With Twitter’s IPO and Google and Facebook’s algorithm changes happening in 2013, the changes in search engine technology and social media are continuing to transform the digital marketing space. There has been many trends in the digital marketing space today: Micro-targeting, mobile marketing, social media marketing, growth hacking and so on. Some of these rely on other trends, while others may be grouped together as one.
Hence, I have listed three most critical trends which I believe are shaping the digital marketing space today: big data, micro-targeting through social media and real-time content marketing.
Telecommunications infrastructure and the internet network continue to grow even today, especially in developing countries. As the number of mobile users and frequency of internet usage through electronic devices grow, more data is collected about online consumer behaviour (Check out Hepburn’s mobile growth statistics). Media consumption has been increasing on all devices especially mobile. The business informatics industry has since understood the complexity and high volume of data, and businesses jumped on the bandwagon to support processing and sense-making of big data. This has led to further increase in consumer behaviour data, which can be processed into customer intelligence. Big data is expanding on 3 fronts at an increasing rate: Data Volume, Data Variety and Data Velocity (Refer to this for more info).
Analytics allows companies to leverage on customer intelligence to focus advertising campaigns on consumer segments with the highest conversion rates, to maximize return on investments. With the huge amount of data available and advanced technology which companies can tap on to convert data to intelligence, companies are moving from diagnosing why users do certain actions, predicting users’ next action to making users carry out desired actions (Check out the Future of Customer Analytics by Elliott). This makes big data an enabler of most other trends in digital marketing: Mobile/real-time marketing or precision targeting requires highly intelligent analysis on customer behaviour to target and communicate effectively to the audience.
Knowing how useful big data is, search engine technologies and social media are moving towards collecting more data about their users and providing businesses with data analytics tools. One example will be Google Analytics, which allows businesses to know exactly who, why, where, when and how users interact with their websites or applications.
Though one may argue that Big Data has been around for years, it does not refute the fact that Big Data sets the general direction in digital marketing and any developments or changes in Big Data will affect many other trends. Improved data variety and velocity has enabled real-time and interactive marketing in the recent years, and we may see more varied digital marketing techniques in the near future.
Micro-targeting through Social Media
Advertising is moving from traditional broadcast TV ads to internet ads that targets individuals . As mentioned earlier, targeting of the “long-tail” is enabled by data analytics. This trend in digital marketing allows businesses to tailor advertising to focused customer segments or even individuals, based on specific user profiles, users’ location and lifestyle.
With the continuous growth in social media platforms and search engine technologies, micro-targeting and search personalization is further empowered. Social media platforms serve as low-cost marketing and real-time communication tools for businesses to interact with potential customers since they are widely used and accessible. For example, Sponsored Updates on LinkedIn, Promoted posts on Twitter and Custom Audiences on Facebook give businesses different options to target individuals of specific profiles.
Collaboration between search engines and social media continue to push this trend forward. Data collected from Facebook and Twitter is being pumped into Bing to personalize Bing searches, while Google does the same with Google+ data. This leads to businesses being able to introduce marketing media relevant to targeted users subtly through both search engines and social media.
Real-time Content Marketing
Content marketing is the creating and sharing of valuable content to attract customers and improve brand-awareness (Read more about content marketing here). Content marketing provides valuable information which people desire and trust, as opposed to advertisements. With the proliferation of online content types, content marketing becomes more varied and effective for different marketing objectives.
Development of internet technologies allows more attractive, real-time and interactive content, which further drives the trend in digital marketing. Real-time content marketing synergizes well with social media, since social media supports continuous dialogues among businesses and audiences, and content is more likely to be spread through social media than direct advertisements. Real-time presence has allowed businesses to gain trust and authority through real and authentic experiences too.
Nevertheless, relevant content is what people search for and ultimately share on social media channels, and is essential to driving sales and leads. We have heard about paid media, owned media and earned media; Content marketing allows businesses to generate owned media which is easily transformed into earned media via online communities and social networks.
The advancement in search engine technologies and social media platforms continues to support the upward trend in usage of real-time content marketing. Highly informative or entertaining content draws viewers in. Content that is shared on social media such as blogs or content communities will attract inbound links. All these help with organic search ranking, brand awareness and sales conversion, which accomplishes what online advertising tries to achieve.
All in all, businesses must think deeply about the opportunities and threats presented by the trends, and leverage on social media and search engine technologies to enhance marketing effectiveness: Understanding their audience through big data, providing value to customers through real-time content marketing and spreading of content to targeted individuals via social media.