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Messenger Apps, Alternative Education, and More Digital Marketing Predictions for 2018

The digital marketing landscape is changing… again.

At DigitalMarketer, we spend a lot of our own money on testing. We are testing tactics in dozens of markets including…

  • Education
  • Survival and Preparedness
  • DIY/Home Improvement
  • Beauty
  • Finance and Investing

In 2017, we drove millions of clicks from paid traffic, sent 181,177,569 emails, and generated 4.7 million unique page views to the blog.

(RELATED: The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Marketing)

As a result, we detect new trends in digital marketing months (sometimes years!) before they go mainstream.

Here’s what the DigitalMarketer team and I are seeing as we enter 2018.

I’ll go ahead and kick it off…

Ryan Deiss

Ryan Deiss, CEO & Co-Founder

If the prediction below gives you déjà vu, that’s because you read the exact same prediction last year. It wound up being true in 2017, and will only continue to be even more true in 2018.

See for yourself…

Email will finally get some (more) competition.

Let me be clear… email is NOT dead. Every year some chucklehead proclaims a new app or tactic (Twitter, Facebook, Texting) will kill email. Email isn’t going anywhere just like direct mail is here to stay.

That said, in the same way email was a significant competitor to direct mail, I am seeing some “new kids on the block” (« you’re welcome anyone over the age of 30) that threaten email’s dominance. Facebook Messenger, in particular, is an application I had my eye on as 2016 came to a close.

Facebook Messenger now gives you the ability to communicate both one-to-one, but also one-to-many. We’ve begun testing the building of subscriber lists in Messenger and the upside is big. In the same way we are able to send offers, content and transactional messages (such as “Your order has shipped”) in email, we are now able to send these communications via Messenger.

But here’s the kicker… while these messages can be sent one-to-many, the CONVERSATIONS created by these mass communications can be picked up by you, your customer service team, or your salespeople one-to-one.

Pay close attention to this trend. Just as enormous retargeting lists have been built over the last few years (a prediction I made in 2015), massive subscribers lists will be built on apps like Facebook Messenger in 2018.

♦♦♦

Russ HenneberryRuss Henneberry, Director of Editorial

As companies like Creative Live, General Assembly, and yes… DigitalMarketer continue to raise the bar in the world of alternative education — the wheat will continue to separate from the chaff.

While the typical self-identifying “internet marketer” will tolerate content delivery that is poorly organized, poorly produced and poorly delivered — the broader market will gravitate toward the players that take the execution of instruction seriously.

Just as commerce, news, and social interaction continue to move online to the detriment of incumbent models so too has the delivery of courses, training, certification, and instruction.

Those of us in the alternative education business (you might call yourself an “information marketer?”) should take caution: To succeed in the mass market we must hold ourselves to the standards set by television, radio, print and yes… the traditional university

♦♦♦

Justin Rondeau

Justin Rondeau, Director of Marketing

2017 was the year that “Growth Marketer” became mainstream.

Sure, there were “Growth Hackers” or whatever else you want to call them years before, but now the rest of the marketing (and business community) is on board. Side note: if you put “hacker” in your — you’re a tool.

Okay, now to get back on point: I think 2018 will be the year where growth strategies and procedures will be put to the test. Most of the strategies out there are being looked at as fact when most of the time it is theory sans execution.

At DigitalMarketer, we’ve really started testing a lot of the different growth strategies out there, and we’ve seen that they were created with a “perfect world” mentality.

As more people start building their business using these “growth” strategies (really we’re all trying to grow and we should come up with a different label, maybe “growth catalyst” or something) they will begin to see that a lot of the literature out there surrounding growth aren’t as insightful as they thought when they apply it to their business.

The idea of a growth team or a growth marketer is SUPER important for your business, but you need to contextualize it.

I feel like 2018 will be a frustrating year for people embracing these types of strategies, but I urge them not to take their foot off the gas (and if you do get frustrated, maybe stop listening to the growth charlatans that gave you the “PROVEN” growth silver bullet).

♦♦♦

Suzi NelsonSuzi Nelson, Lead Community Strategist

In the opening keynote at this year’s Content & Commerce Summit, Ryan Deiss said something I’ll never forget…

“In the future, the words ‘brand’ and ‘community’ will be interchangeable. And no one will be able to claim they have a brand unless they have a community to go with it.”

“In the future, the words 'brand' and 'community' will be interchangeable. And no one will be able to claim they have a brand unless they have a community to go with it.” ~Ryan Deiss

YUP.

As DigitalMarketer’s Lead Community Strategist, I pay close attention to how businesses from a variety of industries are leveraging community to increase leads, sales, and loyalty.

…and I think Ryan is SPOT ON with this prediction.

Building community as part of your brand is going to be essential to providing a unique value to your customers that cannot be replicated by your competition.

Consider this article from the millennial news company, The Hustle.

In a candid interview with an unnamed employee of Rocket Internet — a company that makes its bread and butter from literally cloning other companies — it’s revealed that a strong combination of community and branding was the reason why copying Airbnb simply didn’t work:

“Community — or technology-focused companies wouldn’t do because it takes too much time and customer trust to make a lot of money. We tried cloning Airbnb, but it didn’t work because it’s so brand- and community-focused. Even though we had a staff of 400 staff in 15 offices within two months, it didn’t work.”

To make a long story short, communities are next to impossible to replicate if they aren’t implemented with the proper strategy.

For example, there are hundreds of online communities for motorcycle enthusiasts.

From Facebook Groups…

Facebook motorcycle groups

…to forums…

Motorcycle forums

But that doesn’t stop a brand like Harley-Davidson from building a thriving community around their brand, creating a unique experience for Harley owners to arrange rallies and rides specific to the unique community that Harley has built…

Harley Owners Group home page

Harley accomplishes this by strategically creating a unique community experience that members simply can’t get anywhere else.

For starters, they made the community exclusive to Harley owners and their friends/family, and charged for access so there is a show of commitment to the community…

Harley private group pricing

Upon joining, members received a membership card and a commemorative badge and pin, so they can easily recognize other members of the same community…

HOG membership card, commemorative badge, and pin

They also get access to Harley-sponsored events and can arrange their own rides with other members of the community.

That experience is very hard to replicate — and even if you could, the members who have built meaningful relationships with each other through the Harley community can’t be replaced.

You can’t replicate someone’s personal experience with a brand. They own it. It’s theirs forever.

Communities are a powerful way to make that personal experience an emotional bond that can last a lifetime.

So yes, I am stealing the prediction Ryan made earlier this year: branding and community will become so intertwined that it will be impossible to separate them.

Because building a tribe is that important to your business.

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