'We should have thousands of fans on Facebook. We should be top of Google’s search rankings. While I’m at it, where is our mobile app? Everyone else has already done this, why haven’t we?'
If you haven’t said it, the odds are you’ve thought it.
Facebook is eight years old; Google is in its teenage years. The iPhone is in its fifth generation, the iPad in its third with a Mini version launched by Apple last month. These aren’t new technologies any more. So why the hesitation to invest in digital channels? Doubt about the return on investment? Fear of an open-ended commitment of time, money and resources? Uncertainty about how these technologies work and how to make an impact?
Every chief executive has grown up with print, radio and television advertising; as a consumer if not as a buyer. How they work is well-understood; from audited audience measurement to the rate-card system of charges. Knowing the right questions to ask when it comes to search or social is less familiar. So what are the essential questions?
1. What business objectives are we trying to achieve?
2. Who is the audience we want to reach and influence?
3. What are we trying to persuade them to do – what are the needs or wants we are trying to satisfy?
4. What are our competitors doing and how will our approach differ?
5. Where will we find our target audience – what channels do they use?
6. How are we going to respond to our followers – how and when do we engage and who manages that interaction?
7. How much is it going to cost to get the results we need?
Do those questions sound familiar? They should. What is new in digital marketing is the revival of old-school, tried and tested marketing techniques. Ask those questions of your marketing team and you are aligning their digital activity with business objectives rather than vague notions of engagement.
Investment in social media is most likely to fail when the first question is 'what social network should we use?' The first two steps are to decide who you want to speak to and what you want to say to them. The choice of channel should flow from those decisions. The trend is to label this approach 'content marketing'. The challenge is take a strategic view of the right messages to reach the target audience on the most relevant channel.
Where 21st century marketing techniques come into play is the interaction with the target audience. Unlike the 'push' messaging of print and broadcast advertising, social networks 'pull' in views from the audience. Brands need to be prepared to respond on an open channel to praise, criticism and customer service questions.
Make no mistake, the old-school marketing techniques are now as relevant to Google and search marketing as social media. Google changed the rules this year: the Penguin and Panda changes to its algorithm for delivering search results.
The jargon isn’t important. What is vital to understand is that Google wants to deliver relevant search results to its users. That’s how Google maintains its position as the most-used search engine. Spammy links from dodgy directories or websites that never see any traffic will not push your brand to the top of the search rankings. Relevant links from high-quality content on an authoritative website will.
The most forward-thinking brands are already preparing themselves for the next phase of likely tweaks to Google’s algorithm. All of the signals from Google are that the search giant wants to move further down this path of prioritising relevance and quality in its results. Make sure your team has the expertise to create this compelling, engaging content. In fact, make that question eight.
Paul Hill is content director at online marketing firm Further.co.uk