Group photo of two rivers marketing digital teamThe intersection between digital technology and business has never been more evolved and dynamic. Marketing trends in 2018 range from leveraging user-generated content and humanizing brand content to the rise of augmented reality (AR) experiences, and other exciting trends in technology. It’s easier than ever for businesses to connect with customers in new and engaging ways.

Staying up to date with all the digital advancements can help shape your future marketing strategy and ensure your company stays ahead of the curve.

Now let’s break down the most pressing marketing trends this year.

User-generated content

UGC, or user-generated content, is content that comes directly from your audience and is typically shared via social media. Brands can reshare posts from followers in their original form or integrate them into their own future posts. If your followers are already actively posting engaging content about your brand that you can share, great! If not, one way to get user-generated content is by asking your followers to capture a certain action through photos or videos. Using a hashtag for your campaign will allow you to easily track posts.

Highlighting what your followers are saying about your brand, products, or services is a good way to build trust. It shows you pay attention to your audience on social media, and you’re not there purely to sell. Research shows that being your own advocate doesn’t work anyway; 84 percent of consumers trust online reviews from their friends or peers more than branded content.

There are some considerations before diving into this trend. You should know your audience and their social media habits — what channels are they on, what images or videos would they find entertaining or useful? Do your research before resharing posts from your users, both on the content and the users themselves. Only share posts that uphold your brand tone and voice. Be aware of any potential legal concerns. Even though you’re soliciting the content, you don’t own it.

Highlights:

— Sharaya Jackson, marketing insights specialist

Augmented reality

A few years ago the world saw a shift in human behavior. Groups wandered around their cities, phones in hand, looking for mythical creatures. Pokemon Go was the first widespread AR app. Since then, we’ve seen an increase in companies offering AR experiences.

AR technology superimposes information or an image onto your view of the real world. We’ve seen this used in Instagram Story filters, and Snapchat has begun using AR in its Snap Ads.

Facebook recently announced that it is testing AR ads in the newsfeed. These ads will enhance the experience a brand can offer a consumer, especially those that never step foot in a store. Brands can use these ads to help users “test” a product, whether that be something they wear, drive, cook with, or use in some other way.

As tech companies and brands continue to test AR on social media, social networks will be pressured to ensure users’ privacy and safety are protected. These companies will need to create a strict approval process in an effort to advert security issues and ensure individuals aren’t maliciously using these ad types.

Highlights:

— Erin Fry, social media specialist

Data privacy

Data privacy has become a hot topic in 2018. With the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal making global headlines in April to the new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) taking effect in May, data privacy protection is at the forefront of both consumers and businesses alike. So, how should businesses collect information? And how should it be used? The answer: Start with understanding the new and existing data privacy laws.

Data privacy is not a new issue. In fact, CAN-SPAM and Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) have been in place since 2003 and 2013, respectively, to protect consumers through greater transparency, particularly as it relates to email marketing. In 2018, however, data privacy laws tightened when GDPR began to regulate all organizations, regardless of location, that process personal data from EU residents. Under existing legislation, GDPR defines personal data to include name, address, photos, and IP address. Violating GDPR can result in fines up to 4 percent of global revenue or 20 million euros ($24.6 million), whichever is greater — and can stop an organization from processing data altogether.

Additionally, the state of California passed a major consumer privacy law — the California Consumer Privacy Act, A.B. 375 — in July that will enforce significant regulations to companies that handle personal data. The new law addresses a number of new rights for Californians, including the right to be informed about what types of personal data companies collect and why it is being collected. The law is set to take effect at the beginning of 2020, and though it technically applies only to residents within California, it will likely affect more than just consumers and businesses within the state.

Regulation on how businesses process and use data is only becoming more important as the spotlight on transparency becomes brighter. Ensuring compliance with all marketing efforts is important to protect consumers’ right to data privacy and avoid costly fines along the way.

Highlights:

  • The new European GDPR took effect May 25, 2018, and applies to to any organization, regardless of where they are located, that processes personal data from EU residents. Violating GDPR can result in fines of up to 4 percent of global revenue or 20 million euros ($24.6 million), whichever is greater.
  • In July 2018, the state of California passed a major consumer privacy law — the California Consumer Privacy Act, A.B. 375 — that will enforce significant regulations to companies that deal with personal data. The law is set to take effect at the beginning of 2020 and will likely affect more than just consumers and businesses in California.
  • Ensuring compliance with all marketing efforts is important to protect consumers’ right to data privacy and avoid costly fines along the way.

— Anna Leavenworth, digital strategist

No-click search results

“Showtimes in my area,” “Convert inches to meters,” and “What is the weather?” What do these search queries have in common?

They’re considered no-click queries, or when the answer to a person’s question is found in a search engine’s own data-rich featured snippets versus clicking on a search result. At MozCon 2018, Cindy Krum of Mobile Moxie shared that 40 percent of desktop searches and 61 percent of mobile searches do not receive clicks. In other words, search engines are providing answers to questions before a user ever gets to the content on your website.

Among other solutions such as running paid ads and creating SEO-friendly content with digestible answers, one of the keys to competing in a “no-click” search landscape is implementing structured data.

Structured data is coded information you place in your website that helps search engines read your site more easily and find the information needed for things like featured snippets and voice search. Structured data includes your name, business type, address, online reviews, product listings, and services offered. You can also apply structured data to articles, videos, and other types of content that appear on your website.

In summary, don’t ignore structured data in an increasingly competitive search market. Providing more information to search engines through structured data can help increase click-through rates, improve search visibility, and increase opportunities to appear in featured snippets and voice search.

Highlights:

  • 61% of all mobile searches are considered “no-click” searches.
  • In addition to investing in paid search and SEO-friendly content strategy, structured data is key for your business to gain valuable exposure in an increasingly competitive search landscape.

— Anna Leavenworth, digital strategist

Native advertising

As you scroll through your newsfeed, you stumble upon a video that grips your attention. The story is eye-catching, suspenseful, and sophisticated. And then, once you the reach the end, you realize that it was actually an ad for a product. These types of ads are referred to as native ads.

Native advertising is the use of paid ads that match the look, feel, and function of the media format in which they appear. Native ads are typically found on social media feeds, search results, and content recommendation platforms. The key to native ads is that they don’t really look like ads — unlike display ads or banner ads — so you may not realize you are being exposed to a paid advertisement.

According to a report from ShareThrough, consumers look at native ads 53% more than display ads, and create an 18 percent increase in purchase intent. Knowing this, businesses can better tailor their content to appeal to users and improve click-through rates. Native advertising is an effective medium that is constantly advancing and pushing boundaries to allow users to experience brands in new and creative ways.

Highlights:

— Samantha Sickles, social media specialist

Ready to dive into more trends? Check out our blog archive for digital, social, and content marketing trends.

About Two Rivers Marketing

Two Rivers Marketing is a full-service business-to-business (B2B) marketing communications agency. Email us with your thoughts or questions at blog@2rm.com.