Why digital is driving short-term marketing

Earlier this week I read an article where one of my favourite people in marketing, Les Binet (Head of Effectiveness at Adam and Eve DDB), was discussing how digital has driven marketers to focus too much on sales-activation short-term marketing. In other words, digital marketers have been spending too much time on short-term sales-boosting activity when compared to longer-term marketing.

I think that Les has a good point (I’m sure a great relief for him!) and it is interesting to consider why that is the case.

One of the key benefits of digital marketing over traditional offline marketing is measurement. The ability to see the performance of a campaign within hours of it starting and then being able to go back into the campaign, adjust it and then see the results of those amendments within hours was mind-blowing to marketers a relatively short time ago.

Now imagine that you are the CEO of a company. When your marketing team spend their digital budget on short-term sales activation marketing you see the results directly on your bottom line. So why on earth would you want them to spend time doing anything else? If you can impact positively on the bottom line, why wouldn’t you? And this is why I think there is an increased focus on short-term marketing.

Also, brand building is notoriously difficult to measure. In contrast to short-term marketing, brand building takes time, tends to have a broader reach, engages the viewer’s emotions and in recent times is about storytelling. From the CEO’s perspective, all interesting, but what metrics are we tracking?!

The truth is that there needs to be a mix. A business which focuses purely on brand building will struggle to generate sales in the short-term and a business which focuses on sales activation marketing without a brand ends up selling a commodity. There are some great examples of how this mix is being used. John Lewis’s tear-jerking Christmas adverts are great examples of brand building as are any number of Nike’s campaigns. But both organisations will have a balance between long-term and short-term marketing which is right for their business. Les suggests 75:25 (in favour of long-term) and while every business will be in a different place, a focus on brand building helps to secure sales not just in the short term, but long into the future.

So as part of your marketing planning for 2019 (you’ve started, right?), you should not just consider the split between online and offline, social and search, print and events: you should also think how much of your time and money is spent balancing short-term sales activation and long-term brand building marketing. Your business’s future will thank you.

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Will Cambridge Analytica and #DeleteFacebook Change Social Media?

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The controversy over the use of personal data by Cambridge Analytica has dominated news over the last few days. The influence that an organisation has been able to have access to Facebook data (albeit apparently gained illicitly) was shocking – being able to influence the US Presidential race to such a degree is mind-blowing.

The shock of this has got people thinking about the future of their Facebook accounts – should they go ahead and delete?

Firstly, it should not be much of a shock to Facebook users that the level of data that they are sharing with Facebook is massive.

Facebook users are only able to see a proportion of the posts that they should see (i.e. if they saw every post from every page that they liked), so Facebook prioritises the content that they see. Every time that they like a page, comment on a post, add a like or click on a link they are sending data to Facebook: ‘I have an interest in this content’. This trend can lead to Facebook users seeing more and more similar posts which support a particular viewpoint and of course adds those Facebook users into an audience segmentation group which can be targeted by advertisers.

This is the price of free-to-use digital services. When you don’t pay for a product, you are the product and your data is your subscription fee.

Anyone who has spent some time looking at Facebook Ads Manager’s audience segmentation cannot fail to be impressed (freaked out?) by the detail with which Facebook can define an audience. So from a marketing perspective, this could be an unsettling time: people deleting their Facebook accounts in large numbers would mean that audiences are more difficult to reach. But ‘large numbers’ is a bit of a vague phrase isn’t it?

Let’s imagine that 100 million people (or the entire Facebook membership in the UK and Thailand combined) delete their accounts. Today. This would mean that monthly Facebook monthly active users would still hit the 2 billion mark at the end of April. I think that it would take a large 9-figure account exodus to really get Facebook sweating.

The abuse of personal data is not a new story, but most of the previous stories have been a result of hacking: illegal organisations illegally taking data. But

Cambridge Analytica is different: a legal organisation using individual’s data without their consent.

I hope that the Cambridge Analytica controversy may even have a positive impact in the sense that it forces people to ask themselves about the level of data that they are prepared to share and to question what they see on social media.

