Heading into 2018, a lot of brands want to know how they can best plan for the changes coming in the new year. What has changed this year? What’s coming down the pipe? What are the best ways for brands and other organizations to get in front of their audience and make an impact? Let’s take a look at where we think things are heading in the next year in customer relationships.

Social media critical mass

We’re there. We’re probably past there. With 79% of US internet users logging into Facebook every single day and 452,000 Tweets being posted every 60 seconds, there’s a lot going on. From growing platforms to changing algorithms, live video, and more, it seems like all day your target audience just scrolls. Brands, organizations, political candidates, and more are all looking for ways to leverage their social platforms to stand out from the pack.

This is getting harder without a lot of money and time spent on original, engaging content and a full team dedicated to the task. Even then, many groups are striking out when trying to get traction that converts followers to dollars (or votes, donations, etc.). Every once in awhile, a brand nails an “Ice Bucket Challenge”. Not only going viral but translating into $115 million dollars for ALS research.

What does that mean for your brand or organization on social media? It’s time to get really serious about how and where you spend your time and energy online. It’s not good enough to throw stuff out there every day and see what sticks. Nor is it worth the energy and money to try to put together your own “Ice Bucket” campaign. You’ll need to get really clear about the outcomes you want from social and how it fits into your marketing efforts overall.

Advertising burnout

Studies show that the average consumer is exposed to 10,000 brand messages a day.

Your market doesn’t want you to create a better ad. They don’t want you to find a new, creative way to deliver ads to their windshields while they drive or put your logo on their new baby’s hospital cap. That’s not to say that ads are going away anytime soon, it’s just that with so many screens and messages every day, they start to blur for any individual.

Ads have become background noise. Sure, they help with brand recognition and every once in awhile (the Super Bowl) some really great ads come out and we’re all talking about them around the water cooler. But do you know anyone who purchased based on that brilliant Pepsi commercial? Probably not. They probably stayed with their Diet Coke.

Even online, where Google touts amazing results from their search ads, people are tuning out. It’s all noise. Pop-ups are everywhere and display ads show up all over the place. It doesn’t matter how often you ping someone or how creative your copy is, building a relationship is going to take more effort than just putting another ad in front of them.

Incorporation of artificial intelligence

If you want to stand out beyond advertising and post after post on social media, you need to look at how you can interact with these individuals one-on-one. But for large organizations, that’s a big lift.

Many brands are starting to do this using artificial intelligence. Chatbots are active on websites across the web (including Facebook). The problem is chatbots don’t think. They can’t learn. Worse, they can’t sell or anticipate needs. Yep, they’ll take your order if you know what you want, but what if you don’t know? What if you don’t know you even have the need yet?

So no, we can’t fire all our human employees and sales reps and replace them with chatbots. While they can help streamline some processes (much like a published FAQ on your website, or a service like Zendesk), they aren’t the online sales panacea they keep getting hyped to be. They can’t build relationships.

40 percent of chatbot users only engage in one conversation.

This begs the question: is there a way to use artificial intelligence to make genuine connections with your audience? Of course, but you can’t expect machines to perfectly mimic (thus replacing) humans. It’s going to take the right balance of each to get the right outcome—whether that’s gaining a loyal customer, a voter, or an advocate.

Your next steps

It’s going to be an interesting year as we all navigate the changing marketing landscape. As each social media platform ages, we’ll all need to finetune our efforts. Same goes for advertising and looking at realistic outcomes for each of our different tactics. Chatbots and other applications of artificial intelligence will make some parts of marketing easier, but only if we use them correctly.

It’s possible to start building customer relationships using cutting-edge AI technology that doesn’t end up tone-deaf and robotic. We’d love to show you how our hybrid AI uses human management teams to create outcome-driven campaigns. Contact us today.

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