Staying on top of trends helps small businesses take advantage of growth opportunities when they arrive, and the end of the year means it's time to start examining small business branding trends for 2017 immediately!
Many trends arrive swiftly and demand immediate adoption, and other trends take a few years before they're accepted as standard practice in a particular industry. Here are some emerging trends that may help your business gain a strong foothold in your local community or online.
1. Make Your Brand Personal Rather Than Corporate
The most important concept within the world of "social media" is that it allows people – or in the case of a business, customers – to interact in a manner that isn't solely a one-way street from business to consumer.
Social media not only allows the business to obtain information, opinions, and data from customers, but it also serves as a tool for businesses to personalize interactions with customers via comment threads on the company's website and social sharing sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
According to Inc.com, today's business owners have many tools at their disposal to create a personal and likeable brand.
"Personal branding tools will start trending even more, helping businesses gain individuality and reduce the number of direct competitors. Look into personal branding tools to increase business in 2017."
Even if a business isn't the brand of a single person (such as a YouTube channel that stars one personality), the concept of making business personal should be a goal of every business that does any selling online. It's also a valuable goal for businesses interested in connecting with millennials. Inc explains further:
"People are tired of being sold, and Millennials can tell they are being sold from a mile away. This is an instant turn-off for these buyers, and once they sense any type of selling, they move on to the next company. What is working though are apps and services that connect people to what they want."
2. Create an Online Brand for Interaction with Local Customers
One of the mistakes that small business owners make is that they assume that a small business that sells goods primarily to local customers doesn't need a huge online presence. Customers come into the business's store to make purchases, so spending time online building a brand through social media isn't important.
In fact, local shoppers increasingly rely on the information they find online, so a business with no brand presence online may miss out on local customers who live just a few miles away. According to Entrepreneur, 22 percent of people in America utilize social media more than once a day, and Facebook is an important platform for business promotion:
"Facebook is by far the best platform for promoting brand awareness, as nearly three quarters of Americans adults use the site. Facebook is a great platform for promoting virtually any brand, due to its very heterogeneous user base."
Other sites worth investigating include Instagram, Google+, Snapchat, and Pinterest. Instagram is an excellent way to promote local businesses because of the tagging feature. Users that have an interest in a certain area – perhaps the town or region in which your business operates – can find posts that spark their interest.
Similarly, Google+ helps people find local businesses with its connection to Google Maps. There are thousands of businesses in the United States that haven't "claimed" their online personas, which means they're missing out on vital communications with people who are searching for goods or services in their local area.
3. Focus on Mobile Communication
Similar to the need to create an online brand where customers can interact with businesses on a personal level is the need to make sure those interactions occur via a mobile audience. Consider the potential customer in your town who wants to find a local pizza place while they're visiting relatives.
The customer doesn't really know a lot about town, or they haven't been back in many years. The first place they might go is to their mobile phone to perform a simple search like "pizza near me." This search might occur through a map program (like Google maps), or it might occur through one of the big search engines.
According to Creative Bloq, the best way to interact with your audience and build your brand might be via mobile phones:
"The two platforms that were most successful at making mobile ads work were Facebook and Google, who together controlled 76 percent of internet advertising growth in 2016. With Zenith’s Mobile Advertising Forecasts in October predicting the mobile proportion of internet use will hit 79 percent by 2018, other content providers need to follow their lead, and fast."
Not only is it essential for businesses to build their brand and visibility through popular outlets like Google and Facebook, but this 2017 small business branding trend also means looking at other platforms that exist primarily as smartphone apps. For example, Snapchat has increased its traffic substantially, and a business looking to connect with young buyers might want to begin exploring the branding opportunities available through Snapchat interactions.
4. Explore Influencer Marketing
Today's internet-based consumer has many tools available to avoid seeing advertisements (like web browser-based ad-blockers). Consumers have also had the ability to avoid advertisements on the radio and television (the mute button, changing the channel, and DVR technology have helped consumers greatly in avoiding advertisements).
To combat these tools, businesses have had to rely on a concept known as influencer marketing, which is a type of marketing that uses a well-known person to market a company's products. For example, some companies have leveraged the power of YouTube stars and their millions of followers to spread the word about a product, service, or brand.
According to Adweek:
"According to eMarketer, 2017 is predicted to mark a major milestone for digital advertising—for the first time, digital spending will surpass that of TV. So where will those dollars go? Considering the challenges marketers face with bot fraud, ad blocking, social algorithms and general skepticism, influencer marketing will play a renewed and central role in the marketing mix for 2017. Influencer marketing isn't new, but it will mature in 2017 as we see brands not only partnering with digital savvy Snapchatters and YouTubers but co-creating original content that can't be found anywhere else."
Even if your business doesn't use the star power of a huge YouTube star with millions of followers, influencer marketing remains an important part of building your brand. You may simply wish to consider the concept "word-of-mouth marketing," which has long been one of the strongest ways to build any brand.
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