What’s going to change in 2014? What will be the next big thing? What should you be focused on to make the most of your digital marketing this year? Let’s take a look ahead at what we might expect from 2014.

Images

In the last few years, images have taken center stage online, as businesses, Web platforms and consumers flock toward visual content. This trend really took hold as Pinterest gained popularity in 2012, and was echoed throughout the online space as MySpace relaunched with a new visual layout, and in technology as Microsoft’s new Windows 8 came out with an image tile-based design.

We can certainly expect this trend to continue in 2014, especially with the ever-growing social media network Instagram. Don’t believe it? Look to the recent popularity of Statigram's "Best Moments On Instagram." The app highlights your "best" moments (your images that received the most likes) in a short video. "Best Moments" videos have flooded Instagram feeds and have been shared to Facebook, Twitter and beyond, a testament to how important Instagram became as social network in 2013. Because of this, marketers continue to experiment with Instagram as a way to engage their audience.

On the list of Things to Watch for 2014 is the rivalry heating up between social media heavyweight Facebook and newcomer Snapchat. After making two very generous offers to acquire the fledgling company (and having them turned down), Facebook went ahead and built their own “snap chat.” In December, they launched private messaging through their previously-acquired network as Instagram Direct. It remains to be seen just how this new feature will shake up the social scene.

As consumers continue to flock to visual content, Instagram and other photo-heavy platforms will definitely be your go-to tools for getting your business out there.

Video

On the topic of visual content, video is becoming the name of the game online. With the ever-popular standby YouTube, pre-roll and video advertising and new platforms like Vine, there’s a lot to watch this year.

When Vine hit the scene, it quickly became a great source of entertainment for users and even generated “Vine stars” to rival YouTube celebrities. However, companies have yet to adopt the platform consistently to use it as a marketing tool. As Vine grows and evolves, we’ll start to learn more about how to leverage short form video to reach the Vine audience.

We’ll also see how the battle resolves between Vine and Instagram Video. When Vine launched, it became immediately popular, but only time will tell if it can continue to compete against Instagram’s large user-base and more diverse offerings (images, direct messaging and video).

One thing is certain, however: The big changes to come this year are going to happen on the mobile stage.

Technology

Snapchat and Vine are exclusively mobile applications. Instagram, whether video, direct message, or image, is also primarily used on smartphones (though it can be accessed by desktop). In 2014, it’s clear that digital marketing will continue its mobile-focused trajectory.

Designing for mobile use - whether smartphones or tablets - is crucial. From websites to social media and everything in between, consumers are accessing information on the go wherever they are, and they expect to be able to find what they want. Customers assume and expect a mobile-optimized experience, whether they’re just searching on Google for a local restaurant or learning about home renovation on a contractor’s website.

Responsive Design and Mobile Optimization will be bigger buzzwords than ever as businesses strive to keep up with technology and give consumers what they need.

Content

After the most recent overhaul of the Google search algorithm, it’s safe to say that 2014 will be the year of content. The Google Hummingbird update made giant leaps toward understanding human search behavior and language, putting a heavy emphasis on semantic and intent rather than keywords.

Long gone are the days of stuffing your website with search terms. This year, your content should be entirely focused on your consumer. Talk like a human and provide readers with the information they’re looking for instead of what you think a search engine wants! Providing unique, helpful information in a well-written format is what will score you points in Google rankings now.

What do you think we might see this year? 

Elizabeth Vincent is a senior copywriter for Propel Marketing. Propel Marketing is an online marketing company providing digital solutions to local small- and medium-sized businesses. www.propelmarketing.com