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We are approaching the end of the year and it is time to start summing up what happened during the past 12 months. 2019 was a rather interesting, entertaining, and eventful year when it comes to the digital marketing industry, which is why we decided to make a summary of the entire 2019, discussing and addressing the most relevant news and events that took place during the last 12 months.

This is also a perfect opportunity for us to predict some of the digital marketing trends that will be taking the center stage in 2020.

So, let’s get busy!


Summary of 2019’s Most Pivotal Digital Marketing Events 

The FaceApp Dilemma – Is the App Really a Privacy Risk?

FaceApp, a Russian app that first went viral in 2017 made a comeback this year. This time people loved it specifically because of a filter that makes users look older or younger. However, the reunion with the app was somewhat spoiled due to the information that the app’s creators are harvesting metadata from users’ photos.

After researching the app experts decided that FaceApp isn’t doing anything unusual or strange with the data they get from the users. In fact, there are a lot of other apps out there doing the same thing. Nonetheless, some people tend to think that this app is a bit more invasive than users realize.

Why is this the case?

The main reason for concern among users is the FaceApp’s terms of service, which states:

“You grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content and any name, username or likeness provided in connection with your User Content in all media formats and channels now known or later developed, without compensation to you.”

Add the fact that this is a Russian app and you can see why users started questioning the transparency of FaceApp.

The app works this way – users select specific photos they want to put filters on and then the company uploads those images to its servers to apply the filters. Now, FaceApp doesn’t specify whether or not they are downloading the photos users are sending, but considering the terms of service we previously quoted, it’s easy to see why some people think that there’s something sinister about the app.

However, there is no evidence that FaceApp is taking advantage of the users’ private information. The company has said that it doesn’t share data with third parties and that it stores images, but only temporary. They claim that the images are being deleted after 48 hours.

At the end of the day, it’s safe to say that this story was a bit exaggerated. However, this situation should serve as a cautionary tale and a reminder that we should never give out our sensitive and personal information to strangers and shady companies. Though, within the digital marketing landscape, this is basically impossible. 

Man taking a selfie | Four Dots


The Rise of Tik Tok

During the last five years or so, the world of social media welcomed a number of different apps and platforms. Some of them came to stay, while others simply couldn’t make it in this competitive and ruthless market.

Remember Vine? This app was extremely popular and everyone thought that it was going to stick. However, after a few years, it slowly faded to black and everyone forgot about it. Some people predicted TikTok will meet the same fate. They were wrong.

If you have been with this app for some time, you probably recall that it was first called Then, back in August 2018, it rebranded as TikTok after being acquired by Chinese company ByteDance the year before. Unlike Vine, TikTok found a way to survive and bring something new to the table when it comes to short video clips.

TikTok videos are more interactive, collaborative, and addictive. This app became so popular that it topped the worldwide download charts in the last quarter of 2018. In 2019 they only continued to be more successful. 

In fact, TikTok managed to surpass the most successful apps like Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Snapchat in the third quarter of 2019 when it comes to the App Store and Google Play downloads and installs.

At first glance, TikTok seems like just another short-form video-sharing app. However, it has managed to provide users with a variety of high-quality video content on a regular basis. This is why we can say that the rise of TikTok is one of the most important things that happened in 2019.

Instagram Removed The “Following” Tab and Announced They Will Hide Like Counts

This year, Instagram finally removed an important part of its app – the “Following” tab. This section was not well-liked among users simply because it allowed anyone to see how the people they’re following were engaging with content on this app. Much like how the ‘Activity’ tab displays the recent likes and comments on your own photos and videos, the ‘Following’ tab showed which posts and comments were liked by the people you are following.

This section also displayed info about when the users you’re following starts to follow another person. Basically, the “Following” tab allowed you to see any activity from the people you are following.

Another big news regarding this app is the fact that Instagram is considering hiding the like counts on posts. The main purpose of this is reducing the sense of competition amongst users, especially younger ones.

The idea is to prevent users to see the total number of likes on someone else’s post. This is supposed to provide users with a more organic experience simply because they will post the things they really want to share, instead of posting photos and videos they believe will get a lot of likes.

The person who posted the photo or video will be the only one able to see the total number of likes.

Instagram is still testing these changes, so it remains to be seen whether or not this will become public.

Instagram likes | Four Dots

YouTube Angered Creators With New Strict Policies

In June this year, YouTube made some drastic changes to its hateful content policies. The main goal of these new and strict policies is banning videos and comments that are promoting the superiority of any group as a justification for any kind of inequity, including discriminations based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.

