In the absence of an alphabet or formal numerical system, it is doubtful that early man was fully aware that a picture is worth a thousand words. However, the troglodytes who painted animals on the walls of the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in prehistoric France were onto something which echoes today in the modern world: people are and have always been very visual.
In 2015 the most exciting developments and opportunities in digital marketing are likely to be inextricably linked to visuals, albeit ones with a lot more sass than those of the cave dwellers of yore.
First, let’s consider the visual nature of the Internet today and the opportunities this presents for marketers. Zlata Kozhemyako, business development director at Interlike NZ, says she is seeing more digital marketing activations nationwide with real time social media.
“There’s a high level of customer collaboration which is driven by sophisticated technology which is increasingly able to be taken into more remote places as mobile connectivity improves,” she says.
Like a lot of digital services, at least part of that sophisticated technology is nominally free; Snapchat, says Kozhemyako, is ‘a bit of a rising star’, but for her, it is Instagram at front and centre. “Particularly the younger generation is on Instagram and they typically have two or three accounts each, which are used for different purposes. For brands, it means they need to talk to customers on a more personal level; they need to collaborate with real time social media and put technology into the hands of those customers.”
While that may sound terribly theoretical, it quickly becomes practical in an example Kozhemyako shares. “With the Pepsi Schools Out promotion, we took our live Instagram printer on tour with boy band Moorhouse. In between screaming, teenage fans could take selfies with the band, hashtag and upload them, and get an instant printout with Pepsi branding from the on-site printer.”
The trick with the social media component of digital marketing campaigns, she says, is to tie in with behavioural trends, know how customers are using it and tap into that to create something special and memorable. “Content is key,” she adds.
Video is on fire
While the primitive pictures painted by the inhabitants of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave might still be worth a thousand words, what value moving pictures? Certainly a video of those early hunting scenes would tell us considerably more while also requiring far less effort on behalf of the viewer to figure out what was going on, had they had the technology back then.
It’s another visual development for digital marketing which is likely to keep going in just one direction, according to Nicole Crump, director at Tactix Marketing.
Crump says today what’s pretty certain is that most marketing integrates with digital in some way. “It has to; after all, nearly everyone today hops online to do a little research before making a purchasing decision. It’s almost to the point that if you don’t do digital marketing, you’re probably being silly.”
It is, however, video that she tips as a sure-fire means to reach target markets effectively – and, arguably, rightly so (networking vendor Cisco Systems estimates that over two thirds of all internet traffic – 69 percent – will be video by 2017; meanwhile, Nielsen says 64 percent of marketers expect video to dominate their strategies ‘in the near future’).
Video feeds directly into our cave man propensity to prefer images over words, with the added benefit that it has considerable power, especially when it comes to demonstrations. That’s not all: the proliferation of excellent devices (from smartphones to GoPros and more) to record video, coupled with tools to edit it and the availability of (again, nominally) free services such as YouTube, Vimeo, Metacafe and many others, means shooting and putting decent footage online is no longer necessarily a big or expensive deal.
But, as with everything, make sure video (or any other digital marketing channel) is actually useful to the target audience. “The digital space opens more ways to engage with your target - but only if that target market is using that space,” Crump points out.
As a result, in addition to the obvious (but not always heeded) advice of aligning marketing strategy across all media, including digital, she strongly advocates a little dipstick research. “It doesn’t have to be a major exercise, but phone a cross section of clients and ask them how they use digital services. Get a taste; that’s really important.”
Social media: Not so free (or easy)
Unless you’ve been cohabiting with our proto-Frenchmen, you’ll have noticed that social media is kind of a big deal. Along with Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat and the likes of Pinterest and Tumblr and Google+ and Flickr and many more, are captivating an inordinate amount of people’s time and attention.
Social media platforms are big in digital marketing, agrees Linda Coles, director of Blue Banana and author of three books on the topic. However, she says social media can be a rather bewildering environment, even for those who love and work with it all the time. “Things change fast in social media, but the problem is it is hard to know which changes to worry about,” she notes, pointing out that some platforms work, while others quickly fade into the background.
Knowing which platform is right for your business is therefore arguably the biggest challenge – and one which can be addressed to a degree through Crump’s advocacy of a little research. Bear in mind, too, that despite the platforms being (nominally – there’s that word again) free, social media does come at a cost. If it is to be done correctly, it has to be someone’s job.
Coles points out that despite the hype, not every business needs to be on all social media platforms (with which Crump wholeheartedly agrees) and that, aside from the cost of having someone to do it properly, it can be a conduit for adverse results. After all, context can suffer and social media is infamous for its mob mentality.
“You want to be a little bit sensitive and stay away from spats online.”
LinkedIn: the underrated power platform
There’s one social media platform which is arguably more powerful than any other where it really matters: finding new business, making sales and advancing personal and company cachet. That would be LinkedIn, which Craig McAlpine, director of McAlpine Consulting, says should be a powerful lever in any digital marketing strategy.
“The one thing about LinkedIn, which no other social media platform does, is it tells you who is looking at your profile, where they are and what sector [industry] they work in,” he points out.
The other thing is that while it, too, is free, the paid version is pretty expensive (and it is this version that unlocks LinkedIn’s real power).
Continuing, McAlpine says when people take a look at your personal or company profile, it is in effect a ‘warm shoulder tap’. “It is an invitation which says ‘I am interested in what you do’, or, ‘I’ve found you – but maybe I need more information or convincing’. When that happens, you should follow it up; respond, ask how you can help. LinkedIn is, in effect, a shop front which provides direct leads with real people, with real needs, who have found you for a reason.”
Shop front? Does that mean LinkedIn could be a replacement for a website? “No, it is nowhere near that, as it doesn’t offer the same degree of content, like graphical capabilities, formatting and some other analytics. What it does do well is make a claim to fame which delivers a degree of proof. LinkedIn tends to be ‘honest’ as a platform, as claims can easily be checked and verified; it should complement a website,” McAlpine explains.
Despite the considerable power of LinkedIn, it tends to be largely unexploited. “Like a website, it has to be optimised to be found and it has to be integrated into the digital marketing strategy. For a lot of companies today, LinkedIn is a largely untapped resource.”
Donovan Jackson is an Auckland-based business technology writer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org