I remember the year as if it were just yesterday when Facebook launched their advertising model and let the world know that they were going to allow companies to advertise on our timelines. Why was that any different from the pixelated ad sets we would see on resource sites? Well for one, because it was regulated and number two: it was here to stay.

Fast forward to 2019 and it seems like this decade has taught us a lot in terms of how to market to our audiences, what they are interested in and more, how they want to be engaged with. With over 100 000 books published claiming to know the key for success with Digital, it can be very convincing when you start throwing around a whole lot of buzzwords that make it appear like you know what you are talking about it.

But I am of a strong belief that no one has yet to have mastered Digital media, well not in the way we have mastered technology on a broader scope. And why do I make such a bold statement? Simply because it’s ever-changing, always evolving. I have said it before and I will say it again – what you go to sleep knowing today is changed by a revision in a Google algorithm tomorrow and bam, you are back at learning. And I think it’s this acceptance that is the key to being remotely “good” at this Digital media thing. That we always have to learn, read and expand our mind to new things that the industry keeps throwing at us. So what are some of the things that have evolved before our eyes besides the obvious physicalities? Let’s have a look:

  • Influencers – we went from seeing an influencer on our Instagram feeds once a month, to every day, to every second day and to be the best in the business you only needed to have 5k followers. Fast forward to 2017 and 5k was not good enough, better yet, 4{7b66f5b8f9cce5198cdc7f2d96338c3c9bbce7bf1ebd58c7794d60da2dc43006} Engagement Rates which was once a dream, is now labelled as “poor engagement”. We then got hit with Instagrams algorithm changes that forever changed the way influencer content appears on timelines due to personal content preferences. This saw Influencers everywhere panicking and jumping for new strategies. And finally today, we are a world who is now starting to see the value in Micro-influencers. Shifting away from just the A and B-listers who make it naturally hard to relate to and focusing on intermediate influencers who may have smaller audiences but much higher Engagement Rates.
    • The future of Influencers, in my opinion, lies within nano-influencers. This is influencers with a following of less than 3/4k. These are people who do not promote brands based on the receipt of free goods and PR drops. This a user base that actually spends their hard-earned money on products and has a valid say in its effectiveness in their life. This user base has nothing to lose so honesty sits at the core of what they do. Their jobs are not to influence people, they simply want to voice out their experiences because they have paid and so earned the right to do so.
  • Competitions – Remember when competitions were highly rewarding and required minimal effort. Fill out a form in a mall with your basic info and pop it into a box, submit your answer to a question on a website and my favourite, pop a balloon in-store to win a TV? Granted we still have these traditional strategies, but now we also have competitions that require us to like 5 Instagram accounts, comment telling the brand why we want to win, tag 3 people, share on Instagram stories and Like the Facebook page. It’s one step short of giving them a vile of our blood, to be honest, but here we are. In an effort to beat the algorithm we have every Tom and his friend hosting competitions made up of free goods they received from brands and expecting users to go through a lengthy entry mechanic just to win a Lip Gloss, some eyelashes and a face mask. But we do it because as consumers, winning is winning and just maybe it’s easier to spam our friends and news feed to grow follower bases for influencers who only care about higher Engagement rates.
    • The future for competitions? Simple competition entry mechanics that move away from “buying” followers and engagements and more toward “give me information and I will give you a prize.” Valued information is NOT Engagement, valued information is data in the form of an e-mail address, a survey or a conversation. Brands and influencers are going to start seeing the value of data and the true powers it possesses. And then perhaps we will start to engage with PEOPLE and not influencers, for their authenticity and not just to win a prize.
  • Retail at our fingertips – Do you remember when Facebook ads were first introduced, the rule of thumb was that as marketers, we should not include price points on a Facebook post? Because it was our understanding that the audiences did not browse social media looking for retail content? Our strategies included an 80/20 mix of brand awareness content and only 20{7b66f5b8f9cce5198cdc7f2d96338c3c9bbce7bf1ebd58c7794d60da2dc43006} of product showcase content – that by no means included any price points. Now, we sit here laughing that strategy away because consumer behaviour and consumer needs have evolved so rapidly in the past 12 years and what was once prohibited, is encouraged for brand success. The reality is that consumers are lazy. We do not want to navigate through a disaster of a website that takes too long to load in order to find the price of a product we are interested in. No, if we see the product that we like and want on Facebook, tell us how much it is. Chances are I am going to make my decision to purchase it right there and then vs going to your website just to find out how much. Most people start their research phase of the purchase funnel on Social Media, and they use the website for additional purchase information like a store locator or online purchase.
    • The future of retail marketing? – It simply lies with the simplification of the consumer’s research journey. Empower users with enough information on your social channels to ensure that you have been shortlisted at least. We see it with Instagram’s Shop feature and it makes shopping a breeze when you have all the info you want in one space.
  • Analytics and Data software – One of the most overused buzzwords in the industry (apart from KPI’s and User Journey’s) is data analytics. With the rise of technology and Digital Media, we have also seen the rise of data platforms. What we have not seen or heard enough of are data capabilities. This is something I consider the pivotal part of any advertising effort but with Digital Media it’s that much more attainable because every action leaves a trail of data behind. Data capabilities are quite simply just “what data can do” – for your campaigns, your brand or strategies. When Social Media channels first launched there was so little you could see in terms of performance, but as time moved us along, technology advanced and the result was that we are allowed to take a peek behind the curtain and it is overwhelming as hell! There are so many data points that we keep assuming, the more we focus on the better. But along with changes in this industry, the mindset is slowly starting to alter as well. Having 1 000 extra followers since last month is all good and well but am I selling more products? If not why? If yes, why? What are the influential factors? These are the questions we are starting to see more of and it’s these questions that will ultimately tell you what kind of bang you are getting for your buck!
    • The future of data? In my opinion, lies with getting back to the basics. What is the aim of your brand, I mean your core business objective? Not just your marketing teams objective.  It’s about cutting down on the layers of fat and focusing on attributional leads which are metrics that indicate the presence of a warm lead as well as focusing on leads which indicates ROI for your brand.

I think what’s really just come down to, is shifting back to the basics, you know less is more? As brands and influencer’s we want to be on board with the latest trends but before you blindly follow, ask yourself, is it doing more harm than good?