By ?Kelly Ehlers, President of Ideas That Evoke

It’s funny to imagine our lives 10 years ago -- especially when it comes to digital marketing. Pop culture was marked by Jersey Shore and the new Apple device: the iPad. In my career, I had just founded my digitally native marketing agency with a single employee. In the decade since, I’ve watched my company develop directly alongside the social media channels we work on.

As we enter 2020, I’m reflecting on all that digital marketing has become. The number of curveballs we’ve been thrown is countless, but I’ve observed three key overarching themes in the last decade of digital marketing.

The fight to be seen and heard heats up. 

As we entered 2010, marketers realized the power of digital advertising, sending us into the battle to be seen and heard in an oversaturated market. To minimize the guesswork, a few updates were popularized, including hashtags and cross-post keyword search. Two implications of these features were the rise of branded campaigns and SEO practices, now givens for digital advertising strategies.

However, by the time brands learned one Facebook algorithm, an update served us a new one. 2016 marked a huge shift for the platform, with Facebook’s “Newsfeed Value” system giving the power to the people and sending brands to the backseat. As a proposed solution to the volume of content on the site, this update prioritized what was “most relevant” to users in the form of friends’ and family’s posts.

Then in 2018, just as brands were adjusting, Mark Zuckerberg hit us with another update meant to facilitate “more meaningful social interactions.” Marketers felt the consequences of decreased traffic, with native posts receiving favor over ads. Brands pivoted to increase visibility by establishing a culture that revolved around creative storytelling, influencer marketing and, of course, audience engagement.

Trendy content prevails.

Encouraging said engagement comes in many different forms -- from KPIs to the community. However, as social continued introducing new features, brands were expected to take full advantage of developing technologies. While marketers have always made adjustments based on what’s current and popular, the surplus of features launched on Facebook and Instagram forced us to pick up the pace if we hoped to stay current.

Now, visual content is the standard, with expectations growing consistently over time. The power of video launched the development of a number of features. In 2016, Instagram launched Stories. Combined with Facebook Live in 2017 and IGTV in 2018, there became no excuse for brands to rely on static content. Plus, as Instagram recently announced Reels to keep up with a millennial favorite, TikTok, there’s no sign of video fading.

Beyond asking what a post should deliver, brands also began considering how they should deliver it. New technology expanded social capabilities in ways we only thought possible in movies -- I’m talking robots! In the last 10 years, we saw product tags make posts shoppable, as well as image searching and AR technology become increasingly common for brands.

Whether companies integrate these features on their own or turn to influencers -- another defined aspect of the marketing industry within the last 10 years -- consumers have come to expect that the pages they follow keep up with constantly evolving technology.

Transparency becomes a priority.

Recalling the last decade of social media would be incomplete without referencing the largest scandal the digital marketing industry has seen: the 2018 Cambridge Analytica case. This landmark event sparked conversations around brand practices in informing consumers that created lasting effects on our digital environment.

After the story launched, brands began damage control. Relationships to audiences were now strained, trust broken and practices brought into question. Brands had to virtually reconstruct connections to consumers -- and Facebook had to do the same. While brands worked to rebuild consumer trust, Facebook attempted to win back its users by shifting the priority back to user experience. New data-use restrictions were rolled out, requiring brands to receive audience permission for data use and prohibiting data sharing to third parties.

Even through this social media disaster, brands survived. Brands got real with their audiences and rebuilt trust through honesty. Authenticity and honesty became guiding values, resulting in a more conscious consumer and a recentralizing of customer experience.

The last 10 years were nothing short of an amazing growth opportunity for brands and marketers. We took the skills we learned throughout the decade to continue engaging our audiences, developing interesting content and being honest and open about how we were redesigning our practices.

I can’t imagine the innovation that we’ll see by 2030. However, I’m eager to take advantage of all the future holds for the digital marketing sphere.

?Kelly Ehlers is the president of Ideas That Evoke, a social media and PR agency, the 24th Fastest Growing Agency in 2016, Inc Magazine.