Don’t Neglect the Digital Marketing Basics

A recent report from Pew Research is a good reminder that brands should not forget the importance of email and search in consumer communications.


According to the study, 92% of internet users in the United States use search engines and send email. The number using social networking services? 65%.

  • 96% of those ages 18 through 29 use search engines.
  • 90% of those making under $30,000/year use search engines; that’s not substantially less than the 98% usage rate seen amongst those making $75,000/year and up.
  • 94% of internet users in the 18-29 category use email while 87% of those in the 65+ group use email.

All told, well over half of U.S. internet users (59%) use search engines on a daily basis, and an even higher percentage (61%) use email daily.

Working with Agencies: Developing Apps and Sites

Many brand managers work with agency partners to develop online consumer experiences: web sites, Facebook applications, and other “landing pages” to which online and offline advertising is directed. For consumer packaged goods brands, the online experience typically doesn’t include an e-commerce function; CPG brands are usually trying to engage the consumer with interesting content that provides value to the consumer. For those folks who might be new to the process, this outline will help you establish a good project timeline and cost estimate with your agency partners .

1. The Brief. Whether the brief is specifically for the online consumer experience, or a brief for an integrated promotion, the brand manager must provide clear objectives and expectations to the agency team. It’s the agency’s responsibility to come up with ideas, but as the brand manager, you probably already have thoughts on what you are expecting the consumer to do or to experience. Make those expectations clear in your brief. If there are specific functions that must be included, or if you have identified specific KPIs or success measures, include those specifications. Be sure to specify the timing and depth of reporting you expect from the agency. I’ve written a blog post about briefs with more thoughts on effective briefs.

2. Initial Proposals. The agency will respond to your brief with initial approaches to the challenge you have given them. At this point, you should not expect to see how the site or app is going to “look” – what you are seeking to understand is the overall concept, and how the consumer will engage with the content. The agency might propose a video series, a mechanic that encourages user-generated content, an offer or contest, a game. They may propose to build a Facebook application, a mobile or web site, or all three. How well do their proposals respond to your brief? How will your target consumer react – would YOU do whatever actions the agency is suggesting the consumer take? How will the ideas integrate with other consumer marketing activity – advertising, promotional activity, public relations, social and email relationship programs?

3. Site Map and Wireframes. Once you have agreed with the agency on the concept and approach, their next step is to map out the consumer’s experience on the site. You will want to see the proposed site map, to help you understand how a consumer will navigate through the site or application. You also want to see wireframes at this point: representations of the page layouts. Where will copy and images be on the page? How will visitors navigate through the content, and where are the navigations buttons? Where will links to other brand content (such as the brand’s Facebook page or other web site) be placed? Has the agency provided a place for all mandatory content? Have they planned for social sharing? Have they given consumers an opportunity to opt-in for future email or social communication from the brand?

4. Creative Look and Feel. Concurrent with the site map, the agency will develop a few options for the look and feel of the site. You shouldn’t expect a “working” version yet – it is more cost-effective for you and the agency to agree on copy, images and the site layout before they begin to write code. The creative elements should be consistent with the look and feel of your offline marketing materials such as advertising or point-of-purchase materials. (If you are running digital ads as part of the campaign, you will want to see those concepts at the same time as you are reviewing creative concepts for the application or web site, to ensure consistent consumer experience.) If the site or application includes a lot of copy, you may want to request a separate copy deck for easier review, particularly if several others will need to provide input. Make sure you really think it through at this stage: this is your last chance to make changes to the consumer experience before actual site development, and changes after this point will be much more costly.

5. Review, testing, approval. Once the agency has developed the site, they will provide a testing link that will simulate the consumer experience.  It’s an important step, so take time to go through the site as you would expect a consumer to do. For large projects, this step should also include usability testing with consumers; they will identify issues that nobody on the project team has considered. While you are doing this, your agency should be doing their own testing of the site, making sure that all the links work, that the experience works with multiple browsers and operating systems, and that it tracks engagement and  saves data in accordance with specifications outlined in the brief.

6. Launch! You may want to launch the site a day or two before the traffic drivers begin. This will allow the agency to test again, this time in the live production environment. Closely monitor site performance and social traffic during the first days to identify any unexpected issues or opportunities.

7. Measure and optimize. Your brief outlined the objectives for the consumer experience, and the reports that you are expecting to receive from your agency partner. They will be monitoring consumer engagement based on the criteria you established together, and will be able to identify opportunities for improving the consumer’s experience. Changes to the site post-launch will cost money, so you will need to balance the cost against potential benefits to the consumer experience during the life of the experience. If the site or application is intended to remain active for many months, remember that the coding may have to be refreshed as operating systems and platforms change over time.

Social Marketing for Non-Profits – Part 3: Growing the Community

In the first two parts of this series, we talked about how a non-profit can get started with Social Marketing and how to develop content. In this installment, let’s talk about how to build the community: increasing the number of people who participate by liking, following or subscribing to your online community.

1. Get the word out to the people that already know you! It may seem obvious, but I’m always surprised by the number of mailers, flyers, and posters I see that don’t mention the organization’s social presence. If you have a megaphoneFacebook page, Twitter account, blog, website, or other digital presence, create a standard block of content for every “offline” communication that the organization creates. This “block of content” should include the URL for each of the organization’s digital presence, and should be incorporated into the organization’s letterhead, postal mailings, email newsletters, event posters, information flyers, and any other communciations that are created.

