Table of Contents

Get Excited About 2017

Content is King and Distribution is Prince

Building Your Brand Via Your Website

Embracing Video In Email with GIF’s

Get Creative With Influencers

Learn and Diversify Your Paid Media Mix

Formalize Your Social Media Strategy

Start Visually Strategizing


If 2016 taught us anything, it was that basically, anything is possible – even in marketing. Facebook and Instagram both launched new algorithms that changed what posts we see and when, effectively altering organic reach. Instagram launched Instagram Stories as a direct competitor with Snapchat. Viral videos, such as “Damn Daniel” and “Chewbacca Mom” swept the nation and seemed to usher in a new type of marketing for brands. Pokemon Go exploded with opportunity to tie into marketing and then slowly fizzled out. Ken Bone provided us with an example of how quickly influencers can rise and fall. And the 2016 Election made us question everything we know, including whether we could ever trust surveys, polls, and data again.

Clearly, what happens online is having an impact on the ways in which we utilize digital marketing, and it can be challenging to know what’s worth trying and what’s worth overlooking. Things change quickly, especially in digital marketing, but at Hawke Media, we’ve gone through our data, reviewed our clients, and studied all of these changes from the past 12 months to come up with the seven biggest trends we’re expecting to see in 2017 – and how you can make them work for you.

Trend #1:
Content Is King and Distribution is Prince

You’ve probably heard that “Content is King.” Twenty years ago Bill Gates made that declaration and it’s proven true over the years. Most businesses know they should be focusing on content if they aren’t already, or have a content “plan” that isn’t necessarily strategic. Having each employee write and publish a blog post is great, but is it beneficial if there’s no thought or strategy behind it?

Do Develop a Robust Content Marketing Strategy.

Both B2B and B2C companies should develop a robust strategy for their content creation and distribution in 2017. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s report “2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America,” only 37 percent of B2B businesses have a documented content marketing strategy. Additionally, their 2016 report on B2C companies found that while 76 percent of B2C organizations use content marketing, only 37 percent say their plan is “mature” or “sophisticated.”

Here’s how to get started developing a strategy in 2017:

  • Outline Your Purpose & Goals.
    • What is the goal of my content?
    • What value will my content provide?
    • How does content fit into my overall company mission and vision?
  • Identify Your Audience.
    • For whom am I creating content?
    • What benefit will they get from my content?
    • How will I make my content relevant and not spammy?
  • Find your voice.
    • What story does my brand have to tell?
    • What will they learn from me that they can’t get anywhere else?
    • What types of content best match my voice and goals?
  • Establish a process.
    • How will I structure my content creation and distribution plan?
    • Who will manage and activate the plan?
    • How will I distribute and promote my content?

With your answers, you’ll be able to create a strategy that outlines the full scope of your content marketing. Write it down and reference it each time you question whether a piece of content is worthwhile.

Don’t Take a More is More Approach to Content Creation.

So, if content was declared king two decades ago, then having more content and more kings must be better, right? More is not always more when it comes to seeing results. Instead, having a strategy in place for distribution and promotion (the third question under “Establish a process”) will allow you to better leverage your content marketing plan.

In their “2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America” report, the Content Marketing Institute found that 70 percent of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did one year ago. Now, if you’re producing more content than usual because you want to try new things, that’s one thing. But question whether creating more content is necessary. The standard content distribution channels – blogs, downloadable reports, and social shares – aren’t going away, but there are ways to update them and new avenues for distribution.

  • Boosted Posts: As social media sites change their algorithms, organic reach continues to decline. So, simply sharing content on social doesn’t mean your audience will see it – even if they follow your page. Boosting or promoting posts though means your audience won’t just see the post, others (such as their friends) may also see it. Additionally, paid media posts allow you to target a specific audience.
  • Live Streaming: If you’re planning on doing a webinar, why not do it through a live streaming channel? Platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, send notifications when you go live so you can leverage your existing audience and then engage with them through the comments. Additionally, many times you can save the video and upload it to YouTube (another point of distribution) or your website.
  • Influencers: If one of your content goals is to promote a particular service, product, or campaign, why not use influencers to get the word out for you? Influencers are an excellent way to generate not only user-based content, but also share other content that is part of a larger campaign. If most of your content centers around blog posts then start a partnership with other like-minded sites to write guest posts for each other.
  • Email: Chances are you’re already sending emails; however, you can leverage your email lists to promote your content as well. Typically people sign up for emails to keep up with new product releases and incentives so they may not be reading your blog regularly. Tying together a blog post and email with a call-to-action will leverage your content in a new way while promoting a product or sale.