But will it have a long-term impact on Facebook? Probably not.

The scale of the #DeleteFacebook movement will have to be phenomenal to have an impact on Facebook. But it does mean that use of data is on people’s minds: marketers should put transparency at the centre of their data strategy or risk a backlash of their own.

What is Content Marketing?

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Content marketing is marketing which focuses on producing content and using that to communicate your message to your target audience.

Content marketing has developed as a result of two trends:

  • Consumer sophistication:
    • Every day consumers are exposed to 3,500 marketing messages per day and this has resulted in two factors:
      1. Consumers only engage with the most unique marketing
      2. They are bored of ordinary marketing!
    • This more sophisticated consumer wants to be told more than just the functional features of the product or service – they want to be engaged in a story based (sometimes loosely) around the product or service
  • Rise of social media:
    • Social media has established itself as one of the most popular communication channels with hundreds of millions of posts being made per day.
    • Organisations are keen to engage with people when they are on social media and that means that they need to post regularly. Content marketing provides material that organisations can post to their social media audiences

 

Broader Considerations

Before considering the type of content that you should use, there are some other areas that you should think about:

  • Objective: what do you want to achieve from your content marketing? If you want people to read your content and explore your website, you will approach your campaign differently than if you wanted people to get in touch with you
  • Audience: considering the needs of your audience is the key to successful content marketing. You should think about where they will be when they see it (out of the home or in front of a computer), what their needs are, do they want to be entertained, educated, informed or something else. Will they actually engage with your content?
  • Distribution: before you have created your content, you should consider where and how you are going to distribute it. Will it be on social media and if so, which networks? Will you be promoting your content to a targeted audience or distributing organically?
  • Measurement: the metrics that you use to evaluate your campaign should be based around your objective. For example if you wanted your audience to read your article, you could measure impressions (the number of times that your article has been seen), the amount of time your audience spend on your article and the number of times that your audience has been shared by your audience, e.g. on social media

 

Types of Content

There are a lot of different types of content that can be used in content marketing. Your objective and what will engage your audience best will determine which type of content will work best for you.

Blog:

  • A blog is a website where someone will write from their own personal perspective. It can include images and videos if appropriate and tend to be hosted on websites like WordPress
  • Blogs are a great way to show people things that they wouldn’t ordinary see, e.g. the day in a life of a doctor. Blogs do rely on people regularly contributing to it: you don’t want people to see that your blog hasn’t been posted on for months

Image:

  • Images are very popular on social media: indeed, there are social networks whose content is only images, e.g. Instagram, Pinterest
  • A wide range of images can be used for content marketing: high quality photos, humourous photos (where appropriate), photos with a quote, infographics, etc.
  • Your image should always be appropriate to your organisation, your content and your audience

Video:

  • Video is often the most engaging type of content. However, it is also the most time consuming and expensive content to produce
  • There are a number of different types of video content, such as live streaming video, gifs (short videos which continuously loop), tutorial, interview, etc. The one that works best will depend on your objective and your audience

Audio:

  • Audio content, such as podcasts, allow people to consume content while on the go: there are over 250k podcasts on Apple’s iTunes store
  • You can create content fairly cheaply (often the sound quality of a mobile phone app is sufficient) and can host the content onto a website such as Soundcloud and embed the audio clip on a website

Long Form Content:

  • Long-form content is written content which is over around 1,000 words in length
  • Today’s consumers tend to engage with shorter content, but there is a [place for long-form content: for example, explaining the modules of a complex clinical masters will require more than a 280 character tweet
  • Long form content can be in the form of an article, e-book, press release or a white paper

2018 Digital Marketing Trends

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It’s that time of year again when we start to finish up 2017 and turn our attention to the coming year. The rate of change in digital marketing in 2018 will increase yet again, so to help get you ahead of the curve, here are five digital marketing trends to start thinking about.

