By Juli Durante

2016_Predictions_The_Marketing_Channels_You_Cant_Miss.jpgAs marketers everywhere enter 2016, it makes sense that we're all looking forward to this year's hottest, must-watch marketing channels. These are the areas that, while we're still keeping our sights set on SEO best practices, content creation, and engaging an audience of buyers, we'll experiment with to grow our following and brand. 

"Advertorial" Content

As publishers search for new revenue streams, the "advertorial" or "sponsored article" are becoming more and more popular. Just look at a site like the ubiquitous Buzzfeed.com: sponsored stories abound, and they're not bad content. Even on YouTube, influential channels (we're talking millions of subscribers) frequently share sponsored content. As marketers have become more and more disillusioned with advertising (as the State of Inbound 2015 report shows), this approach is one way to reallocate that spend. One caveat: it only works if you're real. If I saw REI sponsor an story about staying in and bingewatching Netflix, it wouldn't make a lot of sense. Ben and Jerry's on the other hand, would be a perfect fit for that content.

Visual Content on Social Media

The "old standards" of social media, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (for B2B brands) still matter, but in 2016, visual content will be more present than ever. Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube have been present in the midns of marketers for a few years now, but new comers like Periscope grabbed our attention this year. Snapchat is another way brands will engage with fans in an ephemeral, of-the-moment way. Already, brands are sharing stories and news channels are asking for tips. Here's a look at how some brands (including General Electric) have already harnessed the power of Snapchat. Instagram has introduced ads with a "Shop Now" all to action and Pinterest has "Buyable Pins" that allow users to jump directly from visual social content into online purchasing. 

The Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the ever-growing network of devices that share data, making our "real lives" connect with online technology. For example, a smart scale that you use to weight yourself in the morning might be able to send your weight information to a health and fitness app that automatically adjusts your meal and exercise plan for the next week; a smart fridge could detect when you're running low on milk and automatically order a fresh gallon. The wearable technology that millions of us are already embracing also fits into this category. IoT is all about forming connections. 

And from those connections, marketers can gain valuable behavioral insights that can inform decisions and guide targeted marketing campaigns. Watch out for more of this data as 2016 progresses. 

Mobile Everything

Year after year, we're accessing content from mobile devices more and more. Google says it's important for search. They also found that, as of May 2015, more searches took places on mobile than on desktop in 10 countries, including the US. Mobile payment methods promise to simplify our lives. I can now order a latte at Starbucks, pay, tip my barista, and pick it up without even waiting on line. If someone can do it on their phone, expect them to expect to do it on their phone as 2016 progresses. If you don't already have a mobile-friendly website, start there. It's no longer a luxury, it's an essential. Key avenues to explore in 2016 will be payments and location-based marketing. 

The Old Guard Still Stands

As we adapt to new trends in 2016, it's easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of up and coming trends. Researching these programs and modeling ROI is no short feat, so it's best to hone in on the top trends within your industry. That said, 2016 also presents an opportunity to reset and get back to basics. Do some new keyword research. Audit and inventory your on page SEO. React to news and trends within your industry. Dive into your social reporting and evaluate your sending times. Segment your marketing database to see if there is any new persona insight for your efforts. Test new types of marketing emails. 

With clearly defined goals, there's no limit to the marketing methods you can employ throughout 2016. Which channel has caught your eye? Let us know by tweeting us at @smartbugmedia.

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Juli Durante

About the author

Juli Durante is a team lead and marketing strategist for SmartBug Media. She has been using HubSpot and practicing inbound marketing since 2011, first as a one-woman inbound marketing team and now at SmartBug. A born and bred Jersey girl, she's a graduate of Rutgers University where she studied Anthropology, Art History, and Classics, making a very natural transition to digital marketing. Juli's education helped her learn more about research, analysis, and Jasper Johns, which she applies today when planning and measuring campaigns. She's particularly passionate about CRO and website optimization. Read more articles by Juli Durante.

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