Digital Marketing Trends and Strategies for Startups in 2022

A Chat with Robin Nichols, 360Learning.com’s US Content Lead

Are you still writing 2021 when filling out forms?

You know the rule: once February hits, the grace period for a mistyped year is officially over. No more excuses to hang onto that 2021 mindset.

Welcome to 2022, the year when you'll nail your startup's marketing strategy because you'll be ahead of the curve.

Start by exploring the different digital marketing trends and strategies that will be popular in 2022. Should you invest in AI? Is video the way to go? What marketing channels should you be focusing on?

These are the burning questions that keep us up at night, am I right?

To find the answer, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Robin Nichols, US Content Lead from 360Learning, and delving into the future a little.

I'm excited to share her hot tips on what's expected in 2022 in digital marketing. I will collect her thoughts into sections of interest and add some extra research material for you to explore.

Let's get started!

Why Startups Should Focus on Value Over Volume

If you are a startup, it's easy to get distracted by the noise of digital marketing.

There are so many channels promising results and new trends popping up all over the place that it is quite overwhelming.

Robin Nichols recommends staying grounded and always talking to your customers first to find out about their preferences.

Let's see what that looks like in practice.

1. Don’t spread yourself too thin

There are about 101 social media channels in existence (no, not the actual number, but I'm too afraid to look it up). 

The user volume on the most-used social platforms is astounding.

On top of that? You probably feel that different marketing gurus are urging you to use a different one every week.

Source: Digital 2022 Global Overview Report

Then you get pulled in yet another direction when you read on your competitor, ABC startup’s blog, that they had a “1,000% success” by using TikTok.

What do you do? You start spreading yourself too thin, trying to post on all channels, and then feeling frustrated because nothing happens.

Being on ALL the social media channels is like shouting into the void. You might as well not be there at all.

Instead, do this to keep your sanity and your marketing strategy on track. 

Pick a couple that your target market is actually using, and focus on creating valuable content for those channels. This means taking the time to ask your audience what they care about and where they're the most active.

You could do this through: 

  • An email survey
  • A website survey
  • Social media posts
  • Other forums or groups
  • Your own forums or groups

Focusing on a select few channels will help you come up with better quality content that your users will love and appreciate.

2. Use a mix of organic and paid strategies

SEO and paid ads are like the Yin and Yang of digital marketing. They’re not opposites, but two sides of a coin.

You can't have one without the other if you want to get your startup off the ground and make it visible in front of your target audience.

If done properly, SEO brings results over time as people find your startup when looking for a solution to their problem.

Paid ads are more of an investment that brings in immediate results and propels you up the ranks of search engines faster. 

The way you can bring the most out of your paid ads is by doing regular tests to find your best performers.

Robin Nichols says, “SEO takes a while to get up and running and to return traffic. In the 

meantime, you can refine your paid ads to boost demand generation. Using both strategies, you will find a balance that will snowball into a strong, growing online presence.” 

Pro-tip: partnering up can be an organic approach, too. Find someone to collaborate with in your niche, and create a content or marketing exchange. You promote their stuff, they promote yours – it's a win-win!

Now to the juicy stuff!

In this next section, I collected the best insights as shared by Robin Nichols, on the trends that will be gaining traction in digital marketing in 2022.

Ready to take a glimpse?

1. The growth of video content

Video is not a new trend; however, it's still one of the hottest tactics around.

It’s expected that 82% of the global internet traffic will come from video streaming and downloads in 2022.

On the other hand, startups often have very little of two things: money and time. So, the question is, is it worthwhile for you to invest your resources in video marketing?

Robin Nichols warns to be cautious.

“Before you launch into a whole video strategy, ask yourself, are you really able to track your ROI? Establish what you're trying to achieve. Is it for brand awareness? Is it about driving traffic? Lead gen? Upselling to customers? Be clear about what you want to achieve, then measure your ROI.”

