Think for a second about the fact that the iPad celebrated its second anniversary on 1/27/12. Just two years ago the world had no experience with a functional tablet, and certainly didn’t understand how badly they wanted one. Now the tablet has become the most quickly adopted technology of all time (Source: Bernstein Research, 10/10).
This is just one example of how the world of digital marketing has fragmented. Various new Web sites, applications and technologies have been infused into our everyday lifestyle. All of these platforms have created new places for consumers to share and consume information. For example, now a consumer can walk into a store and scan a bar code to find ratings, reviews, and the lowest price. A mom watching her favorite TV show can browse the Web from her tablet, and post her comments on that show using a tablet app like TweetDeck, which syndicates her posts across all her social media accounts, including Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
Because of all these digital touch points and the availability of information at any time, consumers are behaving differently. In just the past year, consumers are using twice as many sources of information prior to making a purchasing decision (Google ZMOT study). This is occurring not necessarily because consumers feel the need to validate their decision via many sources; it is more a function of many sources being so easily available.
Prior to the availability of social media and 3G Web access, a consumer would have had to find many magazine resources or seek many different Web sites for feedback on a particular product. Now consumers get advice by posting questions to their friends on Facebook, and finding ratings and reviews via a single Web application like ShopSavvy. All this information comes without an additional investment of time and it creates a dramatically more informed decision process.
Marketing Has Evolved to Encompass 3 Digital Channels: Paid, Owned and Earned Media
The digital marketing world for these various devices and touch points can be put into 3 distinct but interwoven buckets:
- Paid—Off-site media purchased to drive traffic or awareness across any marketing touch point or device.
- Earned —Social media-driven, consumer-created content that can exist both within and outside of your brand's site.
- Owned—Your brand's Web site and off-site brand experiences.
The relationship between paid and owned media is traditionally the most familiar for brands. The evolution of earned media and the extended brand experiences off-site have evolved to a point where they cannot be ignored. The ability for a brand to understand this space and to tap into its full potential is critical. For example, have you considered earned media’s impact on your organic rankings? Have you taken your off-line video assets and created a YouTube brand page? Have you listened to what your customers are saying about your brand and capitalized on that knowledge to improve your marketing?
As you consider social media, you must understand the implications beyond just content and messaging—namely, the control you will or won’t have over that media. The significance of social media and its infusion into all digital touch points is something that brands cannot ignore. Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are on a race against the clock to create alliances, or get ahead of their competition in the social space. Apple decided to integrate Twitter, rather than Facebook, into their operating system. Google launched Google+ and gave it prime real estate in their search results pages, boxing out Twitter and Facebook. Add in the fact that other social media sites, like Pinterest and Instagram, have grown by 55% and 30%, respectively, in December, according to comScore, and you find yourself quickly realizing the passion consumers have for social media. In a recent eMarketer survey, 70% of US marketers said they will be increasing their presence in social media.
With all of this social activity and sharing comes an explosion of available data. These data are a significant factor in the valuation of companies like Facebook and Twitter. For example, while a tweet is limited to just 140 characters, each tweet contains over 30 fields of metadata. These metadata include geolocation, number of followers, whether a user is verified, and so forth. Each one of these fields within a tweet, as well as all the information that Facebook is using to create users’ “timelines,” becomes actionable targeting data for brands. These data are being used to target display ads, and are being factored into how Web sites rank on search engines.
How Brands Should React
In order to take advantage of this social digital data opportunity, brands must focus on 3 guiding principles:
1. Focus on Being Found
With all of the new devices and platforms, brands need to be present in all areas of the Web. Whether or not a consumer is searching for a video, image, or keyword across a desktop, tablet, or smartphone, think about how you want your brand to be presented for that interaction. Don’t have a Twitter or YouTube brand page yet, or a strategy for Google+? Brands should get one. Because whether you planned for it or not, consumers are looking for your brand in these new ways, and the experience they have when they get there adds to their total brand experience. How do you want consumers to find your brand?
2. Measure the Total Impact
Now that you must be present across all of these touch points, you must understand that they don’t all have the same value to your digital media mix. This means you have to think in a new way of measurement. This doesn’t mean that these touch points don’t have to be held to driving bottom-line impact. It just may not come in the same way you are used to. If you focus on the lift in your total sales (online + offline) and monitor your consumers’ purchase paths along the way to that sale, you can better validate the existence of these placements. For example, your consumers are using smartphones while in retail locations to find information and then purchasing in-store the old-fashioned way. Because the smartphone did not close the sale, does that mean the paid search ad that led to the sale was not valuable?
3. Plan Based on the Consumer Experience
When creating content and digital experiences for consumers, think about how that content will be experienced. For example, using the same landing page for a desktop paid search ad as your mobile paid search ad is not ideal. Additionally, leveraging the same keyword research for tablets, mobile, and desktop will force you to miss the nuances in the ways consumers seek information. Brands need to write content for consumers based on the device. The way a consumer expects a brand to interact with them on Twitter and Google+ may not be the same way they expect that brand to act on the brand’s own domain. Leverage consumer segmentation, research, and listening to design the most appropriate experience.
The amount of change in the digital marketing world has only accelerated in the past year, and this year will be no different. Staying nimble through consistent testing and optimization will be critical to keep your brand on top. As you create your strategy, think about how devices, placements, and content interact. Wrap the convergence of those elements around data to create optimization insights that drive your plan. The world of digital marketing will never stop evolving, but those brands that embrace evolution as the only constant are the ones that will win.