The digital marketing trends & ideas to take into 2017, and beyond


In an age when industries can seemingly pivot on a dime, keeping one eye on digital marketing trends to avoid getting caught out is a no brainer. With Forrester expecting that ⅓ of CMOs will be fired for their inability to “carry the torch forward” on digital business and customer obsession, everyone in marketing needs to know where improvements need to be made – and how.

We’ve spoken throughout the year to some of our clients and contacts at the biggest brands and agencies to help you understand how they overcome their main challenges, and what lessons you can pick up from them. To ensure you don’t go into 2017 unprepared for what’s ahead, here’s some of the most succinct pieces of good insight they gave us for the future:


Ben Donkor, Microsoft

Audience intelligence needs to drive your business

Insights-driven business are scheduled to grow by an astonishing $1.2 trillion between 2015 and 2020, with growth expected to be between 27-40%. When you consider that businesses who aren’t taking this approach are only expected to grow 4%, it’s clear that growing your audience intelligence is key.

“Using our understanding of the data we’ve gathered we can help other areas of the business predict the result they can expect from their activities. We can then suggest tweaks for the campaigns based on our analytical findings that will help yield better results.
There’s also a social listening aspect that’s relevant to them too, as it’s often the first place we’ll hear about how people are reacting to our products. We can take a bigger look at the conversation and give a broader picture of what people are saying.”
Ben Donkor, social data analyst, Microsoft
(From: How Microsoft uses social analytics, and how you can too)

Rethink how you reach out

Solar Impulse integrated targeted DM activity in their PR strategy, as email inboxes of journalists were becoming cluttered. This approach rewarded them with pieces of coverage, including BBC, CNN, National Geographic, and hundreds of others. (Read the full Solar Impulse case study here.)

“We realised with DM campaigns that we received much faster responses than we would with email. This allowed us to tell journalists that the plane was flying near their city, and within minutes we could arrange a live call with the pilot for them. Journalists are used to receiving many professional standard emails every single day, but using an effective DM strategy on Twitter with a unique opportunity for a story allowed us to cut through that noise.”
Vincent Colegrave, head of digital, Solar Impulse
(From: The story of the world’s first global flight without fuel, and how social media helped)

Lucy Clarke Social Chain Marketing Social Media Twitter

Lucy Clarke, Social Chain

Relevance is next to godliness when it comes to influencers

Sure, you could pay a Kardashian or Ronaldo to promote you, but what’s the point of reaching their millions of fans if they aren’t relevant to your business? Chances are, there are smaller influencers or groups who have far more clout in your area. Learn how to find influencers for your business with our free eBook on the subject.

“If you’re going to grow something, it’s potentially worth using the power of the aggregate, reaching out to smaller and more engaged communities rather than a large volume of people.”
Lucy Clarke, marketing director, Social Chain
(From: Business from the buzz: Social Chain looks beyond trending)

Artificial intelligence for insights is real

Gartner has outlined artificial intelligence as its number one strategic technology trend of 2017. It’s no longer science fiction, it’s your next marketing strategy, and you can start by using it to vastly enhance your vision of who you’re reaching and what’s most likely to connect.

“With Audiense’s Personality Insights, we’ve been able to gain a deeper understanding of the readers of our thought leadership blog ‘Think Big’. What personality traits they share, what motivates them, which ones are more likely to share the content with others and much more. Using personality insights we were able to build a targeting strategy based on Twitter users that would be more receptive to our content which in turn improved our campaign results and maximised the money we spent on Twitter Ads.”
David Rodríguez, product manager of Think Big, Telefónica
(From: How did Telefónica attract 30,000 high quality followers through precision targeting?)

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Britt Adami, HaveYouHeard

Britt Adami, HaveYouHeard

Audience data guides local relevance

Wider campaigns rely on getting it right on a local level, but hiring full teams for every single country isn’t always an option. Look at where data can do some of the leg work.

“[For our campaign] each video was quite unique. For example, Ethiopia is big in coffee making and brewing, so once that particular video was created, we went onto Audiense and we found coffee enthusiasts and/or baristas all over the world, but specifically in Africa and that’s who we sent the videos to. Whereas, when we were in Zambia, where it’s quite fashion focused, we sent the video to fashionistas, fashion bloggers and retail stores.”
Britt Adami, social media manager, HaveYouHeard
(From: How HaveYouHeard successfully launched DHL Africa’s #AfricaAsOne rugby campaign)

Open data is your best resource

Why pay thousands on market research focus groups when many of the answers are already out there for you to glean from open data sources online?

“As a researcher, I care about behaviours. So I find Twitter far more interesting than Facebook because it gives me the data which tells me a lot more about those behaviours. I’m always looking to find what I’ve heard described as ‘The Unknown Cliché,’ a behaviour that’s common but currently hidden or unnoticed. So in Twitter, we’ll look for occasions when people who follow account A are more likely to follow account B, or when people who live in a certain area and are more likely to have particular interests. All those behaviours are useful strategic insights for us to deliver to our clients.”
Johary Rafidison, global insights director, Grayling
(From: Twitter Data: The long term benefits you need to be unlocking)

Pollyanna Ward Mondelez Social Media Twitter Strategy Case Study Details

Pollyanna Ward – Mondelēz International

Social needs to be a cross-company resource

As a mature channel that has multiple uses right the way across a business, everyone needs to understand the role that social plays.

