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I’ve been in the digital marketing game since the AOL days — before even Google and certainly long before Snapchat and TikTok were ever a thing. As I’ve seen the landscape change over the years, I’ve developed some pretty good foresight into where the industry is headed in the future. For the past two decades, my job has been to predict where digital marketing is headed and to get there before my competitors do.
As a digital marketing entrepreneur, you’ve always got to be looking ahead. Until 2026, the compound annual growth rate of the online marketing industry is 9%. Therefore, you’ve got to think in the long term if you want to succeed in a market that’s getting more crowded every year.
Now that 2023 is visible on the horizon, let’s go over the top industry trends that I think you’ve got to be on top of if you want to stand out in tomorrow’s digital marketing space:
GPT-4 and the rise of “smart” chatbots
When Generative Pre-Trained Transformer 3 (GPT-3) was released in 2020 by Silicon Valley-based OpenAI, its capacity to create human-like natural language shocked the world. As the most sophisticated AI language model in the world, GPT-3 is capable of writing convincing poetry, prose and dialogue using just a basic user prompt.
In 2023, we could see the long-awaited GPT-4 released. Although AI-based language processing has come a long way in recent years, there are still some hiccups. Chatbots that are powered by GPT-3 still don’t pass the Turing test, and many consumers loathe having their support queries handled by a bot.
With GPT-4 on the horizon, chatbots are about to see a quantum leap in their development. Once chatbots can produce language indistinguishable from humans — with all our emotional nuance and subtle interpretations — chatbots are going to take over. We may even see GPT-4 chatbots replace human support agents altogether. Savvy entrepreneurs will keep their eye on new chatbot developments based on GPT-4 and embrace them when the time comes.
In Dale Carnegie’s 1936 classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he wrote that a person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language. He wasn’t wrong. We naturally love to be addressed by name, as doing so is dignifying and a marker of respect.
Our marketing campaigns should reflect this tendency. Emails and SMS that don’t include your lead’s name are a major no-go. As third-party cookies are being cracked down on in 2022 and likely will continue to be in the future, it’s important to ask for your lead’s name and other identifiable information when they sign up. Cookies are slowly becoming a thing of the past, so collecting personalized user data is something you will have to do increasingly on your own.
More mobile-first visuals
Who doesn’t love stunning visual content, such as infographics, reels and informative videos? For many of us, this is how we prefer to learn, rather than through long walls of text (no, the irony here is not lost on me). I suggest ramping up your visual content production if you want to compete in 2023’s information space, and more generally, in a world with increasingly shorter attention spans — currently at about only 8.25 seconds.
Optimizing your visual content for mobile devices should always be top of mind. Desktop visual production should be an afterthought. These days, the clear majority (nearly 54%) of web traffic comes from mobile devices, and this percentage will increase in 2023. Therefore, I suggest keeping vertical, mobile-friendly visuals at the top of your content schedule.
Clips, reels and videos
While we’re on the topic of visuals, we can’t ignore the enormous influence that TikTok, YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels have had on the industry in recent years. With TikTok nearly doubling its monthly users in 2022 to almost two billion, it’s likely that its influence is only going to continue to climb in the year ahead.
Creating short, vertical video content in the 30-second to 3-minute range is ideal. Long video content has its place on YouTube, but to unlock the true viral potential of your videos, it’s best to shorten them and make them mobile-optimized. The more short vertical videos you produce, the greater the chances of going viral and having your content shared widely.
Up the interactivity
Social media marketing should remain at the center of your marketing strategy in 2023. However, our feeds are already flooded with promoted content. Instead of a simple 4×3 image post, create more interactive content that ropes your audience in with a question. For example, I recommend using the following Instagram features in your Story content:
“Ask a Question” widgets
There’s something about interacting with a brand that’s much more powerful than simply passively viewing its content. Including interactive Story content in your social media campaigns is a highly effective way to gain engagement and to keep your audience glued to your brand.
Keep the momentum rolling in 2023
As we head into the new year, let’s not squander all the progress we made in 2022. Instead, let’s keep moving forward by honing in on the digital market trends of tomorrow. Specifically, I recommend keeping a close eye on AI developments such as GPT-4, collecting more precise personalized user data, creating mobile-first content (and especially short video content) and incorporating interactive media into your content strategy.
If you can stay abreast of these trends in the coming year, you’ll be better positioned than many of your competitors. As the industry continues to balloon year over year, staying on top of these trends will become less of an option and more of a necessity if you want to stay afloat — so, what better time to start than now?