I almost fell out of my Aeron chair when the May 2 issue of Business Week arrived featuring a cover story predicting that "Blogs will change your business." For a minute, I felt ashamed that UPS doesn’t have a blogging or a vlogging (blogging with video) strategy. Please, enough about blogs already.
As someone who makes his living in interactive marketing, I'm ecstatic over the flurry of effusive commentary around digital media and marketing, everything from "the vanishing mass market” and the ROI of search marketing, to new interactive television formats and podcasting. It’s positive affirmation to read forecasts such as the recent Adweek report predicting that by year's end advertising revenues generated by Yahoo! and Google will rival those revenues by the big three television networks. Interactive marketing has truly arrived.
What I love about blogs is the authenticity of voice, how they further democratize web publishing, and how they provide more relevant information through contextual links. What concerns me about blogs is the signal to noise ratio -- do we really need all these niche, special-interest blogs, or will it become increasingly difficult to find relevance amidst the seas of personal web journals (or diatribes) without much to offer the broader constituency?
What I propose for those in the digital marketing realm is to stop chasing the latest fad and concentrate on the inherent utility of the medium. Digital marketers need to get back to the fundamentals: What are the inherent qualities of digital marketing that warrant an even larger share of the overall marketing spend? Digital marketing is non-linear, interactive, targetable, measurable, and most important, user-initiated -- it puts user choice and personal preference at the forefront of the experience.
We no longer must be broadcast to by television studios, or be bound to the schedules of radio networks or newspaper companies. I can now log on and access news, music or stock quotes when I want them, receive podcasts of my choosing, pay a subscription for satellite radio to receive customized, commercial-free programming, and use TiVo to view only the programs I like (watching less TV as a result -- no mindless channel surfing).
I can log on to my favorite social networking website and commune with people who share my interests, can take photos with my mobile phone and share them instantly with far-flung family and friends who can view them online at their leisure. The adoption of a myriad of digital mobile devices offers me portability and convenience like never before, unbundling me from my desktop to access email or messaging on my own terms. Bluetooth further unbundles me from wires and Wi-Fi makes surfing as easy from Starbucks as from my house.
Besides accounting for this new era of personal empowerment we need to understand fundamental consumer trends affecting every one of us. Media consumption habits are changing and messaging clutter is the norm. The common refrain is: I get too much junk mail, too many emails, commercials I'm not interested in, and several thousand marketing messages broadcast to me in the course of my day. Therefore, I’m going to be more selective than ever before. Your message must be relevant to my needs -- do not call me, do not spam me and respect my privacy options. I'm buying TiVo and satellite radio and joining the National Do Not Call Registry. In the online advertising space, pop-up ads are the equivalent of spam because they are not user-initiated and the reason so many people use pop-up blockers, whereas ad units that invite you to "roll over to learn more" are getting more and more trial.
Furthermore, what does personal empowerment mean for today’s youth culture being raised on interactivity and multi-tasking? How many kids would choose to give up the internet over TV? Where home telephone numbers are less important, email addresses might soon become passé as IM becomes the preeminent means of real-time communication. This next generation of consumers will have grown up never having called a travel agent or never having considered a large purchase without first conducting online research. They pay their bills and manage their lives online. User choice is paramount for the always-on generation.
So what does this mean for digital marketers? It means most of us don’t need a podcasting strategy just yet but should…
1. Remember the fundamentals
Digital marketing is most powerful when it is complimentary yet unique, consistent with offline communications yet takes advantage of the direct response capabilities of the medium. From the unparalleled awareness building of TV and radio to the loyalty building capabilities of digital marketing, the entire mix is greater than the sum of the parts. Online tactics such as search marketing enable you to increase brand equity through greater association with “your keywords,” but also allow real-time research, targeting and bidding, and offer the ability to measure effectiveness and optimize on a daily basis.
2. Make it relevant
As “The Attention Economy” predicted, in the age of information overload, privacy concerns and messaging clutter, attention is what’s truly in short supply. We must target content to the individual, using available geographic, demographic and behavioral targeting technologies. Just as personalized search recalls previous searches and preferences, there will be a continued shift from mass to micro-targeting. Content tailored to the individual, delivered via the channel of their choosing, is the content most likely to be consumed.
3. Online executions must drive business value
At UPS, we may not have a blog strategy but do have a reasonably good interactive marketing plan based on conversion metrics and actionable responses. Our strategy involves brand awareness and differentiation, but more importantly, focuses on driving trial and usage of UPS.com. We want to drive registrations, online account activations, usage of UPS internet shipping, submission of lead generation forms, and consumption of case studies and white papers.
In terms of complimenting other channels, we’ll offer relevant URLs for the IVR system to push future customer self-service inquiries to the web. We use online promotions to drive personal shippers to our premier retail channel, The UPS Store. We will train the sales force to use guided selling tools, and now include vanity URLs on TV as a matter of course. We’ll create online versions of segmented newsletters with additional archiving and polling functionality, and we’ll finally investigate blogs as a way to increase the level of authenticity for several of our corporate sponsorships.
In closing, what I’d like to know is -- how do digital marketers organize for success? My single greatest complaint of otherwise compelling e-business conferences is the amount of Kool-Aid drinking and puffery over the digital revolution, with minimal information on how to actually organize your group to be successful. There’s a lot of evangelizing over moving portions of the traditional marketing budget online, but little practical information on how to build a business case. Organizational structure, methodology and business process are other topics in short supply.
I’ve got some theories around organizing around segments rather than communications disciplines but would like to hear your comments. How do we evolve integrated marketing from the superficial coordination of imagery and messaging to a more synchronized effort to move customers up the value chain or through the sales cycle?
Robert Manning is currently director, interactive communications for UPS.
Schedule a post right from your Facebook page
When you're drafting your post, click the clock button on the lower left corner. A calendar will pop up allowing you to schedule the day and time you want it published.
Know when your fans are online (the best time to post)
Facebook tracks when your fans are online and thus, the best time to post. Go to your "Page Insights" page, click on the "Posts" tab, and select the "When your fans are online" section. You will see a nifty graph of a week's worth of information on what days and times most of your fans were reachable.
Target your post to specific fans
While you are composing your post, click the target button right next to the scheduling button. Facebook allows you to target posts to a specific gender, relationship status, age, location, etc. The options are pretty mind-blowing.
Edit your posts when you make a mistake
Instead of deleting and re-posting, click the arrow on the upper right corner and click "edit." This will allow you to edit your post when you make a grammatical mistake or word something incorrectly. Nothing is more embarrassing than a brand having to delete an entire post.
Download the Facebook Pages Manager App
Manage your brand page on your smartphone and never be tied down to your desk again to do some social media management. Available at the App Store.
Target posts to specific languages
This is a great trick for reaching international customers and making them feel included. Click the target button when creating a post, scroll to "language," click "all languages," and a prompt will pop up where you can type in the specific language you'd like to post to.
Add pages to watch and track friends/competitors
Facebook now allows you track up to five other pages and keep track of "likes" right on your Admin Panel. At the bottom of the Admin Panel, click "add pages" in the "pages to watch" section.
Highlight posts you think are important
Don't want to spend the money promoting a post? Facebook allows you to highlight posts so they are front and center for your audience. Click the arrow on the upper right of the post, and scroll to highlight (next to the star).
"Bright closeup of magic twinkles" image via Shutterstock.