As a follow on from my previous list post, on digital marketing trends for 2018, this post looks at some new digital marketing tools. There are A LOT of these out there so this is a concise list of some of my favourites. I've also included a few that I'm currently trialing which look promising. New tools like these open up new opportunities, offer new insights and inspire new tactics:

1. Ptengine

This is a great heatmap application to find out at exactly what point visitors choose to leave your site. By isolating that point you can then make the necessary changes to push them to the final step.

Given that we're planning a redesign for 2018 this is much more powerful than other heatmap tools. Rather than just a visualisation it shows referral information, social media campaign tracking and in depth engagement.

2. Linkkle

This new free to use tool lets you post a single link (aka your ‘linkkle’) that points to a link hub. Here you can add up to ten links to all your various social media accounts along with some basic profile info.

This is particularly useful if you’re active on a lot of accounts and want to keep things streamlined. At the moment it's in MVP (Minimum Viable Product) stage but is a really nice unfussy alternative to about.me.

3. ContentCal

We're currently trialling this as a way of planning and scheduling our social media posts. The feature I'm particularly impressed with is the workflow options. Once you’ve added your clients/users, and assigned an approval process, all you need to do it select the new content you’ve written and ‘send to approver’.

It also displays how the content will look across all platforms and you can setup whole campaigns in advance. So far, I've found that the simple UI inspires and motivates me to plan more content - a promising start!

4. Pocket

This has been by far my favourite offline reading app for a while now. To keep this blog going I need to do a lot of extra reading. In particular Pocket forces me to have fixed reading time and doesn't kill my productivity. Otherwise I'd get distracted by multiple articles without an easy way to read them later (and especially when I'm travelling).

I have the bookmarklet in my browser too so I can stay productive and save the best of the web in my 'pocket'!

5. Manychat

Chat bots are computer programs that mimic conversation with people using artificial intelligence. There are a lot of chatbot builders coming out every day. There may be better than this one but it’s the first one I started using and so far it's so easy to use! They have a visual drag`n`drop builder makes it easy and fun to setup your Facebook Messenger bot.

No programming required  -  just connect your Facebook page to ManyChat and you`ll be up in no time.

6. Screaming Frog

This was recently introduced to us by an external agency and is a really interesting looking tool. Essentially it's an SEO spider that crawls your entire site and is free for sites under 500 pages. This then gives a full breakdown of pages with 404 errors, missing meta descriptions or broken links.

The results it spits out are great considering it's so cheap and you can also export to Excel to make things easier to number crunch!

7. Answer the public

This one is great fun - just check out the landing page! This search query data visualisation tool fetches and maps keyword suggestions/predictions that you see when you perform a Google search. After entering a keyword you’ll be presented with questions, prepositions and alphabetical lists related to your query.

If you’re looking for ideas about content creation topics, this tool provides the cues you need to start thinking about particular subjects. It's also fascinating to see what people are searching for and can be exported to a variety of formats.

8. Marvel app

This is a rival website prototyping tool to InVision but for me it's the most fun to use. We utilised it for our Shaping Your World campaign and it excelled for both advanced UX designers and those simply looking to communicate high and low fidelity concepts.

If you're not into heavy collaborative projects, Marvel is the way to go. It's much less expensive and in my opinion it has better tools for prototyping. 

9. RubberHose 2

I'm by no means an expert in After Effects but this character rigging tool has been amazing in bringing our avatars to life for Shaping Your World. It's not expensive, it's fast and best of all it converts strokes in Illustrator in no time!

Animation of this type is all new to me where you add 'puppet pins' on your artwork to bring your characters to life.

10. WP Engine

Finally, we used this hosting solution for the above campaign and where I was originally a little hesitant due to the cost I'm now completely sold!

The load times are lightening quick and the reliability has been essential with the success we've been seeing. Now we've hit page one of Google for our search terms it's great to know we're in safe hands.

 So, there are some of the tools I'm playing with in early 2018. What are some of yours?
And so another year of blogging ends and begins! As this blog enters it's sixth year, I'll be looking at a few potential trends on which I'll be focusing on in 2018. I know there's lots of these lists kicking around this time of year so I've tried to keep mine as concise as possible:

1. Dark social

This deserves a post to itself - it's such a large subject. The difficulty of tracking shared links from messaging apps, privacy protected social networks or emails is well known. These all contain a colossal amount of information. But various privacy settings and the rights and concerns of users make them impossible to track through standard analytics platforms.

It has long been a conspiracy that social networks are listening to these conversations and selling that information to advertisers. I hope that this is not the case, but 2018 may finally be the year that they can no longer resist the temptation to delve into this data.

2. Authentic moments, not perfectly designed content

Of course, the aesthetic of a sleek, professional photo hasn't lost its appeal, but generic stock images don’t help brands showcase authenticity. As a result, consumers are seeking more authentic moments - particularly through newer untapped options like Instagram Stories.

These honest insights into how brands operate are best coming from people who have experienced the brand first hand. It means a lot more to see an authentic moment via an employee's personal account than a corporate account. Actually seeing how much people enjoy their job on a regular basis is so much more powerful.

3. Search is always evolving

Search is a very important traffic source for most websites. So, it's essential to keep an eye on how search is changing. Voice search has been around for a couple of years now, but there are two interesting recent developments. Devices such as the Google app or assistants like Amazon Echo tend to deliver longer-tail queries than text search. And there is no doubt the number of voice searches is likely to increase in 2018.

Secondly, Google recently announced Google Lens. This allows you to simply show your camera to an artwork/poster for Google to search for the text and images within it. If this gains traction it will truly be a game-changer for search.

4. Meaningful relationships with influencers matter

With consumers more focused on the reputation of the brands they use, it's more important than ever that marketers work with influencers that are appropriate for their brands (and not likely to be part of a PR disaster!)

Consumers are not interested in seeing a random celebrity promote a product; they want to see real leaders in your industry talking about your product or service to give it social value. New influencer platforms are sprouting up every day and can help take care of many of the time-consuming tasks, including finding relevant influencers and measuring success.

Maintaining close relationships with key industry influencers will be crucial for marketers to keep their followers’ attention in 2018. Spend time researching who your audience trusts and follows before reaching out to build a relationship with them.

5. Video

This might not feel like a very insightful trend to identify as video has been an important part of digital marketing for a number of years, but video will evolve in 2018. It will develop as a medium for content marketing and an advertising medium. There will also be more continued emphasis on live streaming as Facebook seems to be prioritising live video over other types of content.

In 2017, 90% of all content shared by social media users includes video. To make engaging videos that keep followers’ attention, marketers need to focus on the first three seconds, before the viewer keeps scrolling! Optimizing video content for viewing with sound on or off will also be important since most social networks/browsers automatically keep videos silent unless clicked. The experience should be good for all viewers, whether they listen or not.

In 2018, we should all be prepared to give our content a personal, authentic touch. We should also to take a more hands-off approach to social media by automating mundane tasks as much as possible.

I for one have a massive year ahead with the scale of the projects I will be tackling. I'll need all the tricks I can muster!
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