Each year I have the honor of observing business trends as a keynote speaker and business advisor. For the fourth consecutive year, I am pleased to share the top business trends that leading companies embrace to drive success. Some trends are in their infancy, and others have become part of the mainstream. These patterns emerge regardless of company size. Feel free to take a look at my past predictions using the links at the bottom of the article. Here are my predictions for the Top 10 Business Trends That Will Drive Success in 2017.

1. Subject Matter Experts Become The New Rainmakers

Subject matter experts who understand and can help guide the sales process drive growth in top performing B2B companies.

Consider three different buying personas: an order taker, a salesperson, and a subject matter expert (SME). The order taker merely takes an order, and provides a price and delivery schedule. That function can be easily performed by Amazon (often with better results).

Of the remaining two personas, which one would you want to encounter as a customer? Would you want the person with a mission to sell something to you, or the expert who you might be willing to pay to meet with because of their deep expertise?

When I present these options to executives, they often resist the notion of meeting with a salesperson, but would willingly meet with the SME to gain insight.

Whereas you can hire new salespeople right out of college, SMEs can be harder to scale. However, most organizations have a stable of SMEs who currently do not play a role in growing revenue. The best organizations offer integrity-based sales training to build a sales culture within the organization and empower the SMEs as keys to growth.

Businesses used to throw bodies at sales goals, and accepted that most of the people would fail. With SMEs, businesses place a premium on proper lead qualification and narrow focus on the right opportunities to make efficient use of scarce, yet highly effective resources. SMEs won’t tolerate wasting time pursuing bad opportunities.

2. Crowdfunding Validates New Products

When you think of crowdfunding, you might envision films or artisan leather wallets. To the surprise of many, globally crowdfunding is trending to surpass venture capital by the end of this year.

According to crowdfunding and marketing expert Clay Hebert, “Smart companies are using crowdfunding to not only raise capital, but to validate products before making substantial investments in product development.”

Smith & Bradley, Ltd., a U.S.-based tactical watch manufacturer has launched seven Kickstarter campaigns to validate new designs for their line of watches. Five of the campaigns received market validation. The other two didn’t make the cut.

“When we wanted to produce our first watch, we used crowdfunding to raise the funds needed to go to market,” co-founder Ryan Bradley said. “What we didn’t realize was that we had also discovered a way to validate the market for a product before we went into production. Now, each new product idea has a crowdfunding component to validate the market. Based on the velocity or success of the crowdfunding effort, we shift our resources to meet market demand.”

Bradley still spends his days as an attorney, so staying focused on the right designs keeps their business operating at peak efficiency.

Big companies are capitalizing on this trend as well. GE Appliances created and funded FirstBuild, a "global co-creation community and microfactory" in Louisville, Kentucky to "harness the brainpower of the maker movement to change the way major home appliances are conceived, designed and manufactured." FirstBuild uses crowdfunding to validate new home appliance product ideas. They've already successfully crowdfunded Opal, a nugget ice maker and Paragon, an induction cooktop, on Indiegogo, both of which you can now buy through their website.

Before launching Paragon, FirstBuild assumed the killer feature was sous vide, a popular method of immersion cooking at a specific temperature. But as they engaged their community, they found a significant group of passionate consumers who also wanted to improve how they cooked using other methods, from warming to deep-frying. So they pivoted to include these features in the product design, positioning and marketing. When they launched on Indiegogo, Paragon was almost 600% funded, raising over $360,000. More importantly, they validated the product with over 2,100 backers.

From watches to washing machines, using crowdfunding for product validation allows any company to engage and learn from a small and passionate user community earlier in the process, speeding up time to market, and reducing both the cost and risk of new product innovation.

As Hebert often reminds companies and startups, “The best focus group in the world is the market itself.”

Hebert offers a guide to determine if your idea is right for crowdfunding.

3. Sales And Content Marketing Become Fully Integrated

As customers and buyers continue to do more online research, top performing organizations continue to integrate sales and content marketing. The goal is to ensure that when customers search for risks, challenges, and implementation strategies associated with your solutions, they will find your content to address their questions.

When I purchased my Tesla, I did research online, and scheduled my test drive the same way. The Tesla consultant coordinated the test drive and helped me select the right options (in many cases talking me out of features I didn’t really need). I then completed the purchase form online using a tablet in their store in a shopping mall. Ultimately, I placed the final order via Internet browser, from home.

Tesla provided articles and videos to help educate me as a consumer, and build trust surrounding the purchase. Through its marketing, Tesla established an innovative brand that helped me conclude that they have a long-term vision and position for the company.

As Marcus Sheridan teaches, top companies engage their front-line sales teams to identify topics for content marketing, and the content marketing team helps sales professionals to effectively use content in the sales process.  

The people at SalesMango also have an interesting take on this concept.

4. Video Becomes Essential

According to a recent Forbes study, video is becoming a critical source of information for executives:

  •  More than 80% said they are watching more online video today than they were a  year ago.
  •  Three-quarters (75%) of executives surveyed said they watch work-related videos on  business-related websites at least weekly; more than half (52%) watch work-related  videos on YouTube at least weekly.
  •  Overall, 65% have visited a vendor’s website after watching a video.

Hubspot’s Consumer Behavior Survey confirms this trend. Over half (55%) of users say they consume an entire video, compared to 29% for blogs and 33% for interactive articles. If you want your entire message to be consumed, video tends to be the preferred medium.

Early in the days of television, advertisements were highly effective because the platform was relatively new. Using video to run ads today is a waste of effort. However, providing video as a source of valuable content to address issues or answer questions helps the consumer to feel like they know you better than if they had just read an article.

When you combine deliberate production with technology, video can provide great flexibility. Based on the user’s interests and other details you know about them, you could assemble a video on the fly addressing the user’s specific questions by pulling various snippets of video content. The video snippets are then assembled into one seamless video message.

5. New Collaboration Tools Require Rethinking Email

Collaborative tools like Slack are replacing email for internal communication. Started in 2013, Slack surpassed 4 million daily users in October 2016. Though this does not mean that companies will abandon email all together, it does change how you need to think of email. (Lee Gomes wrote a nice piece about Slack)

In an organization where internal and external communication happens within email, you can count on the fact that most users will spend much of their day with their inboxes open on their desktops.

Organizations using tools like Slack for internal communication might have less need to have their inboxes open throughout the day. Instead of spending eight or more hours with their inboxes open, it could shift to less than one hour. At that point, the only emails will be from external sources. With professionals spending less time in their inboxes, you’ll have even less time than before to make a positive impression with your email communication.

So, how do you reach your B2B audience if they are not paying attention to email? Smart companies will use precision targeting with Facebook and other social media tools to capture the attention of potential customers who shift to platforms like Slack, and start to pay decreased attention to email. Valuable content will attract, and self-serving hype will repel customers.Look for video-based Facebook targeting to grow substantially in 2017.

Top 10 Business Trends That Will Drive Success In 2017

6. Brick And Mortar Stores Without Expertise Disappear

Brick and mortar stores that merely offer merchandise without expertise or curation will continue to suffer.

Nordstrom gives fashion advice. Home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot offer education. But why does Costco work so well? Costco customers have come to believe that the retailer curates a narrow set of the best products at a great price and stands behind them with exceptional service. If they offered 15 alternatives for a given need, they’d fail. By curating quality and delivering value, they build trust.

Brick and mortar retailers that let you find things on your own will continue to lose market share to Amazon and others. If you have to discover the products on your own, it’s easier to do so online. USA Today reports on vast numbers of traditional retailers closing stores. If you look at the stores listed, they all fit the model of retailers that offer products without expertise. The Balance shared similar information.

7. Subject Matter Experts Get Sales Support

With a shift in subject matter experts (SMEs) to grow revenue (Trend #1), organizations understand that SMEs might not have the ideal professional or interpersonal skills to drive the buying steps for customers. Without proper support and training, SMEs could miss opportunities. However, customers still prefer to work with SMEs over traditional salespeople.

Top organizations recognize that SMEs often have broad roles in the organization. Their time is valuable, and you cannot afford to have them work inefficiently. This means three key components drive SMEs’ success:

  1. Build and reinforce skills to understand the sales process to better appreciate how customers make decisions and how to “sell” with integrity;
  2. Deploy sales support professionals who manage proposals, track details, and ensure continuity with clients who are primarily serviced by SMEs; and
  3. Implement automation tools to keep important tasks from falling through the cracks and ensure focus on the right opportunities.

The sales departments will evolve to support SMEs. Top organizations surround SMEs with resources and tools to help manage follow-through, assign tasks, and track progress. This support network prioritizes follow-through based on rules, and ensures that the organization can be responsive and proactive at the right times. Tools like Salesforce, Contactually, and Infusionsoft provide dashboards and notifications to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

8. Narrow Segments Capture Attention

When you go to the doctor, you don’t want a diagnosis most people get, you want the report for you and you alone. In a restaurant, you don’t want what most people would enjoy, you want to order exactly what you feel like eating. Marketers and sales professionals are reaching the same conclusion.

You can tell when you get a mass-generated email or see generic content marketing articles. Even if the topic may be of interest, you’ve been conditioned to ignore generic messages. Whereas automation had been used for delivering the same message to thousands at a time, innovative companies have embraced automation for one-to-one messaging.

In his bestselling book, Ask, Ryan Levesque illustrates how to segment your list, and how companies across industries have followed his approach to grow their businesses at incredible rates with narrowly defined segments.

Levesque says, "One of the biggest fears I hear entrepreneurs express in segmenting their market is that their different market segments are too small to be worth addressing individually. So they rely on ‘one-size-fits-all’ products and messaging. But the reality is when you try to be all things to all people, you end up being nothing to nobody. Companies, both big and small, that are adopting a segmented strategy are thriving more than ever in today's marketplace."

This goes beyond inserting the recipient’s name at the top of a message. Rather, by asking the right questions and knowing their interests, market leaders tailor content to exactly what each recipient wants.

The same way Netflix and Amazon suggest products you might like, the best companies are delivering content and communication tailored to your preferences.

9. Recurring Revenue

Companies continue to shift from single, up-front payments for products to recurring revenue for a service. Financial markets reward predictable, recurring revenue. Whether it be monthly or annual, smart companies recognize that recurring revenue with a high renewal rate demonstrates perceived customer value. High renewal rates become an incredible marketing message.

Look for innovative vendors to waive long-term contracts and put their money where their mouth is. When sellers either feel a need to lock you into a long-term agreement or get payment up front, they are implying that you might find a better alternative. If the vendor assumes the risk of delivering and maintaining value by not requiring the long-term commitment, then the customer will reward the seller with more trust.

Just look at what John Legere did with T-Mobile. They went from being on the verge of disaster to thriving by removing contracts and listening to customers.

If you give your client the choice to renew or leave every month, then you’ll have your finger on the pulse of your market.

10. Millennials Groomed For Leadership

Millennials now represent the largest segment of the U.S. population, according to Pew ResearchJust like past generations, millennials will emerge as the next set of managers and executives. Top performing companies will work to magnify their strengths and build systems to compensate for their perceived deficiencies. This same evolution has happened in past generations, too.

According to Brad Szollose, cross-generational leadership expert in NYC and author of Liquid Leadership, “You can’t put someone in a leadership role assuming they have the skills to lead, only to train them 10 years later. If you want Millennials to succeed, invest in their leadership development today.”

The Bersin by Deloitte report predicts the most disruptive year ever. They highlight, “This year, more than 3.6 million company chiefs are set to retire as younger professionals ascend to managerial slots. Companies are busy planning this transition in order to cope with the massive loss of boomers.”

Millennials represent the largest generation of our time, as illustrated in this Goldman Sachs report. Of special note is how millennials are more inclined to embrace fractional or shared usage versus purchasing. Over 55% said that they either had no plans to purchase a vehicle or were indifferent. Many feel that using services like Zipcar or Uber when they need transportation is more convenient.

This notion aligns well with the shift to recurring revenue models for businesses going forward (Trend #9).

It’s Your Turn

How do these trends get you thinking about changes in your business? What trends do you think should make the list?

Author : Ian Altman

Source : http://www.forbes.com/sites/ianaltman/2016/12/06/top-10-business-trends-that-will-drive-success-in-2017/#6f0752f74132

Categorized in Business Research

Introduction :

Cyber law is the law governing cyberspace. Cyberspace jurisprudence is evolving rapidly with various technological developments. Due to immense increase in the use of computers and other communication devices, there has been increase in cyber crimes worldwide. It has also given rise to various challenges dealing with the legal aspects of cyber law to the governments across the world.

The unprecedented rate of technological change has cropped up many challenges and problems, especially the problem of governance, formulation of new laws and amendments of the existing ones from time to time. Cyberspace has no limitations as to geographical boundaries which has given rise to many transnational crimes, which may affect any country across the globe.

It is likely that various challenges might arise in future due to such rapid increase in the information technology. There is a need for nations to enter into multi-lateral international agreements to establish new and uniform rules applicable to cyberspace. Also there is a need for creating an international organization to deal with problems relating to cyberspace.

Emerging global trends and developments in Cyber Law :

Globally, Various trends and challenges are likely to arise with the development and evolution of cyber law jurisprudence. Following are few of the Trends and challenges in cyberspace which has emerged in last few years and needs a serious attention of the governments across the world.

Trends in Mobile Laws :

The increased usage of mobile devices, cell phones, smart phones, personal digital assistants and all other kinds of communication devices in different parts of the world are becoming an integral part of day –to-day existence in life. This has widened the scope of Mobile Ecosystem and is likely to give rise to various complex legal issues and challenges across the world

In countries like India and China, wherein the usage of mobile devices is exceedingly high, the area of mobile law is emerging and different complicated legal, regulatory and policy challenges concerning the usage of mobile devices and  communication devices are coming to the forefront ,and it is expected that these countries would contribute towards the growth and development of Mobile law.

Also the increased usage of mobile devices is likely to give rise to more mobile related crimes. It is need of an hour for the governments to adopt direct legislations pertaining to mobile law as the existing laws, regulations and rules in different countries which have an impact on legal issues pertaining to mobile laws are applicable in an indirect manner.

It is expected that with increased usage of mobile devices across the world, mobile law would emerge as an distinct area of jurisprudence. There is a need for appropriate enabling frameworks for the governments across the world that will help, protect and preserve the rule of law in mobile ecosystem.

The growth of mobile law jurisprudence has led to the legal issues connected with it. Mobile crime is likely to increase leaps and bounds in the coming years. Increased usage of mobile apps, which majorly consists of an individuals private and personal information, are likely to bring up various legal issues which will need appropriate consideration in order to ensure mobile protection and privacy .With more and more mobile apps emerging the personal information of the user needs to be protected.

Social Media and Challenges :

One of the biggest problem cyber law is encountering is related to development of jurisprudence relating to social networking. Increased adoption and usage of social media are likely to bring various legal, policy and regulatory issues. Social media crimes are increasingly gaining attention of relevant stake holders. Misuse of information, other criminal and unwanted activities on social networking platforms and social media are raising significant legal issues and challenges. There is a need for the countries across the world to ensure that rule of law prevails on social media. Social media legal issues continues to be significant. In order to avoid social media crimes and protect the privacy related to social media, it is a challenge for cyber law makers across the world to not only provide appropriate legislative and regulatory mechanisms but also provide for effective remedies for redressal to the victims of various unauthorized, unwanted criminal activities done in cyber space and social media.

Cyber security and related issues :

With the growing activities of cyber crime across the world, there is a need for enacting a appropriate legislative, regulatory and policy framework pertaining to cyber security. The International Conference on Cyber law, Cyber crime and Cyber security which took place in November 2014 in India highlighted significant issues affecting cyber security and came up with various recommendations for international stakeholders. It is likely that countries of the world have to deal with issues pertaining to attacks and intrusions into computer systems and networks from location outside the territorial boundaries of the country. It has the potential of prejudicially impacting the sovereignty, integrity and security of the country. Thus there is a need for the nations across the world to amend their existing IT legislations which would help the protection, preservation and promotion of cyber security in the use of computers and communication devices.

Cloud Computing and Challenges:

Another important challenge in cyber space is the evolution and development of legal responses to the complicated legal challenges poised and raised by cloud computing and virtualization. Cloud computing being a popular phenomenon among corporate is likely to bring forth issues like data protection and data confidentiality. The relevant stakeholders including lawmakers and governments across the globe need to provide appropriate legal, policy and regulatory framework pertaining to legal aspects concerning cloud computing.

Spam Laws :

In the initial years, spam seemed to be targeted at computers but has now also targeted mobile phones. Email spam is the most common form of spamming, Mobile phone spam and instant messaging spam also exist. In majority of the countries there is no such anti spam law, which has led to the further growth of spam. There is an increased need for the countries to come up with regulatory and legal framework for spam as many countries have already become hotspots for generating spam.

Conclusion:

The aforesaid are some of the more significant and important cyber law trends which will have bearing on the growth and further evolution of international Cyber law ecosystem. The aforesaid list is only illustrative in nature and by no means exhaustive. With the tremendous growth in information technology worldwide, the society being more and more dependant on technology,  crimes related to computer, computer systems and electronic devices are bound to increase and the law makers have to go the extra mile to maintain the rule of law in the cyberspace ecosystem. What may happen in the future no one can predict due to the fast pace of technological growth. There lies a duty not only on lawmakers and governments, but also on the users at large, to understand their responsibility towards ensuring a safe and healthy technological development and that it is used for legal and ethical purposes to the utmost benefit of mankind.

Author : Sonia Tulse

Source : https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/emerging-global-trends-developments-cyber-law-growing-sonia-tulse

Categorized in Internet Ethics

Last year was a transformative and exciting year for the Internet of Things as we saw almost every industry invest in the IoT.

Consumer products -- such as wearables and connected electronics -- make up a large part of the market, but IDC estimates that more than 80 percent of IoT spending through 2020 will be on such things as B2B applications.

The Internet of Things will also create a self-learning environment that will drive digital disruption in the physical world. The IoT will allow new business models to emerge, along with new work processes, productivity improvements, cost containment and better customer experiences.

Here are the top five trends in the IoT in 2017:

1) Cognitive Computing: Connecting things with unique IP addresses has been possible for over a decade, but the commoditization of sensors, processors and memory now makes it viable to make everyday things not only connected, but also intelligent.

Cognitive computing is increasing the amount of data to enable sensors to diagnose and adapt to their environment without the need for human intervention. Another huge advantage of cognitive IoT is the ability to combine multiple data streams that can identify patterns and give much more context than would be otherwise available.

Although making sense out of dark data is paving the way to revolutionary ideas and technologies, it requires a cognitive approach that can effectively handle increasingly large inputs, while generating meaningful output. Programmable systems thrive on prescribed scenarios using predictable data, and their rigidity can limit their usefulness when addressing the ambiguity and uncertainty of IoT data.

Cognitive systems, however, are not explicitly programmed. Rather, they learn from interactions with people and from experiences with their environment. In doing so, they become able to keep pace with the complexity of the Internet of things, identifying data correlations that would otherwise go unnoticed.

2) Security: As we rely on connected devices, security must be considered. All participants in IoT ecosystems have a responsibility for the security of their devices, data and solutions. This includes device manufacturers, application developers, consumers and businesses.

According to our latest POV on cognitive security for the Internet of Things, IoT security requires a multi-layered approach. From a device point of view, security should be considered at the blueprint level that starts with design and development and keeps hardware, software and data secure through their entire life.

The same approach applies to any security analyst or operations personnel responsible for IoT solutions. To enable the full potential of the IoT, security challenges must be addressed through a combination of interoperability and good design. Take a proactive, not reactive approach in designing security features that will result in better products and solutions.

3) Blockchain is playing a major part in the IoT by enhancing security, making transactions more seamless and creating efficiencies in the supply chain by building trust, reducing costs and accelerating transactions.

Blockchain for IoT can transform the way business transactions are conducted globally through a trustworthy environment to automate and encode business transactions, while preserving privacy and security for all parties in the transaction. IBM Watson IoT Blockchain uses blockchain capabilities and enables information from the IoT devices to be used in transactions.

4) APIs, or application programming interfaces, serve as a bridge to connect useful information and plentiful data to the Internet of Things, making the IoT useful by connecting many disparate things into a powerful network.

Internet of Things devices would be useless without APIs. By exposing data that enables multiple devices to be connected, APIs provide an interface between the "Internet" and the "things" to reveal previously unseen possibilities. In the year to come, APIs will play a key role in monetizing the Internet of Things.

5) Platforms that have the right elements can provide tremendous value by linking the IoT endpoints to the applications and analytics needed to generate business outcomes.

An IoT platform must connect devices, collect data, handle thousands of vendors, dozens of standards and must be able to scale to millions of devices sending billions of messages. To deliver value beyond the basics, it must add cognitive computing, security, privacy and insight, among other things. With these capabilities and the supporting technology advancements, an IoT platform becomes the means for a company to transform its business.

The recently published report, "The Forrester Wave™: IoT Software Platforms, Q4 2016" assesses how the leading IoT platforms stack up based on current offerings, strategy and market presence.

While these five trends may play a major role in IoT in 2017 and beyond, new developments that we aren’t currently thinking about will likely emerge in the next year: the IoT is evolving so rapidly that there is always something new.

A version of this story ran on IBM's Internet of Things blog on Jan. 3rd.

