It’s that time of the year where we get inundated with listicles and ‘soothing my ego with my thought leadership which I hope go viral on LinkedIn’ pieces, all with the catchy title ‘My (insert number here) predictions for digital marketing in (insert year)’.

They usually consist of contradicting predictions if you read more than 2 or 3 such articles, and one can never really come to a consensus on which predictions will really matter, or follow through. More often than not, regional businesses don’t even care.

In fact, good digital leaders who’ve led their year-on-year brand strategy development that happens from summer into fall will already know what will be the major digital marketing outcomes of the following year for them and their industry. The major billion-dollar multinational brands and corporations – whose marketing decisions lay the foundations for much of the digital innovation that takes place and gets absorbed by the rest of the world – are the ones who truly decide the future of digital marketing based on their budgets, branding strategies and investments into digital innovation.

Since there’s no point adding another listicle to the mix, I’d much rather share with you my personal predictions of what will actually happen that is based on my limited but on-the-ground experience of working here. These are my opinions, and shouldn’t be taken as gospel, nor should you base your marketing decisions on them. What you CAN do, however, is take a step back after reading them and consider what the reality of the industry will be in 2018.

-Email marketing will still confound digital marketers-

You know exactly what I mean by this. It’s 2018 in a week, and email marketing has been around for 40 years.

Yet, people still sign up for ’email marketing basics’ to learn how to design, write copy for and strategize email campaigns.

Databases are still unrefreshed/uncleaned by marketing managers. Most if not all marketers in the region still don’t know the 18 month data depreciation rule.

Subject lines are still written in 10 seconds whereas the email they are written for took 2 weeks to create.

People are still designing email campaigns on and for desktop consumption even though analytics consistently show by 2018, 80% of all email will be opened exclusively on a mobile device. (stat via emailmonday)

This isn’t a complaint on email practices. It’s rather an observation that we cannot and should not take lightly the fact that a majority of brand and marketing managers today are still ignorant or lacking in skills of basic digital channels.

Here’s a free Email Marketing Cheat Sheet I keep handy for such situations, by the way.

-Marketers – and their bosses – still insist on Facebook as a primary social channel-

Instagram Stories is challenging the 3 second attention span norm by pushing the 0.3 second attention span rule of thumb to the forefront of digital video content strategies.

Instagram dominates most content calendars.

Snapchat may be dead but even in its death throes it holds more attention of millennial power than all other platforms combined after Instagram.

Whatsapp marketing as a business strategy is taking off in a big way particularly with Telegram dominating major markets like Iran.

And yet marketers still seem to be clinging to the notion that Facebook is where it’s at. A few months ago in market research we conducted among the 18-35 age bracket – where a lot of the spending power for impulse buying lies – we discovered a majority of them consider Facebook ‘my parents’ platform’ or ‘that social network my mom is on’.

Facebook is now a content repository. Put legacy content there (and by legacy I mean content that’s over 2 weeks old) but share the content on platforms that are actually being engaged with. Stop listening to your boss when it comes to choosing a platform unless he’s actually a digital thought leader!

-Social media audits will still be a novelty-

There is an increase in the number of big brands requesting social media audits lately. The uptake in my opinion has a lot to do with the statistics that got released last month about 83% of online ad revenue being attributed to Google and Facebook. With just 17% going to other platforms and outlets, larger brands understand the value of seeing just where their content is performing and why.

On the other hand, the middle-cut of the industry i.e. the ones with 2K or less number of employees (hotels, F&B, local entertainment, government entities and similar) will still chug along doing what they do without realising how much money they’re flushing down the drain by not auditing their social performance on a deep level.

Example: I recently audited a hotel. They had a ton of content being churned out, and they got a great number of likes but in most cases they had no valuable engagement. The comments were generic, and when probed I realised they had no tracking mechanism for lead conversions.

-Instagram Stories by brands will get better-

Every smart digital marketer knows that Instagram Stories has kicked Snapchat out of the game. Chants of ‘Snapchat is dead’ echo in various conferences and meeting rooms. And yet, with the founder of Snapchat recently announcing their revamp of the entire aesthetic of the app, Instagram Stories is all set to dominate the industry.

Cue brands and the social media agencies that manage them. We are already seeing a mix of great, good, bad and horrendous sponsored Insta Stories. The upside to this is the limited screen time (15 seconds) and 0.3 second attention span. Brands will be further forced to get creative. Here’s a great example of a brand getting Insta Stories right.

Movenpick Hotels used Stories’ trademark progress bar that is visible at the top of the screen as a feature, instead of a timer. Feast your eyes:

This is what happens when you marry great design creativity with great marketing strategy. I recorded this from my screen on my phone using Du Screen Recorder. (No, it isn’t affiliated with du Telecom).

-Instagram Stories by brands will get worse-

No, that’s not deja vu. While brands will excel in Insta Stories, some – dare I say many – won’t. Here’s an Insta Story by a brand. It was a promotional piece, but fails on so, so many levels. I won’t do justice describing it, so here it is in all its glory (well, as glorious as it can be, WordPress wasn’t allowing me to upload this video so I’m posting it via Youtube instead).

Yes, as you can see, a construction company simply uploaded a video from a site someone took with their phone and in the caption put a ton of hashtags, a contact number and email. I’m definitely not the target audience, so I’m not sure why I was targeted. Even if I was, I doubt I’d click on THIS one.

My point: as with every channel, you’ll find really bad content starting to populate your timelines because most companies will want to save money and will tell their marketing or sales executive to ‘go shoot something on your phone, you have a good phone right, the one with the fancy camera? Upload it on that Instagrump or Snapshut or something’.

I don’t think I need to elaborate.

-We’ll see some great influencer campaigns-

Yes, I know you spit your coffee out of your mouth, considering it’s me who just said this.

Look, just because there are a lot of silly influencer campaigns – and non-fluencers – out there, there are some really well done ones too, and with the constant education happening on social platforms and at events, this will only get better. A channel always matures over time, and it’s my prediction that 2018 will be that year.

We are already seeing the wheat being separated from the chaff, and with VAT and legislation growing the way it is, stay tuned for a correction.

And finally, my one major prediction based on market reality:

We’ll see approximately 1500 job applications per digital vacancy on LinkedIn.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to all!