Digital Marketing Trends You Should be on The Lookout For in 2021
Whether you’re a business owner, a marketing guru, or a freelancer with a solid side hustle, staying on top of the ever-changing digital marketing trends is key. In the online world, things can change within moments and you have to be able to pivot your strategy at the drop of a hat.
Last year, we saw the importance of digital marketing on a major scale. Throughout 2020, many businesses were relying on digital marketing strategy pivots to lead an impromptu, shifted approach to reach their audiences in innovative ways. This led to a lot of trial and error, but also a lot of new ideas that worked within the new and evolving online landscape. Many of those ideas are still highly effective as we move into 2021.
Here is our roundup of the top digital marketing trends that are going to be huge in 2021 and beyond. Which ones do you think you’ll try to implement this year?
Video marketing has been on every list of top digital marketing trends for years and years now, and that’s because it works. After the year we had in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic leading us all to stay at home as much as possible and entertain ourselves, video intake has significantly increased. An end-of-year HubSpot survey found that 96% of people said they watched more videos this year than they did before.
So, how can you take advantage of video marketing for your own business? Even if you’re working with a limited budget as a startup or due to COVID-19 restrictions, there are so many ways you can incorporate video into your digital marketing strategy.
Here are some video marketing ideas you could try that don’t require a huge budget (if they fit your business model and brand, of course):
- Product demonstrations
- A thank you video to include in a post-purchase email
- Behind the scenes videos (interviews with staff, “meet the team” videos, Q&A sessions, etc.)
- Interviews with industry experts or influencers
- News announcements or giveaways
- Turn blog posts into videos with stock footage, whiteboard illustrations, and so on
- Trendy videos (think about viral challenges and TikTok trends, but be careful about jumping on the bandwagon if it looks too forced – people can see through this if you don’t do it right)
- Parody videos
- Time lapse videos of your team creating a product
- Live streams and online events (more on this later)
- Screenshare videos
- Client testimonials (if you have customers who are willing to help you out)
Optimizing For Voice Search
Voice search is widely popular right now thanks to the affordability and popularity of devices like Amazon Assistant, Google Home, and countless others. What started with Siri has been evolving over time to include the likes of Alexa, Cortana, and Google (who sadly hasn’t been given a human name).
According to Google itself, 27% of adults use voice search on their smartphones, and 33% of people use voice search every month. Multiple studies have shown that this number is only going to increase this year. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you’re optimizing your content for voice search as we move into the unpredicted territory of 2021.
The key to optimizing your content for voice search is learning to write in a more conversational way. Someone who is looking for something through voice search is going to phrase their question a lot differently than they would if they were typing it into Google. If you’re looking for kids’ clothes, for example, you would say something like, “Hey Alexa, where are the closest kids’ clothing stores?” Meanwhile, if you typed it into Google, you’d probably type “kids clothing near me” or “kids clothes Toronto.”
Try using long-tail keyword phrases, question keywords (FAQs are great for this), and filler words you’d use in a conversation (such as “the,” “I,” “for,” or “to”). Another important element is optimizing for local SEO. “Near me” searches are a very common type of inquiry people use with voice search, and users who make these types of queries usually show more intent, which leads to higher chances of conversion.
Artificial Intelligence and RankBrain
Artificial intelligence is one of the biggest digital marketing trends that is frequently overlooked because we often associate those words with big time budgets and corporate technology. However, artificial intelligence is actually a major technological development that’s integrated within a lot of things you use on a regular basis, like chatbots.
It’s also a big factor in how Google determines SEO results. RankBrain is a core component of Google’s algorithm that determines how to rank search results for a specific query. A lot of this is similar to what we discussed above with voice search, wherein Google’s bots will crawl pages and rank them based on their relevance to user intent. Basically, Google will rank something for a search based on how it interprets what the user is looking for, and not based solely on word-for-word keyword matches. It uses artificial intelligence to do this.
This might sound a little difficult to optimize for, but there are a few things you can do to help your site gain more prominence in Google’s search results with RankBrain’s system:
- Publish long-form content: Long, in-depth content has more value in establishing your website as an expert in a specific topic area or industry.
- Use a conversational tone with natural flow: In other words, stop stuffing stiff and robotic sounding keywords into your content for the sake of adding keywords.
- Ditch the keyword variation pages: Back in the day, SEO marketers would create separate pages for different variations of a keyword. For example, if you were making pages about pandas, you would create separate pages for variants like “panda,” “pandas,” “panda bears,” and “giant pandas.” This practice is outdated and irrelevant now; RankBrain is fixated on conceptualizing a keyword and accounting for variants instead of selecting an exact match. The only exception to this is optimizing for local SEO with city names if you operate in more than one location.
