videos. Plus, they take literally seconds to create once you’ve brainstormed on what you want the video content to be.

Taking videos a step further, Instagram can easily be used to create and share videos about how your meals are prepared, how your merchandise is arranged in store, showcase a team brainstorming session and much more. Each of these scenarios gives Instagram users a behind-the-scenes look while educating viewers, too. Who doesn’t like this kind of sneak peek?

Instagram Carousel helps businesses post up to 10 photos and/or videos in a single swipeable carousel or frame. (Carousel initially was launched in 2015 with only the ability to include photos but Instagram added the ability to include video in 2017, expanding the capabilities to market more to avid Instagram users.) Add a single caption and location to your Instagram Carousel. Sort the order of your pictures and videos on display. Tell your business’ story through Instagram Carousel and drive calls and traffic to your business. Businesses should embrace this trend and post better, more engaging photos and videos to stand above the clutter. With that said, all three of these Instagram tools allow businesses to do A-B testing and finetune how their outreach engages customers using images. After all, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

5. Content remains king but content that’s professionally written and focused on the benefits you specifically deliver draws in higher quality prospects. Remember: you only have one time to make the right impression. While you or key personnel are likely a subject matter expert in your industry, experts across arenas often find it challenging to write in a clear and compelling manner. When a potential customer visits your website, which impression are you delivering? Can the reader see beyond the grammatical mistakes and long-winded writing?

Well-written blog posts and downloadable content that usher site visitors through the buyer’s journey of Awareness –> Consideration –> Decision are more apt to engage potential customers at their particular buying stage. This approach of writing quality content targets prospects at each stage of the buyer’s journey, showcases the business’ expertise and educates buyers. All of this occurs without going for the close before a prospect is ready. Use professional writing on your blog, website, article on LinkedIn and much more.