Digital Marketing is not just Social Media

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A couple of things prompted me to write this article. One was an article I came across on LinkedIn on this topic. The other was a commend made by one of the participants in the Digital Marketing course that I take at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), Bangalore.

There is a tendency nowadays to equate Digital Marketing with Social Media. Sure, a lot of users spend a fair bit of time on Social Media. And there could be products and services where it makes a lot of sense to spend a majority of your marketing efforts on Social. But this might not be the case for many brands who might end up missing the forest for the trees by focusing too much attention and effort on Social Media.

The field of Digital Marketing is over two decades old and I have been fortunate to have been associated with this field for over 19 years now. During my professional career, I have been closely involved with multiple facets of digital marketing including website marketing, digital analytics, email marketing, banner advertising, search advertising, community engagement (the precursor to social media), search engine optimisation (SEO), app marketing and of course, social media.

A typical business would need many (if not all) of the above channels to be in play to drive a successful digital marketing programme. A good framework that can be used to understand these channels is the Paid, Owned, Earned Media (POE) framework.

Paid Owned Earned Media Framework

When I advise clients on Digital Marketing, the first step is typically to understand and define explicitly the Customer Value Proposition. This exercise, with the help of analytics and insights, usually forms the bedrock of the marketing strategy. It helps create a good understanding of the brand’s target market, the problem statements of their potential customers and the messaging strategy that can most effectively communicate how the brand can satisfy their needs.

Once this is in place, I usually advise my clients to be start on their Owned Media channels. These are assets that the brand owns and directly controls and is, in my opinion, the most important part of the media strategy. There is very little point in launching a Paid Media campaign unless your owned assets are not completely primed to communicate and deliver the value proposition and user experience that the customer expects.

A brand’s social media channels are also part of the Owned Media bucket. So, once the website is in a good shape, the focus can shift to the Content and social media channel strategy. At this stage, it is important to understand the specific role of social media (and other channels) within the target customer’s research and decision making process. This should dictate the choice of channel and content strategy.

The attention can then shift to the Earned media bucket. Assuming that a brand now has a good Owned media strategy, they should expect to have some engagement with their customers. This could be in the form of reviews, social media mentions and, of course, email / sms marketing. The brand should be in a position to engage with their customers on these channels in a timely and effective manner.

Finally, Paid Media. It is very tempting, especially if a brand has money to spend, to immediately launch Paid Media campaigns. In my experience, this can be highly sub-optimal unless the other two buckets are functioning effectively. Brands can fall into the trap of jumping to the conclusion that it is Paid Media that is not working efficiently when results do not go their way, without acknowledging or accepting that the fault might well be that they lack a strong Owned (and Earned) Media strategy, or indeed that they might be lacking a strong customer value proposition.

In conclusion, if you are looking for ways to ramp up your digital marketing, take the time to think through exactly what you are trying to achieve, have an integrated strategy across all channels and be prepared to continuously learn and make adjustments on the basis of actual performance data.

 

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