You’ve seen the ads on Facebook. The promos on Instagram. The brands on Twitter. Digital marketing is everywhere. And it’s always evolving. As businesses seek to gain advantage, it means that the digital marketing industry is constantly coming up with new ways to engage audiences.
In our Work Beyond 2020 series – which has looked at everything from agriculture, business and communication to education, healthcare and information technology – we ask Charles Sturt University (CSU) expert academics where their industry is heading, and how future professionals can maximise their career potential.
We sat down with Dr Michael Mehmet, lecturer in marketing at CSU, to discuss what the future holds for the digital marketing world – and what individuals need to do to thrive in it.
What are some of the current trends in the digital marketing space?
“Marketing is changing rapidly, and it is quite difficult to know what the next development will be, and to make accurate predictions. However, there are two very significant – and linked – things that I have noticed looking at the digital space.
- The growth in importance of generating engagement within your community
- The growth in video content
“The way Google and other platform algorithms are working now is that the higher the level of engagement you have, the higher rankings you get and the greater visibility you get.
“In the last three or four years, entertainment has not been enough of an attention grabber, people want content that is meaningful to them. For a while, marketing, and in particular digital marketing, had a heavy focus on ‘return on engagement’, where the core component of strategy was to get likes and views so your analytics looked good. More recently, however, that has taken a bit more of a back seat and marketing is getting back to creating meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships, which includes profitability.
“And video is a great way to do that. Video content that teaches you something and then offers a funnel to move you through to a sale is really popular at the moment. It must be stated, however, people want a taster for free, they want to be able to take something with them, something they can use instantly.”
So how do you make those deep connections with your audience?
“While automation and systematisation of marketing is increasing, the human value mustn’t be forgotten, especially in digital marketing. How we relate to one another doesn’t just happen through an algorithm. We have emotions, we connect. And through emotions we can create connections that are meaningful.
“How do you produce something that people haven’t seen or heard before that sparks something in them and that makes them want to hear more from you? If it’s, say, a How-To video, how are you going to go about creating one that works for your community? It’s about simultaneously having a contextual understanding of the market you are working in, but also wanting to push the boundaries a little bit. People do want something different that speaks to them.
“I’ve worked with and researched AI systems to try and understand human interactions and communication. One thing that machine-learning tools seem to struggle with is analysing video. Humans communicate using irony, satire and so on, which can be expressed in tone of voice or expression. Machine-learning tools just don’t understand that.
“In saying that, data and technology certainly have an important role to play in defining and honing your audience. You need to understand their likes and dislikes and future potential for sales. The ability to segment audiences in real-time provides huge advantages. It makes marketing and communications activities more relevant to consumers and customers.
“Big data is a phrase that is often overused or inaccurately used, but having more customer intelligence, and leveraging that intelligence to define niche segments and then delivering content and products for them is key. As a result, marketing needs to be integrated into other departments in the organisation. This ensures the full advantage of new insights is incorporated into practice. We only need to look to Amazon and other online retailers to see the power and success that comes from knowing your audience and interacting with them in a manner that meets their needs.
So the audience really is in the driver’s seat in digital marketing?
“That’s right; data doesn’t only ‘create’ customers, but it also allows customers to create industry. The theory of co-creation emphasises the importance of listening to those that are affected by your service and products. Gaining insights from peoples lived experience is fundamental. Your biggest critic is your best asset. The things is, once people are aware that you listening and then act on their feedback, they become advocates. This ensures your success and helps you be resilient.
How can digital marketing professionals thrive in the future?
“Because the cost of a lot of tech is coming down, there are a lot of packages that people in industry can use themselves. So for marketers, it’s about positioning yourself, and identifying what you can add as value to a company. Give clients something that they can’t easily do themselves.
“In terms of that value, the key things we teach at CSU are to be able to think strategically across channels and to enhance your creativity. Creativity is one of the things that machines can’t do well – and that humans do particularly well. That’s because we understand context and abstract thinking. So while technology will drive a lot of stuff, creative thinking is where the benefit of being human comes to the fore in marketing.
“Over the next few years there are three big trends I think we’ll see that will impact upon someone’s ability to forge a career in this space.
- Meeting client expectations – this includes being adaptive to change, seeing beyond what they want to what they need and deliver.
- Professionalism – how and when you communicate with clients. Industry works are a frantic pace, we need to help students streamline thinking, and assist in effective communication.
- Creativity – to stand out we need to think differently. To see the world in a manner that speaks to people and stand out from a very cluttered environment.
“We have a great source of creative talent in Australia. These are all linked. Students coming through in the next few years need to be professional in their liaison with clients to stand out and get their creative ideas out there in a crowded marketplace.”
So what’s next in the future of marketing?
“Companies and brands need to be socially aware. It is going to become much more important for companies and brands to be socially aware, in terms of their impact on the environment and society. People already ask hard questions, such as ‘How are you helping?’ and ‘Why are you even in existence?’ about companies, and are making purchase decisions based on these issues. More and more, particularly for the next generation of consumers, that’s at the forefront of their minds.”
Make your mark in digital marketing
You can also upskill and study a marketing specialisation through CSU’s single subject study program. This program gives you the opportunity to study a particular topic online over one session to add value to our organisation and boost your professional skill set. For instance, you could study under Dr Mehmet in:
However you want to make your mark in the dynamic field of digital marketing, CSU has got you covered.
Dr Michael Mehmet is a lecturer in marketing at CSU, specialising in digital and social media marketing. His research interests encompass social media marketing and communication, marketing semantics and sentiment analysis. In 2017 Dr Mehmet won the Australia and New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference (ANZMAC) Emerging Marketing Educator of the Year award.