Author : Chris O'Connor

Source : http://www.forbes.com/sites/ibm/2017/01/23/here-are-the-top-five-trends-to-watch-for-in-the-internet-of-things-during-2017/#79662fb928ae

Categorized in Internet of Things

In the last five years, social networks have acquired about 1 billion new users. Over one third of the world’s population is now accessible via social media, and companies have gone from being skeptical about social media marketing to seriously investing in it.

In this social media dominated world, marketing is heavily reliant on technology, but that technology remains focused on people. This year’s trends will help marketers reach and engage their audience on a more personal level, over social media noise. Companies will be able to fine-target their niche communities, with increased support from software solutions.

Social Media Marketing Trends and Tips

The following is a list of trends and tips for social media marketers to leverage now.

1. Investment in Visual Marketing Will Increase

Most social networks have already launched their versions of live-streaming. Twitter has Periscope, Facebook’s Live, and other networks like Blab and DubSmash support live video sharing. Live-feeds are becoming the “in-thing”. Even the US Presidential election updates were broadcast live by BuzzFeed on Twitter.

You can use live video platforms to engage you audience will near-tangible experiences. If you don’t have a Facebook Live strategy, now is the best time to get one.

With social feeds growing crowded and viewer attention spans growing shorter by year,  you’ll need powerful graphics to captivate your audience. In the last five years, the graphic design software market has expanded, giving marketers extensive options to choose from. You can put together graphics on a drag-and-drop editor to simplify your content creation process.

2. Personalization Will Become Priority

Today’s social media users are faced with ads and commercial content on multiple fronts. The receive information from multiple sources, and breaking through that barrier is becoming a tough task for brands and marketers. Personalization will help marketers slice through the chaos and reach only the people who matter.

Tracking consumers’ behaviors on social platforms and targeting them based on interests will become an essential part of marketing. Some social media marketing tools and apps are already incorporating features to support personalization and targeting. More technology solutions will appear in the time to come. You can target your high-potential market by posting content that only they can relate to, or by targeting them using data pulled from tools.

3. Brand Advocacy Will Grow Popular Among Marketers

Ad saturation is driving brands to look for alternative means to reach their target markets. Investment in advocate marketing has seen a steep increase (by about 191 percent) in the recent times. Micro-influencers could be the key to increasing your brand’s reach on social media, because they are more influential and credible than your brand can be.

Employees, customers and social fans are among the micro-influencers that brands are activating. There a quite a few great employee advocacy guides and case-studies that you can look at for inspiration in building your brand advocate outreach programs. You can use an advocacy platform to build and run your brand advocacy program.

4. Native Content Promotion Will Expand

In Joe Pulizzi’s words, native advertising is content marketing’s “gateway drug”. The modern audience is wise to commercial ploys, and traditional advertising alone may not be a great option for branding your company. Native ads help you create awareness without disrupting users’ activities. Content delivered in this manner can help you connect with your audience without being too pushy. According to a study, native ads are set to to grow to $21 billion by 2018.

Content discovery tools, content distribution platforms and content amplification tools are interesting means to having your content shared organically on social media. You could use one of these solutions to have your content positioned where it can earn you some traction.

5. Marketing Automation Will Go Mainstream

Companies with constrained marketing budgets may have not used marketing automation until now, but according to a study, 92 percent of these companies are losing revenue because of that decision. 2017 may see business of all types and sizes adopt marketing automation. 91 percent marketers are convinced that automation is an indispensable part of marketing.

Each social network is unique in terms of demographic and use-cases. This may force businesses to be present on more than one of them to keep consumers and prospects engaged. Managing social pages can be a time intensive task, without the assistance of a supporting social management tool. The idea is to use the tool to automate tasks that don’t require personal attention – like posting created content to multiple accounts and catching mentions of your brand. You can also curate content with a tool and take the final call on what to share. It all comes down to the extra-time that you can save to better invest elsewhere. Managing content on a central platform can also help you maintain consistency across different pages.

Wrap

Social media marketing is set to evolve into a highly tech-focused and detail-oriented effort. To succeed  at reaching and engaging your target market, you need to explore and stay abreast of the latest developments and technologies offered for social. The areas mentioned on this post are good places to keep tabs on.

Author: Jessica Davis
Source: https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/01/social-media-marketing-trends.html

Though some critics love to knock PCs as dinosaurs, laptops and desktops have gotten sexier, faster and even smarter. For every blue screen of death, there are droves of technological enhancements driving PCs into the era of virtual reality, 4K video and 5G connectivity. Here are the top 10 PC technology and trends to watch next year.

VR PCs on your head

idgns2 s004 s001 t005.mov.00 11 43 15.still006Intel/IDGNS

An Intel employee demonstrates the company’s Project Alloy headset on stage during IDF 2016 in San Francisco on August 16, 2016.

VR devices will come in many new shapes and sizes, with some of them acting essentially as PCs that fit on your head. Dell, Asus, Acer, Lenovo and HP will release mixed reality headsets, which will allow users to interact with 3D objects that pop up as floating images superimposed on a real-life background. The devices will provide a new level of human-computer interaction, making it more fun than ever to create 3D objects, play games, watch moves, and have interactive Skype calls. These “holographic computers,” as they have been called, will have Intel chips, an integrated GPU and possibly a 3D RealSense camera to identify objects, measure distances, and provide new perspectives on surroundings.

Storage prices will go up

IntelMartyn Williams

A computer with an Intel SSD on display at Computex 2015 in Taipei

Prices of SSDs are going up due to shortages, and that could have an impact on the price of laptops, 2-in-1 computers and storage. Dell’s XPS 13 with Intel’s Kaby Lake chips and a 512GB SSD, for example, is not available right now.  Other laptops with 512GB SSDs are priced unbelievably high. Most PC makers are offering 128GB or 256GB SSDs in PCs by default. Choose storage wisely, as it isn’t easy to screw open a superthin 2-in-1 to replace an SSD.

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Talk to your PC

CortanaMicrosoft

Woman using Microsoft’s Cortana voice-activated assistant on Lumia smartphone.

The feud between Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana voice-activated assistants could get more interesting next year. Users will be able to shout out Cortana commands to Windows 10 PCs from a longer distance, thanks to a “far-field speech recognition” technology that Intel and Microsoft are working on. Until now, Cortana worked best if a user was close to a PC, but millions of Windows PCs will turn into Amazon Echo competitors with this new feature. Cortana can do a lot more than Amazon Echo, like accessing information from the cloud, chatting with chatbots, checking email and other tasks. 

AMD ratchets up chip battle with Intel

chip waferMartyn Williams

Intel has been the unchallenged king of PCs for more than a decade, but AMD is fighting back with its new Ryzen PC processor, which will reaches PCs next year. A healthy rivalry will be good news for PC users, some of whom may jump from the Intel to the AMD camp. AMD claims Ryzen is 40 percent faster than its current PC chips, which on paper is impressive. The chips will first hit gaming PCs, and then mainstream laptops and desktops later in 2017. Ryzen will battle Intel’s Kaby Lake in early 2017, and the 10-nanometer Cannonlake in late 2017.

ARM-based laptops with Windows, again

microsoft windows 10 signStephen Lawson

The first attempt at ARM PCs, which ran on Windows RT, was an unmitigated disaster, and it left many users skeptical of the idea. But Microsoft hasn’t given up, especially as 5G starts to become a reality and cellular connectivity in PCs becomes essential. Microsoft announced that next year PCs will be available with Qualcomm’s ARM-based Snapdragon 835, which is primarily for smartphones. Super-thin laptops will get integrated modems and a long battery life with the chip. The ARM-based PCs will run Win32 applications that run on regular x86 PCs via emulation.

For now, no PC maker has announced ARM-based Windows PCs—manufacturers  may be cautious in light of the Windows RT fiasco. There are also many challenges. Snapdragon isn’t as fast as high-end x86 Intel or AMD chips, and won’t support 64-bit applications initially. Also, emulation may limit the ability to exploit hardware acceleration.

Bluetooth 5 will take charge

Bluetooth logoStephen Lawson

The Bluetooth logo.

Laptops and 2-in-1s will be equipped with the latest Bluetooth 5 wireless specification, which is a longer and faster upgrade to the aging Bluetooth 4.2. Bluetooth 5 will allow PCs to communicate wirelessly with devices up to 400 meters away in clear line of sight, but a more reasonable range is about 120 meters, according to analysts.  Bluetooth 5 will transfer data at speeds of up to 2Mbps, which is two times faster than its predecessor.

Beautiful screens, 4K and HDR

dell xps13Dell

Dell’s XPS 13 has an edge-to-edge screen.

Laptops like the XPS 13 and Lenovo’s Yoga 910 have beautiful edge-to-edge screens, a feature that may be included in more laptops next year. Also, 4K screens and HDR (high-dynamic range) technology will make games and movies look stunning. HDR results in more vivid images, and TVs, cameras and monitors supporting the technology are already available. Netflix is also doubling down on HDR. An HDR standards battle is brewing with DolbyVision and HBR3, but GPU makers are supporting both standards. AMD expects DolbyVision to ultimately win.

New storage and memory technologies

3d xpoint die optaneIntel

3D XPoint is the technology behind Optane products.

Intel’s Optane, a superfast SSD and DRAM replacement that could ultimately unify memory and storage, could cause a radical change in PC architecture. But that won’t happen for a few years, and the initial expectations for Optane are modest. The first Optane SSDs will be in enthusiast PCs, and could cost a small fortune. Optane SSDs have been measured as being 10 times faster than conventional SSDs. Over time, Optane could replace DRAM DIMMs, with the added advantage of being able to store data.

The SSDs won’t be in laptops next year as the technology’s uses are still being explored. Optane is based on a technology called 3D Xpoint, which Intel co-developed with Micron. SSDs based on Micron’s 3D XPoint technology will ship next year under the QuantX brand.

More changes for keyboards

Yoga BookLenovo

Lenovo’s Yoga Book has a virtual keyboard on a touch panel.

We saw some interesting changes to keyboards this year: Apple added the Touch Bar, while Lenovo swapped out the hard keyboard for a virtual keyboard on a touch input panel for its Yoga Book. Lenovo wants to bring the virtual keyboard to more Chromebooks and 2-in-1s, partly because of its versatility. The touch input panel can also be used to draw or take notes with a stylus. It’s a toss-up: Lenovo believes that those used to typing on mobile devices will adapt to this touch panel keyboard quickly, while hard keyboard diehards will dismiss the idea.

Some ports won’t go away easily

USB Type-C (4)James Niccolai

USB Type-C cable on show at CES

PC makers may not muster up the courage to remove the headphone jack and SD card slots from PCs right away, but USB 2.0 slots could be on their way out. Some PC makers may leave out display and other legacy ports with the emergence of the versatile USB Type-C, which can be used to charge PCs and connect displays, storage devices and other peripherals.

