10 trends that made us in 2018

by Jo Crellin |

I’m a sucker for lists that look forward, look backward and goal setting generally, so taking the opportunity to recount what we’ve seen in our industry in 2018 was right up my street. As I collected my thoughts for this #LongRead, it became clear that I should focus on trends we have witnessed through our client work this year, along with the market-needs that we’ve experienced through prospective enquiries and conversations with our peers.

If like me, you’re looking back on 2018, we’d love to hear what trends have changed your business this year. All you need to do is Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and join the conversation.

So here it is, the ten trends that we ‘spotted’ in 2018.

Facebook zero

Following on from the much-publicised change to Facebook’s algorithm change in January where they confirmed they would focus on friends & family, shortly followed by the Cambridge Analytica data breaches, we have seen first-hand how this has affected business pages. However, decreasing organic reach throughout the year, has led us to find creative ways to deliver great returns for our clients.

Experimenting with Facebook live broadcasting, bespoke video content for business and consumer audiences as well as upping our social customer service approach has become our way of combating Facebook zero. Audiences are still there but they are engaging differently, and we’ve enjoyed getting to grips with this social savvy audience, while still delivering great reach for our clients.


Another 2018 hot topic, the flurry of opt-in emails caused havoc for consumer inboxes and headaches for marketing managers around the country. Eight months later and we’ve learned that if you were collecting data in an ethical way that is meaningful for your consumers then you can continue to succeed with email marketing.

The updated legislation led us to complete an exercise in developing processes and methods to safely capture personal information. Using a public relations mindset, we ensured authentic and transparent ways for people to query and remove their personal records and in the end, this was a classic PR exercise in building trust and authority. Keep calm and carry on, our crisis management skills certainly proved useful here.

Influencer authenticity and transparency

At the beginning of the year, Instagram was burgeoning, and we spoke with many social media software companies offering bot-like services for liking and commenting on social media. Influencer agencies also mushroomed, usually offering huge reach through a private network. This increase in activity, led to consumer confusion and brands being accused of not disclosing influencer relationships.

As a corporate affiliate of the CIPR, ethical practice is at the heart of what we do and sure enough, the backlash of authenticity and truthfulness has been a hot topic among bloggers and has driven the ASA to redefine the rules for this advertising.

Despite this buzz, we have experienced consistent and growing results for our clients because our grassroots marketing approach, where connections come from making real relationships , has allowed us to provide a wide reach for our clients.

Voice entered its teens

A growing communications method, the increase of voice content is palpable and consumer uptake is growing whether it’s through mobile or smart speaker,  but it is yet untapped in the B2B toolbox. We created an internal communications podcast for one of our clients but the uptake is still slow as this type of content is still more popular with particular demographics, take for example the recent release of BBC Sounds. However, we’ve explored this content for a number of our clients and we are sure it won’t be long before podcasts take centre stage for company briefings.

Social up-skilling

Digital maturity has a lot to answer for in 2018. We have seen an increase in appointments of in-house content managers yet outsourced communication methods are still important as more companies understand that digital and content marketing are non-negotiable functions.

However, with that brings a need to upskill quickly. We’ve been running social media training for our client Mitchells & Butlers and for other partners who wish to ensure that smaller teams are up-to-speed so that they can keep the day to day activity in-house. With digital skills being one of the main concerns facing marketers in 2018, we’ve definitely noticed an interest in training.

PR Measurement

I don’t think evaluation and measurement will ever stop being a trend that we talk about in end of year round-ups and this year is certainly no different. The CIPR State of the Profession 2018 highlights one of the biggest challenges people cite is the need to ‘establish new sources of value’ indicating what the industry is currently doing still isn’t hitting the right mark.

All hail AMEC and the release of its Measurement Maturity Mapper that it’s just launched at Measurement Month. Alongside its Integrated Evaluation Framework this will continue to provide organisations globally with a quality benchmark on which to think about their evaluation approach. At spottydog we operate the spottydog standard aligned to the Barcelona Principle 2.0 and use our metrics map with clients to make sure we’ve got the measurement and evaluation in place that’s going to help them demonstrate ROI against their objectives.

Social advertising took off

Whilst Facebook zero has had a lot to answer for, we feel that digital maturity within marketing and communications teams has led to this natural increase in social media advertising. Compared with GoogleAds and Bing Ads, social advertising is still cost effective for brand awareness and the demographic targeting options are unparalleled.

We have experienced first-hand the successes of bespoke ad campaigns for our clients such as Heritage Bathrooms and Aqua Park Rutland and as success always relies on great content, this approach is a natural match for our content creation team.

Online crises management amplified

This year has seen a dramatic increase in the influence of the social complaint; as customer service enquiries quickly escalate into brand boycotts and headlines in the national and regional press.  We’ve been working increasingly closely with our clients’ customer service teams and human resources departments to help respond in a timely, transparent and brand-appropriate way to mitigate concerns, inform the public and provide support to staff if needed.

SEO: a copywriter’s priority

The challenges of balancing captivating copy and SEO content are the same in 2018 but changes in the way that SERPs display results and the aforementioned rise in digital maturity within comms and marketing teams, we’ve noticed more of our clients requiring a joined up SEO & Content strategy.

Content is what people find when searching and search engines need content to decide how to rank a page so this year we noticed a marked – and welcome – increase in people wanting to ensure that their campaign efforts were SEO optimised. Where previously the focus was only on writing captivating stories, we’ve noticed that businesses want to ensure that they also create online copy which drives traffic to their important commercial content.

This has much to do with the growth of in-house digital content teams and we couldn’t be more supportive of such a joined-up approach.

LinkedIn leapfrogged

As Facebook matured, Instagram ad budgets grew but LinkedIn became a reputation leader. In 2018 many clients approached us to provide advice on how to build and maintain a personal brand, how to engage employees to become ambassadors on LinkedIn and how to advertise effectively on the platform.

Recent changes include the resurgence of LinkedIn groups, the use of hashtags to keep business stories on the news agenda as well as the well-promoted addition of native video content.

We’ve certainly seen that after a website, mastering LinkedIn is next on the list for thought-leaders, internal communications teams and those that need to mobilise sales forces.

We’ve still got five weeks of 2018 so if you think I’ve missed anything else out, I’d love to hear from you. Just follow spottydog on LinkedIn and let me know what you think.