Measuring the ROI of video marketing can vary. Here are some practical tips:

  • Review the basic analytics of YouTube or Facebook videos
  • Use a tool like Wistia to track video performance
  • Create a custom landing page for your videos and track conversions
  • Use custom URLs in your videos and cross-reference sign-ups

The most important metrics to track include views, replays, likes, shares, comments, traffic, click-through rates, and direct conversions. 

Finally, always keep in mind that video marketing should be about adding value to your audience—keep self-promo on the down-low.

2. Consumers want human brands

Brand authenticity is key in the digital age. 86% of consumers say that authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support.

In a world where anyone can be a publisher, it's more important than ever for startups to focus on building relationships by humanizing their brands.

Robin Nichols adds to this.

“The public is demanding to know more nowadays. What does this startup stand for? What are their values? Who are the people behind the company? It's the perfect avenue to creating a human brand.”

How can YOU go about it?

There are a few things you can do.

  • Develop a tone of voice that's friendly, approachable, and engaging
  • Get 1-3 members of your leadership to be active on social media with their own content
  • Spend time on the “About Us” page of your website and make it compelling, such as adding team photos and an engaging story
  • Don't be afraid to talk about your startup's past hardships and failures
  • Showcase your employees' talents and skills, such as through Instagram takeovers

For example, Guillaume Moubeche of Lemlist is super vocal about his successes and failures in his LinkedIn posts.

Source: LinkedIn

…and fans are here for it!

If you're a B2B business, LinkedIn is an amazing way to connect with potential leads. In fact, it's our CEO's favorite platform to use.

“This platform allows our business to connect with specific users based on their industry, title, and location,” Michael says. “For a B2B business, it’s much easier than trying to find these individuals elsewhere.”

From an interview with Upcity

Making your brand human will help you connect with customers on a deeper level, establishing trust that can lead to conversations, and, more importantly, conversions.

3. The growing role of AI and AR

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) are rapidly making advances in the marketing world. The question is not whether you should implement them in your marketing strategy, but how much.

Here are some examples of how AI can aid your marketing tactics:

  • Provide targeted ad content
  • List product recommendations in ecommerce stores
  • Personalize shopping experiences
  • Scale-up administrative tasks with automation
  • Perform content writing via AI tools
  • Keep in touch with users via chatbots

AR is also making strides, and can be used in multiple ways:

  • Enhancing online shopping experiences
  • Augmenting marketing campaigns (e.g., Snapchat filters)
  • Building interactive environments (e.g., Ikea's AR app)

The IKEA Place app lets you virtually place true-to-scale 3D models in your very own space.

It all sounds futuristic and cool, right? Robin recommends startup leaders proceed with caution.

“There's the perception that the smarter it is, the better the AI. But I think it's a double-edged sword.”

She goes on to explain that not only can AI be just as biased as humans (i.e.: biases appearing in recruiting algorithms), but that excessive usage can cause a disconnect for end users. 

Remember when Google’s Assistant made a phone call on stage to book a haircut and the hairdresser never realized they were talking to a robot? 

Most people are still not keen on chatbots, yet, chatbots are now able to handle more than 68% of initiated chats from start to finish. This is an increase of 260% in end-to-end resolution compared to 2017 when only 20% of chats were completed without a human agent’s help.

In short, AI and AR are not going anywhere.

While the time has never been better for your startup to start experimenting with AI and AR, at the same time, make sure you know what you’re getting into in terms of the technology’s capabilities and your target audience’s receptiveness.

4. User-generated content

User-generated content can be the secret weapon in your startup's life.

What is it exactly? 

It is any form of content created by users, not by the brand. This can be anything from blog posts and tweets to photos and videos.

Here are a few ways you can use them to make your marketing funnels more exciting:

  • Testimonials and reviews on your website or Facebook page
  • Influencer marketing campaigns (e.g., TikTok challenges)
  • Content on your social media pages (e.g., even retweets, and replies)
  • Contests and giveaways (e.g., asking followers to create content about your brand)
  • New product innovations (e.g., Lego’s Fan designer program)
  • Blog reviews and guest posts

“Pay attention to brand ambassadors,” says Robin “they are the first people that will spark interest for other prospects. Why not get them involved in user-generated content and try to get a snowball effect?”