After implementing these new guidelines, YouTube removed over 100,000 individual videos due to harmful content.

This is five times more removed video compared to their video removals from Q1 to Q2 of 2019. Also, YouTube teams removed over 17,000 channels and 500 million comments after introducing new policies. YouTube states it uses machine learning to catch and remove harmful content before it is ever viewed by users. They claim that over 87% of videos removed in the Q2 of 2019 were first flagged by YouTube’s automated systems like the one we mentioned above. 

However, in order to be more productive and thorough when it comes to removing videos that violate the hateful content policies, Google has tasked 10,000 employees to detect, review, and remove content that violates the new YouTube’s guidelines.

Google Introduced BERT – A New Search Algorithm for Better Understanding The Natural Language

In October, Google introduced the most important update in the last five years, at least according to their own statements. Considering the fact that this new algorithm called BERT impacted 10% of search queries, it’s easy to see why it got so much attention.

But what is BERT and what is its purpose?

The BERT algorithm stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers and it is a deep learning algorithm with the purpose of helping machines to understand what words in a sentence mean, including all the subtle differences of context. Therefore, this update was meant to affect those complicated search queries that depend mostly on context.

Here’s how Search algorithm patent expert Bill Slawski explained what BERT really is:

“Bert is a natural language processing pre-training approach that can be used on a large body of text. It handles tasks such as entity recognition, part of speech tagging, and question-answering among other natural language processes. Bert helps Google understand natural language text from the Web.”

As Google’s BERT Update helps Google to better understand natural language and search queries, it means BERT is analyzing search queries, not entire web pages. Still, after the introduction of BERT, on-page SEO becomes more important simply because words now have to be more precise and clear.

Google Changed The Way It Treats and Ranks Nofollow Links

In the past, nofollow links were practically ignored simply because they couldn’t be trusted. However, in September Google started treating nofollow as a hint. This means Google is now deciding whether or not to use certain links for ranking purposes. Naturally, this change affects content marketing, on-page SEO, and link building.

To better understand the nature of links, Google is improving the nofollow link attribute and trying out new additional attributes.

Here are the two new link attributes:

  • rel=“sponsored”: Identifies links on a website created as part of advertising, sponsorships or similar agreements.
  • rel=“ugc”: Identifies links that appear in user-generated content, like comments and forum posts, for example.

In the future, these attributes will be treated as hints and they will help Google to decide which links to exclude as ranking signals.

This is the official statement from Google:

“When nofollow was introduced, Google would not count any link marked this way as a signal to use within our search algorithms. This has now changed. All the link attributes — sponsored, UGC and nofollow — are treated as hints about which links to consider or exclude within Search. We’ll use these hints — along with other signals — as a way to better understand how to appropriately analyze and use links within our systems.”


Digital Marketing Events and Trends to Expect in 2020

Be Real, Warm, and Transparent With Your Customers

When it comes to E-commerce websites, next year will be all about the wholesome online experience for customers. This can be achieved by providing creative storytelling and by improving the brand image.

This means that your content has to help the customer to associate their values, life choices, and habits with the online shopping experience you are offering on your website. You have to relate with your customers and the best way to do this is to be real and sincere. 

Your content strategy should be perfectly planned, of course, but your interaction with the customers must never be perceived as automated communication.

If you are in the marketing or E-commerce industry, you should definitely make the best of this trend and try to make each online purchase fun and special for your customers.

Conversational Marketing

Conversation represents a powerful tool for any business out there. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what your business is about, you can use conversational marketing to get through to your customers.

In a world where everything is automatized and sterile, providing your customers with personal and responsive experience could benefit your business a lot. Engaging in real-time communication with your customers is a nice way of showing you appreciate their loyalty and genuinely care for them. This personal touch is exactly the thing that will make them come back to your website.

Chatbots Will Be in Charge of Simple and Routine Tasks

One of the most popular trends in conversational and digital marketing during the next couple of years will be the utilization of chatbots.

Chatbots are effective software programs that interact with website visitors and customers in real-time. Even though we said that personal communication with visitors is rather important, leaving simple and routine tasks to chatbots can save you a lot of precious time and provide you with a lot of different benefits. Many companies and businesses are using chatbots and they will continue to do so in 2020.

Nonetheless, we have to point out that chatbots are not yet as smart as we would like them to be. These limitations are the reason why chatbots simply can’t replace a live human being when it comes to more complex problems. This is why, for now, they will continue to solve routine tasks, while humans will be in charge of more complicated ones.

