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It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through 2016. It seems like just yesterday I was writing about the social media trends that were starting to emerge in the new year. Now that we’re midway through June, let’s take a look at the digital marketing trends that have proved dominant so far. According to a survey conducted by Smart Insights, the biggest trends for 2016 are content marketing (by a lot), big data, marketing automation, mobile marketing, and social media marketing. If you’re not familiar with digital marketing, that list sounds like so much jargon and so many buzzwords. So let’s take a moment and break it down. Go into the basics behind each term and how companies large and small can put these trends to use.

Content Marketing

The big one! We’ve written about content marketing before, but here’s a quick refresher – it’s the process of creating compelling content like blog posts, news articles, e-books, whitepapers, and videos that get people interested in your product or service and draw them to your site. This content shouldn’t be overtly sales-y; instead you want to provide quality information, advice, or solutions to prove your expertise and worth, and keep people coming back. With the veritable flood of content available online, people tend to shy away from companies that are too aggressive, so keep it simple. Good information, valuable knowledge, and a compelling call to action at the very end.

Big Data

Yeah, it’s also a band name (and a good band, too!) but big data refers to data sets too large for traditional applications to process, and around which a new industry has formed to both process the data and help companies understand and apply that data. The data can be something like market research, or even predictive analytics. The point is, data-driven marketing is starting to take over, and both marketers and salespeople are using big data insights to target their potential customers and better sell to them. Inc. has a great article diving deeper into the impact of data on sales and marketing, it is definitely worth a read.

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation refers to a suite of tools and their accompanying strategies that enable businesses to more effectively market across multiple channels while automating repetitive tasks, generating more leads, driving more sales, and optimizing ROI. Another big mouthful! But marketing automation is a tool that helps you build a one-on-one relationship with your target customer yet reduces the work you need to do to build that relationship. You can set up specific actions (emails, calls, etc) to occur when your potential customer does something – like visits your site, downloads an e-book, fills out a form, etc. By automating these tasks you’ll save yourself time while building up those seven touches that it takes on average to convert a lead to a sale.

Mobile Marketing

Push notifications, in-app ads, text messages – the world of mobile marketing has been growing for the past several years, and as more Americans own smartphones and data plans, you can expect that trend to keep growing. There are a few different ways to integrate mobile into your marketing strategy. Do you own an app? Push notifications are those little pop-ups on your phone that tell you about a deal or a coupon or a sale, and thus encourage the user to come back and make a purchase. In-app ads are what you see pop up after your round at Words with Friends – videos or advertisements for other apps and services. They provide a captive audience for a short time – so make that ad compelling! Otherwise you’ll spend money and only get annoyed viewers in return. Finally there’s text message marketing. That’s where you send text messages and links to your customer’s phones to remind them of events, tell them about special discounts, and drive mobile traffic to your site. Be sparing with the text messages though – even when people opt-in, they don’t want 20 texts a day. They probably don’t want 20 texts a week! Make the messages you send impactful, and don’t overwhelm or anger your customers.

Social Media Marketing

I’ve written about social media marketing before, but I’ll reiterate – we are in the age of social. Everybody and their mom has a Facebook page, people get their breaking news on Twitter, and Snapchat is the fastest growing social network. Social media marketing fits in with content marketing, but you can’t just post all your content to social and call it a day. First off, you need to create specific and shareable content for social. Infographics, photos of your team, fun images… Second, you have to be social! Interact with your followers and with other brands, respond to questions, chime in on relevant topics. Social media marketing is a great way to humanize your brand. Just remember to focus more on the “social” and less on the “marketing”.

Those five are the top digital marketing trends in 2016 so far; where you do you think the rest of the year will take us? Tell me your thoughts in the comments! Want to learn more about incorporating digital into your marketing strategy? Send me an email at, I’d love to chat!


  1. Hey Susanna
    Another trend that I would like to add is the increasing demand of online businesses to provide their customers a seamless experience throughout their journey and evolvement of customer identity and management solutions for businesses. What do you think?
    Alex Pastore

    • Susanna Parker

      Hey Alex,
      I definitely agree! When I was doing the research for this article, that seamless integration of customer service and relationship building was in the top 10 for predicted trends. The increase in marketing automation services and providers (including us!) means that businesses can build these workflows and support systems with far less effort.
      I’d also say that strong social listening is part of it. People love getting mentions on social media, especially from celebrities and businesses. So having a team that can monitor social channels and respond quickly and appropriately is key.
      Thanks for reading, and for the great comment!

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