Author : Agam Shah

Source : http://www.infoworld.com/article/3150947/computers/top-10-pc-technologies-and-trends-to-watch-in-2017.html

Categorized in Science & Tech

If you're looking forward to 2017, you can stop right now. Things will only get worse.

In fact, it's no exaggeration to suggest that the welcome death of 2016 – miserable troll of a year that it was – might usher in unimagined levels of worst-ness to the world.

Over the past year, we lost Leonard Cohen and gained President Donald Trump. World markets have been less reliable than a Kanye concert. And the American election was hacked by Russian cyber-spies. Overall, 2016 was as twisted as a David Cronenberg film. But compared to what lies ahead, it will seem like a Disney musical.   

Here are just four reasons to despair about 2017.    

Trump

President Trump

Since November 8, it's been fashionable to treat Trump with the authority and deference normally owed to the incoming leader of the free world. We are told that the presidency will change him. We are asked to give him a chance. We hear that he's taking advice from Barack Obama.

Nuts to all of that.

Nothing about Trump's conduct since winning inspires the slightest confidence. His Twitter tantrums continue – only now he spends as much time badmouthing foreign capitals as he does Alec Baldwin. He regularly refuses intelligence briefings, finding the detail of keeping the world secure to be dull work.

And for a cabinet, he's selected advisors who impressively combine Bond villain mega-wealth with ideological hostility. Veteran observers insist that the institutions of government will hem Trump in and curb disastrous outbursts. But there is exactly zero reason to believe this of a man who has based his public appeal on disavowal of those same institutions. Rookies make rookie mistakes. And the world is about to be led by the most powerful, uncoachable rookie of all time.  

Global Economy

After fuelling global economic growth for years, China is experiencing the lowest GDP outlook in a generation. To help ease domestic pain, Beijing has been selling U.S. treasuries and devaluing its own yuan. But America needs Chinese buyers for its debt. Guess how much it helps when the new president-elect trash talks the yuan on social media? All I want for Christmas is a currency war.

The new year will also see Brexit's chickens come home to roost, disrupting trade, jobs and growth in the world's largest single market. Meanwhile, central banks, after eight years of quantitative easing sleight of hand, are nearly out of magic tricks and the Fed is beginning to raise rates. Here at home, Trump's plan to tear up NAFTA should nicely impact our 1.1 per cent rate of growth.

Machzikei Hadas synagogue Ottawa swastika racist Nov. 17 2016

Prejudice

What a bull run the bigots are having. White supremacists are coming into the mainstream in ways unseen since desegregation of the American south. In France, Marine Le Pen is a legitimate contender to be president. In America, Trump's pick for attorney general was once denied a judgeship for a history of racially charged comments.

On our side of the border, it's been suggested that we should subject newcomers to a "values test" to scorecard their patriotic purity. Here's a good rule of thumb: when David Duke, one-time Imperial Wizard of the KKK is delighted with the way of the world, the way is wrong.

Journalism

You can't pick up a newspaper these days without reading about fake news and its apparent conquest of all media. Actually, you can hardly pick up a newspaper at all: they're gradually disappearing. In Canada, media organizations like Postmedia are choking on a fatal blend of falling ad revenues and rising debt charges. Professional journalists everywhere are heading for the exits, taking buyouts and leaving behind a legion of social media-inspired "citizen journalists." We're also told that we live in a post-factual world. These things are not unrelated. Sadly, 2017 will see traditional, professional media shrink more and matter less. And with it goes an enormous instrument of accountability, ethics and transparency.

It's not a very rosy outlook and human nature runs contrary to much of this analysis. We're wired to look ahead with hope, to dismiss the naysayers and expect that things will somehow work out for the best. But reason tells us that can't always be so. Now and then, the outlook is every bit as grim as it appears.  

Happy New Year.

Author: Scott Reid
Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/despair-for-2017-1.3913984

Categorized in Future Trends

2016 has been a good year for the digital economy, but there is still a way to go on the journey toward digital transformation

1. Achieving digital transformation means being ‘glocal’

At its heart, digital transformation is about taking offline, manual or paper-based processes, making them digital and having the ability to scale them across not just an organisation but also any place an organization does business.

This ability to scale globally while keeping a local lens is especially important when it comes to regulatory compliance and data privacy. As companies move transactions online and begin to service global markets, regional regulations (e.g. eIDAS) and laws (e.g. data privacy) remain in play.

Doing business digitally also enables 24/7 transacting, which makes it more important than ever that mission-critical systems are backed up within and across multiple regions and readily available in case of crisis. This is especially so in light of increasing data breaches, global weather incidents and DDoS attacks like last October’s that took down a number of popular websites.

2. Security will play a pivotal role in digital transformation

With recent data breaches and hacking incidents like October’s DDoS attack, organisations are becoming more aware of where their weaknesses lie, namely around security.

Companies need to consider the security around each process or transaction they are taking digital. While digital transformation can seem overwhelming, especially with regard to securing digital transformation initiatives, an easy place to start with is with data protection, integrity and availability.

The next big frontier for security will be cloud app and software providers needing to work harder to ensure the availability of their service.

3. Starting small to go big is key to digital transformation

Digital transformation implies that an organisation needs to undertake a massive project, which can be intimidating and a potential roadblock to starting the digital transformation process.

However, it doesn’t have to be so complicated – digital transformation can be as simple as digitising one process or transaction across one line of business.

The best thing businesses can do is choose technology for digital transformation initiatives that can be built as enterprise solutions and reused across all lines of business and processes, essentially a “build once, deploy anywhere” model.

This simplified approach allows businesses to take on digital transformation at a pace that works for them.

4. Security in the digital world will be based on the ‘digital trust chain’

October’s DDoS attack highlighted how fragile digital transacting can be, with security often added after a hack or breach rather than upfront.

As a result, we are going to see a shift in how digital transformation is conceptualised to become rooted in transaction security. In the future, the concept of a digital trust chain that links technologies together to provide a secure transaction from end-to-end will be at the heart of digital transformation.

Author:  Ben Rossi

Source:  http://www.information-age.com/5-factors-driving-digital-transformation-123463707

Categorized in Future Trends

There are so many wonderful websites around, and it is difficult to know each and every one of them. The below list provides some of those websites that I find particularly helpful, even though they are not as famous or as prevalent as some of the big names out there.

1. BugMeNot

Are you bugged constantly to sign up for websites, even though you do not wish to share your email? If yes, then BugMeNot is for you. Instead of creating new logins, BugMeNot has shared logins across thousands of websites which can be used.

BugMeNot

2. Get Notify

This nifty little website tracks whether the emails sent by you were opened and read by the receiver. Moreover, it also provides the recipient’s IP Address, location, browser details, and more.

getNotify

3. Zero Dollar Movies

 

If you are on a constant lookout of free full length movies, then Zero Dollar movies provides a collection of over 15,000 movies in multiple languages that are available to watch for free on Youtube. It indexes only full length movies and no trailers, or partial uploads. In addition, it has a clean interface, contributing to a good movie watching experience.

ZeroDollarMovie

4. Livestream

Livestream allows you to watch and broadcast events live to viewers on any platform. For the next time when you want to share your company’s annual CEO speech live to employees who are on remote locations, Livestream serves as a perfect platform.

LiveStream

5. scr.im

scr.im converts your email address into a short custom URLs, that can be shared on public websites. This prevents your email id from getting picked up by spam robots, and email harvesters who are on a constant lookout from your email id.

Scrim

6. TinEye

TinEye is a Reverse Image search tool which is as accurate as Google’s Reverse Image search tool. As opposed to Google, TinEye provides a set of APIs that can be used for personal and commercial purposes, which makes it very useful for developers.

TinEye

7. Fax Zero

Fax Zero allows you to send faxes to US and Canada for free. Additionally, it enables you to send faxes to countries outside North America at a fixed pay per use cost.

FaxZero

8. Snopes

Do you believe that fingernails and hair continue to grow after death? Why don’t you check out if this is true, along with thousands of other urban folklore out there, at Snopes?

Snopes

9. Stickk

Is it difficult for you to stick to goals ? If yes, then let Stickk help you reach your goals. It makes use of commitment contracts to empower you to better your lifestyle.

Stickk

10. Boxoh

Boxoh can track the status of any shipment package on Google Maps.

BoxOH

11. PicMonkey

 

PicMonkey is an online Image editor, that allows you to touch up your images. Also, you can apply different effects, fonts, and designs to your images. It is a perfect tool to create pins for Pinterest and  awesome looking Facebook covers.

PicMonkey

12. Trello

Trello is a great online tool for organizing just about anything using Kanban style cards. It provides a highly visual way for Online Collaboration, and is a simple free tool for Task and Project Management.

Trello

13. Short Reckonings

Short Reckonings is an online tool to keep track of shared expenses. It is deceptively simple, easy to use, and allows you to enter expenses with the fewest possible clicks. A clean, ad-free interface adds to the charm of this simple website.

ShortReck

14. Memrise

Do you fancy learning new things in small byte sized packages? If yes, then Memrise is for you. The additive nature of gaming combined with memory improvement makes this an excellent resource.

memrise

15. Instructables

Instructables provides instructions to help you build just about anything you can imagine. It provides a platform for people to explore, document, and share their creations.

instructable

16. join.me

In today’s world, where collaboration across multiple stakeholders is key, join.me provides an online platform to share desktop screens. Record audio for meetings conducted with participants not in the same room. In addition, it is a simple tool to share your screen with just about anybody on the web.

JOIN.ME

17. Sync.in

 

Sync.in allows multiple people to edit documents and notes in real time. It is a great tool for online collaboration.

syncin

18. Privnote

Do you wish to share notes and information that self destructs immediately after it is read ? Privnote does exactly that.

PrivNote

19. ScribbleMaps

Have you ever wanted to place your personal markers, shapes, and scribbles on Google Maps? Even though Google Maps does not allow that, ScribbleMaps does, and it does a great job at it.

ScribbleMaps

20. TripIt

TripIt is a painless way to organize all the details of your vacation or business trip. Forget your flight time? Can’t find the e-mail with your hotel’s address? That won’t happen with TripIt, which keeps your itinerary in one place.

tripIt

21. Skyscanner

Skyscanner is a leading global travel search site, providing instant online comparisons for millions of flights on over a thousand airlines, as well as car hire and hotels.

 

Skyscanner

22. Hostel Bookers

Hostel Bookers is one of the best search engines to search for cheap hostels and hotels while backpacking or traveling around the globe.

hostelbookers

23. Fitday

Fitday allows you to track you diet and weight loss through its journal. The personal dietician and free articles on nutrition and weight loss on their site are a great bonus.

fitday

24. Endomondo

Endomondo is a mobile app that allows you to track your workouts. The website allows detailed analysis of your training, that makes it a valuable tool to understand and plan your workouts.

endomondo

25. My Fitness Pal

If counting calories is your main goal, then My Fitness Pal is the best web and mobile application out there. The service has a massive database of meals and exercises to make it easy to accurately count calories.

