One thing you can always count on with the digital marketing landscape is that it constantly changes… and moves fast!
One prime example is the amazing rise in artificial intelligence (AI) that we’ve seen during 2023. This phenomenon will continue to evolve and impact all areas of marketing in 2024.
Marketing also changes due to consumer behavior and the external environment. While global growth is set to be modest and inflation is likely to cool, according to the OECD, consumers will still be cost-conscious. Also, most people are likely to seek out brands that show they are doing something for the good of society, and not just their bottom line.
There’s a lot to do to succeed in 2024, but if you know the trends coming down the line, it’s easier to plan, strategize, and get ahead of the competition.
In this article, we’ll explore the digital marketing trends to watch out for in 2024 as we’ve learned from some of our global experts at the Digital Marketing Institute:
It’s going to be another interesting year for social media! In 2024, social media platforms will continue to battle for consumers’ attention and they’ll need to re-examine the way success is measured.
There may also be a shift in dominance as the continuous drama with X (formerly Twitter) leaves room for new platforms like Instagram Threads and Bluesky to rise in popularity, while other networks have the potential to gain new ground for organic traffic.
Meta launched Threads in July 2023 and now claims to have 100 million monthly users, a number which will no doubt rise as it finally went live last week in the European Union. A rival and alternative to X, Threads is used primarily for sharing text updates and joining public conversations.
Expert tip: At a minimum, brands should have a presence on Threads, even if it’s just grabbing a username because user numbers will increase in 2024. Do your research. Have a look and see how other brands are using it, such as Canva, TedTalks, and Channel 4. This is the time to experiment with the platform.
“Recently there’s been a resurgence in Threads engagement,” says Alison Battisby, of Avocado Social in our webinar. “I think a lot of people are coming to establish their profiles on the platform, ready for next year. What we're seeing many brands do is have a lot of fun through conversations by asking questions or posing discussions."
Expert tip: Don’t spend too much effort on using Threads to direct traffic to a website. That's not its purpose. It’s about in-platform conversations and discussions that people can get involved in on the platform. The brands seeing success - Canva, TedTalks, and Channel 4 - are asking questions, and posing discussions. That’s what the users of Threads want right now.
In recent years, marketers have seen the engagement rate on organic social media activity decline. While there are many reasons for this – content quality, time of day, device – people may shift away from engagement to focus on retention in 2024.
“People will be reporting much more on retention rate than ever before. And with attention being the world's most valuable commodity, users are presented with more choice than ever before,” says Battisby.
To combat this, brands have been creating fantastic social media campaigns built around entertaining, educating, and informing audiences. The key is to drive engagement by being playful and creative.
Battisby believes that social media platforms are looking to enable this by testing longer-form videos – for example, TikTok will introduce 15-minute-long uploads – and focusing more on how brands not only engage their audiences but retain viewers.
Check out this viral ten-minute example from Hilton Hotels with socialite Paris Hilton.
Expert tip: TikTok has a new analytics option for Reels, where you can look at your audience retention rates, watch time, and content replay.
LinkedIn has just hit a billion members worldwide. That’s a long way from the days when it was just a place to upload your resumé and look for a job!
In 2024, Battisby expects to see a huge rise in organic engagement on LinkedIn – a rarity on social channels right now.
“People are updating their LinkedIn profiles, not just about work topics either – general life skills, advice, support, mental health issues, tips and leadership.”
Expert tip: There’s a lot of engagement happening between creators on LinkedIn. You can switch to ‘Creator Mode’ on a personal profile, which enhances your profile and gives you access to more tools. For paid media, video ads seem to be driving the most engagement on LinkedIn.
It’s no surprise that AI is being used by social media marketers to drive productivity. AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney help marketers come up with campaign concept ideas and social post ideas, and help with copy generation and text-to-image generation.
In parallel to this, social media platforms are integrating AI into their platforms. For example:
But you need to be aware that using AI has risks, including privacy and ethical violations. Consider your audience's attitudes toward AI. What do they feel about it? Do they like to see this kind of content? Or do they not like it?
“If you generate something using AI, are you going to own up to it and label it as being created by AI?” asks Battisby. “I think this will become regulation eventually.”
Expert tip: Keep an eye out for new features on each of the social platforms and watch how other brands use them to good effect.
