If there is one thing you can say for certain about digital marketing, it’s this:
The digital strategies that used to work 20, 10, or even 2 years ago are vastly different from today. A website and basic keyword stuffing were enough to win in organic search in 2000. Today, you’d be sitting on the bottom of page #20 with that approach.
The ever-evolving nature of the web also means that no platforms or audience groups remain static. If you wanted to target 15-18-year-olds in 2013, you’d use Facebook. But today, you’d have to use a combination of Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok to reach the same audience.
Anticipating these changes and fine-tuning your strategies ahead of time is crucial for winning on the digital front.
I’ll look at the changes that have taken place in the recent past, the common thread across them, and how to predict future trends before they happen.
The Constant Evolution of Digital Marketing
If you work in or with digital marketing, one of your toughest tasks is to keep pace with all the changes around you. Trends fall in and out of vogue quickly in the digital world. The hot app of two years ago might be dead today.
Case in point: Vine. The Twitter-backed service shot up in popularity in 2013 and had nearly 200M active users at one point. Then suddenly, in 2016, it was shut down. The Google Trends report captures this steep rise and gradual fall perfectly:
Three years might be nothing in the real world, but on the internet, it’s a lifetime.
Because of this ever-changing landscape, you have to constantly evaluate your digital strategies. What does your marketing mix look like? Are you spending money on platforms that actually have your target audience? Are your marketing strategies relevant and effective?
This is a three-part process, that is:
- Understanding broader market trends and developments
- Understanding changing audience behavior as user demographics change
- Understanding and evaluating your existing marketing strategies
It’s a tough job – you have to look inward as well as outward.
How do you go about this process?
I’ll share some answers in the next section.
1. Keep an eye on market trends
The first step in fixing your digital strategies is to know what’s working currently, what’s not. Staying on top of emerging trends will help you figure out where to invest your resources in the future.
This isn’t an easy ask. Unless you have extensive experience within an industry, it’s not always possible to know the latest trends.
Fortunately, there are some workarounds to gauge the importance of emerging trends, such as:
Evaluating statistical trends: Is a particular social network going up or down in popularity? Is growth on a platform slowing down?
The best answer to these questions can usually be gauged from hard data. The average number of users, monthly traffic, new user growth – these are all valuable metrics for understanding trends.
Some platforms to gather statistics include:
Apart from these, also keep an eye on quarterly/annual reports released by analyst firms like Gartner.
Using curated content platforms: Want to quickly know what’s happening in the digital space? Your best bet is to follow the latest updates on a curated content platform.
Some of these platforms are:
Following industry experts: The best insight on emerging trends usually comes from people deep in the industry’s trenches.
The tough part is finding experts to follow. This will largely depend on your focus, field, and platform of choice. Twitter is great for short-form tips, but if you want more insight, I suggest finding a handful of quality bloggers in your space. Subscribe to their email newsletters to know what they think.
Curated lists of experts are a great source as well. You can also learn a lot from expert roundups such as this one on agency marketing.
2. Understand your target audience behavior
Understanding market trends is only half the battle; you also need to constantly evaluate your audience’s behavior and shifts in their tastes.
The more trend-oriented your industry is (such as fashion), the more you’ll have to keep an eye on your audience.
Case in point, Abercrombie & Fitch. The storied fashion brand was wildly popular in the 2000s but failed to catch the audience shift away from its clean-cut, high-fashion aesthetic. The end result was a spectacular collapse.
Understanding shifts in audience behavior is a two-part exercise:
- Understanding changes in market tastes and trends
- Evaluating your audience’s response to these changes
This is mostly a subjective exercise. You have to be able to grasp the zeitgeist to understand which way the market is moving. Keeping an eye on the news, cultural products (movies, music, art) will help you zero in on the market’s sentiments.
But that’s not enough – you also need to understand what your audience is thinking.
The best way to do this is through formal surveys and informal customer interviews. The former should ask pointed questions about your audience’s response to your products or campaigns. The latter should be in an informal setting to understand their general sentiments about your products and the wider market.
3. Evaluate your existing strategies
If you’ve followed the above two steps, you understand market trends and your customers’ responses to them.
The last part of the puzzle is evaluating whether you are well-placed to take advantage of shifting trends.
For instance, your research might show that younger audiences – your target demographic – are increasingly shifting away from Facebook. Yet, Facebook forms a major chunk of your social media marketing mix.
This would be a signal to move some of your marketing budget away from Facebook. Your customer surveys should tell you where to shift this spare budget.
Dig through your current marketing strategies and ask:
- Are you targeting the right channels and platforms – right now as well as two years later?
- Is your marketing collateral aligned with current market trends?
- Do you have a presence on emerging platforms and channels? Do you have the in-house expertise to target these channels?
- Is your brand aligned with the changing needs of your customers as well as their chosen platforms?
- How is your customers’ behavior changing? What brands are they shifting to? What platforms are they using? What are they avoiding?
Your answers to all these questions will help you understand the viability of your current strategies.
This way, you can correct your course early and take advantage of emerging trends.
Over to You
In an ever-changing digital world, it is crucial that you use the right strategies at the right time. Keeping an eye on new trends, understanding audience behavior, and evaluating your current tactics will prepare you for any shifts in trends and market sentiments. Click To Tweet
Tighten your digital strategies ahead of time and you will find it easy to tap into trends new and old.
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