Digital marketing seems to incite one of two reactions. To some, the word “digital” – or online, or interactive – conjures up an intimidating world of hi-tech tools, algorithms and specialist knowledge. At the other end of the spectrum, there are others who think it requires no special skills at all and are more than happy to put “social media expert” on their CV because, well, they have a Facebook profile and tweet sometimes.
To the first group, I would say this: It’s tempting, but also dangerous, to rely utterly and completely on a digital expert – whether that be an agency, a consultant, or even someone in-house. That’s not to say that you need to learn how to build a website, learn to code, or become a PPC expert… but a certain level of understanding, and engagement, will get you a long way.
To the second group: It’s great that you’re already familiar with some of the tools, but using those tools for business requires a more complete understanding and a more strategic approach. Investing a bit of time in learning about the different platforms, how users engage with them, the types of objectives that can be set and how to know if you’ve been successful, will help you to become far more effective with the time and money you’re currently investing.
So what are some simple things that you can do?
1. Follow your own brand
If you’re not even following your own brand on its key platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – then you’re really missing a trick. If you don’t care about what your own brand is doing, how can you expect others too? On top, in most (or all?) companies, there is no one person dedicated to regularly checking the brand’s online presence so this is your opportunity to catch mistakes, to identify opportunities for improvement, and to really be an ambassador for your brand online.
2. Be a consumer
Have you tried to search for your brand? For the product you’re selling? What about trying to buy it on one of your retail partners’ websites? Have you looked at your brand’s website on your mobile? Or tried to contact someone for help? It’s so easy to get caught up in pushing out our marketing messages, publishing our beautiful visuals, showcasing our campaigns… but can a user actually do what they want to do on your platforms? Can they get to the information they need when and where they need it? Put yourself in the shoes of a consumer and see what you discover.
3. Keep an eye on competition
More than following your own brand, you should be following your competitors. Take a look at their website, sign up to their newsletter, follow them on social media. What messages are they pushing? How often are they posting? What kinds of offers are they providing and when? Now remember that your competitors aren’t necessarily more savvy than you are when it comes to digital, so don’t just copy them blindly. Question if what they’re doing is right for your industry and for your brand, see how you might do it more effectively, and think of activities you can do to make your proposition stronger than those competitors.
4. Subscribe to expert blogs
You don’t have to follow every expert, read every article, know the details of every aspect of digital… but reading the headlines can help you to stay on top of what’s happening in the digital space. Have Google changed their algorithm, affecting how your content is found by a search engine? Have Facebook added new ad formats, allowing you more options to reach potential customers? Is there a new, hot, network that’s becoming popular with teenagers?
Here are a few to get you started:
@mashable – If you’re only going to follow one, then Mashable is that one. It’s the go-to resource for all things technology and in particular social media
@socialmedia2day – Social Media Today focuses on best practices and tools for using social media
@Econsultancy – Econsultancy has a wealth of reports and research available on all aspects of digital marketing
@sengineland – Search Engine Land is, unsurprisingly, full of information on all aspects of search
@avinash – Avinash Kaushik is the master when it comes to all things analytics
5. Use it or lose it!
Finally, an excuse to be on Facebook all day at work! Not quite, but the fact remains that you need to use digital media to understand it. So get a Twitter account if you’re not already on there, learn how to use @ and #, create some boards on Pinterest, go and do a hangout on Google Plus, maybe even consider starting a blog. It’s a fun and simple way to make sure you know what you’re talking about, as well as creating value by building your own online presence, which can stand you in good stead for future jobs. Employers are more and more searching for you on Google, looking at your LinkedIn, checking if you’re active on Twitter… and this is your chance to showcase your skills and to really stand for something.