As you can see, it’s not enough to just throw content out into the world and hope that someone sees it. Let’s take a look at a real-world case with a Hawke client.

Case Study – The Marriage of Email and Content

A health and wellness supplement company came to us to handle their content and email strategy shortly after they launched. They had a small email list and no blog content on their website but were interested in using both to promote their product.

While separate content and email strategies were created to achieve each channel’s goals, it was also decided that email would be used to promote the blog content. For this specific company, the emails would include a blurb from the blog post then a call-to-action prompting readers to “Get the Full Story” or “Get the Answer.”

In one example, an email went out to our list of more than 1,200 potential customers encouraging readers to “Get to Know the Man Behind the Science” by clicking through to the website’s blog to read the full interview with the doctor who conducted the research for the supplement. In this case, 146 people opened the email, which generated three sales totaling $361.97 – from just one email promoting one piece of content!

Content marketing is always evolving, especially as new types of content and distribution channels become available, but having a strategy in place will help you leverage your content in new and meaningful ways.

Trend #2
Building Your Brand via Your Website

A website is similar to a flagship brick and mortar store. It’s what people define your brand with — How cool or legitimate is this company? Do I trust them? Do I want to do business with them? All of these questions are answered quickly, and if you don’t build your website correctly, you can lose brand promoters and potential customers. Here’s what you want to do:

Do Design with the End Goal in Mind.

This may seem simple at first, but it takes a good sense and understanding of your customer and goals to execute it. Say for instance you own a clothing line and want to get people to buy your clothing, what you’ll want to do is inform them of your brand quickly and get them to start committing. You would make this happen with a large hero image on the homepage and a call-to-action button on top of it. The more people are clicking and getting to what they want, the more they feel like they are in control and are making progress, which tends to lead to increased conversions. Here are some examples:

  • Navigation Goals: Let’s say your company is more B2B focused, but also has some consumer-facing clients. Instead of trying to target both of them all on the homepage, or just being so general about your company that you don’t address the needs of either, give the user additional navigation options on the nav bar and the footer so they can get the information they want.
  • What About Multiple Goals? What if your business is very complicated? Then you might have additional user goals of understanding the business first before contacting you. In this case, you want to give viewers the power to choose in the form of buttons. Let them choose to “Learn More” as well as “Get Started.” This way users get the information they want and feel good about the website, which increases trust.

So now you know a little bit of what you should do, here’s what you shouldn’t do.

Don’t Build a Site Without a Designer.

Again, sounds simple, even arrogant. You might say, “Why do I need a designer?” Here’s why: Designers can fix the small details that make people go, “I don’t know why, but there’s just something wrong with it.” when they see a site. Let’s take this website for example:

At first glance, the site doesn’t seem all that bad. You might even be saying, “Aren’t you just being a picky designer? If it works, it works!” True it might be working, but it probably isn’t working very efficiently, and you may be having a pretty high bounce rate for this site.

A quick site audit would report that there are too many choices for the user. Simplify the navigation to three to five links, use sub-menus if necessary, and throw the rest into the footer. The side navigation buttons seem to get lost as well so we can leverage the most important ones and highlight them more efficiently under the hero image using their own image boxes.

Also, the hero image content leaves users a bit confused about what the business is. I would suggest rephrasing the headline to “Flower Power For Rent” with a “Shop Now” call-to-action button instead of “Rent Now.” Making things super clear as to what you want your user/customer to do takes a bit of tweaking.

Finally, there is a sub-navigation under the hero image that describes the different occasion-specific dresses, and underneath that an even more broken down list of dress categories. Understandably there’s a lot to factor in when buying a dress. Here we can either break down the most important categories and create a masonry grid of images that link to specific collections so customers can understand their choices more clearly. Alternatively, shopping quizzes that ask customers a series of questions then show them the options that work for them can be great here and something the client may not have considered before.  

As designers we try to anticipate your customer’s needs and behaviors through a thorough understanding of user interfaces and user experience principles that are almost “common sense,” but take a specific design knowledge to implement effectively.

Case Study – We Walk The Talk: Donorly.

A nonprofit organization that focuses on helping other nonprofits navigate and grow their respective companies came to us looking to optimize their website since they had high bounce rates and weren’t getting people to sign up for their consultation request form.

