Social media is one such channel, and a “necessary evil” for marketers, according to the report for which over 6 000 professionals in 141 countries were surveyed.
Billions of people are always logged into one of these networks, so businesses have to participate to grow their reach.
Mastering social media
Marketing teams are trying to understand which channels their target audiences are mainly using to communicate and how they can tap into these platforms.
However, owners and marketing teams alike worry about where they should be focusing their energies next - and, most importantly, what the return on investment will be.
As one respondent said: “Being able to not only create content but also target it for those various platforms is a constant evolution.”
Another respondent noted: “Social channels are constantly rolling out new features and metrics. We have to quickly wrap our minds around it if it’s important to our audience . . . it’s very difficult to keep on top of."
“If a company is slow to capture a new mode of communication, it might as well stop the business.” - State of Inbound 2017
Well-respected digital marketer Mark Schaefer argues there’s no glory in being “old school” any longer because it’s basically the same as telling people you’re obsolete.
He says the right attitude is to be curious about the advantages that new technologies can offer businesses.
Video leads the way
It’s no real surprise that video will be a tool that many marketers will turn to in the next 12 months. It has become such a popular medium for connecting with prospects and it can be used on a variety of platforms, from websites to social media.
One of the respondents in the survey noted: “We are looking more into video content and visuals. We also want to get more into podcasting and creating relevant content that consumers enjoy looking at.”
“Video is just going to get bigger and bigger,” said another. “I think more people want raw, honest connection.”
It goes without saying that the main focus for today’s marketers is converting leads into customers and growing traffic to their website.
As far as inbound marketing goes - where potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines, and social media - 61% of respondents said their top priority was to improve their organic (unpaid) rankings on search engines such as Google.
Some 53% said their focus was on creating blog content that can be found via search, while 47% said distributing and amplifying this content was a top priority.
YouTube, Facebook and Instagram remain the top three content distribution channels that marketers will add to their marketing efforts in the year ahead.
Facebook video, however, has seen the largest jump from last year’s survey, up from 39% to 46% this year.
Messaging apps such as WhatsApp also seem to be growing in popularity, with 24% of respondents saying they would add this platform to their mix.
Email remains the preferred communication channel (86%), with face-to-face (60%) and telephone conversations (56%) ranking second and third in order of preference.
Interestingly, 31% of respondents said they prefer using traditionally “personal” channels such as social media and messaging apps to communicate professionally
This figure is only likely to increase in the years to come as businesses begin to adopt these channels for their own marketing efforts.
The big question is: how do we change the way we market and sell to match the way people actually shop and buy?
The feedback from professionals around the world suggests the following:
- meeting your prospects where they “live” online
- figuring out which channels work best for your business
- being open-minded enough to try new technologies to nurture better relationships with your customers
As Schaefer so eloquently put it: “Nobody is a marketing expert anymore. Everybody is a student.” - Gregory Rule