I have been with brands since the inception of branded social media. Social media, let alone digital marketing, did not exist when I graduated from college. Much of my education in social media was born from watching what brands were doing and testing content types to see what stuck.
The exciting part of social media initially was that you had to have stellar content, or your fans would not engage. There was no paying to be in the newsfeed. You were in the newsfeed because a fan liked your page, and you received engagement only when a fan truly related to the content you shared.
Starting a career was an interesting place for me, as I navigated everything that was the wild online marketing frontier, far from the traditional marketing frontier I was taught at the University of Miami.
Fast forward a decade, and we are in a minefield of paid social and now an entire discipline of digital marketing to which social media is merely a piece of. A career in digital marketing is now a thing!
Digital marketing moves FAST. Changes are made constantly to algorithms, and new tools pop up every other day. Navigating digital marketing is going to bed with a solid strategy and waking up in the morning with holes all over the place thanks to a change no one saw coming.
It would be best if you were comfortable with change to be a successful and sane digital marketer. There needs to be an understanding that change is always on the menu for the day, and you will be expected to execute on those changes without even having your first cup of coffee.
This brings me to what digital marketing is this year:
Just when we thought we were lucky and Facebook was disappearing into the abyss and no longer a top digital marketing channel, it renames itself and adds a 3D way of marketing to consumers. If you are a digital marketer and do not speak Meta, you are already late to the party.
As consumers start to shift to Mark Zuckerberg’s magical Meta universe, brands need to be thinking about unique ways they can use Meta to provide experiences to their consumers that lead to an ROI. Hint >> Facebook isn’t going away just because of the recent drop in numbers, although it will be an interesting one to watch.
While B2C influencers have traditionally been the most impactful, B2B influencers started gaining more traction as micro-influencers became more popular. Look for influencers with a large following and with high engagement. For more on influencer marketing, click here.
Sophisticated tools have allowed marketers better to track the overall ROI of social and digital initiatives. You won’t be able to hide behind brand awareness anymore. Where is digital marketing impacting major business goals? Business leaders are becoming more digitally savvy and demanding to see where digital marketing campaigns impact the lower funnel.
Sharpest of Sharp Skills
This is a tip directly for you >> the digital marketer. Attend every webinar, conference, event you can to learn as much as you can about digital marketing.
While sharpening your skills should always be top of mind, digital marketing’s exponential growth during the pandemic has quickly left some marketers in the dust. There are simply too many new networks and changes for marketers to keep up with, but if you don’t, someone will replace you at your job who has taken the time to dig into Meta and find new ways to use Tik Tok.
Search Engine Optimization SEO experts are spending more time digging into SERPs (search engine results pages) to capitalize on what consumers see when they search for the brand and/or services. Google Ads are one of the most impactful, controlled ways to impact your results page.
You can already see how important eCommerce, customer service, and PR strategies are to optimize your SERPs page. Tapping into newer features on Google Ads, such as image add-ons and lead forms, can be a way to capture attention. Other SERPs to work with are featured snippets, Q & A, shopping, top news stories, and more.
Design is no longer image and video >> Design has enveloped storytelling, and storytelling has enveloped design. Consumers are looking for designs on digital that they can engage with on a personal level. This means having different content journeys depending on the consumer, allowing different ends of a video for different users, having multiple levels of design that can take a consumer from a static place to an engaging place. Some corporations and agencies saw this coming when they started adding full-fledged creative studios to their businesses.
It’s always been assumed that speed affects results, but more so because it’s common sense that a consumer will pick the site that loaded faster over the one they are still waiting for. Google finally confirmed that it is also “punishing” brands with slower desktop and mobile device speeds by ranking them lower in results. I predict Google will continue to focus on this even more over time as sites begin fixing their speed issues.
Now that we are mastering the art of having automatic conversations with consumers, it’s important not to sound like a robot when the consumer runs through the different automated prompts.
Marketers are focusing harder on just how to master the art of being conversational and natural while automating chatbots, live chat on websites, and more. When is it important to hand off a marketing automation conversation, and how is it handed off? Where can you break consumers apart and send them on different journeys? What can you still keep personal once they are on to the next part of their automated journey?
I love this trend because I often recommend this to clients, especially since micro-influencers started making their mark. While micro does mean that you are reaching a smaller target audience, it could also mean reaching a higher quality of an audience. Micro is not reserved for influencers. Micro can also be applied to email marketing lists, social networks, content marketing, and basically all other digital channels.
My most recent successful use of micro surprised me, as it involved Facebook, a network I have the most annoying love/hate relationship with. Facebook won me back because I could find a sweet spot of getting audiences from small Facebook groups to become members of online websites. Soon, I was able to track in Google analytics exactly which groups members were coming from, and was shocked to see that they were actually converting from the groups!
This is really just common sense. You lose some of the meaning of a group the larger it becomes. It’s more difficult to reach each member and really make people feel heard and valued. Interestingly, groups became less effective as they hit a certain threshold of members.
To summarize, Facebook groups, in general, were not the catalyst, but Facebook groups that were micro in size.
How can you add micro to your effective digital marketing strategy this year?
I wrote early about my strange, wild career start in social media marketing. I spent many years developing the infrastructure for social media to exist within large corporations. I made sure social media had the path to survive within the corporation. I had no shortage of teaching Facebook, Twitter, and hashtag 101 to lawyers, compliance officers, phone-only customer service agents.
That being said, if your brand is stuck on Facebook 101 today, a decade after Facebook was introduced to the modern business market, you have some problems ahead of you. Small businesses, especially, need to educate themselves on digital marketing, even if they are a team of one! I still teach Facebook 101 and always will, but starting at that place makes it harder to get a job in the industry and compete as a brand in the industry.
Social media has matured. Digital marketing has matured. In just the past two years alone, both have matured exponentially. As I mentioned earlier, if you don’t have the skills of Meta and everything else new and innovative in the digital marketing space, someone else does, and they will take your place if you do not catch up very quickly.
It’s the same idea for brands. They can catch up, but they need to hurry because ideas, innovations, and new digital marketing channels are already being born in 2022 and require a mature brand to run with them.
This is not where to start with digital marketing, but how to become advanced in digital marketing moving forward.
Many more trends have probably been born just in the time it took me to write this article! Find them! Immerse yourself in learning and be a strong digital marketer who knows their way around 2022 and all of the next years to come.
-Marji J. Sherman