We engaged in a one-month optimization of their site, taking their existing content, organizing it into a clearer format, improving the brand dissemination through the site, and constructing user-flows we wanted users to follow.

Harnessing their existing imagery and some they weren’t using on their site, along with design, user-interface, and user-experience best practices, we helped Donorly decrease user bounce rates by a whopping 50 percent, increase time on site by 60 percent, and increase customer contact forms by 300 percent.

View their new site here!

Trend #3
Embracing Video in Email with GIF’s

One of the hottest and increasingly useful trends in email marketing today is the use of media to drive engagement, interest, and—the holy grail—a click-through. There are a few ways of incorporating media in emails, but none more discussed than the topic of video.

This should seem like a given — video is captivating, offers easy to digest information, and has proven to increase engagement. But, video in email is not that simple. This long debated form of advertising may be getting closer to fruition but still has a long way to go. As Chad White with Litmus says: “Today, video in email is still a very fringe design element, mostly because of inconsistent support across email clients. HTML5 video works in a few clients. Video GIFs, which are streaming compressed animated GIFs, work in several. Video in email is the epitome of a patchwork solution.”

Here’s how to make video and GIFs work for your emails in 2017:

Do Allude to Video in Email Using GIFs that Click to Full Video

Kim Stiglitz at Campaign Monitor points out that “because video in email is still not supported in every email client, animated GIFs are a great alternative if you want to add moving content to your emails.” GIFs can be more than a cute way to communicate sarcasm or express an emotion. They’re great for illustrating a number of things in motion.

One great use of GIFs is the ability to show a portion of video, enough to hook a user on your content, and get them to click to see more. We see huge click-throughs in our emails when displaying a GIF with on overlay of a play button (think the big red button over videos on YouTube). This visual indicator shows the user that there is more to see and works well in getting them to click through to the site.

Don’t Embed Full Videos in Email

So, what’s the problem with embedding a video in an email? The main issue is deliverability. Most inboxes can’t handle the size of a full video. Remember, each video contains a series of frames that make up the video. Think about how long it takes for one image to load. Now think of a hundred loading at one time.

Additionally, as Róisín Kirby at Hubspot points out, many major email platforms don’t support video due to spam and security reasons. But research has found that using the word “video” in an email subject line boosts open rates by a whopping 19 percent, she says. Kirby recommends: “You can insert a screenshot image of your video and link to the landing page the video is embedded on.”

By creating a GIF, you can control and limit the number of frames. Another bonus? You get a click-through if a user clicks on your GIF to view the video.

Case Study – August Smart Lock

August Home, creator of the August Smart Lock, is the safe, simple, and social way to manage your home’s security. Now with a full collection of home safety equipment, August Home allows consumers to control and monitor who can enter and who can’t—without the need for keys or codes. And they can do it all from their smartphone or computer.

August Home came to Hawke Media with the desire to embed a demonstrative video of a new feature debuting for their August Doorbell camera.

With the guidance of Hawke Media, they were able to embed a GIF that acted just as a video would, with a fraction of the load time a video would incur.

How Did This Email Perform?

  • Open Rate: 55 percent 
    • List Average: 45 percent
    • Industry Average: 17 percent
  • Click Rate: 12 percent
    • List Average: 3.8 percent
    • Industry Average: 2.2 percent
  • Click Through to Open: 22 percent

Moral of the story: Including video in email could have a potentially great impact on the engagement of our efforts… in the future. For now, not enough email clients support this feature and, honestly, do we want to give up all the goods in one place? The main goal of our email is to get our user over to the site. If baiting the user with a GIF leads them to the site to view the full video, we are doing our job. We have seen huge successes in a number of clients using more in-depth GIFs in email, and we see more of the trend in our inboxes every day. Keep your list satiated by going the extra mile and bring your email to life with this emerging trend.

Trend #4
Get Creative with Influencers
(But Follow The Rules)

As we’re nearing the end of 2016, the adoption rate of influencer marketing into companies’ business strategies still continues to increase exponentially. Looking at Google Trends, we can easily chart the rise in popularity of influencer marketing as a search topic. As brands realize the importance of partnering with social media influencers to advocate their products or services, we can expect this trend to continue well into 2017.

Late to the party? There’s a wealth of knowledge and tools to help identify influencers, track their success, and other best practices. Now is the time to get on board and reap the myriad of benefits that influencer marketing will provide.