My Fitness Pal

26. Fuelly

Fuelly tracks the gas mileage for your cars and helps you to analyze, share, and compare your vehicles fuel consumption.

fuelly

27. 3-Minute Journal

3 Minute Journal is different than most other Journals out there. This application allows you to track your moods, achievements, failures, and moments of gratitude. In addition, it does great analysis over these parameters.

3minJournal

28. 750 Words

750 Words is based on the idea of “Morning Pages”; that advises aspiring creatives to start each morning with three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing to clear away the mental clutter, leaving you with a clearer mind to face the day.

750 words

29. Kiva

Kiva is a micro finance website, that attempts to leverage the Internet and a worldwide distribution of micro-finance institutions. It alleviates poverty by connecting lenders to people in need.

Kiva

 

Do you have other favorite sites that you find incredibly useful?

Author:  Devashish Patel

Source:  http://www.lifehack.org/articles/technology/30-incredibly-useful-websites-you-wish-you-knew-earlier.html

Categorized in Future Trends

Do you think 2017 will be the year of video? Again? If so, you’re in good company.

In fact, if I were forced to TLDR this post, the big social media trends for 2017 could be boiled down to this:

  1. Video (live, recorded, and 360-degree)
  2. Influencer marketing
  3. Bots

But there is much more you can and should do in 2017 to be successful on the top social media platforms.

One of those things mentioned by a few of our experts may seem a bit obvious, but it could be the most crucial: you must understand your audience!

Tactics are great. Understanding all the big social networks where people hang out is also great. Data is also super important.

But really, if you want to drive more engagement and ROI from social media, you need to know – and be responsive to – your customers. Maybe this isn’t so much a trend as a proven principle of good old-fashioned marketing, but it’s especially in social media: make it personal! Put a little more humanity in your 2017 social media strategy.

Here’s what 26 of the top marketing experts say will be the biggest trends in social media in 2017 – and beyond.

We’ve gathered insights from these social media pros:


 

Heidi Besik, Group Product Marketing Manager, Adobe

 

Heidi Besik

 

The biggest trends in social media in 2017:

Video

In 2016, the biggest takeaway from the success of video is that platforms like Facebook are beginning to challenge traditional media for ad dollars. What we used to know as big television events are now consumed through snackable clips.

Next year, the continued importance and consumer appetite for video will drive further refinement. Social media platforms will introduce easier ways for users to access video, as well as better tools for creators.

At the same time, we will see brand advertisers begin talking about platforms like Twitter and Facebook as a new form of television. And as consumers get increasingly more comfortable (and familliar) with video, we will see a shift in organic content where brands beginning building out dedicated video teams and putting together an infrastructure that decreases turnaround times and gets content out faster.

Measurement

Social networks have matured into some of the most targeted ad channels around. As a result, it’s put a bigger spotlight on justifying ROI.

Advertisers need robust data in the same way they have for existing channels like desktop Web and broadcast TV. This will be top of mind in the new year, as we see social networks work to deliver on comparable metrics and certain advertisers advocating for more third-party auditing.

We will also see more measurement conversations within organic content. Despite continued calls for the “death of organic content”, it will continue to occupy a big role in a brand’s communication strategy.

What we will see are social teams tapping into some of the analytics disciplines in other channels like desktop web – becoming much more diligent in measuring what works and adjusting in real-time. The practice overall will become increasingly more data-driven to drive ROI, as they compete with paid and earned.

Internal Collaboration

We are moving toward the year of integration for social media, where it impacts all stages of the customer journey and has become a standard, integral part of the marketing mix. Social strategists will need to better integrate with existing digital programs across web, ecommerce and mobile. As the roles of content marketing and social marketing become more intertwined, we’ve seen this need accelerate through 2016 and think it will continue to be an area of focus for marketers moving through 2017.

Customers expect brands to deliver a consistent, personalized experience across touch points. Yet most social marketers are still using up to 7 different, disconnected tools to manage social activities.

Disconnected data, content, workflows and teams are leading to poor customer experiences. Tool consolidation that facilitates integrated content, workflows and data will be critical to leveraging the power of social to drive better more consistent omnichannel digital experiences.


 

Kendall Bird, Associate Social Media Manager, Collegis Education

 

Kendall Bird

As we move into 2017, there are major trends that we are already seeing transpire within the social media space including live and recorded video that create immersive social media experiences and organic reach continuing to decline. The two trends go hand-in-hand as video is prioritized within organic social and is seen as an authentic way to connect with followers. With that said, social marketers continue to need to keep their head on a swivel and stay creative in their strategy plans.

Within the broader social media community we are seeing platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram moving toward live, real-time video. These platforms have products that enable marketers to connect with their followers in a completely different light than they are used to experiencing.

Video presents the opportunity to create more candid experiences for your followers. Social media users will continue to demand to live vicariously through social media content put out by brands and influencers. The question is how will you make genuine real-time experiences that make your followers feel as though they are there?

Several brands are already doing this right including Birchbox, Sweetgreen and Inspiralized. Each one of these brands showcases their products in an authentic, creative and interesting manner.

  • Birchbox‘s Facebook Live experience is one of my favorites to watch because they unbox their product (Birchbox, for those who don’t know, is a curated, monthly subscription box for men and women) and show what the product is and how to use it.
  • Sweetgreen (an East Coast fast-casual restaurant) is the most creative when it comes to Snapchat. Recently, one of their Stories, was introducing a Sweetgreen customer sharing their favorite salad bowl. They snapped the story from the lens of the customer and through the chef’s perspective with Snapchat Spectacles.
  • Inspiralized is one of my favorite food bloggers (small bias!), but Ali really does a wonderful job maintaining her social media accounts and really focuses in on what her followers are interested in and what the channels are about. Inspiralized uses Instagram Stories to focus more on the personal side of her life and business, whereas Snapchat is focused more on tutorials and product.

As you envision your social media strategies for 2017, be thoughtful about each platform and your followers. Why are they watching Facebook Live, Snapchat, and Instagram Stories? Are you differentiating your accounts to fit what your followers are interested in? Why are they following you?

Consider conducting an competitor analysis of what they are doing on these platforms products, focusing on what is successful for them and how you can better those efforts for the brands you are managing. Always remember, you are building a community – would you want to be part of it?


 

Lisa Buyer, Speaker, Author & Consultant, The Buyer Group

 

Lisa Buyer

 

In 2017 social media marketers and brands will be expected to do more in less time; short of performing social media miracles. I see the start of a new condition called Social Media Stress Syndrome.

Everyone is chasing the ROI and trying to stay on top of the constant change and introduction of new platforms, tactics and tools. Live video, Snapchat (aka Crackchat), the increasing complexities of Facebook and the unknowns behind augmented and virtual reality will be keeping social media marketers awake at night.

Prioritization

Brands will need to fine tune focus on the platforms that are most important to their audience and figure out how to make the most of them. Do an audit of best performers and eliminate the time suckers.

Better content

In 2017 content is no longer king. Social media marketers will need to step up the game and only the brands investing in talented journalistic style writers will survive.

Distributed Content Management Systems (DCMS)

Creating, reaching and publishing is going beyond WordPress with platforms such as RebelMouse introducing the first DCMS.

Creativity

With platforms such as CanvaAdobe Spark and Buffer’s Pablo, visuals are spoonfed to social media marketers. Brands will be expected to take canned visuals to the next level in 2017. Standing out in the newsfeed’s visual competition will require more than just using stock visuals.

AR/VR/MR/PR

Augmented reality (AR) virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) are the latest public relations (PR) buzzwords turning heads. Social media marketers will be faced with figuring out how to make sense of this new technology. Follow sources such as Cathy Hackl, Robert Scoble and VR Scout.

Productivity & Reporting

This is where the Social Media Stress Syndrome will come into play. Social media marketers will need to reinvent the meaning of productivity and fine tune the social media management aspects by investing in social media management dashboards with excellent reporting features such as Buffer, Hootsuite, Agorapulse, or Sprout Social.

Balance

In 2017, avoiding Social Media Stress Syndrome and maintaining digital work/life balance should be a priority in order to keep your sanity. Staying ahead of the social media marketing industry gets tougher each year and more complex.

In order to avoid being “taken down” by social media, marketers will need to find ways to reset and restore in order to stay fresh and creative without getting burned out. Apps such as Buddhify, integrating yoga into your weekly routine, and going offline for a walk at lunch are great ways begin finding balance in 2017. I’m writing my next book, “Digital Detox Secrets”, to help digital marketers find space for balance, opportunity, and productivity happiness.


 

Mel Carson, Founder, CEO & Principal Strategist, Delightful Communications

Mel Carson

Putting people first will be one of the trends we’ll see in social media in 2017.

Elections on both sides of the pond have proved that no matter how much data you have to suggest one outcome is imminent; unless you sit down with your target audience and ask them for their thoughts and opinions on whatever product or service you are trying to sell you might be barking up the wrong alley.

Also, our personal branding consulting business has tripled in the last 12 months which shows professionals increasingly see the benefit in having their wisdom and experience be more discoverable, shareable, and memorable across social networks, which is why I’ll be watching the Microsoft/LinkedIn integration with a keen eye!


 

Ashley Carlisle, Brand Relationship Strategist, Fractl

 

Ashley Carlisle

In 2016 we saw a huge surge in influencer marketing, which will no doubt continue into 2017 – but inevitably it will evolve as all trends do. The new year will see an increased emphasis on authenticity and transparency among influencers as they become more commonly integrated into social strategies.

Typically when we think of influencer marketing, we think of a product placement posted on a major celebrity’s Instagram account to hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of followers, but it goes beyond that. It can also include hashtag campaigns to encourage a genuine conversation among followers or account takeovers to help build a following. The latter examples, along with other creative, more organic ideas, will likely grow in popularity in 2017 as they emphasize authenticity and encourage engagement.

While the spotlight this year was primarily on pop culture celebrities promoting products falling into the discretionary consumer goods category (think apparel, beauty, alcohol, etc.), other brands will start looking into incorporating influencers in their 2017 social strategy.

As more research is becoming available to prove influencer marketing’s ROI, B2B and other types of B2C companies will likely join. These brands especially better work with powerful middle- and micro-influencers as they often have more influence over a more intimate, targeted audience – which also translates to more engagement.

As far as the networks themselves, Snapchat and Instagram were the networks of choice. While Snapchat has grown exponentially, Instagram will likely continue to take the lead when it comes to engagement into 2017, given its more diverse user base. Some even argue while Vine is officially dead, influencers could save Twitter with the help of livestreaming and Twitter Moments.

Even with the algorithm changes and crackdown on compliance with the FTC guidelines, influencers on social media will continue to prove their value into 2017.