This old video comes to mind about the power of the first follower.

In short, nurture, love, and appreciate users who create content for you or advocate for you because they are potential conversion aides.

Strategies to Provide Value-Add Content

Content, content, content. It's the bread and butter of your startup's online marketing. But to make it work for you, it needs to contain a special ingredient: true value.

What is that, precisely?

It's the type of content that is helpful and interesting to your target audience. Something that they wouldn't be able to find elsewhere.

At the same time, it’s 2022. It's hard to come up with new angles or even content topics.

However, not impossible!

Let's explore how.

1. Go back to the basics

Robin recommends going back to the basics, not only for content but for your business as a whole.

The reason why you're in business is because you have something to offer that other startups don't.

What's your angle? Revisit your value proposition and build something unique upon that in your content.

Let's say you sell clothes online. The classic way would be to write blog posts about fashion trends, or how to put together an outfit.

But what if you wrote about the environmental impact of the clothing industry? Or how to choose sustainable materials? If you have a green-conscious line, this would be a great take.

In-depth, unique topics are valuable to your audience, and they might give you a competitive edge over others in your niche.

2. Stay grounded and talk to your ICPs

Gut feelings are great, but when it comes to marketing, let your ICP-based strategy take the lead.

Your ICPs or Ideal Client Personas are the people you want to attract and sell to. They are similar to regular marketing personas but more detailed, sales-approved, and sometimes even based on real-life prospects or customers.

Start by talking to them and getting to know them better.

What are their pain points? What keeps them up at night? What do they wish they could find more of online?

A framework to create your ICP profile, inspired by Gartner.

Their answers are the type of information that is gold for your content strategy and a great idea generator for new topics.

3. Identify their preferred platforms

The good news is that you don't need to be everywhere at once. 

Your ICPs have their preferences. Identify which channels they're using the most and put your focus there. Use a survey, ask around, or run a poll in an online community.

Whatever your results may be — don't put all your eggs in one basket! Start by mastering their favorite platform and then cross-post your updates from there to keep the other channels active, too.

Jump to the next step to make sure you do cross-posting right.

4. Tailor the content to fit the right channels

What works on Reddit has a slim chance of working on LinkedIn.

(Imagine that.)

One mistake that many marketers make is that they share the same content with the same promo message on all channels. Sharing a blog post's link on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook with the same two-sentence copy is not enough.

You need to tailor your messages to the right channels.

Let's say you have a blog post you want to promote.

  1. Share the link on your Facebook page with an engaging promo message
  2. Write up a personal commentary about it for LinkedIn (add the link to the comments)
  3. Create a carousel out of the takeaways and share on Instagram
  4. Start a knowledge series about the topic on Twitter (add the link in the first or last tweet)

Posting to pages is pretty straightforward.

But what about communities?

Firstly, they’re not for everyone. Yet, a lot of startups try to squeeze a community into their already packed marketing strategy.

Here's what Robin has to say about it.

“If a community is something you're considering doing, ask yourself a few questions first. Do you have somebody on staff that can moderate that community? A lot of startups think to themselves, ‘Okay, we'll just invite a bunch of people and that's all we have to do. And there's going to talk amongst themselves and have great things to say about us and be really happy’. But in fact, you need somebody to moderate and to uptake the community if you want to see real results.”

So, as long as you have a dedicated employee handling your community, you'll be able to utilize it for some smart self-promotion, as well as for passive lead cultivation.

Divi is a great example of a Facebook community done well. 

The Top KPIs to Measure Your Success

We have already touched on the importance of humanizing your brand. In that vein, your KPIs this year should be all about your brand's perception. 

Here are some numbers to track.

