What are the biggest digital marketing and branding trends shaping the year ahead? How will marketers approach increasing brand awareness, attracting new customers and growing revenue in an always on digital world where the only guarantee is change?

2020 will be like nothing we have seen before in the digital landscape.

The competition is getting heavy! However, the good news is marketers are getting smarter!

They have powerful data at their fingertips to be more agile. They have influencers excited to work with them to amplify their brand, expand their reach and build new relationships. They are prepared to empower their employees as brand advocates and help them develop their personal brands.

Brave Marketers Will Win in 2020!

The most successful marketers in 2020 will be brave.

Even if they aren’t experts on everything they would like to be, they will take risks, embrace new technologies, and continually use data to optimize results.

Listen to episode 267 of the Social Zoom Factor podcast for more details on each of the below 15 digital marketing and branding trends.

1. Brands will streamline their digital presence

Building your business on rented land has never been a safe bet. However,

this hasn’t stopped lazy marketers from putting all of their digital eggs in social baskets they don’t own such as Facebook and Instagram. Many of these marketers are now regretting such decisions.

Streamlining your digital presence is critical in 2020. Your customers need to easily find you and know you are an established business.

You need a home base that is a platform that you own, not rent.

2. Brands get BRAVE with digital and social media

Brands are feeling the digital weight of competition. Old methods are not working like they did five years ago.

Even industries that in the past were slow to adopt new digital media are now experimenting with new media formats, digital platforms and technologies to break through the noise.

Power Tip: Marketers, it’s time to level up your digital game! Explore how video, podcasting, interactive content and emerging technologies can help you achieve your goals. Don’t chase shiny objects, but instead focus on what you can do with the technology to achieve your goals!

3. Brands Get More Human

Humanizing your brand is a requirement, not an option in 2020. The days of throwing corporate brochures at your website and expecting the phone to ring are gone.

You need to communicate with your audience and customers as real human beings.

Brands are investing in personal branding for their leaders and employees in addition to building out employee advocacy programs.

Employee advocacy programs arm the brand with a digital army of brand advocates who can represent the brand far better than a boring press release.

76% of people say they are more likely to trust content shared by “normal” people than content shared by brands.

4. Brands get conversational

A top goal for brands in 2020 should be to have an ongoing relationship with their audience. A continual conversation that earns trust, empowers, inspires and entertains will deliver impact and a positive return on investment (ROI).

The days of thinking you can push out one perfectly word smithed blog post a month and call it “content marketing” are over and done.

Marketers that invest true heart and effort into their content marketing will experience big wins!

5. Brands turn up the volume with influencer marketing

Brands will continue to turn up the volume, engagement and results with influencer marketing.

My digital marketing training and consulting agency, Marketing Nutz has been helping brands of all sizes maximize results with influencer marketing programs since 2010! I am thrilled to see influencer marketing becoming more main stream even for smaller businesses.

In the most simple form, influencer marketing is a partnership between brands and people with influence. Influencer marketing is a dynamic, living and breathing community where interactions, transactions and relationships ignite between content creators, brands and customers.

68.8% of brands are already leveraging influencer marketing content. Another 21.3% are planning to add it into their marketing mix.

You don’t need big bucks to tap into the power of influencer marketing. There are influencers on every platform including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram eager to work with brands for collaboration.

Micro-influencers with 10k – 50k followers have 41.7% higher engagement rates than bigger influencers with 500k – 1 million followers. This is because often times people are following “celebrities” only because they are famous. They don’t have a “heart connection” with them. Fans are less likely to take action from a celebrity. They are more likely to take action from micro-influencers who are invested in truly helping them.

Power Tip: Finding and partnering with the right influencers will deliver a high return for marketers who take the time to do the research and invest in relationships with influencers for the long term.

6. Marketers get smarter with measurement and optimization

The best marketers know that data and analytics are their best friend. Learning how to tweak, rinse and optimize your marketing campaigns, content and social programs will help you be more agile.

Learning how to quickly learn what content is working, optimize it for greater return and repeat, repeat, repeat is a recipe for success.

Data driven decisions will rule and empower them to fully embrace the best of social network curation features such as Instagram TV (IGTV.) Marketers will embrace curated content leveraging the best proven content they have.