There’s no doubt that AI has dominated headlines and spun the heads of many marketers. In 2024, we predict continued exponential growth in AI capabilities which will require businesses to embrace the technology and stay ahead of the rapidly evolving landscape.
“49% of the value of the NASDAQ and 25% of the US stock market consists of just six companies, and they're all AI companies,” says Brian Corish, founder of AI-focused consultancy Elemental Intelligence and DMI Global Champion.
So what does this mean for marketers?
There’s some confusion about what to do with AI. Because marketing departments are closest to the consumer, they can be proactive and push forward with an AI strategy. They can use the knowledge gained over the customer journey to identify the opportunities AI can bring to enhance what a business already has.
“Marketers have the opportunity to own AI because nobody owns it in companies at the moment. It's a great opportunity for marketers to say, ‘I'm going to grasp this and be the person who helped set the strategy, who decides what we're going to do and how we're going to use AI best’,” says Ken Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Digital Marketing Institute.
Corish believes the first step is to figure out what type of company you're working in, as well as the ambition for change and the resistance to that change. Then you can strategically identify and prioritize AI projects, getting any necessary buy-in from stakeholders.
When choosing an AI project, marketers need to decide whether they want to optimize processes, accelerate production, or transform the business model:
Expert tip: When choosing your approach to AI, be aware of where your company is at. For example, if 80% of tasks are browser-based, there's a good chance that a lot of those will be automated. There’s no point jumping to the transform model if you’ve not audited internal processes.
AI has been around for a long time but what’s unique about the technology is that it’s the first one that can improve by itself.
“Every previous technology needed someone to develop or deploy code or improve the product to increase capability,” says Corish. “The difference now is these AI models can increase and learn by themselves.”
Expert tip: When it comes to AI capabilities, don’t dismiss the platform’s capability based on its current maturity. Remember that the rate at which the platform is improving means that you need to revisit the tech and your AI strategy every couple of weeks or months.
There’s no denying that AI comes up trumps on the technical skill side and it is accessible to everyone. But what is it not good at?
“AI is the worst it will ever be right now,” Corish explains. “In our roles as marketers, we have to look more at our soft skills and reasoning skills because AI sucks at those things.”
It’s important to ask how we navigate an organization to get things done. That’s what’s going to be important in the next two to three years. Also, we need to look at how we co-create with AI.
“AI is not going to take your job. But someone who knows AI will. So the idea is to co-create,” concludes Corish
SEO is changing and its future looks to be more user-centric and technology-driven. In 2024, those changes could be drastic as AI and machine learning help search engines deliver results based on user intent.
So what are the SEO trends we see in 2024?
Google’s SGE is transforming the search experience with generative AI. The goal is to provide more relevant and comprehensive information to users based on questions. SGE also provides relevant links and has a conversational mode where users can follow up with more questions – in essence, have a conversation with Google.
The experience is due to be rolled out in 2024 and Lam believes these new ‘AI snapshots’ will have a huge impact on search. “From a traffic perspective, we are anticipating this could potentially decrease clickthrough rates for websites below this snapshot, which is scary for us in SEO,” says Lam.
Expert tip: Proactively monitor when you're appearing in an AI snapshot. Because once SGE fully rolls out in (probably) early 2024 and you can access the tools to start analyzing, it will be critically important to let the data tell the story.
It’s always been important to create great content, but in 2024 if you want to appear on search results, what you create needs to be ramped up. “Your success is going to be tied to whether you can create content that's much better than AI-generated content,” says Lam.
In recent months, there have been rumors about backlinks dying off. In fact, interviews with Google employees have uncovered that backlinks are not a top three ranking factor. However, Lam believes backlinks will continue to be a signal of popularity to Google, especially when it is planning to corroborate its AI snapshots with sources across the web.
Expert tip: Google is surfacing videos in high-quality imagery directly in the SGE carousel. Although the quality isn’t quite there yet, you should expect that playable videos will become a really important part of your content strategy.
Google’s EEAT (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) framework is not a ranking factor but a component of its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. While this framework has existed for a decade, this year Google added an extra E for ‘Experience’.
This is significant as AI cannot generate real-world experience like people can. This gives human content marketers an advantage and cements the importance of having experts write or inform content.
