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5 digital trends you need to embrace

5 digital trends you need to embrace Kent Lewis

Earlier this year, I was asked to present at Portland's EO Experience, featuring subject matter experts on various entrepreneurial topics. Specifically, I was tasked with covering trends in the world of digital marketing. After a bit of introspection and research, I arrived at five digital marketing trends no marketer can afford to ignore across media platforms, tools, and strategies, including social media, video, search engines, mobile, and marketing automation. In the following article, I'll outline key strategies and tools across these five digital marketing trends that will help you win in the great game of marketing.

5 digital trends you need to embrace

Evangelizing your brand via social media marketing

Now that a majority of organizations, large and small, have started using social media, it's time to rethink its potential for driving business forward. Specifically, I'm challenging companies to revisit how they engage on social media, especially if they currently outsource social activities. The current thinking regarding how your business should interact with constituents via social media is already becoming outdated. The old mode of "one person, one voice" does not offer the depth and breadth of a multi-faceted approach which involves all employees.

Instead of hiring unproven college "talent" for the social media marketing manager role (who commonly lack appropriate communication skills, industry knowledge, or insights into the corporate culture) or a "seasoned" social media professional (who cost dearly and may bring other issues to the table), consider a different approach. I recommend turning the social role upside down, focusing on integrating social media throughout your organization, driven by a social media evangelist. In the evangelist model, the role is that of chief brand officer/CMO/editor-in-chief/HR director all wrapped into one. Instead of being the single voice for the company, the evangelist manages the overall voice of the company, as created by employees at all levels.

For those of you open to bringing this new role on board, I've put together a social media evangelist job description. In short, the evangelist develops and drives overall strategy, but takes more of a managerial and mentoring role with employees. The evangelist develops a certification program to ensure employees are properly trained across platforms and tools, and maintains accountability for measurement of overall effectiveness and evolving industry trends. Regardless of the details, consider evolving or adopting the social media evangelist role at your company sooner than later. For additional background, read "Why You Should Fire Your Social Media Marketing Manager".

Maximizing your media via video marketing and YouTube

Based on my experience talking with dozens of companies each month, I've noticed one alarming trend: a significant lag in the digital video department. Many brands are fully engaged with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but few have embraced the power of video and YouTube specifically. For starters, video provides the ultimate storytelling medium; if a picture is worth a thousand words, then how many words is a 30-second video at 30 frames per second worth? Furthermore, video offers greater retention and up to five times greater recall than the written word.

Video is also one of the most efficient forms of media. An HD video offers four powerful media form factors to marketers: video, audio (podcast), text (transcript), and still images. Each of these form factors can be edited, optimized, syndicated, and promoted across a variety of platforms, including YouTube, iTunes, a website or blog, and Pinterest or Flickr. Online video ads outperform other online ad formats. According to eMarketer, U.S. online video advertising spending will grow 52.1 percent to $2.16 billion in 2011, before reaching $7.11 billion in 2015.

In terms of social media platforms for video, YouTube is the 800 pound gorilla and the second most popular search engine by volume. A few YouTube stats: 60 hours of video are uploaded every minute, over 4 billion videos are viewed per day, U.S. consumers exposed to a YouTube homepage ad are 437 percent more likely to engage in a key brand activity on the same day than those unexposed, and 70 percent of YouTube traffic comes from outside the U.S. As such, you cannot afford not to create your own channel. To be truly effective, a YouTube channel should contain videos for all four stages of the sales cycle: awareness, interest, intent, and purchase. For more insights, read "The ultimate guide to video marketing on YouTube."

Penguin-proofing your search engine optimization efforts

Over the past two years, Google has spent a good deal of effort cleaning up its search results with updates to its algorithm. Known as Panda and Penguin respectively, the updates were meant to actively target low-quality and spam websites. Unfortunately, many credible websites were caught in the crossfire, and some companies have lost significant traffic and revenue as a result. In this section, I'll outline best practices for determining if your website has been penalized and how to get back into Google's good graces. Spoiler alert: The best place to start is Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

A bit of background is in order. Over the past two years, Google has made a series of updates to its algorithm, collectively known as Panda and Penguin. The Panda update was designed to reward high-quality sites and penalize low-quality sites. According to Google, the Penguin "change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google's existing quality guidelines" including cloaking, keyword-stuffing, aggressive exact match anchor text and domains, doorway pages, duplicate content, and creation of poor-quality content to secure inbound links. Both updates were targeting spam, not over-optimization, yet Penguin has impacted about 3.1 percent of queries (compared to Panda 1.0's 12 percent).

