7 essential digital techniques all marketers should master

Whether you are a seasoned pro or a newbie just getting your start, digital technology is a large part of your day. Here are some essential lessons all pros should learn.

Committing to specific digital tactics can be difficult for marketers.

There are so many different approaches that it can be tempting to continually swipe left in search of something better.

Every digital marketer who wants to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their efforts should learn to love these seven key tactics:

1. Fast-loading mobile content

While search engines have been coy in the past about what they wanted, this year they’ve been transparent about one SEO approach that’s sure to work: fast-loading mobile content.

Google has openly stated that it’s going to roll out changes to its algorithm in 2018 that incorporate mobile page speed as a ranking signal.

There are nuances to this move—the “Speed Update” initially only impacts a small number of queries—but the message is clear: Consumers are shifting to mobile, and they demand pages that load quickly. Search engines are going to give them what they want, and marketers should follow suit or risk losing rank and traffic.

2. Online review management

Digital marketers are often wary of online reviews, and understandably so. Positive online feedback and favorable ratings can be the wind beneath your wings, while negative ones can come in like a wrecking ball.

Despite this ambivalence, it’s become essential for every brand to monitor and manage its online reviews.

Customers across all verticals increasingly look at reviews—and trust them. Some 97 percent of consumers say they check the online reviews of local businesses and 67 percent of B2B buyers say they check vendor reviews.

Audiences are going to utilize reviews and ratings whether you want them to or not, so you’re better off being engaged than pretending it’s not happening.

3. Data and privacy protection

For too long, digital marketers have taken personal data for granted, enjoying the benefits without securing it properly or thinking too much about privacy.

That’s going to change.

In May, Europe’s far-reaching GDPR regulations go into effect, creating strict boundaries around what companies can do with people’s personal information with heavy fines for non-compliance.

While the regulations won’t directly affect most U.S. businesses, they’re a clear sign that many consumers are unhappy with how their data is being treated by firms. Rather than waiting for this frustration to rise to the surface, be proactive and give your brand’s privacy policies and data protection approaches some attention.

4. Online chatbots

Online chatbots may not sound like the sexiest use of artificial intelligence, but they’re currently among the most mature and compelling uses of the technology.

Some 15 percent of consumers say they’ve already encountered chatbots and that number is expected to jump significantly over the next few years.

What’s driving this adoption? Consumers say they like chatbots for a number of reasons, including their constant accessibility, fast response times and ability to quickly answer questions.

The benefits for brands are impressive, too. Chatbots enable continuous customer service, marketing engagement and sales promotion without maintaining a huge staff. That combination of big scale and small cost is why every brand should think about embracing chatbots this year.

5. Voice-driven interactions

Talking has always been the foundation of human communication; it’s increasingly also how people interact with their devices.

Nearly every smartphone has a voice-activated virtual assistant (such as Siri) built in and the number of voice-assisted devices, such as Amazon’s Echo, is expected to reach 69 million in the United States by 2019.

This trend has the potential to affect digital marketing across a wide range of areas, from how pages are optimized for search (more for natural language queries) to the way in which content is presented (audio friendly).

While the full impact of the shift is still hard to know, what’s certain is that communicators should be preparing for more voice-driven interactions.

6. Messaging platform engagement

When it comes to digital channels, marketers often ignore messaging platforms and are seduced by social networks, which get more buzz.

That’s a mistake.

Over the past few years, messaging services have been steadily growing their user bases and some now eclipse established social platforms such as Twitter in size. For example, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp each have more than 1.2 billion monthly users and WeChat has nearly 900 million.

In addition to building their user bases, these platforms have also been adding features such as sponsorship opportunities and branded accounts, making them not only robust communication tools, but also powerful advertising and customer engagement channels. Marketers should take a good look at the full range of opportunities on these platforms; they may be surprised at what they’re missing.

7. Branded video pieces

Many marketers have a difficult relationship with video. While in their hearts they know the medium has its advantages, they also have their doubts about the cost and time required to create something great.

They should stick with it.

A recent study of the content preferences of different generations found that consumers of every age find video to be the most memorable format, and more than half of consumers age 54 and younger want to see more videos from brands.

In other words, consumers like video content from brands, remember it, and want to see more of it. Though branded video requires a larger investment, it can also have a larger payoff.

All of these approaches require hard work to execute correctly. That effort may not feel worth it initially, but ultimately you may find yourself falling in love with each of these tactics.

Michael Del Gigante is the founder of MDG Advertising, a full-service advertising agency with a leading reputation for developing effective branding strategies. A version of this article originally appeared on the MDG blog.

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