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Anyone who tries to follow the world of digital marketing must be suffering from a case of chronic whiplash. The field is ever-evolving, and that evolution is happening at a pace never seen before. Just because certain developments may have taken off in 2021 doesn’t mean that they’ll hold strong this year.
As fast as things move, there are still a few trends worth keeping your eye on. With each passing year, additional emphasis needs to be added on the “digital” in “digital marketing,” and 2021 is no exception. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Communicate brand positioning
With 2020 now ever so slightly in the rear-view mirror, brands need to have one clear takeaway: Consumers want to buy from companies that take a stand. Last year was one full of public health crises, economic despair, environmental destruction, and unprecedented social struggle — against that kind of a background, can any brand afford to remain neutral?
The short answer is no. A study performed by Sprout Social found that 70% of consumers now expect the brands they buy from to take clear stances on social and political issues. While the occasional public statement may do a bit of good, the time has come for digital marketing teams to start taking these core values to heart as well.
Social issues don’t just come and go; they are constant concerns for large tracts of your consumer base. Weave social responsibility into your marketing materials; the results will speak for themselves.
2. Act fast
These days, companies need to be able to meet customers where they are in the moment of need. This world can be intimidating for smaller players, who may struggle to take the quick actions needed to execute on a digital strategy.
Caio Beleza, an executive at NPAccel, says today’s marketers must be able to go from ideation to publication the same day. Anything less, and they’ll struggle to tap into trends. It is this kind of thinking that has made it possible for Beleza, who has taken over Neil Patel’s SEO and small business marketing division, to provide valuable guidance to small companies and entrepreneurs worldwide.
Small businesses need to take note of this need for quick action in their digital strategy. Gone are the days of posting a blog about a big event a week later. Instead, invest in resources that allow you to be nimble and quick to better meet customers when they need it.
3. Invest in voice search
These days, no one is in doubt as to the importance of SEO when it comes to promoting your business, but what kinds of search are being focused on?
One increasingly important type is voice search, most commonly done through devices like Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Apple’s Siri program. According to a survey conducted by NPR and Edison Research, nearly one in four Americans now own a smart speaker, meaning that you can’t afford to let your SEO investments ignore voice any longer.
Herein lies the problem: If the mysteries of SEO are a challenge to solve, the mysteries of voice search are doubly so. These search engines are not exactly forthcoming about their algorithms, making the job of a digital marketer sometimes feel like guesswork.
There are a few clues to pick up on, though. Dan Shewan, a writer and content manager for Animalz, notes the influence of Google’s publicly announced Hummingbird update a few years back. What the update did, among other things, was gently shift the algorithm away from keywords and towards meaning, i.e. the results are based more on what the search engine thinks the inquiry meant than simply responding to the words present.
For digital marketers, this means focusing more and more on the types of voice-based searches that people may be doing about your product or service. Do surveys and collect data to this end; the more you understand what kinds of questions potential buyers are asking, the better you’ll be able to answer them.
4. Inspect interactivity opportunities
Video games, personalized feeds and choose-your-own-adventure Netflix shows: the world is in the middle of an interactivity renaissance, and it’s time for digital marketers to catch up. Customers aren’t looking to consume; they’re looking to engage, and the right interactive content can ensure that they do just that.
Even so, knowing exactly what types of interactivity to lean into is difficult. After all, not all companies can make great video games about their products.
Eric Peters, a Growth Product Manager at HubSpot, has compiled a helpful list of interactive marketing types and examples to use as a springboard. While products like these might demand a little more effort than your average banner ad, the levels of engagement you’ll see in return are well worth the price of admission.
Digital marketing is a story that never ends, always evolving and becoming something new. As you power through 2021, keep some of these trends in mind. While no one can predict the future, you can bet that a couple of these will make some serious waves before the year is up.