After decades of technological change, two questions remain – are you ready for what’s coming next and how are you going to make the most of it?

At the ad:tech conference in Sydney last week, one of our team mates Hannah McKnight, heard from Google, Twitter,  Huffington Post, NASA, Survey Monkey and other digital media experts on their latest observations and predictions.

Their presentations had a common thread: thanks to technology, consumers are more in control than ever before. This means that businesses need to know more about them and then deliver the best possible experience.

Hannah's take-outs from the conference:

1. Consumers are taking charge

If you use social media, and over one in four people in the world do, you’re effectively a mini news outlet. That means there are millions of mini-news outlets across the world creating their own content and distributing it. What consumers say about their experiences matters.

For example, a test by Social Soup showed that user-generated video was far more popular than a brand’s TV commercial with their target audience. The user-generated content was viewed more, shared more and ultimately created better brand recognition than the company’s own content!

2. Data is key: know your customers

Consumers may have more control, but so do businesses. Companies are now able to gather and access more data about markets than ever before. Website analytics, customer databases and social media analytics can give a very clear picture of who is interacting with a brand and who isn’t.

To communicate and market well, businesses need to do two things with this data: bring it all together to get the big picture and then drill down to an almost individual level. They need to know exactly who their customers are and what their experience is.  

Talking to customers directly, but not being over familiar, is where communications expertise is vital.

3. Build a personalised experience

With all this data available, marketing and communications are heading in a clear and logical direction: personalisation.

We know our customers and stakeholders. This means we can communicate with them in the right place, at the right time and with a more personalised message.

Personalisation means we can build strong relationships, communicating often and speaking about things that mean something specific to individuals.

The days of 360 degree marketing are gone. Pushing campaign messages through every available channel for a set period of time is not the way to build relationships. Communication in the digital age is about ongoing, real-time connections with people. Marketing is moving to an ‘always on’ mode.

4. Be person-focused

To be successful at communications and marketing as technology continues to change, we primarily need to do one thing: focus on the person.  

It’s not rocket science and looking after key relationships has always been the foundation of good public relations.  Now it’s just a more personalised version.

Most importantly: Businesses need to recognise that their customers are their best storytellers. If they know them well and give them the best possible experience, they’ll tell the good, and most powerful brand story, time and time again.