The more things change, the more they keep changing. 

Yes, I’ve modified the adage about things staying the same even as they change. I’ve done so because I work with digital, social, and mobile marketing on a daily basis—and the only thing constant in my business is change! We’re just halfway through 2018, but we’ve already experienced notable and, in some cases, rather dramatic changes related to online search, digital communications, and social media functionality. 

While the core of my business hinges on keeping up with the changes, I know yours isn’t quite so focused. It’s really challenging to stay apprised of the evolving technologies and make sense of it all as it relates to your day-to-day business and marketing efforts. 

Here’s a look at key areas of change, what you need to know now—and why it matters for your business.

The Face-Off with Facebook

At the time I’m writing this article, we’re just past Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress, in which he took questions about rampant privacy issues on the social platform. This came after a swell of concerns related to a high profile data breach that had—and still has—many Facebook users up in arms. In reaction to the situation, we heard tales of many people leaving the platform, and Facebook immediately altered lots of functionality surrounding conveyance of and access to user data. 

The short of it for businesses: Yes, Facebook has deep data on its users, and yes, the Facebook powers that be are and will continue to restrict advertisers’ and other users’ (including third-party services that provide reporting and campaign-building capabilities) access to some of that data. Nonetheless, Facebook makes its money by selling ads, and right now, that is not going to change. 

Unless you were digging into the depths of Facebook user data to build crazily targeted ad campaigns or relied on third-party reporting to heavily analyze your Facebook (and Instagram) followers, you aren’t losing very much. You can still target ads based on the most common—and, really, the most useful—data points. And because Facebook long ago annihilated the organic reach of our business page postings, I have been preaching for three years that you need to buy advertising aligned with specific goals in order to make Facebook live up to its potential as a marketing mechanism for your business.

Google Goes Mobile-First with Search Results

Google is perpetually in roll-out mode for changes; that’s true for every year—not just this one. However, the changes Google has introduced in the first half of 2018 are proving to be of extreme importance for business, and mobile technology is at the foundation. More searches happen on mobile devices than desktop or fixed devices; that shift happened a few years back, and Google is the engine for 96% of those mobile searches. By the end of this year, more dollars will be spent on mobile advertising than on TV! This is why the digital behemoth has introduced mobile-first search results. Sites optimized for mobile viewing are being rewarded with higher ranking when people search online.

The short of it for businesses: Your website must be optimized for viewing and user experience on mobile devices. If you’ve been awake at all in the last several years, this is not the first time you’ve received this message. Those of us in digital marketing have been talking about the importance of having a mobile-friendly site for a long time. However, the urgency is greater now lest you begin to lose position in search results. Even the seniority and quality of beautifully crafted sites that have been online for years will not hold precedence in the changing search landscape. Get your mobile web presence in order now, and while you’re at it, make sure your developer minimizes page load times. Google is watching that metric, as well, and your site will rank lower if pages take longer to show up on mobile devices.

If you’re in the Google ads game (and you really should be), it’s time to revisit your strategy and spending in light of mobile’s importance. It should be standard procedure to check in on this aspect of your advertising regularly anyway, but make a point to hit pause and dig in to ensure your business is benefitted from the ceaselessly growing role of mobile in reaching your customers.

Instagram’s Evolution

Facebook owns Instagram, and all the aforementioned data issues and alterations directly apply to the Instagram platform, as well. However, the changes don’t stop there for this mobile-first, visually driven site—especially for those of us with business accounts. Already this year, we’ve seen Instagram for business continue to take on performance and functionality more akin to Facebook business pages. Our organic reach has plummeted due to changes to Instagram’s algorithm, and the importance of Stories has skyrocketed. 

The short of it for businesses: Get ready to start spending (more) ad dollars on Instagram if you want your business account content to be seen. Just as happened with Facebook back in the day, the powers that be are siphoning organic reach so that we will be compelled to pay for the interactions we once enjoyed naturally on the platform. You can incorporate Instagram advertising in with your Facebook ad campaigns; it’s pretty simple to do so, and it can certainly be worthwhile considering how engaged Instagram users continue to be. But don’t treat Instagram as a bolt-on to your Facebook ads; approach it uniquely. There are robust paid messaging options within the platform, and you should test and try to find what best connects with your followers. 

As for Stories, dive in now and start using them regularly. Get your bearings through regular use, and then explore paid options for Stories. FYI—I’ve noted that standard posts can fare better (more likes and comments) if I’ve also posted Stories in a similar timeframe. Clearly, the platform is rewarding use of its prioritized functionality by letting content show up more. 

Feeling overwhelmed? Take a deep breath, and don’t fret. As long as your customers’ needs are at the heart of your marketing and social media efforts, you’re always on the right track. You can hire the help you require to figure out changes to the tools and platforms you use to reach those who will buy what you’re selling. But the personal touch has to come from you, and I’m guessing you’re the expert on that topic!

Reach out anytime if you have questions or need some advice: