October 11, 2016

10 Must-Have Digital Marketing Skills For 2016 And Beyond

Digital marketing strategy has become the focus of most marketing strategies for a practical reason: The majority of today’s target audience — both consumers and businesses — are online and looking for information there. However, sources also reveal the challenges of digital marketing, both this year and in the future, that all marketers will have to consider if they want to be in the right position to capitalize on opportunities.

For example, Cisco reported that by 2019, there will be 3.9 billion global internet users – just over half the world’s population. They also estimated that 70% of consumer internet traffic will be online video by 2017. Forbes noted that 78% of those it surveyed said that company social media posts influence their purchase decisions. With smartphone users checking their devices up to 150 times in a day, Econsultancy concluded that 62% of the companies that created a website specifically for mobile had increased their sales.

However, there are challenges that must also be addressed: Ninety-four percent of respondents in one study said that their first impression of a website centered on design, while 40% left if a site took more than three seconds to load. Demand Metric found that 82% of consumers surveyed felt more positive about a brand after they read custom content from that brand, requiring companies to produce more content.

With these stats in mind, here are 10 essential digital marketing skills every business leader must master in order to stay ahead in an ever-changing landscape:
  1. Content marketing. Companies are still struggling with ways to create content that truly engages their audience. Those that have been able to do so have enjoyed greater success in their digital marketing strategies. Having the ability to craft this type of content is at the top of the skills list for 2016 and beyond. Using a team of skilled copywriters, I’ve been able to see a difference in engagement levels in the content we produce.
  2. Video development. With video content becoming “king” within content marketing, the ability to develop, produce and share memorable videos that reflect a company’s brand attributes is a must. These engaging videos are more likely to be shared than any other content, which makes an even more compelling argument for having skill in your repertoire. I find it important that I continue to develop my own video skills to continue benefitting from this engagement level.
  3. Web design and development. It would seem that is an easier area to be mastered, but the fact remains that there is still a skills gap that needs to be filled. The value of great web design has also increased in recent times, simply based on the need for mobile-friendly websites.
  4. Social media. Despite so many years of use, social media skills remain critical in 2016 due to the increased use by businesses and the growing number of platforms available.These will likely require a strategist to determine the best fit and channels to use. Now that there are also more ways to use social media (including surveys, quizzes, live video and more), marketers are paying closer attention to this arena.
  5. Security. As more consumers and businesses move online to conduct business and share information, security is paramount. This includes the ability to understand how data can be leaked or hacked, as well as the technical know-how to use available security technology, such as encryption and multi-factor authentication.
  6. Consumer psychology. With consumer behavior becoming a central part of digital marketing’s objective to create personalized, engaging messages and dialogue with target audiences, having the ability to understand consumer behavior and capitalize on those findings can be a significant competitive advantage.
  7. Data analytics. Data means nothing unless you know what to do with it, including how to organize the information, see patterns, and connect them to what needs to change within the digital marketing strategy. Digital analysts are now some of the most sought-after talent.
  8. Human connection. While it may sound strange to say being human is a good digital marketing skill to have, it seems as though digital marketing can easily lose touch with real human relationships. Alongside automation and technology, it’s critical to keep the human element of marketing at the forefront of everything you do, especially in relation to human behavior, problem-solving and customer service. To do this requires listening to your audience and customer base.
  9. Paid search. With more people using the internet to search for information and solutions to their problems, the need to direct them to your digital properties in a crowded space is key. However, you want to make sure you get the greatest return on investment: That’s when you could use a paid search specialist who understands the available ways that you can leverage this segment and maximize the results.
  10. Mobile marketing. Today more than ever, people are relying on their smartphones for most online communication, including social media, search, email and more. That means having those who are skilled in understanding know how to use the various tools and platforms in a mobile environment, which is much different from a desktop. This requires having a cross-section of marketing skills in addition to the experience of working within the mobile environment.
  11. If you are eager to add these digital marketing skills to your own skill set, there are many places to get help, including Google’s online digital marketing courses and Google AdWords certification, Target Internet’s online courses, and the American Marketing Association. If you’re looking to further expand your education, you can always register for some college and university courses on digital marketing to increase your know-how and thrive in a competitive environment.

Angela Ruth - Forbes
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