Here are two key things to keep in mind as we enter 2017:

Do Provide Influencers with Creative Flexibility

As companies partner with influencers to reach new audiences, they want to ascertain that the influencer’s content is aligned with the company’s brand guidelines. Some companies even try to write out a whole script for the influencer to use verbatim in their post! However, this is an ineffective approach when trying to connect with the influencer’s audience.

Social media influencers, regardless of the social platform they’re on (YouTube, Instagram, blogs, etc.), have curated their audiences by carefully putting out original content that’s aligned with their style. Any of their loyal followers can easily discern between genuine and inauthentic content, which is why it’s crucial to provide the influencer with creative flexibility.

Influencers are no longer accepting every opportunity that comes their way. They’re becoming much more selective with their partnerships and maintaining authenticity in the content they create. To be successful, brands must accept that they have to allow influencers to stay true to their personality.

By trying to micromanage influencers during the content creation phase, brands are doing more harm than good. While it might be scary at times, a brand has to “let go” of the reigns during the creative process. If you can’t provide your influencers with creative flexibility, you may as well stick to traditional advertising.

From the influencer’s perspective, they’re risking losing credibility if their content seems inorganic. We have to keep in mind that they’re building up their own brand as well. Successful influencers are making tremendous amounts of cash by promoting sponsored content, attending events, and placing ads on their site. By respecting the influencer’s brand, a company has a greater chance of effectively targeting their audience which, in turn, means increased brand awareness and sales conversions.

Do Set Influencer Guidelines

Providing creative flexibility to an influencer is necessary for a successful partnership. However, certain guidelines should be presented and agreed upon by both parties before entering into a partnership. These guidelines are necessary to adhere to Federal Trade Commission regulations and to make the most out of the influencer collaboration:

  • Disclosure is Mandatory. According to the FTC, all influencer partnerships must be disclosed if the influencer receives monetary compensation or product as compensation. The FTC exists to improve consumer trust in online marketing. Since endorsements factor into our purchasing decisions, they require that all endorsed content include a disclosure of the relationship with the brand. The FTC has recently cracked down on large companies such as Lord & Taylor and Warner Bros.

    As a brand, you want to make certain that you require your influencers to include the disclosure in their post. Here is a general guideline for proper disclosure across different platforms:
    1. Instagram / Facebook / Twitter – Include “#ad” or “#sponsored” in the post
    2. Blog – Disclosures must be on the same page as the content
    3. YouTube – Disclosure must be in the title of the video AND mentioned within the video
    4. Snapchat / Instagram Stories – Text laid over the video AND mentioned within the video
  • Specify Which Social Platforms. While social media influencers may have their audience predominantly on one specific platform, they usually have accounts across various platforms. It’s essential to specify which platforms they should be posting on.

    When we partner with influencers on behalf of our clients, we usually require an influencer to post either on their blog or YouTube channel, as well as share across their social platforms. The key is to vary the different mediums so that brand exposure is maximized.
  • Tracking Codes. There’s absolutely no point of influencer marketing if you can’t assess the data and optimize based on it. How else would you know if a particular collaboration was a success or failure?

    Create Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) codes for the influencer to attach to the end of your brand’s website. The UTM code will provide data such as the number of unique visitors, time spent on site, average number of pages viewed, revenue, etc. To access this information through Google Analytics, a tracking tag must be installed on the brand’s site.
  • Specify Posting Date. Influencers should be provided with a specific posting timeframe. It may not always be possible to get the exact time you desire since influencers have their own editorial calendar. If you’re trying to promote a sale or the launch of a new product, work with the influencer to determine a date that makes sense for both parties.
  • Include Branded Hashtags and Proper Tagging. If you’re launching a specific campaign, make sure to have the influencers include the campaign’s hashtag as well as your branded hashtag. By including the campaign hashtag, you’ll easily be able to keep track of all social posts using the hashtag to assess the data later on. The reason for including a branded hashtag in addition to tagging on Instagram is because not all users will click on the image to see who was tagged.
  • Lifetime of Post. Some influencers will only keep their sponsored posts up for a limited time. For blogs, they may feature it on their homepage for a certain timeframe. For Instagram, they may only have the post up for a week. The optimal time would obviously be for a lifetime. Make sure to outline this with the influencer during the discussion period.
  • Compensation. Compensation is usually the first thing that’s discussed before the partnership begins. Is it a one-time payment? Will they receive a percentage from each sale (also known as an “affiliate partnership”)? Will they receive compensation based on a cost per impression (CPM) model? Additionally, you’ll want to let the influencer know when compensation will be paid out and through which medium (check, PayPal, etc.).

