In other to fully understand what digital marketing entails, it is important to first understand the following terms; Social media marketing, content marketing, marketing automation, and website optimization
They are tactics of digital marketing and can be incorporated into any product or service. For these reasons, they are explained more in-depth below. Every stage of PR Smith’s SOSTAC® model contains way more information than in the key definitions section, therefore, all of them are opened up more in this post. In our previous post brand awareness helps the reader to understand more clearly one of the main purposes of the digital marketing plan as it businesses to improve their products or services. The image below shows how they inter-connected.
In the 21st century, many industries and business fields go through significant changes and improvements. In fact, this is also the case with marketing. Today there are at least 25 different types of marketing differentiated, including online, offline, inbound, outbound, direct, referral, affiliate, and many more (Jones, 2014). However, in this thesis work, the author would like to place a high emphasis on online marketing. That includes all ways of marketing that are web-based. This type of marketing helps businesses to attract more individuals online and to raise their interest levels in certain products and services. It is worth noting that the two most important opposite forms, online and offline marketing, are the most effective when they are strategically used together. Marketing online might as well be referred to as e-marketing, Internet marketing, or digital marketing.
The digital marketing term itself is highly searched on the biggest search engine, Google (Google Trends, 2017). The screenshot below shows the interest over time towards digital marketing in the past 10 years, from April 2007 until April 2017. It is also shown how two of the earlier mentioned similar search terms, e-marketing, and Internet marketing, are performing within the same time range. There is a clear exponential growth of digital marketing, and this tendency is expected to keep growing.
Digital marketing allows organizations, as well as individuals, to reach targeted audiences via online channels. It is a collection of assets and tactics that ultimately support business success when used strategically. According to HubSpot, the assets are website, blog, educational materials – such as e-books and whitepapers –, visual materials – like infographics and online brochures –, social media channels – for example, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram –, earned online customer reviews, other branding assets – like brand books with logo, brand colors, fonts and more. (Alexander, 2016).
The list of digital marketing tactics consists of
- search engine optimization (SEO),
- content marketing,
- social media marketing,
- pay-per-click (PPC),
- 5) email marketing,
- marketing automation,
- affiliate marketing,
- native advertising,
- online PR,
- influencer marketing,
Having a strong online presence gives a competitive advantage among businesses in general, and especially among small businesses. It strongly influences the purchasing decision of potential customers. For example, according to a 2016 social media index, future consumers need to see a brand’s product on social channels at least 2-4 times before they buy anything (Chen, 2017). Other benefits of having an online presence are that it facilitates the approachability of a brand, it reaches a wide audience, it builds brand trust and relationships with the audience, and it is a powerful marketing solution (Gonzalez, 2016). Digital marketing is a trend that needs to be incorporated into any organization’s business strategy. Based on the author’s personal knowledge, the main benefits of this type of marketing are: reduced marketing costs, increased website traffic, easy and real-time connection with target audiences, growth in customer base, built brand awareness, and easy performance measures.
The image below shows the mixture of digital marketing assets and tactics.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is one significant element of digital marketing. Social media itself refers to a strong type of online media, where visual and written content is shared with other users. Social media forms online communities where a very large amount of information is available and can be utilized. Social media marketing means the strategic use of different social media channels to increase an organization’s exposure, to promote their services or products, as well as to build an engaged online community. An active social presence generates more attention and traffic for the brand and helps to convert possible prospects into buying customers. The key to social media marketing is consistency.
Neil Patel entrepreneur and recognized online marketing expert defines social media marketing on his own blog as the following: “Social media marketing is the process of creating content that is tailored to the context of each individual social media platform, in order to drive user engagement and sharing.” (Patel)
The Digital in 2017 Global Overview report reveals that out of the 3.773 billion total global Internet users, 2.789 billion people are active social media users (Kemp, 2017). This means 73,92 % of all online users are active on one or more social media platforms.
These numbers are heavy indicators for entrepreneurs to leverage social media for business purposes. The 2016 Social Media Industry Report describes the main benefits of social media marketing. According to the author, these top benefits are: increased exposure and traffic, developed loyal fans, provided marketplace insight, generated leads, improved search rankings, grown business partnerships, established thought leadership, improved sales, and reduced marketing expenses (Stelzner, 2016). See the ranking of these elements in the image below.
The same report also lists the most commonly used social media platforms by marketers. Here are the top seven: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest. Other than these seven networks, there are numerous other channels that are less commonly used by marketers, such as forums, SlideShare or SnapChat (Stelzner, 2016).
Based on the knowledge and experience of the author, Facebook and Instagram are the two most effective social media channels for the restaurant industry. Therefore, the product of this thesis is solely focusing on those two social networks.