“As you develop your content strategy, think about how to weave in proof that the writer or person running your website has Expertise, first-hand Experience, Authority, and Trust, so they deserve to be listened to,” says Lam.
Expert tip: Make a checklist of all the EEAT signals that matter to your business and grid it like a scorecard. Look at what your competitors are doing to build trust and authority. Then grade yourself against all the things your competitors are doing and figure out how to improve.
Google always makes changes that affect your ability to capture people directly in the search engine results page (SERP) with clicks. Unfortunately, that's out of your control. But you can control user experience (UX).
“You can't afford to have slow page speed and poor user experience,” concludes Lam. “You want to make sure that for every user that visits your site, you are absolutely maximizing your chance at converting them.”
Expert tip: When Mozilla shaved a second or two off its load speeds, it was able to improve its conversions for Firefox by around 14%. Small tweaks to your UX and page speed, and a focus on conversion rates, can have a big payoff.
With such fierce competition for customers, paid advertising offers a way for companies to target their core audience with relevant messages. What makes the pay-per-click (PPC) model so enticing is that marketers can control their spending and stick to a budget.
Unsurprisingly, the leader in this space is Google. Worldwide revenue for Google in Q3 2023 came in at $76.7 billion, of which $59.6 billion was from Google advertising. This was a 9.5% year-on-year increase, demonstrating the appetite for paid ads.
In 2024, that growth shows no signs of slowing down but there will be developments to consider, particularly AI.
In 2024, Google is going to roll out further generative AI tools into Google Ads. While this can be helpful, we also need to be skeptical because Google Ads is, after all, a moneymaker. The danger is AI will use design engineering and create biases in things like algorithms and ad layouts.
“Systematically, Google has been reducing control and handling a lot of the activities that search marketers would have typically performed over to AI,” says Cathal Melinn, Digital Marketing Director, Commercial Analyst & Ecommerce specialist.
This use of AI will limit your control of Google Ad visibility and performance. It will also over-optimize as it cannot use context or language in the same way a human can. Here’s a great example:
So what you need to do in 2024 is to view AI as an assistant to help you in your strategy, rather than see it as the only way forward.
Expert tip: In the Google Ads interface there’s an optimization score, where you can add the display network, allow Google to write your ads, turn everything on the broad match, or remove keywords. However, bear in mind that Google Ads is designed to make you do certain things you may or may not want to do. Make sure anything you do is for your benefit.
Don’t take Google’s word for it! No matter how long you have been working in PPC or search marketing, be sure to use your own (data-backed) judgment with Google Ad campaigns.
Over the past few years, Google reps have been calling up accounts and suggesting changes to ad campaigns. But there’s an increasingly aggressive script that they follow. This can make you think you’re taking the wrong strategy or not using the right features on tools, but Melinn recommends never deciding on the spot.
“Don't make changes on the phone with your rep because they may not be the right changes, and they'll be pressing you to do that,” says Melinn. “Just say no.”
Expert tip: Check out the founder and MD of Google Partner agency Paid Search Magic, Amy Hebdon’s article ‘Are you being manipulated by Google Ads?’ for further insights.
The start of a new year is a great time to review your digital marketing strategy. It’s important to figure out what worked – and, more importantly, what didn’t.
A cohesive strategy can help you achieve your business goals, whether that’s growth or building brand awareness. However, the strategy also guides your team so they understand where to concentrate their efforts and what they are aiming for.
In 2024, a cohesive AI strategy will be a must, especially since only 15% of organizations have a clearly defined and well-understood one, according to Mesh-AI research. But what are the other priorities?
Data breaches and data misuse cost brands, and not only from a monetary perspective. Data breaches make customers lose trust and show reluctance to share personal information, and this has an impact on your engagement and data capture.
86% of Americans say data privacy is a growing concern for them, while 68% are concerned about the level of data being collected by businesses, according to KPMG research.
“You've got to decide how you want to use customer data,” says Ken Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Digital Marketing Institute. “If you can be open and honest about that with customers and explain what you're doing and why you're doing it, there's an opportunity for companies to steal a march to be very transparent.”
Expert tip: Be honest about how your customer data is being used and give customers more control over their information. Look at the value you give to customers for their data and see if it’s enough. And keep up to date on what’s happening in data privacy regulations.
