While we’re already a few months into 2018, it’s never a bad time to step back and take a look at the digital trends that will shape the upcoming year when it comes to our digital landscape. At the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) we analyze these trends from a uniquely Canadian perspective, due to our position as the champions of the .CA domain.

Canada is in an enviable position globally as a champion of free trade, the open web, and the entrepreneurial spirit. By getting ahead of these digital trends, Canadian companies can continue to compete and win on the world stage. Here are five trends to consider when integrating technology into products, services, processes, marketing, and even your digital brand.

Voice-powered search

Talking to disembodied voices has been increasing in popularity for some time now. However, with the recent launch of both Google Home and Amazon Echo in Canada, voice-activated personal assistants are radically changing the way people interact with technology.

Canadian businesses must consider how their products, services, and workflows integrate with voice-assisted computing, and whether or not their data is structured in such a way to take advantage of it.

Voice is in many ways simply an extension of search engine optimization, as virtual assistants typically seek out the most common answer to a query as defined by the algorithms that power them. Now would be a good time to make sure your company’s content aligns with the way modern algorithms validate information.

Return of the open web

As large platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google look to monetize even further, algorithms that prioritize serving up ads ahead of their users’ best interests are causing many to question their value.

Fake news, bots, harassment, and free speech issues are driving many to re-embrace the open web as a platform to publish and share content. While having a presence on large social media platforms is important for all businesses, relying on them exclusively as a publishing platform is a risky proposition.

The open web is a platform that your business owns and controls. It is a place where your audience should always be able to rely on quality content without being subjected to the whims of an algorithm.

The death of organic reach

Speaking of monetizing, it should come as no surprise that the days of posting something organically to your company’s Facebook page and seeing a ton of engagement are over.

Facebook, like all the other large social media platforms, is now a publicly traded company, and their shareholders want to see profits. While your personal vacation pics may still make it into your friend’s feeds, updates from corporate pages increasingly do not. This is due to intentional changes to the algorithm that prioritizes personal updates over content from businesses. While this was done partially to improve the experience of individual users, it has the nice side benefit for Facebook of forcing businesses to pay for ads or promoted posts in order to reach their audience.

Facebook is not alone in this regard. Most social media platforms are now tweaking their algorithms at least partially to encourage paid promotion by brands. 

The good news is that the Facebook ad platform is incredibly robust and you can often see results with a very modest budget. If your organization is not advertising on Facebook, 2018 is a good year to start.

Data sovereignty

Cloud services have been largely agnostic to national borders – but things are changing.

As our most personal data – financial, health, and education records – get stored in the cloud, governments are starting to take notice.

Data sovereignty is a term that you will hear more of in 2018; it refers to ensuring that the most personal data from citizens stays in the country of origin. Large cloud service providers like Amazon, Microsoft and even Apple are starting to take notice of this trend and are building out data centres around the world to ensure compliance.

Legislation like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is starting to have a real impact on data storage and usage practices around the world, and it is inevitable that other countries will follow suit.

Digital identity

As our online lives become increasingly intertwined with our offline identity, it has never been more important to make sure the two are properly aligned.

Your digital identity is who you are when someone searches for you online. It is your career, your interests, your values, and your personality all wrapped up into one complete picture of you.

Social media is often seen as the best manifestation of a digital identity, but as we have seen with the rise of algorithms, the monetization of social media and the problem of fake news, relying on the whims of corporations is a risky game.

Only by owning your digital identity with a personal domain name, a website you own, and content you control, can you ensure that your online self is an accurate representation of your offline self. Today, many of the best brand advocates are employees and executives who leverage their personal brands to spread the word about your products and services.

The web isn’t going anywhere; now is the time to embrace your digital identity and take control of your personal brand.