Influencer marketing may seem like a nebulous channel to add to your business strategy at first glance. However, the social validation that your brand will receive is crucial to growing your business and maintaining current customers. It might take you a few tries to get it right at first, but with these tips, your brand will surely have more success.

Trend #5
Learn and Diversify Your Paid Media Mix

Recent shifts in how consumers engage and connect with media via mobile devices suggest that mobile marketing should be utilized more in your 2017 marketing mix. Year-over-year, Facebook has observed a 22 percent increase in the mobile daily active users. Similarly, data collected from Smart Insights’ Mobile Marketing Trends statistics compilation suggests that more than 50 percent of online searches are conducted via mobile devices, 91 percent of Facebook’s daily active users (DAU) are on mobile, and 80 percent of Facebook advertising revenue is on mobile. So, Facebook is it – right?

Do Diversify your Paid Media Mix

Facebook is an excellent platform for interruptive marketing (instead of intent-based marketing) and can be a great way to drive interest and awareness to your brand. However, recent shifts in user connectivity and engagement on this platform, in particular, suggest that moving your marketing efforts away from Facebook and onto different social media and search engine platforms may be an optimal use of your advertising dollars.

An article recently published by USA Today observes that the percentage of daily active users on Facebook may continue to decrease as we approach 2017 strictly due to the type of content that is being published on users’ newsfeeds in the United States. With the influx of 2016 U.S election-related content, the vast majority of Facebook users have expressed discontent with the election being the number one topic of conversation on the social network (with forecasts suggesting that it will inevitably become the number one topic of content again for 2017).

Donald Trump himself has credited the use of Facebook and Twitter with helping him win races where Hillary Clinton had heavily outspent him. Combine this with the fact that 62 percent of U.S. adults are getting their news from Facebook, as well as the rapid increase in the volume of fake news being published on the platform, many users are left disgruntled, which has caused them to migrate away from the platform in the interim.

As an alternative to marketing via Facebook, it may be useful to shift a majority of your advertising dollars towards cost-per-click (CPC) based marketing platforms (such as Google AdWords, Bing, Yahoo Gemini, etc.) as well as programmatic ad platforms (such as SteelHouse, Criteo, AdRoll, etc.). These types of platforms drive top of funnel traffic and new user acquisition, in addition to retargeting users to nurture them through the bottom of the funnel and drive conversion.

Because search engine marketing (SEM) is largely CPC-based (regarding cost structure), utilizing this platform correctly can drive brand awareness at a low cost (i.e. if your paid ads are ranking very well but not driving clicks on the placements, you are essentially getting “free branding” and excellent visibility). Advantages of implementing a programmatic ad buying platform in your 2017 marketing mix include, but are not limited to, data-driven prospecting, real-time automated bidding to drive lower advertising costs, increased visibility across a variety of online web publishers, and more.

Don’t Apply Your Results from Q4 2016 into your Q1 2017 Gameplan

It is important to develop a paid media strategy for the first quarter of 2017 that is based on realistic, measurable, and achievable goals. Fourth quarter results are typically strong for e-commerce companies because consumer behavior is atypical between mid-November to early January when promotional campaigns are running, and products and services are heavily discounted.

It is important to measure your organization’s first quarter goals year-over-year during a similar reporting period as opposed to trying to build off of your holiday successes and expect continuation (i.e. Q1 2016 vs. Q1 2017 performance as opposed to Q4 2016 vs. Q1 2017 performance). Data collected from the Adobe Digital Index observes that November and December were expected to drive more than 27 percent of total annual online sales in 2015 and that the three biggest shopping days of the year (Black Friday, December 21st, and December 23rd) all fall in the fourth quarter. For these reasons, it is important to go into the first quarter with realistic goals that are not carried over from your fourth quarter 2016 results.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when piecing an SEO strategy together. Best practices are all over the map, and it’s tough to know who has the right plan. When in doubt, put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Imagine you’re navigating the web looking for your products. What path would you take to find the right product? The rules of the web are consistently optimized with the user in mind, so taking a step back and thinking like a customer will yield greater results. In the end, the customer is always right, so the very best practice is to make your customer’s online journey a simple, seamless process.