According to PWC’s Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey, more than 70% of customers said that they were willing to pay more for sustainably-produced goods. This positive trend enables customers to use their purchase power to align with their social concerns, and it offers companies pricing power for a product or service that addresses these concerns.
"Sustainability is increasingly coming to prominence in people's decision-making,” says Fitzpatrick. “What does this company do in terms of sustainability? What's their strategy? Customers don't want to support a company that's doing bad things to the environment, no matter how much they want their product.”
Expert tip: Audit your product or service lifecycle to determine sustainability and focus on areas where you can improve, reach out to your customers to see what you could do better, and review your corporate social responsibility strategy.
Despite many businesses undergoing digital transformation and adopting digital technologies, there’s still a shortage of skilled digital marketing workers.
This was apparent in our research this year with CMOs, where many of them reported struggling to find the talent they needed to drive growth and change, particularly in areas focused on enhancing customer experience or improving visibility.
So what does 2024 hold for the digital marketing job market and people’s careers?
It’s been a difficult year for many employees, particularly those working for companies like Meta, Amazon, and Google. In 2023, the tech industry saw 50% more jobs lost than in 2022 – and it’s not stopping, with toy maker Hasbro and streaming giant Spotify announcing substantial layoffs in December 2023.
“It's not going to be the candidate-driven market it was last year,” says Morgan Cummins, Partner and Board Member of TalentHub. “What we're seeing is that the finance heads are getting closer to the budgets and not rehiring as quickly. I’m constantly hearing companies say, ‘We lost three people this year and we haven't replaced them.’”
What this means is that there are a lot of talented people out there looking for jobs and a budget reduction in hiring. This puts the power in the hands of employers and it’s up to candidates to stand out from the competition to land an interview.
Expert tip: Reframe your perception of networking. Be prepared to make a simple ask of someone in your network, such as “I'm a bit stuck in my career and want to move from a Marketing Director role to CMO. I'd love to learn how you did it.”
There’s always been a debate about being a generalist vs. a specialist in digital marketing. Is it better to be an all-rounder or specialize in a particular area for career development? In 2024, specialism may win out.
“It’s about identifying an area that you enjoy working on,” says Cummins. “If you're in a job, try to get more projects related to that. Or if you're out of work, just continuously learn about it.”
In tandem with nurturing a specialism, you can focus on three core areas:
Many candidates are now using generative AI tools to apply for jobs. This is resulting in more people applying for job posts and an increase in competition. Couple this with 2024 being an employers’ market, and that makes landing your dream job a bit tougher.
In addition, recruiters are using AI to find the best candidates as they sift through hundreds of resumés. But this approach is not always successful.
“There's still a lot of gremlins in that AI system and some CVs are saved as pictures so they're being filtered out,” says Cummins. “Plus you've got an overworked HR team that is starting with 900 CVs and having to get to 50.”
So the recruitment process is in flux and hyperdrive as recruiters try to find the best way to get the right candidate, while candidates are doing their best to stand out to beat out the competition in a challenging job market.
A thirst for learning not only demonstrates to an employer that you are motivated and passionate, but it also helps increase your skillset or enables you to transition into a new role.
“Every time I speak to someone who's invested in their self-development, some good has come from it. It doesn't matter if it's like an upskilling course, life arts, or learning a new language,” concludes Cummins.
Learning doesn’t need to be hard work. It can be fun and there are so many options available from learning online, to a course in a local college or an apprenticeship. It’s about picking what format suits you and your lifestyle.
Expert tip: When it comes to AI, use the platforms! Stop being just a digital marketer for a while, and use them for everything. If they're clunky and they don't work, it doesn't matter. It’s about getting experience you can talk about.
2024 is going to be an exciting and challenging year for marketers. AI is changing everything from the way consumers behave and purchase to how businesses and departments operate.
The one thing we’ve learned from talking to our experts is that marketers need to embrace AI to be effective in their jobs. Even if your role is not impacted by AI right now, it will be in the future. So start learning about the technology and start using some of the platforms. Otherwise, you risk being left behind!
Think about which trends matter to you and focus on what you can take advantage of in 2024.
If you need more insights into 2024 digital marketing trends, check out our fantastic webinar.
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