If your company isn’t thinking digital first when it comes to marketing, the time to hesitate is over. 

Your audience wants you to be digitally savvy, because they most likely are, too. And capturing their attention requires keeping up with new trends and a consistent, knowledgeable approach overall. 

And no, you can’t “fake it till you make it” on this one. Here’s how to be the real deal:

Own and Expand Your Expertise

The first step to being digitally savvy is to stop pretending you aren’t advertising — it isn't a dirty word anymore. 

In fact, according to a stat shared by Revcontent, 86 percent of consumers consider online advertising the price of admission for free content.

But the same amount of consumers claim they have “banner ad blindness.” So if you’re still buying space and hoping for click-throughs on your banner ads, reconsider your strategy. While banner ads were once "the way" to go, and might still work for your business — new tactics are on the rise that may become "the way" going forward — like focusing your spend on native content tailored to your audiences’ niche.

Revcontent claims native ad spending on social media will soon reach about $2.36 billion — or nearly half of total US ad spends. It makes sense when you consider that social platforms are the filters through which consumers view pretty much everything — personal data, yes, but also news and brand info. 

And with social commerce emerging, native ad spending on social platforms becomes an even smarter move. Be sure to watch that.

Stay Open to New Things

As you race to offer relevant content to your audience, don't forget that video is huge — and going strong. With new channels available for short looping videos (Instagram), which are rumored to expand to a full minute long in the near future, and streaming (Facebook Live), as well as traditional upload options like YouTube, businesses have more options for making video part of their marketing. They just have to find the one that fits.

The point is to throw your hat into the appropriate content rings, but not lock yourself into any marketing strategy where you can’t pivot when the next big thing comes along — because something always will, and you need to be ready to adapt when it does.

Keep Your Finger on the Consumer Pulse

If you want to be first to know about that next big thing — and how consumers are responding to it — it's wise to invest in social listening software that includes consumer sentiment analysis. Forrester just released its Q1 2016 Enterprise Social Listening Report, which you can typically download for free from any of the listed vendors. It details some options to consider as you plan.

Why direct any marketing spend toward this? Digital marketing now relies on putting the focus on consumers, not your brand. To do that, you need to connect with your tribe “in the wild” and see what they're actually talking about before joining the conversation. 

Social listening platforms are becoming so advanced they can dig into slang, emojis and sarcasm to harvest insights — so you're really missing out if you're not taking advantage of this technology.

When you know what your audience is talking about and how they feel, you can respond to them authentically with campaigns that capture them immediately — whether it’s with an eerily targeted banner ad, a sponsored blog post or whatever the future holds for the digital marketing industry.

Time is Not Your Friend

You need to grab consumers’ attention immediately, because their attention spans are getting shorter every year. According to the Marketing Insider Group, your audience has an attention span of eight seconds — which is four seconds less than in 2000, and one second less than a goldfish. So your content has to be good and worth stopping for.

Understanding consumer sentiment and sorting through industry segments as they evolve will keep you ahead of digital marketing trends — or at least help you keep pace with them. And more importantly, it will help you maintain relationships with your audience. 

And that's always a savvy move, no matter what’s trending.