2. Follow your friends and “relatives”. Search for the social presence (Facebook, Twitter, Google +, etc.) of existing friends of the organization and invite them to connect with your social presence. Be on the lookout for other non-profits that share common objectives and consider inviting them to connect. Within Facebook, you can “like” the pages of other organizations – do that wherever to makes sense.

3. Participate in like-minded online communities. Seek out the digital presence of like-minded organizations and engage in the dialog happening on their pages. Share your organization’s point of view on something they posted. Add a photo or idea to their discussion board. But be careful to be genuine in your comments; you should seek to be a member of their community, and you are not participating simply to attract others to your own page. You are participating because you share values and objectives. Once folks in other forums trust you and begin to understand your point of view, they may take the initiative to learn more about your organization.

4. Advertise. Facebook advertising can be very narrowly targeted, you only pay for the ad if someone clicks on it, and you can establish a weekly budget to keep costs in control. Facebook advertising can be a very cost efficient way to build the number of people that know about your organization. Try different combinations of title, words and images to see which ones work best in attacting new friends.

By building the number of people that are connected to your organization’s social presence, you can quickly get the word out about events and volunteer opportunities, and have the opportunity to amplify your voice as others share the information with others. You can do it!

Digital Advertising: Looking Beyond Reach and Frequency

A recent study by Casale Media highlighted the importance of looking beyond reach and frequency when placing online advertising. If the objective of your media placement is to generate clicks, three other elements that are critically important to the success of your ads are:

1. Where is the ad located? Ads that are “above the fold” (meaning that a site visitor doesn’t need to scroll down to see the ad) are 7 times more likely to generate a click or action.

2. How many times does a person see your ad? This study supports the commonly held belief that a person needs to see an ad several times before they respond to it. In this study, ads that were seen 5 or more times were 12 to 14% more likely to generate a response compared to ads seen 4 times or fewer. Unfortunately, the study did not seek to identify the number of repetitions at which these results begin to diminish, so does not provide clear guidance on where to impose a frequency cap.

3. When do they see the ad? People are significantly more likely to respond to the first or second ad they see during their browsing session, compared to ads delivered after they have been on the site for a few minutes.

It is important to note that “clicks” are not always the objective of an advertising campaign. But it is probably safe to conclude that these findings can be important to consider for campaigns that are seeking to build a brand image or deliver video content as well. Details of this study are available here:

Social Marketing for Non-Profits – Part 2: Content

In Part 1 of Social Marketing for Non-Profits, I wrote about the first steps for using social marketing for a non-profit organization. One of the critical elements of those first steps is to develop the content that you will share with others, so let’s talk a bit more about how to develop content and what you will want to include, specifically for Facebook.

1. Create content. “Content” includes words, photos, videos, and links, created by you or created by others. On a Facebook page, the “content” is all the posts you create, plus the comments and posts that other people make to your page. The content of your page needs to reflect the objective you are seeking to accomplish, so that it will be more likely to resonate with the people to which you are already connected and the people you are hoping to add to the community. Remember: the goal is to give them content that they will want to respond to with a “like” or by sharing with others, to expand the reach of your message.

And don’t forget your “info” page in Facebook. Make sure folks have an easy way to contact you directly for more information. Include a link to your website if you have one.

2. Establish an editorial calendar. Think about the objectives you established in Part 1, and the content that you can develop that will help you achieve that objective. If your goal is to build community awareness about the activities of your organization, you will want to create photos, stories, and videos that show your organization in action. Interview volunteers. Interview the people who are being affected by the work you do. Edit everything you collect into bite-sized pieces, and create your editorial calendar. Think about your calendar as a story that you are going to tell in chapters. Use all the forms of status updates (Status, Photo, Link, Video, Poll Question) to tell your story in different ways.

3. Monitor. Schedule time every day to read comments to your posts, and to check any photo or video uploads that others have made to your page. If you see a negative comment, think twice before commenting on it or deleting it. Others on your page will often do the work for you of correcting errors or helping people see a different point of view. Being willing to hear ideas, even if they are negative or critical of the organization, helps you to establish trust with the friends of your organization. If a comment makes you angry, wait until you have had a little time to think about it before you write a response. But if someone posts offensive or lewd content, of course you will want to delete it, and consider blocking that person from your page.

4. Listen and Respond. As you read comments made by others, you will learn what interests them. Really listen – it will give you ideas about what they will be likely to share with others, and what tone of voice they are expecting from you. Re-post comments from others; publicly thank folks for sharing their comments and photos. Highlight a “friend of the week” (with their permission). Treat those who have “liked” your page as you treat your personal friends. Don’t talk like an “entity” – let your personality and passion show through your posts. Before you post, ask yourself if you would “like” or comment on the post yourself. If the answer is no, rewrite it.

As you build a library of content, you will able to use much of it over and over. Photos and videos can be gathered into albums; frequently asked questions can be gathered into one discussion page or a separate FAQ tab. So now you are ready: go tell your story!