 

Geoffrey Colon, Communications Designer, Microsoft

 

Geoffrey Colon

Two things for social media marketers to watch:

1. CRM

CRM via social has existed forever but now it’s a form of marketing. The better you do it, the better the word of mouth about your company, product, service spreads to others.

Reputation economics is only getting more influential on how people choose what company to use. Many companies have ignored this and as a result will pay a steep price in 2017 with either more customer churn or loss of potential new customers altogether.

2. Bots

Because of the volume of conversations that may exist in these channels, conversation bots are key.

The best companies will program and experiment with these in 2017 as they will only become more influential and allow companies who may have small staffs to handle mass quantities of inquiries through channels like Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and Skype.

 


 

Brent Csutoras, Founder & CEO, Pixel Road Designs

Brent Csutoras

If you look at the success of Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram, it’s clear there is a real shift in social media storytelling. It has been something optional for most businesses up until now, but I think in 2017 companies need to really give some serious thought and strategy to how they can incorporate more visual storytelling in their social media marketing plans.

Where possible, I also think it is going to be important for companies to start thinking about how they can incorporate beacon or location-based marketing efforts into their strategy as well. Virtually every app I’ve seen or been pitched this last year has had some beacon or location-based feature, so companies are going to have to start looking into incorporating this as well.

Over the past two years we’ve been building toward a significant shift in how we tell our stories through social media. In 2017 it’s time to get with the times and start embracing this shift – like now!

 


 

Melissa Fach, Social Community Manager, Pubcon

Melissa Fach

Customer service via social is huge already, but I believe it will grow in 2017. People prefer to do as much as possible via their phones, and we also know people go straight to their phones to complain about things on social media networks while they are on the go.

So, all businesses need to come up with more defined plans on how they are going to handle customer service issues via social media for 2017. Not handling complaints the right way, quickly, can result in terrible PR for any company. For example:

comcastcares unhappy customers

Some things to cover:

  • Availability hours & response times: Facebook is already giving badges for good response times and both Facebook and Twitter allow you to set availability hours & auto-respond to messages. I recommend all businesses learn about the customer service options available on both Twitter and Facebook.
  • Staff: Choosing staff is critical. Who has the temperament/self-control to handle potential and current customers the right way? Say the wrong thing and you will end up on the news.
  • Create protocols for all situations: Support, Q&A, Requests, Billing, Complaints, User Error, Crisis Management and Trolls.
  • Education: Make upper level management understand how critical social media customer service is and why resources and money are needed.

Another thing that will grow via social in 2017, video – every major social media network has focused on enhancing video options. Businesses of all sizes need to find creative ways to utilize video and to reach their targeted audiences.

Boring video just will not do. I am sure that we are going to be overrun with video, as we have been with content, soon enough. To stand out and be remembered businesses will need to go the extra mile.


 

Nikki Fica, Founder & CEO, Social Media Facelift

 

Nikki Fica

Smart brands and businesses should focus on the power of influencer marketing in 2017 for great social media success. They shouldunderstand what makes an influencer in their niche and take micro influencers into consideration.

Brands and businesses should also explore more live video options. With the rollout of Instagram’s live videos at the end of 2016 and Twitter’s livestreaming without Periscope, platforms are looking for you to share your authenticity on their platform. Show your “why” and make people fall in love with not only your product, but the brand and who is behind the brand itself.

As an avid “Shark Tank” viewer, the backstory of the entrepreneur is often reflected during the episode; where they came from, what their passions are, etc. Things that others can relate to. If a brand on social media plays a similar role and can relate to the consumer (the use of livestreaming can help tremendously), it may influence stronger.

Consumers may be more likely to purchase over a bland brand with a similar product who only talks about the product itself. Humanize your brand in 2017!


 Kat Haselkorn, Director of Content, Go Fish Digital

 

Kat Haselkorn

Measure everything. In social, it can sometimes be tricky to keep track of what works and what doesn’t across multiple platforms, but when you can show changes over time, that’s when you have something that plays into a more holistic marketing strategy.

One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from business owners about Snapchat is the lack of metrics the platform offers its users. Their feeling is, If I’m investing all this time and energy into creating content, putting together stories, and building a following, I need to be able to prove its worth. That’s a totally fair criticism of the app.

Luckily, there have been whispers that Snapchat is unveiling more detailed reporting over the coming months and other platforms (and social media management tools like Sprout Social) seem to be headed down that path as well.

The more time you spend tracking and evaluating posts, the better your social presence will be. I can’t stress it enough: Don’t just throw something out there and see what sticks. Measure everything and use the data to adjust your social media strategy accordingly.


 Kelsey Jones, Executive Editor, Search Engine Journal

 

Kelsey Jones

Here are three social media trends you need to know in 2017:

Live Video

With the introduction of live video for Instagram, and the continuation of Facebook’s preference for live video in the newsfeed, businesses should continue to develop live video strategies and consider how it can tie into their existing marketing efforts. What events, learning opportunities, or internal team happenings are going on in the new year that could be translated into live video?

360-Degree Photos & Videos

Mark my words: this is going to blow up, due to Facebook’s acceptance of it and VR headsets. Soon you are going to be seeing brands and people posting tons of 360-degree media. Take advantage of it now by buying yourself a $100-200 camera that shoots these types of images (this is the one I have*) and beat your competitors to the punch.

Take Advantage of Your Data

I’m always amazed at the data we have at our fingertips when it comes to Google Analytics and Facebook Insights, as well as Twitter analytics. Instead of glancing over it each month to see how many new likes your pages or profiles got, really buckle down and look at what types and topics of posts do best. Dedicate yourself to taking more action based on data, and your social media presence will only continue to grow.

*Disclosure: This is an SEJ affiliate link


 Jordan Kasteler, Marketing Consultant & Entrepreneur

 

Jordan Kasteler

2017 is sure to bring about many new social media trends. There may even be new, hot social networks that spring up and give currently dominate social networks a run for their money.

However, before getting involved with any new trend or site be sure that it’s a right fit for your audience. If not, you may be wasting your time drawing people toward you that aren’t interested in your product or service.

As for big trends to focus on, here are four:

Ephemeral Social Media

In other words, Instagram and Snapchat Stories are content that disappears within a limited amount of time. As this is the new rage, it keeps people coming back to these social networks to view daily content before it disappears. Use ephermal social media wisely but posting timely content, gifts for your audience, contests, show behind the scenes, etc.

Live Video

This is another trend social networks are allowing users to take advantage of. Instagram now has a live video option. This is another opportunity to take your users behind the scenes and provide real-time content.

Paid Social

More social networks are moving toward a pay-to-play landscape. As organic reach declines, it’s more important to pay for visibility. Social networks will continue to grow their abilities for businesses to narrowly target their users by demographic, psychographic, and technographics.

Mobile

With social traffic referring from mobile over desktop, it’s important that your content is speedy and provides a good user-experience on a smartphone with 4G bandwidth.


 Katy Katz, Senior Consultant, SmartBug Media

 

Katy Katz

Social media platforms are continually searching for ways to artificially reproduce the sentiments of real human interaction within a platform that is inherently non-human. This is why images are more popular than text, videos are more effective than stills, and live video is starting to gain traction.

This race to replicate human contact is only going to continue in 2017 and beyond; especially as 360 technology and virtual reality start to penetrate the market more deeply.

Brands should be thinking about ways to increase consumer access to that human factor – through strategic campaigns as well as organic interactions. That will be the best way for companies to improve their social performance in 2017.


 Jabez LeBret, CMO, GNGF

 

Jabez LeBret

We are about to see a move towards live video for brands. This will take two main forms including brand events and non-brand sponsored content.

For non-brand sponsored events the customer will become the promoter and producer. This user-generated content will be scary for many brands.

Years ago I wrote an article on Forbes comparing brand marketing to an API. Regardless of if brands are interested in letting the customer market the brand, they do not have a choice.

This means companies should be more proactive in engaging users to submit content. Instead of fighting the trend, get ahead of issues by facilitating the messaging and delivery. This will require companies to become proficient at creating live video content.

It would be wise to test various methods of encouraging your customers to create content on behalf of your brand. We are entering a new era of social media marketing and it is both scary yet exciting at the same time!


 Debbie Miller, President, Social Hospitality

 

Debbie Miller

Social video will continue to be a key trend in 2017. Between Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and Facebook Video, the options are becoming more vast and are constantly evolving.

It will be critical for brands to formulate how to best optimize their video strategy for maximum impact. It’s easy to get bogged down in scheduling written copy and photos, but video is a field that should be given more time and consideration moving forward.

With the rise in video comes the lure of real-time content. Both Instagram and Facebook are leveraging their live streaming components and businesses are able to connect with their audiences in unprecedented ways as a result. Businesses should consider the best routes for optimizing live video content, whether it be interviews, behind-the-scenes tours, exclusive announcements, etc.

One important thing to remember is that the social media world is constantly evolving, and the pace seems to be constantly becoming more rapid. It’s important to stay on top of current trends and changes so that you’re not left behind. It’ll be beneficial for companies to adopt more training and development of their teams to ensure comfortability in the space across your organization.


 

Merry Morud, Senior Creative Strategist, aimClear

 

Merry Morud

 

No longer will social marketers be considered the scrappy rebel force, existing on the fringe of marketing and pointing to false idol metrics. Social media marketers must integrate into the greater multi-touch nurture marketing ecosystem – digital and otherwise – to not only survive but become an undeniable force in 2017.

And BTW, it’s social’s job to integrate, not everyone else’s, for the greater marketing good.

Social marketers will be responsible for making money in a multi-touch environment. One or two-touch conversions in any channel are a finite asset after that brands need to (still) nurture with content.

Social will become a more powerful ROI-positive machine as marketers tap even more consumers further down the funnel with lookalike modeling and clean up retargeting rebounds from other performance marketers by layering on psychographic filters and promoting content that solves problems, demystifies, answers questions, explains benefits, empowers users and removes barriers to purchase.

Filtered performance retargeting has the potential to radically redefine how higher level marketers view social. So social marketers seeking to stay relevant should take heed.

If you didn’t notice, 2016 has been a wake-up call for, well, just about everyone as it peeled back the veil on just how insidious social, “news,” and search truly are. Social drives news. News drives search. And perception is reality. Social propagation is that which can create or cause cultural shifts and the goal of branding is a cultural shift.


 Rebecca Murtagh, Founder & Chief Strategist, Karner Blue Marketing

 

Rebecca Murtagh

In 2017, the race for social media fans, followers, likes, etc. will be overshadowed by a paradigm shift toward relationship cultivation. And, in case you haven’t noticed, this shift has already begun in a big way.

