Nick Westergaard

By Nick Westergaard on December 28, 2016

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2017 Digital Marketing Trends: 25 Experts Weigh In on What to Watch

2017 digital trends

With another year behind us and a new year on the horizon, digital marketers are looking ahead with excitement. As new technology, tools, and trends emerge, we thought it might be useful to ask some of the industry’s brightest thought leaders what they will be watching in the new year ahead. Here’s what they said when we asked them all one question — which 2017 digital marketing trends will you be watching and why?

The expert opinions showed diverse and definite trends. Live video is certainly on the rise according to Jay Baer, Brian Fanzo, and Amy Schmittauer. Content continues to be key, however, experts like Chris Brogan recommend more focused, strategic content. Dorie Clark and Robert Rose speculate on Twitter’s future prospects while Ann Handley and I remind you to slow down and stop trying to do everything. 

Enough of the preview. Here’s what the experts had to say about marketing in 2017 …

Jay Baer

jay baerPresident of Convince and Convert, Author of Hug Your Haters
“As more and more brands embrace storytelling, they will shift the nature of those stories from fiction to non-fiction. The rise of live video, behind-the-scenes content, and true brand journalism will begin to tip the storytelling balance from glossy “best foot forward” to documentary-style realism.”

Chris Brogan

CEO of Owner Media Group
“In 2017, people making media using social tools had better get real. Get serious. Make real content that serves a real buyer. If you’re just phoning it in, fishing for topics the day before your work is due, you’re doomed. People have given up on a lot of this stuff. If you want a seat at their mental table, you’d best be delivering something better than the junk pile they’ve been subjected to of late. Deliver your best work. Or quit. Those are your choices.”

Dorie Clark

Author of Stand Out and Rebranding You
“Twitter will die, and Donald Trump will be the only person still left who is using it.”

Andy Crestodina

andy-crestodinaCo-Founder and Strategic Director of Orbit Media
“In 2017, the gap will grow. Big players will grow faster as they get more sophisticated in their tools. Automation and optimization platforms will improve traffic and conversion rates, but only for the brands that have these tools in place. You don’t have to be big to use data to make better decisions. Even little brands can watch Analytics to iterate and improve results faster. Look at worked best over the last year and double down on those channels, topics and tactics.

“And step on the gas a bit if you can. More frequency will give you more data, which means more opportunity to see what’s working. In 2016, we found that brands that publish more frequently saw better results. Yes, it’s work. But try a few sprints and see what happens. If you can keep quality up, you might find that the additional content gets you to a new level of visibility faster, especially if you focus on SEO. The race for audience growth is on. Keep running!”

Melanie Deziel

melanie-dezielBranded Content Consultant and Founder of The Overlap League
“You could easily spend all your time creating content for and engaging with fans on the major networks: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat… But it gets harder every year to reach your fans and customers, not only because of algorithmic changes but because of increased content volume. There are so many vibrant niche communities that are less crowded but incredibly engaged: Fantasy Life App for sports fans, GoodReads for literature lovers, Startup Nation Forums for small business owners. If you can find the community or network that has your tribe, you can likely create better engagement for a fraction of the time and cost you’re handing to the larger networks.”

Gini Dietrich

CEO Arment Dietrich, Author of Spin Sucks

Gini Dietrich

“A few years ago, I was introduced to Narrative Science, a company in my hometown of Chicago that “writes” stories for publications using robots. At the time, I was appalled. After all, I’m a writer, author, blogger. The idea that I could so very easily be replaced is scary. Because it scared me so much, I wanted to dig in and better understand what they do. It turns out, they can write stories for things such as earnings reports and Little League baseball games—stories where the stats are more important than storytelling. That made me feel a bit better. And now I’m obsessed with artificial intelligence and how it might affect the role of the content marketer in the next five to 10 years.

“While artificial intelligence won’t change the role of the content marketer in 2017, it is something we all need to be aware of and plan to embrace. It’s coming and we can’t stop it! As Peter Kay says, ‘Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it into a fruit salad.'”

Jason Falls

jason fallsChief Instigator, Conversation Research Institute
“I believe 2017 will be the year of targeting. You’re about to see Facebook as well as some other social tools greatly step up their game on leveraging social graph information to feed into their advertising platforms. That, along with emerging trends like conversation research (which, selfishly, I’m building a practice around) are going to help brands finally leverage all these online conversations for insights that fuel their brands. Understanding your customers is far easier now than it ever has been. Whether it’s content, messaging, targeting or old fashioned product and user experience insights, data gleaned from social conversations will be the order of the day in the coming year.”

Brian Fanzo

Change Evangelist/CEO of iSocialFanz
“In 2017 the value of data will increase as new live video and social media features will be released and updated on an almost weekly basis. Sadly brands and agencies can no longer trust that the platforms are providing accurate and personalized data at the right time. I believe 2017 will be the year 3rd party tools and apps are leveraged and integrated into marketing strategies to leverage the increased data while also eliminating the need to trust the networks and platforms.”

