Local marketers joined forces last night to present a panel discussion on the state of the marketing industry and what we can expect for this year. Gulf Coast HUG, Digital Marketing Mavens and Pensacola Cowork/Start-up hosted Digital Transformation for 2017: Are You on the Right Track?
Giffney Nagel of Cowork @nnex moderated the discussion (and graciously donated the space) among members of the panel representing different perspectives of the current digital marketing landscape:
- William Burgess, Founder of Digital Avenue
- Whitney Fike, Founder of Sparkplug Social
- Adrian Howell, Key Digital Account Strategist for Pensacola News Journal Media Solutions
- Beth McClean, Web Analytics Specialist for AppRiver
- Debbie Williams, CCO and Co-founder of SPROUT Content
Here's a recap of the discussion. Keep in mind these aren't necessarily direct quotes but rather a summary of the conversation.
Topic: Organic reach is no longer easy. It just doesn’t happen naturally. Will it continue to decline and what do we do about it?
William: It’s getting better as far as keyword ranking. As far as social, that’s a whole different game. We have to be more aware of new audiences that are coming into the marketplace. What are their likes/dislikes?
Beth: AppRiver had a decline in traffic that we can attribute to a Google algorithm change, so now we're focusing our efforts on paid search strategy. We can control our budget and where our ads are seen.
Debbie: You need to have an equal balance of both organic and paid search strategy. The foundation of an organic strategy has to be in place, so check your page titles, meta data, etc. on a regular basis. Look at it regularly, once a month or even once a week. You must also distribute your content through other channels. Social media advertising is really effective, and Facebook and LinkedIn can be done rather inexpensively. We're focusing a lot of our efforts on influencer marketing for our clients right now.
Whitney: There will soon be an overwhelming amount of influencers vying for the same space, so we’ll probably see that decline too.
Topic: Social is catching up with search. People are now searching within social platforms. Are websites becoming less important?
William: Facebook has restructured their page layout to go back to the way it was 5 to 6 years ago. It has become a miniature website. But you need to be everywhere. Your website will not become obsolete. Keep in mind that you don’t own any of the data on your social media channels. You can control what happens on your website and collect data from visitors. You can see how your business is doing across the board and where to focus your efforts. Mobile is the current trend for websites.
Beth: Google has accelerated mobile pages. For AppRiver, I’m not sure mobile is for us since we’re B2B and most of our searches are occuring on desktop computers. Your website should be mobile optimized, of course, but I’m not sure about mobile ads for everyone.
William: Responsive websites are a bad idea because you are in essence shrinking a regular website to fit the device being viewed on. Mobile users are looking for info fast, so that’s why a mobile optimized site is better and can reduce bounce rates.
Debbie: I definitely agree on having an omni-channel presence. There are so many algorithm updates now, that the more places you are, the more resistant you are to those algorithm changes.
Topic: The handwritten note still goes a long way, and we know a trend is the customer experience journey. But is email still effective?
William: Mobile brought email back to life. In an ecommerce situation, it can generate lots of revenue. Emails also need to be optimized for mobile. Think in terms of someone being on the go and communicate short snippets of information on multiple topics.
Adrian: 45% of B2B marketers are actually increasing their email strategy.
Debbie: It's important to segment your lists for different customers at different points of the buyer’s journey. This is where a marketing automation tool such as HubSpot really helps to get the right information to the right person at the right time.
Beth: We gave outbound email marketing a try last year and it wasn’t all for naught, but it was a lot of work. We are seeing an upswing in email marketing in the B2B space.
Topic (from the audience): What's the future of text marketing?
William: I used to own a SMS company, but I got out of it because I made no money. It really depends on the services and products you are offering, but it can cost a lot of money to get into SMS marketing.
Debbie: I opted in for a coupon from a store I liked but became so overwhelmed by the texts that I opted out.
William: One of the risks with SMS marketing is that once people change their number, the text will go to the old number and that’s a violation of spam laws.
Topic: Dark social is the untrackable activity that’s happening with your customer online that you can’t measure. How will this come into play in a marketer's analytics?
There was a lot of discussion among panel members about the effectiveness of different social media advertising platforms from Facebook to LinkedIn to Twitter, but the general consensus was that Facebook gives you the most bang for your buck. Beth has had success with Twitter advertising over the past couple of months.
Audience: Mediamath is an aggregator that can help identify the user, it’s not cheap but the technology is there.
Topic (from the audience): I don’t look at ads and I avoid them at all cost. How gullible is the average consumer?
Beth: Ad blockers are growing. People are becoming immune to ads, they simply aren’t looking at them. We have the pixel tracking and do the retargeting.
William: The oncoming generation is being oversaturated. We use Alex Becker's platform Market Hero which helps you determine what your cost per lead is. It's a powerful too and not that expensive.
Adrian: We are switching over to native advertising which is basically camouflaging ads. They have an editorial feel to them with an elegant look and high resolution graphics that cause you to engage.
Topic: Chat Bots & Artificial Intelligence: Gone are the days of gross advertising, now we know everything people are doing online.
Beth: We’ve been able to look at different channels because of AI, it’s great for B2C but not necessarily B2B. We are trying to hone into a particular audience so we need some human interaction.
William: Marketing is supposed to be personal. It’s how we sell it to you. AI gets you to the point then a person needs to take over. My worry is that it will be abused, and people will become annoyed with it.
Debbie: There are AI programs that are designed to help make your job easier. We have a client who has developed a tool that helps companies deal with complex tech support tickets. It's machines helping people helping machines learn. As far as bots, they are the next wave of marketing and they will definitely affect search. Think about Slack and how many conversations are happening in ways that currently we aren’t able to track or trace. Check out an article in Chatbots Magazine that one of our writers Justin Lambert recently wrote called Human Interaction to the Bot Power: Could Chatbots be the Future of Marketing?
Topic (from audience): Will YouTube videos continue to be a viable trend?
William: YouTube is coming back. The shorter the video, the better unless you are showing how to do something. Even then, you don’t want to go past 20 minutes.
Adrian: Businesses want to be the expert in their industry, and YouTube allows them to do that. A flooring company demonstrates how to do something and you watch it and decide that it's a project too involved for you but you hire the company because they demonstrated their expertise.
Whitney: You can also see changes in how people are distributing videos. Rather than just sharing a link to a YouTube video, try uploading videos directly to your Facebook page and cut it down to a minute for to do the same on Instagram. I don't think video is going anywhere, and you’ll see more influencers on YouTube.
Debbie: Most companies are not creating enough video. It doesn’t have to be a big production. Even the big players are using YouTube. Anheuser Busch released its SuperBowl commercial on YouTube before it aired on television in order to build momentum. Even though you knew it was coming and had already seen it, you wanted to watch it.
Thanks to all of our panelists and Giffney for an engaging and informative discussion. Here's to a successful 2017 to all of you!
Thanks to Barrett McClean for capturing the evening through images as well!