Relationships are the future of social media. Here are five reasons why:

1. Aggregation is So 2016

In 2017 In-tune marketers will shift the focus of social media from vanity metrics (followers, fans, likes, etc.) to relationships. The longer the relationship, the greater the return on investment, and lower cost of acquisition. The follower, fan or connection that has never been touched by the brand has zero value.

As attractive as it may be to report growth of the audience, sustainability of the brand will be determined by revenue. Winning hearts and minds is more important than ever to brands seeking to cultivate leads, customers, and champions. And, it will take a lot more than personalized website pages and emails.

2. Social Media Offers So Much More Than Mass Media

To make social media manageable, marketers have largely reduced social media into a new form of mass media. Broadcasting messaging without leveraging the social aspect of the channel leaves most of the unique potential of social platforms untapped.

Audience aggregation merely reflects the first introduction, a handshake if you will. Today’s consumer wants to do business with brands they trust. Trust has been redefined from just offering a quality product or service, to meeting the expectations of audiences in a transparent, ethical manner.

This is especially true with millennials, who will be between the ages of 20-37 years old in 2017. The good news is that millennials are willing to reward brands they trust.

Millennials are seven times more likely to give personal information to a trusted brand. In fact, 46 percent of surveyed millennials said they would share personal data if in exchange they received a more consistent, relevant, personalized experience, complemented by free perks, discounts and better customer service, across all platforms.

3. It’s a New Era

Millennials have, and will continue to, yield tremendous influence over consumer and B2B purchases. No longer youngsters, millennials will not only make purchase decisions differently than previous generations, as a “digital-first” generation, they will influence the decisions of Gen Y and Baby Boomers for years to come.

Millennials expect reciprocity; a two-way, mutual relationship with companies and their brands, and they consider a brand’s social, environmental or philanthropic efforts when making purchase decisions.

4. Social is Part of the Omnichannel Experience

More than 85 percent of millennials and 75 percent of baby boomers are ready for omnichannel interactions. Brands may not fully understand how broad this expectation is.

Omnichannel is often referred to as seamless integration between on and offline customer experiences. We have seen studies and surveys over the years reveal how consumers use multiple devices, across multiple channels, and across media channels for news, social interaction, job searches, shopping, and solutions for work, business and life.

The social experience is as important as the in-store, face-to-face, or website interaction with the brand. In addition to seek a “a hassle free, omnichannel, client experience personalized to their needs”, according to an IBM report.

Engagement requires much more effort than merely broadcasting to the masses. This is a tough pill for many brands to swallow.

Many have not kept up with the expectations of their audiences. And, in doing so, these brands have essentially begun the spiral into self-imposed obsolescence and extinction.

5. Tribes, Community & Crowds

There is untapped potential inherent to social media that can help brands connect with member of the audience, while connecting audiences to one another.

People don’t want to just do business with a business. They want to be connected with the people behind the business, and they want know how the business interacts with customers like them.

This is why review websites, social sharing of content, crowdfunding, etc. have been so effective. The power of tribes, community, and crowds have only begun to realize their potential.

The next generation of social media will promote greater access and transparency between brands and their fans, creating the sense of belonging and community the next generation craves.

Brands that embrace this new normal and invest in building relationships will be the winners in 2017.


 

Maddy Osman, SEO Copywriter & Founder, The Blogsmith

 

Maddy Osman

Here are two big social media marketing trends for 2017:

1. Instagram

Instagram will become a major player of the top social networks, thanks in part to tactics that effectively take a direct attack on Snapchat (like Instagram’s own “Stories”). Once their new Shopping feature is released to all brands, more clickable links will mean more conversions for retailers.

Facebook owns Instagram, so that means the Instagram ad platform will continue to evolve in the right direction. In my opinion, Instagram’s ad platform has yet to peak (in terms of saturation), and there are still plenty of opportunities for brands to stand out and accomplish specific goals.

2. Video

Video will continue to be important in 2017, but brands will need to keep innovating in the way it’s presented. You still don’t necessarily need high production tactics to be effective, but you should experiment with new technologies, like 360 Video.

Make sure to keep in mind the role sound plays, or doesn’t play in many cases. Many people watch video without sound, so make sure captions are enabled, and that you include the video’s title in the first frames of the video.


 

Erik Qualman, Bestselling Author & Motivational Speaker

 

Erik Qualman

 

Video killed the social media photo. While it seems obvious, the obvious isn’t always easy to execute.

2017 is the year that social goes truly video. Brands will need to invest in both beautifully produced video as well as more organic video adaptations.

There will be a window of time where quality video will be able to help separate your business/brand. However, that window will shrink as advances in technology make artistic video common place.


 

Michelle Stinson Ross, VP of Marketing & Client Relations, K’nechtology

 

Michelle Stinson Ross

Two trends and one time-tested principle. First for the trends.

Live Video

As each year goes by more options on more devices lead to a lot of noise. What can brands big and small do to cut through that noise?

Video has always been key, especially for reaching an audience on mobile devices. Live video broadcasting on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are indicators that authentic interactive moments are here to stay.

Live video gives small brands an option to level the playing field without having to spend big production budgets. Live interactions also give brands a chance to test video content with instant and real feedback from their established communities.

But with live video broadcasting comes the necessity to have a quality brand spokesperson. That spokesperson must be able to talk both fluidly and fluently about the brand and it’s products/services. That spokesperson also needs to be someone who is relevant and relatable to a brand’s potential customers.

Yeah, you’re CEO may not be the best choice here. Save them to be interviewed by the spokesperson as a subject matter expert instead.

Influencer Marketing

Another way to cut through the noise in social media is to partner with influential users. It’s important to put just as much commitment to time an energy cultivating influencers (movers and shakers) as it is your customer base.

Getting the attention of someone that’s never heard of your brand before gets more and more difficult every year. Securing influential advocates to share is critical to that top of funnel awareness.

But don’t count on your free samples to be enough to entice influencers to shout your praises. You are going to have to market the value of a business partnership to them just like you are marketing your product/service to your customers.

A Time-Tested Principle

Make marketing a priority and not an afterthought. One of the issues we see consistently with new clients is the dawning realization that they need marketing.

Too many startups focus every resource on developing their ideas without considering how they are going to attract investors and customers. Struggling businesses tend to cut marketing budgets first.

The businesses large and small that move marketing up the priority list from luxury to necessity will always come out ahead of those that don’t. Just because there are a lot of self-serve DIY marketing options available doesn’t mean that brand’s can skimp on marketing budgets. If anything, it requires more time and attention to resources, personnel and media spend.

Commit to marketing and know when to hire, either in-house or a consultant/agency.


 

Jes Stiles, CMO Emerging Markets, Ringier AG

Jes Stiles

Building your own chatbot to distribute your content (ideally for Facebook Messenger). Why?

Traditional social media is fraught by algorithms and ads. More and more, we see not only millennials, but now also the other generations, moving away from broadcasting focused social media posting and towards narrowcasting in smaller message groups or 1-1.

A messenger bot can allow you to have personalized 1-1 conversations at scale, opening up a whole new audience who does not wish to connect with brand over email or download an app. Moreover, when built in a user-friendly manner, chatbots can actually provide a better experience than a human for common use cases with faster response times (no matter what time or day of the week) and greater personalization of content.

For examples of good bots in action, check out TechCrunch or eBay Messenger bots.


 

Bas van den Beld, Digital Marketing Consultant, Speaker & Trainer

 

Bas van den Beld

With the “fake news” discussion in 2016, the overflowing amount of posts on social media and the changing algorithms, things are about to change in 2017.

What is bound to happen is a trend in which brands and businesses have to “prove” they are legit. That they know what they are talking about and that they (will) do a good job.

This means more focus on helping clients and consumers. Customer service through social media will be more important than ever. If there is any trend businesses should focus on, it’s getting their business ready for that.


 

Ashley Ward, Director of Marketing, Madhouse Matters

Ashley Ward

Video. Video has already taken over social media in 2016 and has helped social media pages increase their engagement, conversions, and exposure for brands. In 2017, I predict an even larger increase in video posts from brands and businesses.

I’m not just talking about Facebook and Instagram, either. Facebook Live is helping brands create more organic videos and less production-heavy, which has been enjoyable for users.

But, Snapchat and Instagram Stories are great resources to show customers an “insider’s view”, give product demonstrations, and tours through video. You can then reuse this video content on other social media channels like Twitter and LinkedIn.

Unlike images, which one single image shouldn’t be used multiple times due to image fatigue, one video can be clipped into multiple 5-, 30-, and 60-second clips and then shared on different social media outlets to provide followers with unique content.

If you haven’t already started thinking about adding more video content in 2017, start now.


 

Tessa Wegert, Freelance Journalist & Branded Content Developer

Tessa Wegert

 

The single biggest social media trend coming our way has got to be live streaming video. We’ve seen the live video market grow with Meerkat and Periscope, but now that Facebook is putting all its weight behind Facebook Live

Consumers are becoming more accustomed to seeing – and seeking – live video content. Brands can continue to push the boundaries and provide exciting live experiences for their customers and fans.

With live video, companies can take consumers behind the scenes in real-time, and consumers dig that kind of authenticity. I think we’re going to see some pushback against all of those staged, polished, and over-filtered Instagram posts brands have been investing in as consumers become disenchanted with social media marketing that feels as forced as the TV commercials and print ads of yesterday.

Live video is the cure for synthetic content, and brands that embrace the opportunity to take consumers inside their factories and test kitchens, to their photo shoots and runway shows, and backstage at the concerts and events they’ve been sponsoring for years will be rewarded with increased loyalty and affinity.


 

Dennis Yu, Chief Technology Officer, BlitzMetrics

Dennis Yu

Instead of trying to crank out endless content to distribute on a growing number of channels– a challenge for the modern day Sisyphus– get your customers to do the work for you. Here’s how to specifically do this, even if you have a tiny team and tiny budget.

1. Can I quote you on that?

Say this to anyone who has something nice to say about you – especially if on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or other sites. But often, these comments are coming through in direct mail, in store, at conferences, or when your customers are getting serviced. When you ask this question, they almost always say YES.

2. Place that quote in a spreadsheet.

Have columns for who said it, the category of customer, the type of comment (value, great quality, great service – however you bucket pain points), source, headshot of the person, and permission flag.

3. Make a Facebook organic post.

Do multiple images in a carousel and boost to lookalike audiences or custom audiences, depending on what stage in the funnel. The key is to have 10-15 of these posts. Test carousel versus not. You may find that video performs best, in carousel or not, as video view objective or for website clicks. Test it.

To go further in how to boost Facebook posts, see Digital Marketer’s most popular podcast episode of all time here.


 

Ashley Zeckman, Director of Agency Marketing, TopRank Marketing

 

Ashley Zeckman

Many brands today (even some of the best ones) are still struggling with one key element that leads to social media marketing success: understanding the people that they want to interact with.