Trend #6
Formalize Your Social Media Strategy

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat. The list of social media platforms seems to go on and on, and using them to grow an audience for your business has never been more important. When more than 75 percent of online adults in the U.S. are on Facebook and 90 percent of 18-29-year-olds are using social media, there aren’t many marketing efforts that have as much upside as social media.

When you’re ready to take the plunge and start formalizing a social media strategy, there are a couple of things you’ll want to keep in mind.

Do Develop a Strategy Around Consistency

Consistency is key in many aspects of running a business – customer service, product quality, availability – and social media is no different. Developing consistency in both your content and your posting schedule is one of the best ways to maximize your social media efforts.

  • Consistent Content. Before doubling down on creating content for social media, ask yourself what goals you’re trying to achieve with your social networks. Are you developing leads for a B2B service? Building brand loyalty with a specific audience? Establishing thought leadership in a particular industry?

    Your content should be created for the purpose of advancing these goals and, while they may have to be tailored slightly across different platforms, the general scope should remain intact. If you’re going to syndicate articles across Facebook and Twitter, for example, then doing so consistently will help grow an audience of people interested in your particular type of content. Not having a cohesive content strategy will grow your audience in different directions and leaves everyone a bit dissatisfied. 
  • Consistent Schedule. Maintaining a schedule with which you post is beneficial in more ways than one might initially expect.

    As mentioned above, creating and meeting your audience’s expectations for your social media presence is important – with scheduling playing a significant role in that. Developing a relationship with your audience requires them to see and engage with your posts with a certain frequency. The best scheduling practices, depending on audience behavior and expectation, vary between platforms.

Optimal posting for Facebook and Instagram, for example, depends heavily on how each platform’s algorithm treats your content. While the algorithm can discount your engagement on multiple posts, a consistent posting schedule can benefit from the algorithm. The reason is that Facebook prioritizes posts from accounts that have been engaged with recently by a user. When audiences are more likely to see your posts if they’ve liked your previous posts over the past few days, it is advantageous to post frequently throughout each week.

Don’t Overshare – Set Some Boundaries

With marketers flocking to social media sites, there’s a lot of noise for you to cut through and find an audience. While it’s easy to fall into the trap of oversharing in the hopes of accelerating growth, the best strategy is not to make more noise, but make the noise you make, count. Nothing sours a user’s social media experience faster than irrelevant messages or an overload of content.

Determine what value your posts are providing and the frequency with which your audience would want to see it. Depending on the type of content and channels you’re using, it will be easier to maintain engagement rates with an appropriate amount of posts.

In fact, studies have observed the effects of optimal posting frequencies across different social media platforms. SumAll, an online social media tool, observed the following optimal posting frequencies:

  • 3x Twitter: Engagement slightly decreases after the third tweet.
  • 2x Facebook: Posting twice per day is the maximum before a decrease in likes and comments was observed.
  • 2x Instagram: Posting upwards of twice per day resulted in a decrease in engagement rates.
  • 5x Pinterest: Top brands on Pinterest have seen rapid growth on the platform with multiple posts per day and up to 10 ‘pins’.

Try your best to not fall victim to oversharing on social media channels. As many things are, social sharing is susceptible to diminishing returns, so make sure you’re not squandering your growth by sharing too frequently.

Trend #7
Start Visually Strategizing

One of the exciting aspects of digital marketing is that there’s always something new and exciting just beyond the horizon that can help you engage your customer base and scale your business. While we don’t know for sure what will be a fad and what will be a game changer, here are two overarching strategy tips that will help you navigate these waters successfully.

Do Invest in Video & Gif-Based Content

“People don’t want to read anymore” is a sentiment that’s often heard in the digital media space. While that’s a bit of an exaggeration, there’s more than enough truth there to warrant investment in video. Here are some stats that support the paramount importance of this business investment:

  • Teens and millennials have a 90 percent penetration rate on digital video.
    • American teenagers view an average of 35 hours of video per week.
  • Adults grab at their smartphones more than 15 times per day.
    • Their attention span is becoming increasingly fragmented.
    • Even more reason to grab their attention with a quick, effective video.
  • Here at Hawke, when we’ve tested video/GIF ads vs. sliding carousel ads with the same content, the video ad unit can get up to five times the click-through rate over the carousel ad.

