It’s the end of the year and as a digital marketing professional my instinctual reaction is to create a list. Like a bear nomming down on some extra fish and berries, I’m packing myself full of forward-thinking trends.

So what’s in store for digital marketing in 2019? Well, let me walk you through a few:

Building Trust

Like your daily commute through Akron, social media companies have hit some potholes (Local jokes, everybody! Local jokes).

Facebook has had issues with data scandals, questionable opposition research, and that whole 2016 election thing. Twitter has had its own issues with bots, spam accounts, and not knowing how to handle harmful accounts. (You ban them, Jack! How hard could it be?!) So just like the undercarriage of your Chevy Cruze, its trust needs a rebuild. 

You’re probably asking yourself, “But why do I need to rebuild trust? I’m not Facebook or Twitter.” Well no, you’re not Facebook or Twitter, but you are using their platform and that directly affects you and your customers. 

This means brands are going to be more transparent and customer focused. (You’re going to see this as a theme throughout this article, so strap in.) It’s a concept that should be the major focus of your strategy anyway, but it seems when brands hop on social media all that flies out the window. 

There tends to be a hesitation about opening up on social media and throughout digital marketing for fear of negative feedback. If you do receive negative feedback use it as an opportunity to show your customers how you react to a problem and where you stand on certain topics. Transparency is key here.

And if you are receiving a lot of negative feedback, maybe it’s time to look inward a little.

Organizations should become transparent about their products or services, both good and bad. You have to relate to the people you are serving and those people are seeing the good and bad, so it doesn’t help to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Social media users want to see what sets you apart. What’s your personality? What does your product or service do for them that someone else’s doesn’t? How can they relate to you?

To use TRIAD as an example, we use social media to showcase our personality. There isn’t a shortage of marketing and design firms so we want to set ourselves apart. We use social media to engage with people and organizations and we strive to make people laugh because if you come into our office that’s what we’re doing among ourselves. (If you don't already go ahead and follow us on Twitter.)

Quality Over Quantity

You’ve probably been hearing this for the past forever, and there is a good reason for that. As previously mentioned, your customers should be the main focus of your marketing strategy. So blasting them with low-quality messaging at every possible moment isn’t helping. It’s not what they want and if anything it’s turning them off.

Think about the things you read or find interesting. Are they boring? Full of useless information? No real payoff? Chalk full of advertisements and calls to action? Probably not.

Customers are now looking for captivating information and intriguing storytelling. Explain to them in a creative way how your product helps them.

Yes, it’s difficult and takes more time to produce useful and engaging content. You’re not going to be able to crank out as much as you once did, but this isn’t a factory. You’re not being graded on the quantity of blogs or pieces of content you create. And if you are, you should really have a conversation with whomever is doing the grading.

Your success in social media and content marketing is based on how much you are helping your customer. This translates to higher quality content even if it means producing fewer pieces. Your customers will thank you when they stop being bombarded by garbage and finally receive that one helpful blog article.

Through the process of creating quality content, you’ll be looked upon better by search engines. They want you to cater to your customers as well. That is what their algorithms are based upon. If Google was filled with useless content no one would click any of the links they provide, and therefore Google wouldn’t make money.

Smaller Influencers

Following the “Building Trust and Quality” theme, we are seeing a change in how organizations are using influencers.

Your customers have always used friends and family to make purchasing decisions. They trust these people and take their advice seriously. 

But unlike your mom, some people have large audiences that listen to them. These people are Influencers because they… well, influence.

Influencer Marketing utilizes these social media powerhouses to sell products and services. You’re probably aware of the Kardashians, they are examples of some of the biggest influencers out there. If you’ve seen a post with "#ad" in it, congrats, you’ve been influencer marketed to. 

In 2019 brands will start pulling back from using these larger influencers and become more strategic. Influencers who have smaller audiences haven’t hit the “too popular” level yet and are generally more affordable. These Micro or Nano influencers are more trusted and are more likely to engage with their followers.

In theory, we're just returning to a time when we trust the people around us rather than the celebrity who has their own clothing line. Your customers will always trust mom though. Dad on the other hand has questionable taste, they might not trust him all the time.

So what does digital marketing in 2019 look like?

2019 will be the year we all start treating customers like human beings and also start acting like businesses are run by human beings. No more social media feeds full of product posts. No more boring content that reads like the disclaimer in a car dealer ad. Get out of your comfort zone, start having fun and produce something you’re excited about. 

If you’re excited to create it, your customer will be excited to receive it.