At the beginning of 2017, I predicted (largely to myself) that Facebook business pages would become increasingly important for businesses.
This is already beginning to play out (despite fears and rumours of impending doom!) as I see more entrepreneurs nail their colours to the mast and get visible on their pages.
In support of all the courageous souls who are getting brave and stopping hiding in Facebook groups, I am going to publicly state my predictions for marketing in 2018.
My thoughts here apply primarily to online, service-based fields. So without further ado, I will cut to the chase.
2018 will see some fairly seismic shifts in marketing.
What has worked in the past is already beginning to fail. It is becoming more difficult to engage and sell to potential clients who have far too many choices and not enough time or energy to weigh them up. The psychological triggers that are used to trigger reactions and actions are now transparent and rapidly losing effectiveness.
The online landscape has been dominated by a suite of tools and tactics have been overused, overplayed and they have overwhelmed just about everyone.
In 2018 as the process of dissolution of this model continues, some will frantically throw more of the same at the problem in the hope that this will fix it. It won’t.
Communities will feel the friction and desperation rising. The disruption is likely to be unpleasant to be around, which will lead to many stepping away altogether or choosing their communities with increasing care.
The savvy, on the other hand, will start to consciously shift the landscape and respond to what is coming rather than what is. And there is a rather wonderful opportunity here – to be creative and bring in completely new models that light people up.
There are some specific changes within the landscape that deserve more focus as many have been the pillars of online service based marketing over the last few years. Whilst they will not disappear, they will most certainly need to be reimagined and reinvented.
An End to the Noise?
It is perfectly possible to drown yourself in a tidal wave of free information, opinion and quick fixes. “Offer value” we are told and so everyone does.
You subscribe to the latest shiny object which then sits in your inbox or (if you are particularly organised) a folder waiting for you to have the time to read it.
Assuming you actually get the time to dip in, you either realise that it is so basic it is worthless or so in depth that you need to set aside time to go through it. Either way, that free information or maybe even a low cost paid information product is about to languish in obscurity.
Entrepreneurs have really woken up to this during 2017 and they are getting savvy.
Discernment is on the rise.
In 2018 it will be all about implementing. Audiences will only take on what they feel will meet a specific need and know that they can implement it. So trusting that you can provide the right support to help them put it into action will be critical to their decision to sign up.
The trusty lead generating opt-in/webinar as it has been will cease to generate leads in the same way. Your soul clients are in search of more. Lead generation will need a makeover.
In 2018, laser-like precision on a specific issue and implementing a solution will be imperative. The focus on implementation will actually be a win-win situation as it cements your relationship with your audiences.
During 2017, I have been focusing on overhauling my own opt-ins to focus on guided implementation and I created a community channel to provide support to anyone going through the opt-in experience.
The Overflowing Inbox
Alongside the demise of the conventional opt-in checklist and PDF, email lists are going to shrink. More people will unsubscribe from lists they simply don’t engage with routinely.
Note that I didn’t say that email marketing is dead or dying or even failing.
Far from it, email marketing will be core in 2018 because those who do remain will be invested in reading what you have to share. Email marketing will be a key relationship building tool and balance will be everything. Assault your subscriber inboxes too frequently and expect to feel the consequences. Quality over quantity will rule.
My list is my community hub but I am constantly looking for new ways to support subscribers to interact and engage and this will be my focus for 2018 – taking value into a new sphere.
Timeout for Templates
The promises of instant results following predefined steps and formats aren’t washing even now. The formula is so overworked that it has become transparent. Your soul clients have become discerning and they see this for what it is – psychology at work.
In 2018, the templated format will no longer appeal. We are all individuals and we want to be valued as individuals. Recognition that we can, and should, approach our businesses in unique ways and allowing for this will become essential.
One to one services that follow a set, inflexible format are likely to struggle. Group programmes will do better with opportunities for direct interaction and support. Self-paced learning will get better results where there are feedback opportunities built in. 2018 is the year of the individual.
Service-based businesses have thrown themselves into Facebook over the last few years. Facebook groups have been a core pillar of outreach, awareness raising and positioning.
2017 has seen a lot of groups close their doors and this will continue in 2018. Those that are open have changed the rules and many are limiting opportunities for promotion. This shifting landscape is already unsettling and destabilising many entrepreneurs. And it will continue.
The energy within groups is likely to get a bit weird as some desperately try harder and harder with the same approach to connect with potential clients at the cost of potential relationships. But it will also become clear that in some cases, group members have different objectives to those of the group owner which will lead to friction, dramatic changes in direction and group closures.
I fully expect to see group numbers dwindling or being erratic as many step away from the groups they are in.
However, there is a caveat to this. There are groups that are small and very focused on the presence and contribution of the group owner. The energy has been set by this and the engagement and sense of community is strong. These are the groups that many people will elect to be in – using the same discernment that decluttered their inboxes. People will be seeking leaders and influencers they trust and relate to.
I anticipate drops in numbers and engagement in groups during 2018 as people explore different ways of connecting but by the end of 2018, the balance will be restored and groups will see a resurgence – though they will look completely different.
Facebook business pages will continue to grow in importance as their power to be a publicly accessible leadership platform is appreciated. More entrepreneurs will show their pages some love and use them to build their communities.
And those bots?
They aren’t going anywhere. Their potential to build relationships is strong and those who use them to connect with their audience to start a conversation will see fantastic results. Those who use them as selling tool? That approach is going to fall flat.
I chose not to pursue a Facebook group sometime ago and this is definitely the right approach for me. My page is a key part of my strategy but I am bringing my community together outside of Facebook and this is what I will be zoning in on in 2018.
Themes for 2018
There are some strong themes coming in 2018.
Community will become the priority for online entrepreneurs. Building an engaged community that actively participates in the journey, recognising the mutual growth that happens when forces come together will be the foundation of online business. Without community – in whatever form(s) it takes - online businesses will struggle.
Your community is seeking empowerment from within and you are the keyholder.
You will be called to step into your role as a leader. Your community is looking for authority, trust and influence. They are looking for stability and assurance in a turbulent world. If you step up and give this to them from the outset, you will shape the landscape and the future of online business.
In 2018, the landscape is going to change and it’s going to feel uncomfortable for a while.
Some may panic.
For others, the weight may drop off your shoulders as you realise you can now be you and do it your way.
However, it affects you – take a deep breath, believe in yourself and enjoy the ride. Decide to be you and make your own path because 2018 is waiting for you.