I keep getting invitations to be a part of one or the other online marketing conferences, seminars, discussion forums, etc. as a speaker or attendee besides being invited by management schools to talk on online marketing. The sheer scale and frequency of these opportunities is a testimony of the impact it has already made to marketing, businesses and indeed our lives. However, what we have seen so far of online marketing is just a tip of the iceberg.
With every exciting opportunity comes the challenge to make the most of it. Marketers are increasingly facing the challenge to stand out in an overcrowded (already) online market space. With brands deploying ever sophisticated tools of digital marketing and content being produced and consumed in zillions, a lot of it has become noise, thereby reducing the probability of messages being reached and consumed as desired.
Online marketing is a vast area which more often than not gets mixed up with social media. While social media marketing is one of the most visible, potent and publicly understood forms, online marketing comprises many more channels which help brands connect with consumers in the digital space. There’s search engine marketing (Google AdWords), re-marketing, affiliate marketing, influencer marketing, etc. which are equally important tools.
Thus there are multitude data points and factors that a marketer today needs to keep in mind. However some fundamental rules never change and these are the ones that are most powerful ally of a marketer trying to break the clutter.
- Powerful content: While this sounds most obvious and easiest piece to crack, in reality it’s just the opposite. Content for online consumption has to be way different than any other form. And different digital platforms need very different content. What’s true for a Facebook will not work on a Twitter, which has to be very different from content developed for blogs, etc. Hence, a comprehensive content strategy is the first step towards standing out. Content that go viral on social platforms are often snacky, fun to share, informative and novel. Most of digital channels are a two-way street, hence it’s important to maintain a ‘conversation’ style in your content. This encourages a consumer to like, respond, share and in the process build exclusive brand moments in a netizen’s life. Other key tool is to involve your users let them generate content for you. Conduct a poll. Send out an email to your subscribers asking them what their opinions are, and then construct content around the answers you get. A/B testing is a very powerful tool to gauge user response to your stimulus – keep consistently experimenting with variety of contents and keep improvising. Infuse your message with creativity and novelty. And the age-old saying – A picture is worth a thousand words – works magically online as well. The only digital twist there would be – a video is worth a million pictures. And now you can do your calculation of the equation between a video and a word.
- Segment your consumers right: In order to develop powerful, sticky content for digital consumption, one first needs to understand what consumers are looking for. The more deeply you understand your customers – their likes, dislikes, needs and desires, the better are your chances of being heard. Look at all the platforms your ideal users frequent and take note of popular discussion topics. Tools such as the Google AdWords Keyword Planner and Google Trends help brands to see how often relevant words and phrases come up. You’ll then be able to write blogs and social media posts that instantly arouse interest.
- Choose your platforms carefully: As much as there is clutter of competitive brand messaging, there are as many platforms to deliver the same. Most brands make a mistake of trying to be present everywhere and in the process end up doing justice to none. Before getting on a platform, carefully evaluate the strategic and tactical need for it, the role it will play, the content approach and the desired outcome. Many a brands dream of riding high on hashtags, to break tweet records and have that video of theirs seen by millions but achieving that is no fluke. There’s absolute method to that. And it starts with careful and detailed planning. Messaging must be contextual to the platform it is distributed from. I see lengthy messages about products and services circulated on FB, which is more of a friends and family space for casual interaction. Blogs, newsletters or LinkedIn are more suited for those. Every news need not be on Twitter.
- Take the road less travelled: On other forms of online marketing channels, SEM on Google AdWords is a widely used tool. However, there everyone’s going after the same set of keywords. Though this is frustrating, there is always opportunity for people who broaden their keyword sets. Look into related searches as well. Though Google AdWords isn’t perfect, the Google search bar can offer more insight than most people realise. Often, people think that reaching out to top influencers will lead to success. While these individuals do attract attention, their feeds are overflowing with outreach requests. How will you get through? If you can’t break through to the influencers, look at who influences the influencers. Reach out to these individuals and lessen the gap between you and your desired connection.
- Be early adopter: Again as the saying goes – The early bird catches the worm. Don’t wait for the right time. It was yesterday. Your consumers are not only online, they are increasingly becoming over exposed to your category and competition. So be there before others come. It will help in setting the rules of the game to suit you. In case you are late, make sure you make up for it with right strategy.
In summary, a social crowd is not such a negative thing; but it is certainly a challenge. It steps up how hard you need to work due to a far tighter window and higher levels of competition, but it also enables you to enjoy the perks of a massive audience. It plays a vital role in taking care of the lower end of your marketing funnel.
Do the basics right and you’ll get a chance to play.
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