Chatbot | Four Dots


One of the things companies will have to pay attention to in 2020 is personalized marketing. If you want to increase conversion rates and attract more visitors, you should definitely consider creating personalized content, products, and emails.

Most customers don’t appreciate generic advertising. This is why they are more likely to do business with someone who offers a personalized marketing experience.

This is one of the main reasons why Netflix and Amazon have been so successful over the years. They are offering tailored and recommended products to their users and this personal touch is exactly the reason why they have such loyal audiences.

Video Marketing

Video marketing is one of the most important marketing trends today and it’s safe to assume that it will be for the next 5-10 years. This is exactly why you should include video into your digital marketing strategy in 2020.

However, you should know that YouTube is not the only place you can do this. There are many other ways to use video marketing to your benefit. For example, you can make a video post or start a live broadcast on other social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.

In the last couple of years, people are mostly viewing content on the go, via various mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones. Therefore, the long-form sales pitches and emails are not as effective simply because they are too difficult to read on a small screen. Luckily, a well-recorded video can provide the customer and a potential client with the same information in a more user-friendly format. 

The wonderful thing about video marketing is that it allows you to reformat the content and use it differently. So, after you record and publish a video, you can also: 

  • Transcribe it and have a text version of the video which you can rewrite and publish anywhere you like
  • You can post a native Facebook video (these get more shares and engagements than shared YouTube videos)
  • Use the audio as a podcast episode

Using live video for interviews, demos, and behind-the-scenes content, and company events are also expected to be quite popular in 2020. Marketers will also use personalized video messages instead of traditional phone calls and emails.

Video marketing | Four Dots

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is a type of modern and digital word-of-mouth marketing. However, instead of people talking amongst themselves, famous and successful individuals are using their influence to introduce your brand to a wider audience.

As you probably know, influencers are usually celebrities like actors and musicians, but in the last couple of years, the word influencer is mostly reserved for Instagram or YouTube personas who have a lot of followers. Through their social channels, these people can help anyone to find new customers and this is why working with influencers will be a big trend in the years to come.

Here’s why influencer marketing is good for your business:

  • Consumers are more likely to trust influencers who are using certain products than the brands promoting themselves
  • People are more likely to buy a new product if they see their favorite influencer using it

In the next few years, artificial intelligence is going to affect influencer marketing as well. 

AI will help identify the influencers with better engagement and fewer fake followers on social media.

Here are some other ways AI will improve influencer marketing:

  • Determining influencer performance with NLP (Natural Language Processing)
  • Predicting incentives
  • Determining the real influence an influencer has
  • Flagging inappropriate posts and those that don’t follow disclosure guidelines
  • Eliminating the fake engagements and spambots

These are all rather compelling reasons why you should consider using this trend in 2020.

Social Media Stories

Social media stories are hardly something new. Snapchat came out with this concept back in 2013, Instagram did the same in 2016, and then Facebook and YouTube introduced their own stories.

The best thing about these stories is the fact that they disappear after a certain period of time. This feature allows marketers to use the so-called FOMO or fear of missing out. A lot of celebrities and social media influencers love sharing their exclusive content via stories. This is why followers are always trying to check every single one of those stories. This should be a good enough reason for you to try out this trend in 2020.

Here are the most important benefits of using social media stories:

  • It increases brand awareness
  • It allows you to engage with followers on a more regular basis
  • Increased traffic to your website or social media account
  • Stories can help you to reach younger audiences

Here are some potent ways you can utilize stories to improve your business:

  • You can use polls in Instagram Stories to encourage engagement
  • Add links to your stories or ask influencers to add your links to their stories
  • Add location tags to help people find your business
  • Mention other brands or ask them to mention you
  • Add clear call-to-actions and invite followers to learn more about your business

Closing Word

2019 was a rather interesting year! FaceApp and TikTok got the most attention when it comes to apps, albeit for two completely different reasons. Instagram removed the “Following” tab and disappointed all the “stalkers”. They also announced they will hide the like count. Google Introduced BERT – A New Search Algorithm for Better Understanding The Natural Language and they changed the way they treat nofollow links. 

As for the upcoming 2020, it’s safe to say that it will not be boring. Conversational marketing, chatbots, and personalization will have an important role to have in digital marketing. Video marketing, influencer marketing, and social media stories will be some of the most important trends in the next year.

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