The folks over at Garden Answer are a good example of social media influencers who are producing a lot of garden-related video content.

Many green industry companies are just beginning to dip their toes into the waters of digital marketing. It is always tough to keep up with the new technology and trends, and creating fresh content for the digital world — as well as maintaining a live presence — is a lot of real work. Targeting the right message and the right people is always the most important piece of the puzzle.

Digital marketing encompasses a broad sphere of activities that include elements like having a modern and useful website, maintaining direct email communications with your customers, creating relevant content on your website and other media channels, converting website visitors into customers, developing apps, and having an organic presence on social media to drive traffic to your business. It can also mean paid advertising on digital platforms such as social media channels or partner websites, as well as online customer service activities.

If you’re currently evaluating your digital marketing strategy, or looking to create one from scratch, it’s always best to start with an online brand audit to see how you are, or aren’t, currently represented online. If you are producing digital content for customers, or engaging online with customers in a customer service capacity, how is it working… or not working?

While the nature of social media channels such as Facebook is a moving target, and we don’t know exactly how they will evolve or what might replace them, it doesn’t mean you can take a back seat to engaging your customers with social media. To get in front of the right customers online, you must be where they are. Many of them are still firmly embedded in Facebook, as well as turning more heavily to Instagram for both inspiration and commerce. And, despite recent social media privacy concerns, businesses continue to put more money toward paid advertising on channels such as Facebook.

When it comes to digital customer service, social messaging is seeing a big boom. Use of social messaging platforms within social platforms such as Facebook is surging; users expect, and prefer, to be able to message businesses directly for customer support. Texting is, of course, an increasingly preferred method of customer communication. If you’re not currently accessible to customers in this way, it’s time to reevaluate the ways in which customers can directly reach you.

When it comes to content trends, mobile-viewed video still reigns supreme and continues to gain traction. Whether it’s video hosted on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, billions of videos are viewed daily on each platform. Billions. If you aren’t doing any other type of digital marketing, you should at least consider experimenting with video. It doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be relevant to your target customer. Your customers don’t just want to see your plants, they want to see how you grow them, and who grows them.

Following video, the popularity of “stories” is also on the rise. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and YouTube all have story formats now, which allow users to post small snippets of video that disappear after a short period of time. This can create a sense of urgency for viewers to watch your story, because it won’t be viewable forever.

If you just don’t feel you have a good enough grasp on developing your own content for digital distribution, consider working with social media influencers. These are people who have garnered a large following online over different media channels, and who share a target audience with you. Their followers look to them for advice and endorsements. If you can find the right social media influencer to partner with, you can take advantage of their existing presence to promote your brand.

The folks over at Garden Answer are a good example of social media influencers who are producing lots of garden-related video content, and who are contracted by several green industry brands to feature their products. If you want to see what kind of videos are doing well, be sure to check them out on YouTube.

No matter what type of digital marketing or advertising you employ, targeting the right customers and understanding their language is the key to successful sales. Never let the media get ahead of the message. Throwing out content on Facebook or YouTube for the sake of getting it out there could hurt you more than help you if you haven’t gotten to know your audience and what they value most about your product or services.

Un-targeted marketing pieces won’t always land the way you intended. Customers will eat you alive online if you aren’t authentic in your messaging (somehow, I managed to write this column without my special pink “lady pen” from Bic). Pay attention to and take lessons from digital marketing wins and fails from other brands in other markets. I’ve noticed in the age of #metoo, many brands focused on selling to women are leaning on the concept of what I call “purchasing your empowerment” with their digital media to sell goods. Thanks, Special K, but I’m well-aware that as a human, I eat — I don’t need to buy your lady cereal to feel like an empowered woman.

Ultimately, authenticity is the game when it comes to good digital marketing — or any marketing. Use your digital platforms to get to know your customer better, and to allow them to get to know you, to make the most meaningful connections.

Leslie (CPH) owns Halleck Horticultural, LLC, through which she provides horticultural consulting, business and marketing strategy, product development and branding, and content creation for green industry companies. lesliehalleck.com