Most business owners felt the impact of penalization immediately, but it is important to confirm that your decline in traffic and revenue is due to the algorithm updates. Start by checking your analytics and map traffic drops against the timeline of known algorithm updates. If you find a correlation, the next step is to conduct an audit of your on-site and off-site optimization elements to ensure you're not guilty of any of the "worst" practices. The most common transgressions include duplicate content, poor-quality content, and suspect inbound links (typically secured by a low-rent SEO firm or junior in-house team member). To solve the problems, once identified, simply reverse or "de-optimize" the elements and resubmit to Google once you have 100 percent confidence the website is clean.

Mobilizing your marketing

Marketers have scrambled the past year or two in order to find a solution to the "mobile challenge." After years of hypothesis, mobile is finally upon us, and there are a variety of elements to consider when developing a mobile marketing strategy. Before you get started, however, conduct the necessary research up front to minimize your investment and maximize your ROI. Don't forget to develop KPIs, embed necessary analytics, and start small with limited testing before committing significant resources. Now let's touch on three key mobile strategies: mobile-friendly websites, mobile ads, and SMS and email messaging.

As with any effective online marketing efforts, I believe your website should be the primary focus. The easiest and most cost-effective approach to developing a mobile-friendly "responsive" website design, with small screens as a key consideration factor, is by using CSS and HTML5 as the backbone. The site should render nearly as well on a five-inch phone screen as a 21-inch monitor, if designed correctly. The alternative approach would be to build your corporate website on a mobile-friendly CMS platform -- one that automatically generates a mobile version (think WordPress). If mobile is core to your business strategy, the logical (albeit expensive) approach is to create a dedicated mobile website (m.companyname.com) with unique content and features your mobile audience will need and appreciate. Regardless of approach, the website should be designed for small screens with properly-sized images and text as well as "thumb-friendly" navigation.

Although mobile advertising is in its infancy, it is growing quickly. The good news is that you can get started relatively quickly and easily with mobile advertising campaigns. For those of you with existing Google AdWords accounts, adding mobile is as easy as clicking a button. Beyond expanding your text and display ads to mobile searches, you can incorporate mobile-friendly capabilities like dedicated landing pages, click-to-call, and call tracking (via Google Voice) to measure effectiveness of mobile marketing efforts. In terms of SMS messaging, think of it as an affordable communication platform and an opportunity to increase the depth and breadth of your marketing database. Since most mobile users prefer email over SMS (due primarily to associated fees), ensure your email marketing platform is mobile-friendly. For more insights, read "Mobilizing Your Mobile Marketing Strategy."

Automating your marketing

In the wild world of marketing, the last mile is the most critical and often the most overlooked. Global brands will spend millions on traditional advertising and related marketing infrastructure, but spend little or nothing on making a smooth handoff to sales. Marketing automation is a relatively new term and industry that bridges sales and marketing disciplines. In short, marketing automation platforms help nurture and qualify marketing leads, typically a grey area that gets missed in organizational charts.

Why is marketing automation a business-critical discipline? Here are just a few reasons:

  • 79 percent of marketing leads never convert into sales

  • 65 percent of B2B marketers have not established lead nurturing

  • 50 percent of leads are qualified but not yet ready to buy

  • 25 percent of leads are legitimate and should advance to sales

Now that I have your attention, let's talk about the features and benefits of implementing a marketing automation platform. For starters, a marketing automation platform helps you develop and analyze marketing campaigns and understand your prospects and customers. While the core functionality focuses on automating marketing campaign development, management, and reporting, these platforms also offer critical lead management capabilities, including lead scoring and nurturing. With marketing automation, the key responsibilities of a field sales team are being replaced by a platform.

Essentially, the marketing automation platform sits between (often plugging into) a lead database platform (like Salesforce) and your email marketing platform or CRM, yet offers rules and logic allowing you to increase the efficiency of your sales team, while getting more mileage from your marketing efforts. There are a variety of vendors currently in the marketplace, including Act-on, Eloqua, LeadFormix, Marketo, Pardot, and Silverpop. I encourage you to evaluate each platform and determine which one is the best fit based on your industry, sales, marketing objectives, organizational structure, and technology infrastructure.

To be a competitive marketer, it is essential to stay ahead of the curve. Embracing the five digital strategies outlined above will keep you in the game, if not ahead. I encourage you to dig deeper into each of the five trends, building your own plan of attack. Game on.

Kent Lewis is president of Anvil Media.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Telecommunications industry" image and "Silhouette of happy couple" image via Shutterstock.

With a background in integrated marketing, Lewis left a public relations agency in 1996 to start his career in search engine marketing. Since then, he’s helped grow businesses by connecting his clients with their constituents via the...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: David Pinto

2012, September 27

It's quite hard for a small Company to have such a figure (i.e. an evangelist). Usually they consider a Social Media Manager as well as a Customer Care or PR Manager. Now, the question is: what's the right profile for a Social Media Manager?