Because every video platform is unique (different screen sizes, aspect ratios, whether sound plays automatically, different metrics for measuring digital audiences, etc.) one must create videos unique to that platform. Here are a few tips for doing that in a cost effective way:

  • Shoot on an iPhone with simple editing.
    • Today’s customers value authenticity and are more likely to engage with content that looks organic – as if it was a friend’s selfie showing up on their Instagram feed.
  • Create GIFs and Slideshows.
    • Several platforms make it easy to create GIFs for free. GIFs are extremely popular for numerous reasons, namely because they are good at conveying a simple storyline in a way that is both visually engaging and doesn’t require audio.
    • Facebook also has a slideshow ad unit.
  • Utilize Stock Video Footage.
    • Platforms like Promo allow you to buy “stock video” — generic but very well shot video clips that you can weave together with some of your own content.
    • Stock video could cut down significantly on production costs and allow for more nimble testing.

Don’t Use Last Click Attribution

Just don’t do it, seriously. It’s not only outdated, but can lead you to underinvest in some very important marketing channels substantially. The default attribution in most of Google Analytics’ reports is last-click based, which means that when a customer purchases something, all of the credit goes to whatever the last “touch point” was. For example:

  • Sally clicks on a Facebook ad for ABC Denim Company on her phone.
  • Sally signs up for their email list and receives a 10 percent off discount.
  • Sally gets retargeted with display ads from Steelhouse, but doesn’t click on them.
  • Sally is in bed later that night and remembers that ad she saw earlier and goes on her tablet directly to the URL.
  • Sally buys a pair of jeans with the code she received from her email.

Even though Sally was introduced to the brand from a Facebook ad and was nurtured to purchase by both email and display retargeting ads, under a last click attribution model all of the credit in Google Analytics would go to “Direct/None” since she typed in the URL directly. This may lead ABC jeans to underinvest in those other forms of advertising because the Direct/None numbers are inflated.

Instead of assuming every dollar you spend on a different marketing channel needs to net a direct and immediate return on investment (ROI), think about each marketing channel as part of an ecosystem that must work with the other channels to generate an overall ROI. For example, syndicated content might not be showing direct ROI in Google Analytics, but it’s really good at driving brand awareness and getting traffic to your site that later converts upon Facebook retargeting.

There are synergies amongst the conversion funnel that can be seen here:

What you should do instead is use the Model Comparison Tool within Google Analytics. It will allow you to compare three different revenue attribution models.

  • Last Click: Whatever closed the deal gets the credit for the sale.
  • First Click: Whatever introduced the customer to the website gets the credit.
  • Position Based: This is a weighted average of all marketing touch points:
    • 40 percent of the credit goes to the First Click (Facebook in the Sally example)
    • 40 percent of the credit goes to the Last Click (Direct/None in the Sally example)
    • 20 percent remaining is split evenly amongst anything in the middle (Steelhouse and Email in the Sally example)
  1. Position-based is the preferred attribution model for us at Hawke Media because it rewards the brand introducer the same as whatever converted the customer. I believe both are equally important and may require very different marketing approaches.
  2. Notice that when looking at the Direct/None last click conversions it’s almost $440,000, but when looking at first click that revenue drops by almost 40 percent. This is because not everyone clicks on ads (it might take them away from whatever they were already doing on the page where they saw the ad).
    1. Because a lot of people Google a business or will go to the site directly, Direct/None and Google Organic numbers are often overstated on most Google Analytics reports.
    2. Google Analytics also will misattribute a sizeable amount of mobile conversions to Direct/None.
    3. When sorting by Position Based attribution, Direct/None is still at number one, but with a revenue amount that’s substantially lower and more reasonable than with solely last click.
  3. Notice that when sorting by Position Based attribution, the paid media channel revenues (like Paid Search or Facebook) went up by double digits. This is because these channels are better at introducing future customers to the website than they are at closing those customers and getting them to purchase immediately.
    1. Introducing strangers and potential customers to your business is extremely valuable and shouldn’t be underinvested in because of underwhelming last click conversions.

By focusing on the entire funnel (exposure, nurturing, closing, post-purchase engagement), you’ll have a far more nuanced take on your business and how each marketing “touch point” relates to the other. In today’s competitive e-commerce landscape, the businesses that rise to the top will be the ones who possess this more analytically sound approach.


Whether you choose to adopt every trend in 2017, or just focus on a few, it’s clear that next year will offer us a lot when it comes digital marketing – and new trends will emerge throughout the next 12 months as well. If you want to try out all or a few to supplement your current marketing strategies, Hawke Media can help you achieve your digital marketing goals in 2017.



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