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If you ever needed proof that social media and digital marketing are changing, consider this. Facebook released 40 updates in 2021. That’s 40 new features or rules that we needed to get our heads around.

It’s any wonder small businesses are confused by digital marketing — even we experts are struggling to keep up!

And while the ever-changing nature of digital platforms is a given in our world, there’s plenty of other change happening this year that we need to stay on top of. After all, it’s the businesses that are able to roll with the changes that are seven times more likely to have effective marketing campaigns than those that keep reverting to the old tried and trusted methods.

So, what’s on the agenda for the rest of 2022 that we really need to keep our eyes on?

1. Creating content is more important than ever

If there was one recommendation I would make for this year, it’s this one. You’re going to have to get used to making content. And while I know that the internet is full of content, I’m talking about stuff that is more unique to your industry, your location and your kind of target customer.

As a digital agency owner, I’m given the trust of our clients to do everything we can to reach their preferred customers. And while, in the past, we all had to rely on our own smarts and instincts when it comes to writing content, the world has changed.

We can’t just rely on our own skills anymore. We need to power of data to give us direction on what to produce, and how to produce it. Simply sitting down and brainstorming for five minutes before writing a blog isn’t enough.

Late in 2021, Facebook had 10,000,000 advertisers active on its ad platform. That’s 10 million individual businesses all telling the world about their products and services. That’s why it feels like your money isn’t going as far on Facebook as it used to. It’s crowded out there. You’re competing with businesses from all over the world who are vying for the same pool of cash you’re vying for — even if they are providing completely different products or services to you.

While these advertisers are going broad and wide to hopefully hit a customer with some interest in what they’re selling, you need to go in the opposite direction. You need to hone your target and approach as specific as you can. Targeting women from 35–55 years old isn’t going to work anymore. You need more information about who your best customers are than this. Think interests. Think about the TV shows they watch. Think about what email addresses you already have that can form custom audiences on Facebook ads.

Then when you know who they are, produce the kind of things that get attention, or are so focused on the lives they are living, that they can’t help but take notice. According to Everage, 92% of customers are now expecting a more personalised ad and shopping experience. This is why your vague product ads are doing nothing. They are all about your product and not about your customer.

2. AI is here and it’s having an impact now

I’m not talking about robots conquering the world and turning us into their worker drones. I’m talking about the kind of machine learning or AI (they are the same thing, by the way) that helps you to write better, plan better and use the world of data out there to massage your marketing campaigns to give you a better return on your investment.

The beauty of AI marketing is that it can comprehend millions of consumer data points in a split second and present the appropriate content to the appropriate individual at the appropriate moment.

According to another Everage survey, 99 per cent of marketers believe customisation has aided in better client connections, with 78 percent stating it has had a “strong” or “very strong” influence. Click-through rates on ads of above 35 per cent exceed every other statistic in the digital world according to the numbers we’re seeing.

But you can make use of AI well before the campaign by cutting down the time you’re spending writing your content, to begin with. Tools like Jarvis, Writesonic and Simple Marketing are powerful machine learning tools that will write articles, social media posts, product descriptions and much more for you.

Yes, that’s right, AI is now writing for us. And while it’s not always perfect, it has cut down the time it takes me to write content like this from 1 hour to around 20 minutes. I put in a topic, the AI grabs all the information out there about that topic and builds an outline of an article for me. The sub-topics, statistics and structure of the article is done. My job, then, is to make the article more readable for my target audience (Australian business owners) and add my own unique point of view on the topic by adding in my own observations and experiences.

Saving 40 minutes a day on writing means I now can record and present a podcast every day, a new video every day and social media posts every day. That’s a powerful efficiency machine right there.

3. Video is getting more important every day

The rise of TikTok, the continued growth of YouTube and the power of video for reach in Facebook have made this a no-brainer. Video has to be part of what you’re doing, or don’t bother doing it.

What has changed with more at-home work, lockdowns and lockouts, is that we are watching more long form videos than we used to. And a big chunk of that video consumption is with “how to” and educational videos.

Right now, the average individual spends nearly 100 minutes each day watching online content in a video format. That now makes video more valuable than text and video. Let that sink in. And then add the fact that video performs FIVE TIMES better than static content like text and photos. Yep. You read that right.

4. Conversational & Interactive Marketing

Whether it’s in a Westfield Shopping Centre or an eCommerce page on Facebook, businesses that talk to their customers more get higher conversions, more repeat customers and a tonne more recommendations and reviews.

That means answering messages, answering phone calls, responding to comments and replying to reviews. Even the bad ones. I mentioned earlier how customers now expect a personalised experience with their buying. That means now building one-to-one relationships with them.

And that doesn’t mean adding a bot to your Facebook Messenger. It means being a real customer care agent to your customers. It humanises your business and helps customers get what they need from you. Leaving customer service to a bot or an email form is no longer good enough. And if that sounds like hard work, think about it like this:

· Provide customers with what they want

· Create relevant content that helps them choose you

· Personalise your contact with customers by chatting with them

· Take the feedback from these conversations to improve what you’re doing

5. Taking the leap into using influencers

Stop thinking of influence marketing as being about naked people under Bali waterfalls spruiking slimming tea. And start thinking of influence marketing as using people with an audience you want to reach to promote your products and services.

Word of mouth is always the pot at the end of the marketing rainbow that we’re all chasing. And that is what influence marketing is. Notice I am calling “Influence Marketing” and not “Influencer Marketing.” There’s a difference here. One is about what you want access to. The other is a singular person. I want access to the influence, not the influencer.

The kind of influence I want access to is that kind that can recommend a product or service to a small circle of Mums, small business owners, or stay at home dads or soccer coaches. Get what I mean? I want access to a micro audience of people who could use what I am selling. So that means using a micro-influencer who has access to that small circle of friends and acquaintances.

The good news is that micro-influencers are cheap, accessible and thrilled that you want to work with them. So I’ll be doubling down on accessing them this year and I think you should strongly consider it too.

To sum It all up? 2022 will be characterised by many of the same things that last year was.

1. You need to create content

2. You need to start making use of AI tools

3. You need to look at doing some video

4. You need to focus on the conversations happening around your business

5. Start looking beyond Facebook and Google ads and look at influential people

Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter, a Facebook Blueprint Certified Lead Trainer, a Community Trainer with Facebook Australia, a digital advisor with Business Station, an accredited ASBAS Digital Solutions advisor and presenter, and the editor at The Small Marketer. You can watch free 1-hour webinars and grow your digital skills at Dante’s YouTube Channel.