Personalised experiences:

The journey towards personalisation has been the stuff of dreams for most marketers: who wants to pay to talk to 100 people when there is only 1 person who you want to engage? But the trend has not been growing on just dreams. People’s exposure to advertising has been massive and this has had two impacts: people will only engage with different / sophisticated advertising and people are sick of advertising!
Personalisation could be a simple customised landing page (e.g. sending traffic from a Twitter campaign to a different page to traffic from a Facebook campaign) or it could be a fully personalised website experience, but if this is all new to you, 2018 should be the year you start to investigate.

Video:

This might not feel like a very insightful trend to identify as video has been an important part of digital marketing for a number of years, but video will evolve in 2018. It will develop not just a medium for content marketing, but also an advertising medium: YouTube attracts incredible amounts of traffic and engagement, but it does feel like advertising is still an opportunity for many industries. There will also be more emphasis on live streaming as Facebook seems to be prioritising live video content over video content, and video content over other types of content.

Rise of the Chatbots:

Chatbots have become part of the mainstream for at least some of the population. Ordering basic products from chatbots is relatively simple because there are only so many variables, or what-ifs, in the process. But 2018 will see chatbots move into more industries with more complex transactions. This type of instant response is fast becoming a consumer expectation, so it is well worth thinking how your organisation can utilise this software.

Unlocking ‘dark’ social:

It has long been a conspiracy that social networks are listening to your conversations and selling that information to advertisers. Let’s assume that this isn’t happening…..yet. The amount of information held on messaging apps and social networks protected by privacy is colossal. But it is protected by privacy settings and the rights and concerns of users. Social networks will need to address the balance between users and investors: how long can they resist the temptation to delve into this data?

Search evolves (yes, again):

Search is a very important traffic source for most websites. So, keeping an eye on how search is changing is probably in your interests. Voice search has been around for a couple of years now, but there are two interesting developments. Voice search through devices such as the Google app or assistants like Amazon Echo is tending to deliver longer-tail queries than text search and the number of voice searches is likely to increase in 2018. Secondly, Google revealed Google Lens in October where you can show your camera a, say, poster and Google will search for the text and images within that poster. If this gains traction, this will truly be a game-changer for search.

Twitter Has More Pressing Matters Than 280 Characters

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When Twitter announced at the end of September that it was going to trial doubling the lengths of tweets from 140 to 280 characters, the social media world seemed to go into meltdown – why would they do such a thing? The general reaction from the Twitter community was very negative because it just wouldn’t be Twitter if the tweets were longer.

Twitter is in a slightly tricky spot right now. The simplicity of the Twitter offering is part of its charm, but from a commercial perspective, investors are looking at the network and wondering where growth is going to come from. User growth is slowing down so how can they boost this and keep the stock market happy? One of their solutions is tweets that are 280 characters.

Twitter’s story is that the increase in characters will level the playing field for western languages which need more characters to express themselves than Chinese, Japanese or Korean Twitter users. They have stuck to this story admirably, but they must believe that the change will have a positive impact not only attracting users, but driving advertising revenues. As someone who has advertised a lot on Twitter, the character restrictions in adverts do make messaging tricky so they might have a point: the backlash of increasing ad characters to 280 and not organic tweet characters to 280 would likely be significant (and negative).

While I don’t think that Jack Dorsey will be reading this (if you are, give us a follow Jack), I think that there are other things that should be on the to-do list that would not only increase the user experience, but also help to that commercial challenge:

  • Fake accounts: a study earlier in the year suggested that there were as many as 48m fake Twitter accounts – this is a real turn off for advertisers and while it’s a tough one for Twitter to sort, that number needs to reduce dramatically
  • Abuse on Twitter: Twitter has taken steps towards addressing trolling and abuse, but any simple search can illustrate the scale of the problem. I am sure that this puts people off from joining Twitter
  • Remove URL from characters: it wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to add an image / media file and a URL to a tweet, these characters would be taken off your 140 limit. Images and media URLs are no longer taken off your 140 limit, but URLs still are – might encourage more corporate engagement in Twitter?
  • Edit button: probably wouldn’t get more users to join Twitter but would make life a lot more pleasant for existing users

Brevity is king on Twitter and the restriction on characters is what makes Twitter unique. If Twitter is looking to drive the user experience and commerciality, it needs to reprioritise the to-do list.