In 2017, I think that smart brands will shift their focus from pushing messages out, to personalizing communications for a more meaningful interaction. That means it will be less about the on-page interactions and more about personal exchanges with prospects, customers, and influencers.

The rise of influencer marketing will make this shift even more imperative for brands that want to get on the radar of busy experts. There are a variety of tools that exist today, and many that I’m sure will be developed in the coming years that provide helpful insights into the habits and minds of your social media audience.

It’s our job as marketers to use that data to create a more inclusive, one-to-one experience in an environment that everyone is engaged with; social media platforms.


 

OK – the experts have spoken. Your turn! What do you think will be the biggest social media trends in 2017?

Author:  Danny Goodwin

Source:  https://www.searchenginejournal.com/social-media-trends-2017/181768

Categorized in Future Trends

Retailers investing in new technologies during 2016 did so in many cases to keep up with the competition, often represented most specifically by Amazon — the company that influenced how many of them pursued e-commerce, and now is prompting them to consider innovations in the emerging area of conversational commerce.

Retailers also pursued new innovations this year in the name of enabling better interactions and stronger relationships with their customers. That notion is the common thread running through what we believe were the five most significant areas of retail technology innovation in 2016.

1. Artificial Intelligence

It’s very likely a lot of retail folks feel AI was the biggest and most broadly impactful innovation to shape the retail sector in 2016. And it’s not just a single innovation, but a vast field on innovation, affecting everything from chatbots (more about those little guys shortly) to other forms of virtual shopping assistants to mobile and visual search to mall directory services.

The most familiar AI-powered solution is Amazon’s Alexa, and though it arrived before this year, Amazon did a lot of work this year to build an ecosystem around its AI-based assistant — work that will inform future AI innovations all across the retail sector. Late in the year, Amazon made several key moves, including creating an accelerator program releasing some of Alexa’s core technology components to developers, that should help trigger an explosion of AI initiatives in retail for years to come.

Significantly, Amazon also teamed with a couple of other heavyweights  —  Google and Facebook  —  for an alliance intended to advance understanding of AI technology and help craft best practices for its development and use. This teaming could help ensure recent AI innovations are responsibly implemented, something that surely will affect broader retail adoption. As Murray Shanahan, a professor of cognitive robotics at Imperial College London, said at the time of the announcement, “A small number of large corporations are today the powerhouses behind the development of sophisticated artificial intelligence. The inauguration of the partnership on AI is a very welcome step towards ensuring this technology is used wisely.”

Aside from Amazon, there were too many launches of AI-driven solutions in 2016 to list here, but milestones include the just-announced AI-based navigation and information apps for Mall of America and Fashion Island mall; eBay’s use of AI in creating curated marketplaces and other solutions; separate efforts by MasterCard and Stripe to deploy AI to fight fraud; and Staples' efforts to infuse its familiar Easy Button with AI.

These aren't just innovations for the sake of innovation. The chief aim with many of these efforts is to enable better customer shopping experiences, often through AI-driven conversation commerce functions. When Target teamed with startup AddStructure this fall to develop an Alexa-like assistant, a Target spokeswoman told the Chicago Tribune “One of the great things about the technology is it works with customers the way they naturally talk and the way they search for things. Anything we can use to create a better experience for our guests, that’s what is most appealing to us.”

Not surprisingly, AI also was at the center of several acquisitions and executive migrations during 2016. Etsy acquired new AI talent by buying Blackbird Technologies, while eBay, another early champion of AI in retaillost a key AI exec to Amazon. As the retail’s AI revolution ramps up, there is surely more of that to come in 2017.

2. Chatbots

Some of you surely are thinking “Aren’t chatbots just one form of AI? Is Retail Dive cheating us out of hearing about other innovations?”

Gentle reader, we would never do such a thing — and also, while chatbots are indeed one form of AI-based solution, they also represent their own vast area of innovation in how retailers are helping their customers interact with them. While AI is the enabler, a number of parties are taking the concept and running with it to create useful and distinct chatbots, and no company may have done more during 2016 to the emerging retail chatbot economy than Facebook.

The social media giant back in April unveiled a suite of support functions for chatbots to run on its Messenger platform, a move the seemed to release a lot of pent-up energy, as more than 11,000 chatbots joined Messenger over the next few months. Facebook has continued to beef up its program by adding new services and making it easier for its members to find chatbots through newsfeed ad capabilities.

The new chatbots in some ways represent a re-innovation of some functions retailers have tried to offer through their mobile apps, with varying degrees of success.“All these brands have written apps and no one uses those apps,” Razorfish executive and retail blogger Jason Goldberg told Retail Dive at the time of Facebook's original chatbot announcement. “The bots don’t require any installation, so a lot of people, myself included, feel the bot is the new app."

Several retailers have aggressively moved to develop chatbots. The year began with Sephora launching its Virtual Artist chatbot, which it continued to enhance it throughout the months to follow, and activity continued right until the final days of 2016, as Nordstrom launched its first chatbot.

One of the more intriguing chatbot rollouts came from eBay, which launched a still-learning beta version of its ShopBot chatbot with the belief that could learn faster and become increasingly useful to eBay customers by interacting with them. Retail chatbots are right now where retail mobile apps were a few years ago — they’re nice-to-haves, but they soon will be must-haves.

3. Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality

Before we go any further, maybe we should talk semantics: Virtual reality has to do with the creation of immersive virtual environments, while augmented reality is intended to indicate the mixing of virtual and real elements in a hybrid environment. That said, it’s gotten pretty hard to separate the two notions, and the differences may not so much matter to all the retailers than have embraced them in the past year.

VR/AR (not be confused with AC/DC) is an overnight sensation that was at least 25 years in the making. Early VR/AR tools lacked quality and consistency, and were too costly even for adventurous early adopters. We’ve seen that change in recent years, with the development of high-end VR headsets and more affordable solutions from the likes of Google and Samsung, VR/AR technologies and startups have started to draw much more funding, and several industry experts suggested that 2016 was the start of a VR/AR boom.

In 2016, VR/AR certainly played a major role in retail on two different levels — both as a marketing and sales tool for retailers, and a viable product worth their shelf space. Home décor retailer Wayfair.com arguably led the way among individual retailers using VR/AR as a tool to help them sell and interact with customers: The company launched its Patio Playground VR app, developed by its Wayfair Next lab unit, in July, and continued to enhance and expand its VR offerings in recent months.

Wayfair co-founder and chairman Steve Conine called VR a "transformative discovery platform," and explained how Patio Playground allows the retailer to liven up its customer interactions: “By combining our advanced first-party 3-D scanning and visualization capabilities with Facebook’s virtual reality headset, the Wayfair Next team has created an interactive and entertaining way for customers to get inspired and browse items for their home.”

Home improvement retailer Lowe’s also advanced its own VR/AR strategy, expanding its HoloLens virtual design program with partner Microsoft. Meanwhile, Alibaba advanced its aims to allow VR users to pay for items while engaged in VR sessions. Elsewhere, the wildly popular Pokemon Go game helped raise the profile of VR/AR, not that it needed help.

In sales of VR gear, the year started promisingly, with AT&T committing to in-store demonstrations of new VR gear, and got even better when Best Buy expanded its own demos of VR gear to more than 500 stores. Whatever you want to call it, the VR/AR era is here.

4. Payments

Like everything else on this list, online and mobile payment technologies and payment apps didn’t just come to light in the last 12 months, but 2016 certainly was a game-changing year of innovation and new releases.

This year featured the fizzling of retail’s ambitions to have a unified payments app, as the Merchant Customer Exchange consortium’s ill-fated CurrentC gave way to new apps from individual retailers, banks and tradition payment card networks. Among the new launches were Walmart PayCVS PayCiti Pay and others.

Likewise, payments apps from mobile sector players also made strides in 2016. After some stagnant years, contactless in-store payments from mobile devices as well as mobile online and in-app payments started to pick up steam. Apple did its part when it updated Apple Pay for acceptance on retailer websites. Perhaps feeling some pressure, the powers behind Android Pay and Samsung Pay also made moves to expand the availability and utility of their payment solutions.

Finally, 2016 is ending with forecasts of a mobile payments boom unfolding in the coming years. There is some concern about how crowded the market is, but it is very likely that the broad emergence of new payment apps we started to see this year will carry into next year. There are plenty of other retailers who may feel that have something to gain — or customers to keep satisfied — if they launch their own branded payment offering.

Speaking at an industry event this fall, Daniel Eckert, senior vice president of Wal-Mart Services, suggested retailer-branded payment apps represent an evolution in customer loyalty and satisfaction efforts. “We’re all about engaging consumers and not based on any loyalty scheme,” he said. “Time is a currency in our customers’ lives. Saving the customer time is just as valuable as [giving them a discount]. We saw the value [in Walmart Pay] with time and convenience, versus a loyalty scheme.”

5. Personalization

This is another one that could easily have fallen into the broad spectrum of AI, and in many cases, when retailers talk about efforts to enable greater personalization, AI is the technology platform they are using to enable it. But personalization in its own right was the concept often subject to innovation as retailers rolled out new customer service features in 2016.

The recently launched My Starbucks Barista ordering feature in Starbucks’ popular mobile app was a great example of this sort of innovation: The coffeehouse goliath is enhancing the app with a voice-based ordering feature that it plans to evolve to include product recommendations and paring suggestions. It’s the type of capability that Amazon pioneered on a large scale, but other retailers are now putting their own spin on.

eBay is another company that recently has done a lot to enable more personalization within its mobile app, redesigning it with more personalization features, like product recommendations and more search filtering options. R.J. Pittman, the online marketplace’s chief product officer, explained what the company is aiming to accomplish with such efforts: "Shoppers have complex needs, which are often not fully met by traditional search engines. While offline retailers can offer human experts to help, there aren’t enough experts around to help us with everything we want and need," Pittman wrote in a blog post. "Combining AI with eBay’s breadth of inventory and unique selection will enable us to create a radically better and more personal shopping experience."

Personalization capabilities also were a key driver in IBM’s acquisition of Fluid’s personal shopper unit. IBM is intent on further integrating the personal shopping capability with its Watson AI to increase Watson’s ability to engage on a more personal level with shoppers. The desire to create a more personal bond with customers also drove Bed Bath & Beyond to buy PersonalizationMall, a company which creates literally personalized products.

Studies suggest these 2016 endeavors are a step in the right direction for retailers. Deloitte found that many shoppers prefer a personalized, self-directed shopping journey, and Experian reported that personalization efforts improve the open rate of marketing emails.

Getting personal with customers may sound like an old an obvious idea, but this year retailers have begun to put a new spin on it, bringing new capabilities to mobile and online platforms that underline the value of personal engagement in the purchasing process.

Author:  Dan O'Shea

Source:  http://www.retaildive.com/news/5-tech-trends-that-transformed-retail-in-2016/432316

Categorized in Science & Tech
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