- Keep your content value-based and relevant: RankBrain takes things like click through rates and bounce rates into account to assess your website’s authority, relevance, and value to what it thinks the user is searching for.
Live, Real-Time Virtual Events
After the year we had in 2020, it’s no wonder this one is on the list of this year’s top digital marketing trends. With the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering businesses and keeping people stuck at home at least 6 feet away from other humans, people began to heavily rely on live and real-time virtual events to communicate and engage with their audiences. Everyone from yoga instructors to musicians, television hosts, government officials, and even corporate businesses have taken advantage of the free live tools on social media platforms.
These live events are a great way to check in with your audience and stay relevant when you can’t physically gather anywhere. Pandemic aside, it’s also a great way to connect with audiences all over the world and expand your global reach in a cost-efficient way.
Before you jump on this trend, the keyword you need to remember here is “real-time.” The entire point of hosting a live event is to interact with and engage with your audience in real time. Don’t just post a video and then ignore the comments. Watch and monitor your comments as they come in and answer peoples’ questions, invite others to join you in Instagram Live, and interact with people so they feel like they’re in the room with you.
Shoppable Instagram Posts (For E-Commerce Businesses)
Instagram shopping is still a new e-commerce social media marketing trend that emerged within the last few years, and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shoppable Instagram posts allow users to click on specific items within the picture and go directly to the link to buy them. This gives retailers an opportunity to direct more customers to their products, and showcase them in more creative and appealing ways.
Then, Instagram stepped it up a notch. In May, Instagram announced the release of shops on Instagram, which allow e-commerce businesses to create full storefronts users can access by clicking a tab on their profile. Customers can buy products directly from the Instagram page, or through an in-app browser link to the company website. You can also share your product listings to your Instagram Stories for extra exposure.
This is a highly effective way to deliver your products right to your customer and make it as easy as possible for them to convert. If you’re an e-commerce business on Instagram, you need to check it out. It’s also free for anyone with a business account, so it’s very low risk-high reward.
Not online yet but thinking about starting your own e-commerce business? You’ll want to read our article on starting your own business first.
Content marketing is another trend that is likely always going to appear on every list of top digital marketing trends no matter what year it is. Back in 1996, Bill Gates coined the phrase “content is king” in his essay of the same name. Since then, the Internet has changed drastically, but this phrase has always been relevant (and you’ve likely heard it many times before).
High-value content is always going to be a powerful and effective way to drive traffic to your website, provide a great customer experience, and establish your company as an industry expert. Content has a high ROI as well: in a survey by DataBox at the end of 2019, 70% of companies said they generate more sales through organic SEO than PPC ads.
Here are some examples of foolproof types of content you can use in your digital marketing strategy:
- Blog content
- Case studies
- Landing pages
- Testimonials and reviews
- User generated content
Check out our content marketing strategy guide for more tips and information on creating your own content strategy for your business, or our ebook publishing guide if you’re looking for extra opportunities.
Influencer Marketing and Outreach
Influencer partnerships have become a major force driving top digital marketing trends in recent years, and this has risen significantly in 2020. More brands are starting to turn to influencer marketing as a more effective means to get their product out there, and for good reason – influencer marketing is slated to become a $15 billion industry by 2022.
With social media influencers becoming the new modern celebrities, this is an effective way to gain some clout and reach for your brand. Users rely on word of mouth and recommendations from people they trust more than they do traditional advertising. When those recommendations come from influencers they admire, they tend to be more inclined to at least check the product out. On top of that, influencers who are prominent within your industry can help you expand your reach by sharing your company to their audience.
Be on the lookout for micro-influencers (those with less than 25,000 followers). A 2019 study found that micro-influencers have higher engagement rates than influencers who have larger audiences. Not only is it usually cheaper to work with smaller influencers, but they have a more targeted audience and tend to post less sponsored content, which means yours will stand out more.
Before you go and scout out new influencers, it’s important to remember a couple of things first. When you sign an influencer on to work with your brand, take a deep dive into their social media platforms to make sure they’re the right fit. You should select someone who represents the voice and image of your brand, and promotes the same values you do. The last thing you want to do is destroy your brand’s reputation because you chose the wrong influencer to work with.
Social Media Contests and Giveaways
Let’s be real – everyone loves free stuff. Some people even make separate Instagram accounts just for entering contests and giveaways.
You don’t have to go overboard with your contest to generate buzz. Offer one of your products for free or a unique experience (within your budget, of course), partner with another brand, or simply just give away a gift card.