Ann Handley

ann handleyChief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, Best-Selling Author of Everybody Writes
“I see three trends in 2017. One small and tactical; one big and strategic; one wishful thinking. First, the small tactical thing: Those who aren’t strategically tapping into the power of video get left behind. (And as a consequence they will end up eating friendless and alone, living in squalor in a sad walk-up tenement wearing nothing but boxer shorts and a gravy-stained T-shirt.)

“Why is a writer telling you to think about video in 2017? Because embracing video doesn’t mean we ignore text and writing. Quite the opposite: Writing is the foundation of a good story. And well-chosen words can greatly enhance whatever video you’re creating, too.

“Notice I said ‘strategically tapping’ video, too. Not ‘randomly tapping’ video. Which leads me to the bigger-picture trend: In 2017, the smartest companies will slow the $*(@)$*%& down. Next year (is it really just a few days from now?), the smartest and more successful companies go deep into purpose and identity to ground their marketing and content strategy in something substantive—so that our programs can find a place within the context of what our customers care about. There is such a thing as a bad slow in marketing, but there is a critical need for a good slow, too.

“And finally, a bit of wishful thinking: if 2016’s nickname is ‘dumpster fire,’ then 2017’s will be ‘baking soda.’ Because 2017 will extinguish the terrible, raging moments of 2016. Or so I have to believe.”

Tim Hayden

President/Co-Managing Partner, Brain+Trust Partners
“In 2017, with the peer-to-peer power of smartphone and other wireless device use (cars and televisions, too!), marketers are sure to worry less about content going ‘viral.’ More personalized and actionable content will fuel 1:1 exchanges between brands and customers through the rise of chat bots, marketing automation and all kinds of artificial intelligence. With these new wares, content performance and attribution will be more directly measured by site/store traffic and sales performance…and that’s a good thing as sales should be the one metric every marketer is ultimately held accountable to drive. Each of us is sitting on the data and has the connection and creativity to make this work.”

Justine Jordan

justine jordanVice President of Marketing at Litmus
“While email marketing is far from a trend (it’s been around for nearly 50 years!), it’s poised for a comeback of epic proportions. After years of the mainstream media declaring my favorite medium ‘dead,’ more and more marketers are realizing (or remembering) that email is the best way to get the right message with the right data to the right person at the right time. Innovative email marketing and marketing automation platforms now integrate with most other marketing platforms, giving marketers even more social, content, and behavioral insights that can be used to create customer-centric messages.”

Bryan Kramer

President and CEO of purematter
bryan kramer“Social with the main attraction of live video this last year will finally settle into itself and we will begin to see more business use cases. Video content will also continue to target based on deeper video analytics enabling a much higher level of personalization. Our definition of entertainment will share air time with more online channels. And the dichotomy of all these areas will share the spotlight with the newest up at bat….virtual reality. VR will steadily step into our lives and will quickly grow as a brand new marketing channel.”

Drew McLellan

Top Dog at both Agency Management Institute and McLellan Marketing Group; Consultant and Speaker
Drew-McLellan-150x145“2017 will see many businesses (both B2B and B2C) acknowledging the ‘new’ referral model of online reviews and rankings. Some will put their toe in the water (actually monitoring reviews and even responding to them) while others will embrace the social change and invite/solicit reviews to improve their customer service, drive traffic to their site/location and entice more trials and sales.”

David Meerman Scott

david meerman scottSales & Marketing Strategist & Best-Selling Author of 10 Books Including the 5th edition of The New Rules of Marketing and PR now available in 29 languages from Albanian to Vietnamese
“Rather than living in isolated in marketing, in 2017 content makes significant inroads to benefit the entire organization. At progressive organizations salespeople curate content customer support sends content to solve problems, and management uses content engagement metrics to manage the business.”

Scott Monty

scott-montyCEO and Co-Founding Partner, Brain+Trust Partners and editor and host of The Full Monty newsletter and podcast
“Amid the rise of fake news, we’ll see a growing sense of mistrust among consumers toward the media, government, and brands. The trust death spiral will become problematic for many businesses that are trying to repair reputations in a post-factual world, where people generally have their minds made up about things. It will be an uphill battle that is fought on the battlefield of emotions rather than logic, and brands will have to think long and hard about their strategies in this scenario.”

Joe Pulizzi

Founder of Content Marketing Institute and Author of Content Inc
joe pulizzi“Company print magazines have finally hit the bottom as a content marketing tool, so more brands will launch print magazines in 2017 as a way to cut through the clutter – a critical goal that has been proving increasingly difficult to do online. Look for as much print in 2017 as we saw before the great recession.”

