This time of year, we reflect on what worked for our businesses in 2016 and begin to think about how we can make this year even better. With regards to marketing, we had a pretty incredible year, with some exciting tools, technologies, and trends that look like they might become permanent fixtures in how we connect with customers.

Take a look at some of the highlights from 2016 and how they can impact the future.

1. Livestreaming Finally Got Taken Seriously

While livestreaming has been around a few years, it still wasn’t mainstream until Facebook Live came onto the scene this year. Being able to stream video in real time turned out to be a major boon for brands willing to invest energy into learning how to leverage this tool; any Live video can be accessed by any Facebook user (not just a brand’s followers).

Facebook Live appeals to audiences because of its spontaneous nature (no rehearsed talking heads here) and because it allows a brand to interact one-on-one, as well as to a group all at once.

What to Look For This Year: The early adopters of Facebook Live, including Guy Kawasaki and BuzzFeed, have proven to other companies that there’s value there. Expect brands to come up with innovative ways to use it, such as demonstrating a product, taking viewers behind the scenes at events, and engaging in Q&A sessions with customers.

2. Videos and Photos Pushed Written Content to the Back Seat

We’ve been hearing more about videos and photos increasing in popularity on social media, but now ⅓ of all online activity time is spent watching videos. And on Instagram alone, over 80 million videos are uploaded every day.

Remember written content?

These visual marketing tools are popular because they’re easy to digest, and they stop people in their tracks in a way that text doesn’t as they scroll down a feed. And Snapchat and Instagram are making it even more fun to play with photos with their Stories functions, which allow people to piece together a — you guessed it — story with related pictures over a 24-hour period.

What to Look For This Year: My prediction is that we’ll see more innovative ways to share videos and photos, and that maybe they’ll even be more useful in an SEO context.

3. Brands Really Put the Focus on What the Customer Wants

Hallelujah. Brands are finally getting the message that marketing isn’t about cramming their own agenda down the throats of customers. Pull marketing means listening to what the customer wants and then delivering it.

How are brands doing this? By keeping careful notes on customer interactions through customer relationship management and more personalized interactions. They pay attention to feedback, and let it guide them to better marketing and product design decisions.

What to Look For This Year: Look for more integrations between CRM platforms and other customer-centric tools like social media, email marketing, and content marketing software.


4. A Kid’s Mobile App Turned Into a Marketing Force of Nature

If you didn’t hear about Pokemon Go, you’ve apparently been living under a rock. The phenomenal thing about a mobile app targeting kids and Millennials is that it inadvertently turned into a marketing tool.

Now local businesses use lures in the game to attract people to their businesses, and are offering special discounts to Pokemon Go players. And those specials aren’t just geared toward kids: because parents and twentysomethings are either still playing the game or accompanying their kids, they can find restaurant deals and shopping promotions targeting them along the way.

What to Look For This Year: Whether or not Pokemon Go will have any more longevity than the average trendy mobile game, this does open up the market for other virtual-to-physical marketing opportunities. If only we could turn Angry Birds into a local marketing phenomenon…

It’s always fun to see what trends helped businesses grow in the past year, as well as take notes on how those trends can help us in the coming months.

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