Why you don’t need a social media account

no-social-mediaSocial media is a brilliant tool for marketers – to be able to engage your audience in this way was unthinkable in the not-too-distant past. But social media is not a silver bullet; it will not solve all of your marketing problems and may actually cause some new ones.

Run through the below questions. If you answer no to any of the below questions, starting a new social media account might not be for you.

How committed are you? The first thing you will need in your social media journey is commitment. You need to commit yourself to posting daily (on some networks more than one post per day) and that is a big commitment, particularly if social media is an add-on to your already busy job. And what happens when you go on holiday, who looks after the account then? What if someone asks a question on your social media account? They will be unlikely to happily wait for an answer for two weeks while you are away.

Got something to say? When you are thinking about setting up your account, you will have something to say, maybe about a particular story or event. However, will you still have some interesting things to say in a week or a month or 6 months’ time? Seeing into the future is difficult, but be pragmatic – if you’re likely to run out of content in the short-term, don’t start an account.

Are you a patient person? Social media audiences tend not to develop quickly at least initially. Don’t forget, a new social media account starts with zero followers and getting the audience to grow can be a slow process. You need to be prepared to talk to an empty room until people start seeing you. You could promote your account, but that will cost money and doesn’t always guarantee an engaged audience. If patience isn’t a strong point, you’re in for a rough ride.

Do you know where your audience are? Some social networks are complicated to understand, others much simpler. The choice of network must not be driven by which networks you understand, but rather by where your audience is. If you are promoting to a more mature audience, Facebook may be appropriate, a younger audience may engage better on Snapchat. There are guides to all social media networks out there, get learning!

It might be that social media isn’t the channel that will meet your needs. The number of abandoned social media accounts will tell you that social is hard. But if you stick at it, have a clear plan, some great content and learn from your posts through analytics, it can be perhaps the most powerful marketing tool ever created.

Why You Shouldn’t Follow P&G’s Lead

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Over the last few weeks it has been widely reported that Procter & Gamble, who control one of the largest marketing budgets in the world, have shaved $2bn from their digital advertising, a reduction of around 20%. When you have pockets as deep as P&G and you make a bold move, people rightly listen. Does this mean that we should all be looking at our digital advertising budgets and questioning them?

Yes and no.

Yes in the sense that you should always be monitoring and challenging all spend that you are committing to: is our message right, is it reaching our audience, does it achieve our objectives, do we need to spend more or less, etc. So P&G were absolutely right to challenge that spend.

However, you shouldn’t necessarily take the step of cutting 20% from your digital budget. It might just be that you need to consider these two elements instead:

You need to use tools which maximise control:

It is impossible to spend billions of dollars and control where every cent is spent, particularly as that spend will be going through an agency. However, decent marketers enjoy having control over their message distribution.

Programmatic advertising is a fantastic addition to digital marketing and theoretically offers the ultimate in control. But you may find that where your consumers are spending their time online isn’t where you want your advert to show, e.g. in mature content on YouTube or on Mumsnet.

In this case, you need to accept that people may want to engage in this content and if you want to talk to them, you may have to be less precious about your brand and place your advert where your consumer wants to see it.

Are my objectives and measurement clear?

As someone who has been fortunate enough to manage large marketing budgets, I can confirm that the emphasis on objectives and measurement is proportionally large: when you are spending a lot of money, people want a lot of return. So, if you are spending money on digital advertising and it is not achieving your objective, you should challenge everything in the process:

  • Is my objective measurable (yep, is it SMART?)
  • Is the level of budget appropriate
  • Are we reaching the right audience
  • Are we talking to them in the right place, etc.

It might be that you will not follow P&G’s lead and reduce your marketing budget, but it is a an important reminder about the importance of clear objectives and a degree of control over your marketing activity.