Robert Rose

robert roseContent Marketing Strategist, Author, Storyteller
“One interesting trend to watch in digital content will be the rise of vertically integrated media companies. More and more, mainstream media companies will begin offering everything from agency-like services, to eCommerce, to events to software applications. We’ll see this happen as more social media companies are acquired (I’m looking at you Twitter), and as more brands themselves adopt media-company like services.”

Mark W. Schaefer

mark w schaeferCollege Educator, Speaker, Social Media Strategy Consultant and Author of The Content Code
“I believe a profound trend is the movement of communication and community from public social media to private messaging like Messenger and Snapchat. The challenge is, what do marketers do about it without ruining the experience of those platforms?”

Amy Schmittauer

Author of Vlog Like a Boss: How to Kill It Online with Video Blogging
amy schmittauer“Video is everywhere you look. Every social network is encouraging video sharing, whether pre-recorded or live. The trend to watch is brands coming into their own personality through video, getting focused on the most important platforms in their marketing plan and showing a side of the faces in their organization that make them great. The most focused and selective the brand is, the greater impact their video presence will have.”

Marcus Sheridan

marcus sheridanPresident of The Sales Lion and Author of They Ask You Answer
“2017 will mark page one of what is the next chapter of the digital age. And when I say ‘page one,’ what I’m referring to is Virtual Reality — and the quest for businesses around the globe to see the application of this technology to their industry and organization. On a personal level, my swimming pool company is ‘all in’ with VR. Our motto for 2017 is this: ‘We want people to swim in our pools *before* they swim in our pools.’ In other words, we want them to experience being in the pool through VR, which will allow them to better pick the pool they want, as well as the features they’re going to get with it. And of course, this will have a major impact on our sales team too. I literally haven’t been this excited about tech since the advent of the internet.”

Michael Smith

Art Director at AWeber 
“Email marketing is going to have an ’email origins resurgence.’ What!? Basically, 2017 is the year where mass email communication is going to be personalized to the recipient. Feeling more like a one to one email and less like an email blast. This will make messages more relevant to subscribers and enhance brand experiences.”

Michael Stelzner

Founder of Social Media Examiner
michael stelzner“Algorithms, bots, and artificial intelligence will destroy the business models of people who produce content by disrupting the free flow of information. If you want your content seen, you’ll need to house it inside Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. They will incentivize content creators to not link to off-site content. These large businesses will become the equivalent of the 1990s America Online–a type of ‘Hotel California,’ where you can enter but never leave. Traffic to websites will decline and blogs will shut down. Gone will be the days of information flow and true information freedom. The future will only be more controlled, more filtered and less open. Are you ready for the change?”

Christoph Trappe

christoph trappeThe Authentic Storytelling Project, Author of Get Real: Telling Authentic Stories for Long-term Success
“Uniqueness is still the No. 1 differentiator. Determine why people should choose you, what makes you different from the rest? Once you know that, share unique, relevant and helpful stories and content around that on all relevant channels. Don’t copy the same old crap that everyone is doing, but go for being you and adding value to your community.”

John Wall

john wallCo-Host of Marketing Over Coffee
“My big topic for 2017 is the intersection of sales and marketing automation. We’ve had more than a decade for marketing automation to settle in and create processes to drive business and keep people out of trouble but suddenly sales reps are firing up their own automation solutions doing both emailing and social. Better organizations will be on top of this and it will beef up Account Based Marketing (and Sales, which is more important in my mind), orgs that can’t keep up will have more messes to clean up. On this front, I’ve been doing interviews on the topic over at https://stackandflow.io.”

Nick Westergaard

nick westergaardChief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, Author of Get Scrappy
“This will be the year we finally start to realize that less is more with marketing. As channels and platforms grow and become increasing complex no one can afford to be everywhere — we need to stop trying. Instead of doing everything – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, videos, podcasts — we need to get strategic and focus on why we’re doing what we’re doing and who we’re serving.

“Also, watch out for Instagram! While Facebook is the 800-lb gorilla in the room and Snapchat is the rising star, it’s easy for brands to forget about Instagram. This network has successfully integrated an algorithm and powerful Facebook-like advertising features to become the second most popular in terms of daily active users. This isn’t a boutique network for filtered photos of latte foam. You need a real strategy for this powerful, growing social channel.”

Now That the Experts Have Weighed In …

What about you? The great thing about social media and digital marketing tools is that we can all dig in, try things out, and learn from our experiences. What have you learned? What social media trends are you keeping an eye on in 2017?

Happy New Year!

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Nick Westergaard
Email Brand Driven Digital

is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, where he helps build better brands online. He also teaches at the University of Iowa and is host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.


2 comments
NickColakovic
NickColakovic

I must agree with Amy that video content will be big this year for brand promotion, so marketers must come up with creative ways to use it in order to tell their brand's story and connect with the customers. Introducing the Live streaming option just adds it up.