Prepare your content for voice search. Think about how and what your target audience will search for.

  • 50% of all searches will be voice by 2020
  • 72% of people who own voice activated speakers use them in their daily routines
  • 55% of all American homes will own a smart speaker by 2020
  • Voice shopping will increase from $2 billion today to $40 billion in 2022

Voice Search Example: Did you know… our Social Zoom Factor podcast is available on Alexa. Simply ask Alexa “play Social Media Zoom Factor Podcast” and you can listen it to it within seconds.

8. Video takes a front and center stage

If you haven’t at least experimented with video to market your business, 2020 is the year you must start. 82.2% of marketers say they will increase their investment in video in 2020. 49% say they will increase their brands presence on YouTube specifically.

Even Youtube has seen a 34.36% increase in engagement from 2018 to 2019. The shift toward more dynamic content will continue.

Power Tip: If you are not comfortable with video, hire an agency or consultant to help you. You can also start with micro-content such as Instagram stories, Instagram TV, Twitter video, Tik Tok, and the list goes on.

Did you know that images are returned for 19% of search queries on Google.

Brands should already be using visuals in all aspects of marketing. It’s time to get serious with not only visually appealing social posts, videos and blog posts – but need to now look at visual search as well.

Google, Pinterest and Bing for example are all getting into the visual search game big time. Both Google and Pinterest have their own Lens search capabilities that recognizes objects and landmarks through a camera app.

Power Tip: Marketers need to make sure their images are popping to the top of these searches. An easy way to leapfrog competition!

10. Brands find their voice with podcasting

Podcasts and audio marketing present tremendous opportunities for brands to rise above the noise and reach their target customers in meaningful ways.

If you have ever thought about launching a podcast, 2020 is the year to jump on board and give it a shot.

We launched our Social Zoom Factor podcast in 2014 as a test to see if our audience would like it. We have had almost 2 million downloads to date. It has delivered high ROI and helped us maximize our investment in our entire digital platform including email marketing, content marketing, blogging and more.

11. Content becomes more interactive

Marketers should explore ways that they can interact with their audiences in meaningful and fun ways. The social networks are making it easy for us. Social networks such as Instagram and Twitter offer easy to use features for polling, voting and curation. Marketers can get really creative with campaigns that have an interactive focus from day one.

Power Tip: Start by tapping into the power of Instagram Stories using their polling, create and other features that make it super easy to make your content fun and engaging.

12. Brands get personal and create memorable experiences

Audience first marketing is a requirement, not an option in 2020.

More brands will take an audience first marketing approach to their digital presence and marketing strategies. They will dig deeper than demographics such as age, gender and income. Instead marketers will start to analyze psychographics such as beliefs, attitudes, behaviors and the WHY their audience engages the way they do.

You can’t create memorable experiences for someone you don’t know. Audience marketing means you know your customer better than your competition, period!

13. Brands embrace automation

Marketers are embracing artificial intelligence and automation to inspire, connect with and understand their customers.

Even if you are still intimidated by these technologies, you can start with baby steps. For example start by looking at your goals. A goal such as improving customer service can be better satisfied by exploring direct messaging on Twitter, Facebook Messenger or text marketing.

Power Tip: Always give your audience an easy way to opt-out. If you consistently create amazing content and conversation, they will come back for more!

14. Social media vanity metrics take a back seat to measurable results

Finally the social networks such as Instagram are getting smarter about shifting the focus to true and meaningful engagement and relevant content. I was thrilled to see Instagram recently started testing the removal of likes from public views on posts. Marketers can still see the likes on their own posts, but others won’t see them.

The days of the scammy marketers buying fake followers and using bots to fake engagement are hopefully coming to an end soon.

Power Tip: Digital marketing has and always will be a marathon, not a sprint. Embrace the journey and do what is ethically right for the best results!

15. Community still reigns and always will!

Bottom line, you can never go wrong by investing in communities and the human beings within them.

Smart marketers know how to tap into the power of the OPC – other people’s community and content.

Community and humans are the heartbeat of social media.

If you try only one thing on this list of trends, do this! You simply can’t go wrong.