“Too many candidates are just users of social media, the ones who stand out have the passion to take that user experience further and to apply it to business goals, to set strategies that work alongside other platforms, and have a keenness to test and learn! You need a good understanding of business objectives and how social media can play a role in this. This includes thinking beyond social media, such as how can it tie into PR, to digital, to traditional media.”
Pollyanna Ward, digital & social media manager, Mondelēz International
(From: What leading candidates need to land a top social media job in 2016)

Smart solutions bring agencies, brands, and retailers together

A greater audience understanding, plus an idea of what to do with it, spells a win-win for everyone.

“In the future, we want to be more specific about who we target. We understand how important utilising data is and we’ve had a few meetings with brands about that. We’re going to start try to run cross-collab campaigns with partner brands. For example, if we have a beauty product that is sold at one of the high street pharmacies. We’d work with the pharmacy’s team and use the data to upload the source into Audiense. We’d be able to get results and insights, and be able to build tailored audiences to run Twitter ads – by doing that, we’ll be able to reinforce the message and brand in different ways.”
Kat Scoble, head of strategy, Truffle Social
(From: Truffle Social and Models Own get a thumbs up on Instagram)

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Listen to your troops in the trenches

Reacting swiftly and efficiently to the evolution of the digital landscape brings significant benefits. As a result, companies need to look at the smoothest ways of integrating creative ways to take advantage of these opportunities.

“Platforms have evolved so quickly for content, what performs best one month may be outdated the next. But, if we skew our focus too far to the nitty-gritty of performance on those platforms, we’ll lose the energy and creative spirit that made social such a force in the first place. The strategies for combining these two aspects needs to come from platform strategists and creatives who are embedded in this stuff and have an understanding of the business goals. Not business leaders themselves who have a company to run.”
Chris Perry, CDO, Weber Shandwick
(From: 11 of the biggest insights from #SMWLDN 2016)

Henry Taylor World Economic Forum Social Media Case Study Interview Davos Data Report

Henry Taylor, World Economic Forum

Analytics keep your finger on the pulse

Nobody can manually be 100% up to date on every conversation trend across every community. Utilising software solutions to remain informed, and keep your brand strategy on track, is something that all sectors will benefit from.

“…we take the Twitter lists of influential Twitter accounts we made in Audiense, such as those in our Forum of Young Global Leaders, and plug them into Nuzzel to see what content particular groups are sharing. This is vital in taking a pulse on what certain important groups are talking about, ensuring that we’re covering the issues that matter to them and gives us fuel for discussions that people care about. Without Audiense and the ability to easily manage, segment, and upload those lists, performing this task would be a lot more scattered and arduous.”
Henry Taylor, social media manager, World Economic Forum
(From: How the World Economic Forum uses social media to get the globe talking)

Holly Clarke, Airbnb

Holly Clarke, Airbnb

Look after the message, and the message will look after you

The stronger a core message, the more clear your strategies will be when dealing with expansions, new markets, and an expanded amount of products and services.

“Being meaningful means we’re telling the right stories, and what we’re saying is really resonating with people. But for Airbnb, this is something every part of the team lives and breathes. We’re more than just a brand, we’re a community and a movement – creating a world where everyone can feel like they Belong Anywhere. Having this message at the heart of everything the business does and every experience with the brand makes it really easy to tell moving and authentic stories on social. You just have to be great at curating!”
Holly Clarke, EMEA marketing manager, Airbnb
(From: What makes AirBNB a meaningful brand?)

Deliver what only you can offer

If you’re putting out content that bloggers, reporters, and other outlets can do an equally good job of, you’re going to get swamped out of the conversation. Look for the golden mix of content that’s both desired, and only able to be produced by you.

“Something only we could offer was a behind-the-scenes video about the manufacturing of the 918 Spyder, it’s very basic and shows close-up footage of the process. It doesn’t fit the well-trodden mould of a successful social media video as it’s quite long, has no emotive soundtrack, no voiceover, and doesn’t have any sort of message or deeper narrative. It simply shows the production of a car, yet our fans wanted to see it and we were the only people who could give it to them. In a few weeks we generated more than 200,000 views with an overwhelming amount of positive feedback.”
Ken Thorsteinsson, marketing communications, Porsche
(From: Discover the driving force behind Porsche’s slick social strategy)

Vayner Media Ryan Murphy

Ryan Murphy, VaynerMedia

If you’re not flexible, you’re f…inished

Social media has always allowed a greater level of flexibility than traditional marketing, but the analytical capabilities available to marketers ensure that testing on social will deliver far more strategic certainties than in years gone by.

“The old creative approach was driven by subjective qualities, like “cool” or “brand equity”. It was informed by a few people, with high production costs on a few pieces, and a large budget spent pushing those few pieces. NOW, analytics, strategy, and creative teams work together from the outset. Ideas come from social listening, competitive intelligence, and consumer insights. One size doesn’t fit all, so content has to be crafted based on the best practices of that platform. We can even tweak it while a campaign is running.”
Ryan Murphy, creative director, VaynerMedia
(From: 11 Of The Biggest Insights From #SMWLDN 2016)

These were some of the best pieces of advice that have stuck with us this year, and we think will continue to resonate with the wider marketing world. What have been some of your best lessons from this year? Perhaps you could look through our other social media interviews for some inspiration.

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