Hosting a social media contest or giveaway is a great way to expand your reach, get more engagement, and boost your image overall. With a like and share contest, every person who enters shares your brand on their page, giving you more awareness without the extra effort. Additionally, if someone who has never heard of your brand before tries your product through a free giveaway and loves it, you now have a new convert who is very likely to recommend your product to their family, friends, and social circle.
Here are a few tips to effectively launch a social media giveaway:
- Don’t make the entry requirements too complicated if your prize is simple. Just a simple like and comment setup will suffice. If you’re offering something big, like a vacation, then you can ask for more effort in your entries.
- Choose the right timeline. You want your contest to have enough time to circulate, but if you leave it running too long, people will begin to forget about it and you’ll lose momentum. A week is usually a great length of time, but if your prize is bigger, you can let it run a little longer than that.
- Make sure you read the contest rules for your chosen platforms before you launch your contest, as well as any local laws. For example, Facebook doesn’t allow you to ask users to share your contest post, whereas Instagram does.
Decluttering Your Collection of Social Media Platforms
If you’ve been realizing lately that putting your business on every single social media platform in existence is a lot of extra work for minimal reward, you’re already on top of one of 2021’s big digital marketing trends. Instead of focusing on being present everywhere, more companies are choosing to concentrate more efforts on a few select platforms where their target audience is most active.
It’s all about who you cater to and your ideal target customer. Your small home-based soap making company that caters to holistic-loving millennials doesn’t really need to have its own LinkedIn account. Likewise, your respite care company that caters to Gen Xers who need to care for their elderly parents doesn’t need a TikTok account.
Here’s a quick demographic cheat sheet for you to reference when determining which social media platforms would work best for your digital marketing strategy (all metrics recorded by SproutSocial and Smart Insights):
- Facebook: Popular with people ages 13-64, but slowly losing audiences in the younger age brackets.
- Twitter: Popular with people ages 18 to 30, but less users overall than other platforms.
- Instagram: Popular with people ages 13 to 49, but a rising number of people in the 50-55 bracket are starting to become more prominent.
- SnapChat: Popular with younger generations ages 15 to 25, and a smaller number of people ages 26 to 35.
- TikTok: Primarily used by people ages 16 to 24.
- Reddit: Popular with users age 18 to 29 (mostly male), with a smaller number of users in the 30-49 age bracket.
- Pinterest: Popular with users age 18 to 49 (mostly female).
- YouTube: Popular with virtually all age groups, ages 13 to 64 (as well as young children under the supervision of their parents on YouTube Kids).
The Rise of Chatbots
Chatbots have been one of the newer digital marketing trends that have become a digital standard on social media and on websites. In a world where you can automate so many things, why not use an innovative customer service tool that can help boost user experience at the same time?
If you run an e-commerce business, you know very well that sales and conversions come in at any time of the day, especially if you cater to a global audience. Websites don’t have business hours, and they don’t exactly close just because your staff has clocked out for the day. But that doesn’t mean your potential customers won’t have questions in the middle of the night. Audiences these days have short attention spans and they want answers immediately, even if you aren’t around to answer inquiries.
You can implement a chatbot on your website and program it to automate answers to popular or frequently asked questions. Facebook also allows you to do this in Messenger. If users have a more specific question, you can have the chatbot escalate the conversation in an email or contact form and let your customers know a representative will reply when your team is back online. This way, they’ve still had a positive and helpful interaction with your brand.
Personalization in Your Content
Personalization is a very effective tool to use in your digital marketing strategy. Customers have a much more positive interaction with your brand when they feel like they’re getting a customized experience. Personalization is also important to establish a connection with your audience and let them know you genuinely care about them.
Here are a few ways you can incorporate personalization into your digital marketing strategy:
- Greet customers by name when they log in to their account on your website. For example, when you log in to MailChimp, you’re greeted with a screen that says, “Welcome, [Your Name].”
- Personalize the greeting in your email campaigns. “Dear [Name]” has a much more intimate feel.
- Set up your e-commerce website to recommend similar products to the items they have either browsed or added to their shopping cart.
- Allow customization options wherever possible.
- Give customers the option to create Favourites lists and Wish Lists.
- Use location-based data to show customers relevant items within their area.
Work With a Reliable Team to Help You Put These Digital Marketing Trends to Work
If you have an idea of what you’d like to do but don’t really know how to work it into your digital marketing strategy, it’s time to turn to the professionals for help.
At The Write Direction, we can do much more than just write. We have a well-rounded, passionate team who loves all things digital marketing and knows exactly what it takes to bring your business to new levels. From social media writing services to advertising and copywriting, we can help you put together a strategy geared towards evolving your company and growing your bottom line.
Get in touch with us now to learn more about what we can do for you.