Influencers and Influences—2023 Marketing Trends

What can you learn from Charli D’Amelio? Don’t know who Charli is? You definitely need to keep reading.

Charli D’Amelio rules the nanosecond video clip. She is a TikTok star influencer and was the first of those ephemeral luminaries to reach 100 million followers. According to Forbes, Charli was TikTok’s highest earner in 2022.

Even Charli is baffled by her popularity. But there are several reasons why she stands out. She was at the right place (TikTok), doing the right thing (dancing), at the right time (before TikTok exploded).

When you consider 2023 marketing initiatives and the power of video, it would be wise to keep Charli in mind.

Jane Pearson, .orgSource Vice President of Marketing and Communication Services, and Amy Williams, Senior Consultant, discussed some of the reasons why on a recent Association 4.0 podcast. They also provided insights on how to keep your brand fresh and ahead of trends.

Focus on Impact

Amy framed the discussion describing themes she thinks will influence the 2023 marketing story.

“Companies are going to start tightening their budgets amid the fear of a recession,” she observed. “Marketers must evaluate how to use those dollars wisely.

“Smart spending is especially important for digital initiatives. Laser-sharpen your communications strategy to ensure promotions are reaching the intended audience. Question everything. Look at the analytics. For example, are social posts for your annual meeting positioned to drive traffic to the exhibits or sessions you need to promote?     

“The key element is to focus less on promotions and more on value. Associations reign supreme here. Most associations have a ton of content. They need to build a content strategy, not a promotional strategy. In the coming year, the focus MUST be on delivering value to members and nonmembers. If you aren’t sure what your constituents want to learn about monitor comments online, look at your website and email analytics, or distribute a short survey.

“Just five years ago, understanding whether your publications were hitting the mark might have been an educated guess. Today’s technology makes content mapping, or diagraming how, where, and why customers are interacting with your online offerings, relatively easy. And the data is priceless.

“With this knowledge associations can fine-tune their editorial calendars and develop rapport that cultivates membership value.”

Watch Trends To Build Engagement

“Customer loyalty is always important, and it’s a concept we need to be especially aware of in 2023,” Jane noted. “In the post-pandemic world, people crave connection. Associations are ideally positioned to fill that need in a way that social media and other online activities cannot.

In the post-pandemic world people crave connection.

“Right now, the excitement is around in-person events. Despite the effort and expense involved, marketers can make a compelling case for the long-term value of facilitating these connections.”

Jane added advice that you might also get from Charli. “Watch what is trending online. Meet people where they are going, not where you imagine they want to be.

“The data demonstrates that consumers are streaming video from their phones,” Jane observed. “If you don’t have a video library, the good news is, it has never been easier to build those resources. Once, making a video was a major project. You budgeted months in advance, got multiple approvals, and produced countless iterations.

“Cell phones made everyone content producers,” Amy added. “You can record podcasts or video. Twenty years ago organizations had to spend upwards of ten thousand dollars for a well-produced video. People don’t expect perfection anymore. You could almost argue that audiences want the low production video because it feels authentic,” Amy added. “Zoom has made us all more comfortable on video. Take advantage of that casual approach. Find opportunities for your volunteers to produce video content.”

If you’re looking for something slicker, there are companies that will quickly, and almost effortlessly, produce professional quality film within a moderate budget. Check out options on .orgCommunity’s Solutions Center.

Here’s another tip from Charli. Color outside the lines. Your content doesn’t need to stay in one lane. Charli has followers across multiple platforms (2.9 million on Facebook alone). You can use one 15-minute video to produce multiple social posts or even form the basis for an e-zine article or white paper. 

Cultivate Future Members

In addition to taking advice from Charli, it’s important to begin planning how to convince her, and her Gen Z cohort, that your association is an indispensable professional asset. Average messaging is not an option, the competition for this group’s hearts, minds, and resources is fierce.

Begin planning how to convince Gen Z that your association is an indispensable professional asset.

They are actively seeking meaningful roles in work and society, something associations could easily provide. If you believe they are too young for leadership in your organization, consider that Maxwell Frost, age 25, just won his race to serve in the House of Representatives in 2023.

“Smart organizations are already strategizing how to engage young influencers,” Jane advised. “At .orgCommunity’s recent Solutions Day event, Tiffany Kerns, who is Executive Director of the Country Music Association Foundation and CMA’s Vice President for Industry Relations and Philanthropy, described how the association made the decision to establish a membership category for high schoolers. Students are eligible to join at age 15.

“That initiative was grounded in extensive research that CMA conducted to better understand their audiences. The data held more than a few surprises. One example is the popularity of Venmo among Gen Z consumers. CMA learned that to attract this younger business, they also needed to accommodate the group’s purchasing habits.”

Deliver the Right Message

“Finding the right message is all about knowing your audience. I can’t stress enough the importance of research, testing, and understanding the capabilities of your tech stack, which helps you assess your analytics and make decisions.” Amy noted.

“It also highlights the need to use automation and customization to efficiently offer what your customers are looking for,” Jane added. “I see organizations that have the technology to produce personalized messaging, but they aren’t using it to capacity. This year, it will be important to get up to speed.

“Individualized messages tell your members that you are listening to them, and you understand their needs. Using tech tools, like dynamic content in emails, also helps teams to get more done with fewer resources. This is especially important now that we’re seeing understaffed marketing departments and difficulty recruiting senior employees.”

“Even with a limited budget, marketers can use the tools they have available to create impact and efficiency,” Amy advised. “A/B testing doesn’t require fancy technology. Most systems do this at a basic level. For example, you can test your messaging on email and social to make sure it’s driving engagement before updating the website copy. The right systems help teams work effectively.”

“Yes, especially if you pay attention to the insight the data is giving you,” Jane responded. “You need to be able to understand and interpret what you’re seeing. Then make assumptions and retest based on that information. Keep moving the needle toward your goal, even if the target is as broad as brand awareness.”  

Match Brand to Audience

“Your brand should help you achieve those goals. For many associations, the brand needs a refresh to appeal to the younger generation.”

“Social media has given Gen Z a sense of individual brand identity,” Jane added. “They are drawn to organizations that align with their values and cultural preferences. If your brand screams 1990, you won’t be attracting a younger crowd.”

“Brand updates don’t need to break the budget,” Amy noted. “Even revising simple features like images, design elements, or a color palette can provide a much-needed refresh.  Tools, like Canva, make creating new visuals easier and using templates saves time and effort. Or find temporary help that is within your budget.”

Wear Your Heart on You Sleeve 

It goes without saying that your brand should reflect your mission. But culture is also a critical component of contemporary branding.

“Authenticity in marketing initiatives is important,” Jane advised. “For example, if you are launching a diversity, equity, and inclusion program, don’t bury your intentions in legalese. Demonstrate your commitment to DEI goals throughout your website and in your marketing initiatives. Now more than ever, consumers want to know who they are dealing with. Putting your values front and center augments your brand and makes it powerful.”

Up Your Game

I was only able to cover a fraction of Jane and Amy’s conversation in this article. To up your 2023 marketing game, listen to their entire Association 4.0 podcast here.

And don’t dismiss the advice from Charli. You might even scroll through a few of her posts. With millions of followers, she must be doing something—no lots of things—right.

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