26 Aug 5 Assertions for the Future of Digital Marketing
By: Will Alverson
Right now, we are in a time of unprecedented change, and the environmental factors around us are accelerating the pace at which marketing is evolving. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, increased geopolitical instability, nationwide calls for social change, and new ways of working, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
With all of these changes, it is a great time to step back and re-evaluate what it means to be a marketer and where our profession is moving. This past June, I graduated from the University of Denver with a degree in marketing. I spent my time in school starting and managing a digital agency, running the number one food Instagram in Colorado, and consulting for various civic organizations & startups. Having this experience as I enter the workforce full time, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what the world and my profession will look like in the coming years.
Here is where I see marketing going in the near future.
1. Content will look different
Ad targeting has gotten extremely accurate, but all of the competition can use it too, and consumer trust has been strained by privacy concerns. Accurate placement, good branding and a clear product offering will become digital trench warfare for attention. Novelty and value will begin to trump placement and exposure, as digital ads targeting is reaching all time heights in accuracy and every competitor has the same content ideas as you.
What will cut through the noise? Bringing unique and relevant value to consumers. What do I mean by unique and relevant value? I mean surprise, delight, or pure utility for your target customers, but not necessarily with an explicit ask. A good example would be the work done by Mschf Internet Studios, a creative digital marketing agency. By creating funny, highly shareable digital widgets, they are able to sell sponsorship to relevant companies and let word of mouth do the rest.
2. We won’t talk about data as much
We can all agree that data is transforming business and will continue to shape how we do almost everything. I’m not denying that. What I am arguing is that it won’t be this much of a buzzword forever, just as we don’t still rave about the modernizing effects of electricity on our world.
Every industry is being disrupted by data driven market intelligence, so we can assume that, like every other revolutionary technological advancement, things are going to be streamlined sooner or later. Using data won’t be as much of a tax on time and energy as it is now, freeing us up to continue working towards our strengths. People will not always spend hours trying to manipulate data and make a decision based on what their data is telling them. Rather, data will frame marketing decisions for you to make, rather than make the decision itself.
3. The death and rebirth of influencer marketing
People are getting better at mentally filtering out ads, making the channels they don’t filter more powerful in value communication. Trust is a big element in this; people are naturally attracted to things their peers recommend (Felici). How then, can we encourage more word of mouth advocates?
Scaling down influencer marketing campaigns is one trend I see happening already. Affiliate marketing programs are becoming friendlier and friendlier to those with smaller audiences, and utilizing trusted trendsetters who may not have a large social media presence will soon be commonplace.
In my time in influencer marketing, I found that sometimes I could get almost as many actions taken through group chats full of friends as I could generate through a major influencer account with high organic engagement. At the same time, my Colorado food page could outperform massive accounts or celebrities given the right subject matter. Trust, familiarity, and focus are the key ingredients here.
4. Vanity metrics will mean even less
In the near future, content quality will be even more important to effective social strategy, while there will continue to be less easy hacks to boost engagement. As people become more inclined to limiting their social media use and social networks consider hiding likes/ follows etc. A new paradigm for social media strategy is coming hard and fast.
There always seems to be a new social media growth hack trending, and a lot of times they do really help marketers reach new people and increase engagement.
Where I see a change prime to happen, however, is in the seeming obsession over growth hacking. A handful of marketers I know focus less on content quality than they do on tactics to maximize engagement. I understand that for a lot of freelancers, vanity metrics are an easy way to show a client how well you are doing, but the market will catch on to the few that are winning through exceptional content.
5. Channels will be more interconnected
Posting consistently good, content is not enough. I have seen far too many companies with starkly different social strategies between platforms, creating a fragmented brand perception and confusing people. Different platforms will always call for unique content, but this oftentimes leads marketers to create an incoherent strategy with little consideration for when and how the target customer will see it.
On the other hand, the best marketing efforts I have experienced focus on attacking on all fronts; coordinating content, offers, and timing across mediums. I don’t mean to say your content should be the same across platforms; I mean that oftentimes marketing teams get so caught up with optimizing for each platform, they lose the larger picture of a coherent brand and make their core offers or promotions less effective.
Encouraging consumers to engage on multiple platforms will keep branding, messaging and offerings more easily actionable. To do this, marketers need to understand what customers need to hear, when they should hear it, and where to deliver it. When should you send an email out and what kind of content will be effective at that time?
We are at a unique and exciting point where we as marketers are not just communicating value, but creating value through our content and campaigns. Data and the tools that leverage it at scale will begin to streamline our work and lives in ways previously unimaginable. Influencer marketing will become much more human and trustworthy. We will begin to hone in on the metrics that matter and develop more coherent brands. These times are scary, uncertain, and stressful, but I believe these trends form a better future for our work and the people that it touches.
Will Alverson is a founder, marketer, and designer based in Denver, CO. He is a cofounder & partner at Cultivo Media, a Marketing Analyst at Highwing, and previously ran Denver’s #1 rated food instagram, @milehighandhungry
IBM Watson Marketing. (2018, December 10). 2019 Marketing Trends. Retrieved from https://www.ibm.com/watson/marketing/resources/2019-marketing-trends/#section-3
2) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/276001060_How_to_Trust_A_Model_for_Trust_Decision_Making Felici, M. (2012). How to Trust: A Model for Trust Decision Making. International Journal of Adaptive, Resilient and Autonomic Systems, 3(3), 20-34. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/276001060_How_to_Trust_A_Model_for_Trust_Decision_Making.
3) Ward, T. (2018, December 20). The Influencer Marketing Trends That Will Explode In 2019. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomward/2018/12/18/the-influencer-marketing-trends-that-will-explode-in-2019/#6623995f2786
4) Bailey, A. (2019, April 22). Is the Instagram Influencer Apocalypse Upon Us? Retrieved from https://www.elle.com/culture/tech/a27229193/instagram-hiding-likes/