Digital Trends

Ben Matthews

By Ben Matthews

In Blog, Empower Life, Moments

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Speaking about digital trends for 10 minutes is hard enough. Speaking about digital trends for 10 minutes to a group of around 50 independent consultants is harder. Speaking about digital trends for 10 minutes to a group of around 50, slightly soggy from the London rain, eager to get back to networking, independent consultants was the fine audience I spoke to tonight.

I was invited by the PRCA Independent Consultants Group to speak on 10 digital trends in 10 minutes, so here I am replicating that talk in digital form, which should take you – hopefully less soggy, less eager to get back to networking – digital person about 10 minutes to read / consume.

Here are my slides and notes. Enjoy.

10 Digital Trends in 10 Minutes for Independent Consultants

To get thing started, here is the Slideshare of my slides from the digital trends talk. Pretty to look at and will give you the gist of the talk, but you’ll probably need to read on to get the full impact of my talk.

And for those of you who want the short version, here’s a GIF made using the simply brilliant, that has made my 10 minute long talk into a 3 second, 10 image gif.

10 digital trends in 10 minutes

For those of you with the thirst for the full digital trend experience, here’s my rundown of the 10 digital trends I picked out and my notes from the talk. Keep scrolling to the end for questions – and answers – from the question and answer part of the talk.

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1. Your network is still key, but is increasingly dispersed

Slack has been a runaway success since opening for business just over a year ago: it now has 1.1 million daily active users, with 300,000 of them paying for premium tiers of the service bringing in annual recurring revenue of $25 million.

We’re working with a client whose team is based in London, New York, Geneva and Copenhagen. Slack holds that team together.

Airbnb is a website for people to rent out their homes. It has over 1,000,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. Airbnb offers more rooms than many of the largest hotel groups in the world–Hilton, InterContinental and Marriott—which each maintain just under 700,000 rooms.

Next week, I’m going on a working holiday to Turkey, using Airbnb. Good wifi, cheap flights and my clients don’t care where I work as long as the work gets done.

2. You’ll face increased competition, but have more opportunities.

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Freelancers are already changing the face of the economy.

Here are a few stats to let you know about the competition.

There are 1.4 million British freelancers working across all sectors, a growth of 14% in the past decade.

The flexibility offered by Britain’s freelancers is worth £21 billion to the UK economy in added value.

The number of businesses hiring freelancers online increased 46%.

Payments to freelancers increased 37% year on year.

The average hourly rate for UK freelancers increased 6.7%.

There’s more competition for freelancers, but that also creates more opportunities as clients come to recognise the value that freelancers bring to their businesses.

3. Trust is vital. Earn it, then keep it.

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To compete, independent consultants need to be trust.

From the Guardian in a recent article on how their journalists establish trust;

“Trust in the authenticity and reliability of our sources is essential. Digital communications and a fast-moving news environment present special challenges for verification, and scepticism should therefore be the starting point”

More experienced consultants should already have this trust and know how to keep it

The Edelman Trust Barometer states that “Trust is built through specific attributes, which can be organised into five performance clusters”



products and services



These attributes apply to brands, but in the digital age they apply to consultants as well – especially as reputation can be more easily share online

4. Digital by design, not digital by default.

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Digital is growing, but is not always the right answer.

Offline interaction still works wonders for the right campaigns.

Take a look at the number of events, photocalls and conferences that happen.

If traditional means of getting a client’s message out is the right one, then have confidence in that.

But if digital is the right medium to get the message out, then make sure that your campaigns have the right assets for digital – video, photos, text content.

5. Content is still king. Distribution is queen.

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Content marketing is the creation and sharing of digital content, such as articles and videos, that informs, educates, or entertains you.

Content marketing allows brands to attract customers through articles and videos.

Instead of interrupting your online browsing with an ad, content marketing gives you valuable information through articles and videos that you choose to view.

While digital advertising focuses on promoting a brand, content marketing focuses on giving you helpful information that you want to see online.

6. Think mobile first, then work back from there.

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Including the way you work, the content you create and how people consume it.

Ensure that your content is optimised for smartphones.

Ensure all media materials are succinct and engaging.

Use images and video to maximise campaign reach.

7. Paid social is becoming the norm. Understand its value.

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Understand its value, even if you don’t use it yourself.

Run a few Facebook ads. See what works. Begin to learn what can work for your clients.

8. Video is on the rise (again). Facebook is challenging YouTube.

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Fuelled by Facebook, vloggers and fast mobile data.

Zoella: 25 years old, born in 1990, has 8.5 million subscribers.

Facebook and Twitter both have native video players where video content is hosted and viewed natively within Facebook and Twitter.

Before this move, users who wanted to watch videos were sent off to YouTube, Vimeo or wherever the video was hosted. Now users can just watch the video natively where they are.

The end result? Twitter users stay within Twitter longer and use Twitter more.

Jason Calacanis:

“Within 18 months of releasing their YouTube competitor, Twitter will at least double their monthly users, double their time per user, and triple their revenue.”

Some more social video stats:

Facebook video views every 24 hours: 4 billion

Video uploaded to YouTube every minute: 300 hours

Facebook unique video viewers: 85.59 million

YouTube unique video viewers: 162.14 million

Facebook counts a view as: 3 seconds

YouTube counts a view as: 30 seconds

9. Plenty of new digital tools. Use them wisely.

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Go take a look at PR Stack.

PR Stack is a crowd-sourced catalog of 250+ public relations tools, many of them free, all of them useful.

The tools are there, use them wisely.

10. Remember why you are an independent consultant. You are ahead of the game. In terms of financials, flexibility and freedom.

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Every year, thousands of people have the confidence to start their freelance career. You can do it too.

You can have the flexibility and freedom that comes from running your own freelance business – and enjoy it.

You can make a decent income from your freelance business – often much more than your previous job.

Anyone that is already freelancing or operating as an independent consultant is already ahead of the game, whatever digital trends come next.

The final slide had my contact details, so here they are again.

You can tweet me at @benrmatthews.

Or better yet, email me at

Let me know how these digital trends are affecting you and your business, or what you see are the next digital trends that I’ve missed and we should be aware of.

Questions About Digital Trends

These are the questions I remember getting asked at the end of my presentation.

Answers to follow soon, but I did answer them well on the night (I promise):

  • How does social reach affect the KPIs of a client’s business?
  • How will the Facebook dislike button affect businesses on Facebook?
  • Our business has a target audience of people aged 55+. How can we use social media to reach them?
  • I read that Google now ranks long form content higher than other less wordy content. How can PR consultants address this?
  • I run a small business on a small budget. What social media tools and channels should I be concentrating on?
  • How have politicians reacted to changes in social media and how do they relate to social media now?

I remember the questions about digital trends. Now if only I could remember the answers…