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Recently, members of the Callis team attended an AMI (Agency Management Institute) Digital Summit. AMI is a management consulting firm that specializes in helping marketing agencies like us take their performance to the next level and keep improving.

The Digital Summit is an interactive workshop where digital teams from agencies working across the country come together to learn from each other and share strategies and best practices. This year’s summit looked a bit different as it took place remotely through Zoom, but it was an opportunity to learn about the latest digital marketing trends and emerging digital marketing tech.

We’ve put together a recap of key takeaways from the digital summit. Here are five categories of digital marketing trends that should be on your radar as you begin your planning for the coming year.

Social Media Trends

Social media continues to prove effective for increasing brand awareness and building a company’s online presence. One of the most notable strategies brands are finding success with is user-generated content. Whether it is a customer posting a quick photo of your product, or a more in-depth social media video that was specifically created to get noticed, user-generated content is gaining traction. Leveraging user-created content on social platforms provides a feeling of authenticity and relatability because it feels natural and unscripted.

If you are looking to grow your brand using more traditional strategies, consider supplementing organic content with paid advertising. A combination of organic and user-generated content, video and paid strategies such as boosted posts and videos allow brands to increase reach and engagement to build their overall presence, their following and engagement.

Creative video content is also proving effective in increasing social engagement and reach. Video continues to show a strong return on investment as it captures the attention of audiences for a longer period of time than text or photo content. Keep reading for more ways to incorporate video into your social strategy.

In addition to strategic content creation, many brands are using giveaways and promotions to increase engagement across a variety of platforms. When combined with strong organic content, giveaways and promotions encourage customers to engage with your brand. When planning, maintain an idea of exclusivity to promote engagement. No matter the tactic, social media continues to grow in relevance and effectiveness.

SEO Trends

During a time when many people are staying closer to home and doing more business online than ever, we are reminded of the importance of SEO, especially when developing a new website and content. There’s an opportunity to utilize structured data and rich snippets when building content. Structured data and schema markup provide search engines with additional information about page content, giving it more meaning and making it easier to index. Rich snippets, also referred to as rich results, then appear at the top of search results and stand out from other listings, leading to stronger click-through rates, better search results and ultimately more website traffic.

A specific trend with structured data is FAQ schema, meaning websites contain a section of frequently asked questions and answers about your product or service. Having this information strategically built into website content allows search engines to more easily process information and provide those answers in search results, improving your click-through rate and potentially overall search rankings.

No matter the industry or size of your website, quality content remains king, and for good reason. Well-structured content that is backed by keyword research and developed with SEO in mind continues to perform strongly. Search engines and web users both appreciate information that is relevant.

COVID-19 Impact

It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many changes in all aspects of life. One thing that is changing significantly is the way that reviews and online citations are being managed. While it was once common practice to request reviews immediately and frequently, the review solicitation process is changing. Consumers’ buying habits and financial situations are different and their buying experiences may not be the same. While generating positive reviews continues to be important, take advantage of the opportunity when it arises and feels natural and avoid asking for reviews simply for the sake of asking.

COVID-19 has also led to changes in local listings such as Google My Business (GMB). GMB has adapted to the pandemic by allowing businesses to communicate temporary hours of operation and changes related to COVID-19, such as a restaurant only being open for carry-out and delivery or a store closing an hour earlier than usual. These changes allow businesses to quickly communicate changes with their customers and provide updates when they become available, improving relationships between businesses and customers through transparency and convenience.

Another trend resulting from COVID-19 is the increase in live video streaming, specifically on social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Live videos continue to increase engagement and reach, building brand awareness and credibility. Many brands and users have turned to sharing live videos of events directly on social media to replicate the immediate, in-person nature of events that aren’t able to take place. These videos provide a human connection to those watching. An additional benefit of live videos is that many followers will be notified when you go live, further increasing engagement and reach.

In addition to live streaming, full-blown virtual experiences have become the alternative for some events that were set to take place in person. In addition to Zoom meetings and conferences in place of in-person events, brands have the opportunity to create in-depth virtual events, complete with invitations, themes, specialized websites and technology and more.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to be a large focus in the marketing and advertising industries, and for good reason. It is advancing, being used behind the scenes in many major platforms and is expected to be used in more advanced areas in the future.

One area that AI is being utilized in is paid advertising. For example, Google Ads allows users to use automated bid strategies, such as maximize clicks. The system then uses machine learning algorithms to automate bidding for ad campaigns, delivering strong return on investments. Google Ads also allows users to set up responsive ads, meaning you can provide initial content such as headlines and descriptions and the system will develop the best performing ads in real-time based on previous performance data.

AI is also being used in more mundane, time-consuming tasks such as reporting on campaigns and email automation. These tasks, which usually consume valuable time and budget, are being completed more efficiently and automatically thanks to machine learning and AI. This means time and money saved for your company. Looking ahead, AI is expected to be used in more creative aspects, such as content creation. While these technologies are still evolving, the future of AI looks to be promising.

Keep Up With the Basics

While many new trends and technologies are emerging, it is important to remember that tried and true methods are still working. When it comes to digital trends, one of the most effective strategies is developing quality content that is relevant and valuable to your audience. Whether it is website content that is backed by keyword research or a social media post that is based off of previous performance data and proven strategy, quality content continues and will continue to perform well.

Quality content is also essential to a strong email marketing campaign, another tactic that continues to deliver strong results. However, email marketing must be strategically developed and executed. Nearly every inbox is overwhelmed with various sales offers, newsletters and other emails. In order for your email campaign to be successful, you must provide value to your audience. What are the goals of the campaign? Who are you trying to reach? What need of theirs are you meeting? When done right, email marketing delivers a strong return on investment.

Understand your audience and what they are looking for, and meet them where they are with creative new content. One person may relate to a creatively written blog post while others may engage more with a video. If you are developing high-quality, relevant and relatable content to meet the needs of your audience, you are on the right track.

This year has shown that while you may have an idea of what’s ahead, it is more important than ever to adapt to changes as they occur and continue learning to best reach your audience. That’s our approach at Callis, and why we attend conferences like the AMI Digital Summit. We enjoy sharing what we learn and we hope you find this information beneficial.