As the last vestiges of 2017 fade away, for many it’s a time to look ahead at the exciting opportunities of the year to come, but not while there is still an excuse to rant about some of the most irritating trends of the last 12 months. And there have been a few.
1. Unmanned chat function
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some great advantages to having chat functionality on your site. It allows for a less formal way for your website users to get in touch and receive support without the need to commit to formal email enquiries or phone calls. It can add a level of transparency, immediacy and efficiency to your customer relationships.
This year however, there seems to be a trend of using a chat function, even if nobody is going to be available to answer a user’s questions. This often leads to frustrated customers who have certain expectations of a chat function to get a quick and easy reply. I was once trying to enquire about the pricing of a piece of marketing software, and didn’t receive a reply for 3 days. At this point it’s clearly not chat, it’s just an email enquiry form, so stop pretending to offer users a quick response.
It’s easy to set up your chat so that it’s only available during your working hours, ensuring customers will only use it when you have someone available to respond. Equally, not every business will have staff available to answer a chat message in less than 5 minutes. Chat boxes aren’t for everyone, and if you can’t respond quick enough, don’t let your users down by delivering a service below their expectations, which can be more damaging than having no chat at all.
2. Weak white papers
With the impending doom of GDPR, there’s been a big increase this year in white papers, designed as lead capture forms for relevant users. These are often titled with click bait headings such as “10 unmissable growth strategies” and the like.
There are two dangers here. First is getting the wrong content depth for your audience. I’ve seen lots of whitepapers where the content doesn’t offer anything much of value or is too short. This can be damaging for your brand if potential customers don’t see value in what you are offering. The other risk is that, as with any content, white papers need an investment of resources. This can mean that the turnover of a white paper can be quite slow. If you offer services or products which are affected by digital trends, content can go out of date especially quickly. I’ve downloaded white papers in 2017 which hadn’t been updated since 2016. Once again, you endanger your brand by looking out of date and out of touch with your audience.
Know your audience! What are your audience actively searching for? With the right level of investment in your whitepaper, will you see a good enough return on investment? How long will the content of your whitepaper be relevant for before it needs updating. Maybe a PDF isn’t the right format and what you actually need is a password protected section of your site which can host digital content which you can update easily. Don’t limit yourself to the standard options when the your investing time into content.
3. Social posts which are just links to other businesses
This is unfortunately all too common. Due to a lack of planning, content or strategy, lots of businesses spend their time and social media budget just posting links to other people’s sites.
Now this isn’t all bad. Everyone at some time will want to highlight industry news to their followers, however, what measurable benefits to your marketing and business are you creating by sending your followers to sites which aren’t yours? If someone else has posted an interesting article, why can’t you? If your answer is that you don’t have time to write an article about your industry, then how do you have time to post links sending traffic to other people’s websites?
Make sure you have a content plan that supports your social media. Make the most of the resources across your team, and the internal knowledge and expertise you already have. This is much easier than it sounds, when a single article could generate 20+ social posts across your platforms if created correctly.
4. Press releases without any links
Maybe it’s because link building isn’t always that easy for SEO (even though its very important), but it really bugs me when PR companies get lots of great articles on really relevant sites but don’t include a link.
Firstly, this means you’re losing out on any ranking benefits, even though Google is going to see these as really relevant backlinks. More importantly is all the people reading your content and being made brand aware aren’t given an easy way to reach your site. They have to go to a search engine, to search for your brand and find the right site, just to have a chance of converting, when they could of followed a simple link the whole time. Collectively this makes it really hard to measure the ROI of PR as any traffic to your site because of your content won’t be trackable.
Put relevant links in your press release and check that publishers feature the link so that readers can find you.
5. Businesses thinking GDPR won’t affect them
GDPR isn’t just for B2B businesses. Your old data isn’t fine. Your terms and conditions aren’t detailed enough and you have no internal data policy or compliant way of accessing data. Now GDPR is huge and everyone talks about it, but there has been a fair amount of burying heads in the sand within the marketing community. Looking the other way doesn’t make you compliant or make your business safe.
Find out more! There are loads of resources on GDPR and there are some great seminars and videos with GDPR consultants giving you the information you need. Although GDPR is scary, there is plenty of time to requalify your data in a meaningful way that will allow for much more effective email marketing going forward.
6. Stock images are destroying brand personality
Hardly new to 2017, but the poor use of stock images is certainly less excusable as time goes on. Photography is no longer accessible only to the elite.
Nothing is worse, (well there are a few things), than seeing two consecutive posts on LinkedIn about the totally different subjects, featuring the same iStock image of a person smiling at their MacBook. What is your content’s message? If your message is a woman with a laptop, then that’s not good content. Your image is valuable real estate, a huge factor in click through rate, and you should be making the most of it. At the end of the day, this is your brand. If your brand can be summed up with a stock image, what does it say about your business proposition?
Where to start? Outside of some actually good sources of free photography (like Unsplash), have a proper think about all the graphic and illustration options available, as well as your own photography. Remember, this is your brand on display to the world, and your post is valuable digital real estate.
7. Honourable mention: Referring to SEO as a “dark art”
Not really a marketing trend, but I often see SEO described as a dark art, as if it’s some kind of Illuminati secret. If someone who can’t explain how SEO works, can’t to measure it’s results or can’t give you tangible results then they aren’t doing it SEO right. SEO is technical, but it’s entirely logical and with clear strategies and metrics.
Let’s check back in at the end of the year to see how marketers have adapted their techniques, and what new challenges have arisen due to increasing popularity of chat bots, automation and personalisation. If you’re interested in how we can make your marketing more effect, visit our digital marketing services page, take a look at our digital marketing case studies or click to button below to get in touch so we can chat about your options.