Brand engagement KPIs

Brand engagement is a measure of how much your audience interacts with your brand. Sure, you can include vanity metrics like  “likes,” or shares, but the real gold is in the bigger picture.

Start tracking instead:

  • Engagement rate per channel (all likes, comments, clicks together)
  • Subscription rate (email or to a service)
  • Churn (percentage of people who unsubscribe each month/year)

Brand awareness KPIs

Do people know about your brand? Is there growth in your recognition? Track that with these handy tactics and KPIs:

  • Name recognition or recall test (you can run a Brand Lift Test on your Facebook ads platform)
  • Branded keyword traffic (find in Google Search Console)
  • Organic traffic (check your website's analytics platform for a full report)
  • Traffic sources breakdown (in Google Analytics)

Pipeline growth

Laser-sharp targeting is the backbone of MQLs (marketing-qualified leads) and SQLs (sales-qualified leads). These two elements could be the key to your startup's future revenue. 

Start measuring them to ensure that you're on the right track.

MQLs are leads that have been identified as being a good prospect for your business based on your marketing efforts. A true MQL is a lead that's ready to be handed to sales.

For example, an interested lead, whom your marketing team cold contacted through email, is an MQL who might be ready for a DEMO call with someone from the sales department.

Similarly, SQLs are leads that are ready for conversion as they have previously been approved by both marketing and sales.

Now, let’s track them.

First, ensure to have a complete UTM strategy or a solid plan to understand where your leads are coming from.

Next, your efforts can be tracked for success by the following metrics:

  • Total number of leads (in your CRM)
  • Number of MQLs or SQLs per channel (Google Analytics can help you out here)
  • Conversion rate of leads to MQLs/SQLs (%)
  • Cost per MQL/SQL ($)
  • Revenue

360Learning’s Winning Strategy

360learning.com is the LMS for Collaborative Learning. They enable companies to upskill from within by turning their experts into champions for employee, customer, and partner growth. 

Robin Nichols leads 360Learning's US content efforts and shared another cool initiative they launched not too long ago. To say they reimagined content is an understatement.

Imagine getting onboarded to a company as a new employee.

Sounds mundane, right? Accounts to set up, papers to sign, coworkers to meet.

360Learning wanted to do something different. They thought to themselves: what if, instead of having to go through a 15-page Company Mission document, we showed you the whole thing through the eyes of another recent hire?

So, they filmed a newly hired employee's onboarding as a docu-series.

Think of the concept as The Office meets Reality TV meets your company's HR department.

Relatable? Check. Entertaining? Check. Out of the box idea? Heck yes!

“They filmed our new hire over a series of weeks from her very first day to her evaluations to her interactions with the teams. And then, as fate would have it COVID hit. So they integrated that storyline into it. And it was something that really did work well for us in terms of branding and brand awareness and even employer branding.”

See the full docu-series here

So far, it is a hit with employees and Robin says it helped the bottom line of their brand awareness efforts, too—so much so that they even launched a spinoff!

This experimental, video-based project is a great example of how startups can gain exposure by not thinking about marketing linearly.

Which Marketing Trend Will Your Startup Hop on in 2022?

Multiple marketing trends are emerging for this year. You can expect 2022 to be the year of creativity and brand authenticity for startups.

Keep ahead of the trends by measuring the right KPIs and by being open to new ideas. It's all about experimentation, trial, and error.

Don't forget to consider using video content as a tool to create a memorable experience for your audience. Multiple channels, topics, and formats are at your disposal, from TikTok to YouTube to Instagram and beyond.

As long as you know your audience, their pain points, and how they consume content, you will be on the right track.

And if you need a little help, get your startup registered on 360Learning.com for some collaborative training or reach out to us at Mediaberry for a chat about link building or other marketing banter. 

Beatrice is the Head of Content and Operations at MediaBerry. She helps brands fulfill their vision through words by helping produce sparkling content pieces that convert. When she isn’t busy strategizing, you’ll find her working on her next novel.

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