To make it simple, content is everything that is published online and adds value. It has three main categories: visual, verbal, and written. Visuals can be for instance graphic designs, infographics, banner images, videos, whereas verbal materials can be webinars or podcasts. Written content usually refers to blog posts, e-books, guides, whitepapers, quizzes, contests, or social media updates, just to provide some examples.
Content marketing is a tactic to execute digital marketing strategies. Content creators require knowing the target audience before start making any content. As per the author’s knowledge and experience, the main purpose of content marketing is to engage a specific online community by educating, entertaining, inspiring, or convincing them with several types of online published materials.
Defined by the leading content marketing education and training organization, Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is the following: “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” (Content Marketing Institute)
In order to create and distribute quality content online, a powerful planning tool is recommended to be used. The Content Marketing Matrix is a great implementation to choose the best content types for a certain target audience. It gives a structure to ideate on content planning from the perspective of the audience. The matrix indicates that there are four main categories when it comes to content consumption: entertainment, inspiration, commencement, and education. The content is also dependent on the target customer’s lifecycle, meaning that where the person is currently standing on the timeline from awareness to purchasing. Another condition to set is if the content needs to be more emotional or rather rational. (Bosomworth, 2014) See the actual matrix in the image below.
To ensure the consistency of being present online, entrepreneurs need to be approachable and active all the time. Therefore, automating different online actions make their position significantly easier, and their work becomes more effective. As HubSpot describes, marketing automation refers to a software or online tool that automates marketing tasks, such as emails, or social publishing (HubSpot). This software might be a complex customer relationship management (CRM) system, where every option is easy to use and is collected in one place. On the other hand, there are individual tools that enable the coordination of one specific marketing option, and in this case, each tool needs to be handled
separately. According to MacDougall, marketing automation means online software that automates different marketing actions (MacDougall, 2017). She brings email marketing and social media marketing as highlighted examples for marketing automation. Automation is a great way to build relationships with a brand’s audience online. The main benefits of marketing automation are time-saving, efficiency, data collection, multi-channel management (e.g. on social channels), consistency, and personalization (Ratcliff, 2015).
In practice, when email marketing is done via marketing automation, it takes time to set up all the different steps that follow each other but is very effective in a long-term run. There shall be created a list of specific email addresses that an organization has collected in advance. That email list will then be added to a workflow as the target audience. The workflow contains email templates that need to be turned into personalized messages. With an automation system, all emails can be followed by the sender, whether the recipients have opened and/or clicked to the link within the email message. Another practical example of marketing automation is using it for social media. To save an enormous amount of time and money – because time is money –, several online tools can be utilized. These social automation tools enable users to attach their social media profiles and schedule updates to be posted. Depending on the type of the tool, there can be hundreds, or even thousands of social media posts implemented in advance to be posted any time in the future. The author has a personal interest in discovering powerful automation tools to make her marketing efforts as effective as possible.
Website optimization has to do with:
- Website design (how visually attractive the website seems to visitors)
- Website content (what visuals and forms of texts are placed to the site)
- Search engine optimization (what keywords and other “behind the scene” settings there are to make the website favorable for search engines) Creating a brand book helps organizations in using fonts and colors in a consistent way.
A brand book includes the types and sizes of fonts, the codes of colors, and any other visual rules in order to communicate the brand always in the exact same way. Website design also means what menu points are located on the top bar, and how easily information can be found by visitors. During the planning procedure, it is great to keep in mind the differences between device screen ratios. Meaning that, for example, a certain font size might look perfect on a desktop screen, whereas it looks too small and unreadable on a smartphone. To improve this issue, mobile optimization is key.
A 2015 report, The State of Content by Adobe, reveals that during 15 minutes of consuming content, 66 % of visitors prioritize a nice content that is attractive, over a plain and simple type of content (Adobe, 2015). As per the author’s knowledge, this number has been grown ever since then, therefore, creating visually appealing content engages consumers more and is more likely to turn visitors into customers. The right selection and mixture of images, videos, infographics, or other visual elements convince visitors to spend more time on the website and to discover more about the organization and its products and services. Search engine optimization, or SEO in short, is a crucial element of digital marketing. SEO is a tactic to make search engines (like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and others) to rank a website high, therefore to show that website within the top results of a search. An expert digital site, Search Engine Land defines the following: “It is the process of getting traffic from the free, organic, editorial or natural search results on search engines” (Search Engine Land). Based on the author’s experience, typical SEO settings are: keywords, meta descriptions, attached images, image descriptions (or alternative texts), headlines, URL links, added links to other sources, length of blog articles, website loading speed, social sharing buttons.