Something we’ve learned over the years is that digital marketing doesn’t ever stop. There’s no finish line, and there’s no room for complacency. If you stop moving, lose your creativity, or try to ride on inertia, you’ll be left behind. That’s true whether you’re a San Francisco digital marketing agency like we are, or a multi-national mega-marketing behemoth, or whether you’re handling the digital marketing services for your own site. The simple fact is that it’s a hugely competitive arena, there’s only so much traffic to go around, and every little edge counts.
On the other hand, if you’re marketing good, strong content, then it’s in everyone’s best interests for your marketing efforts to succeed. As San Francisco’s only full service B Corp-certified digital marketing agency we try to support like-minded businesses whenever we can. As digital marketers, we’re all in this together. We all feel the sting of black-hat link farming and content mills, as much to our professional pride as to our bottom line, so we try to make a habit of paying it forward, so to speak. And besides that, new digital marketing avenues are being forged and explored all the time; so many, in fact, that more times than not, no one’s quite sure of their full potential, so it’s valuable for all of us to try them out, see what works and what fails, and, as an industry, figure out how best to use the many tools we have at our disposal.
To that end, we’ve put together this list of the top 7 most overlooked digital marketing opportunities. We hope you’ll explore these eagerly, and if you blog about your own findings, be sure to send us a link or give us a twitter shout-out; we’d love to see the clever ways that you’re putting these tips and suggestions to use!
Let’s address the elephant in the room, first. Snapchat was a runaway success about five years ago, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. With upwards of 166 million daily active users sending close to 3 billion (with a “B”) snaps per day, this app has carved out quite a niche for itself. Facebook has taken notice, releasing Poke as a direct competitor, but digital marketing opinions remain divided. On the one hand, the sheer scope of the app for interacting with a huge and diverse user base is hard to ignore, but on the other hand, many marketers have concerns about the fleeting and limited nature of snaps as well as the pervasive opinion that no one wants to be the first to commercialize the service lest they seem greedy and tone-deaf to what the user base actually wants from that particular digital environment. And besides, when Twitter lends itself so well to that kind of marketing anyway, why rock the boat?
Our answer? Rock the boat because almost no one else is. A frozen yoghurt chain in New York had some success with an interesting campaign a few years back which offered a 10-second coupon to anyone who would snap the company a picture of themselves at the chain, tasting a sample. It was brilliant. It got people trying new products, it opened a dialogue directly between the consumer and the company with instant feedback, and it incentivized that connection with a coupon (short term) and a memorable experience (long term) to encourage future engagement. That’s marketing done right, and it capitalized directly on the fleeting nature of snaps to make the experience more dynamic.
The thing that it’s most important to take from this example is that the campaign only worked because it embraced the limits and peculiarities of the medium, rather than trying to cram a traditional campaign into an unsuitable format.
2. Position Zero
We’ve talked about Featured Snippets before, but it does bear mentioning again, here, because so many sites still aren’t taking steps to claim these prized spots. If you did miss our first post on the subject, Featured Snippets are a relatively new part of the Google results page. Usually posted in response to a clear information request, these little excerpts are lifted from pages and reprinted at or very near the top of the SERP. It’s Google’s hope that these excerpts will sufficiently resolve a user’s issue in a single click, without ever needed to load the host website. That’s a huge boon to user experience, and it builds trust in the source site in a very real, if a somewhat nebulous way.
Featured Snippets aren’t necessarily lifted from the first-spot result. Rather, in a way that takes into account the language and context of the excerpt, the relative authority of the page, and the formatting (more on that in a second), the best answer is posted rather than the answer from the highest-profile site.
In order to take advantage of this “position zero” in the SERPs, sometimes cutting the queue and sneaking in ahead of even industry powerhouses that may have long since claimed the top blue-link, you’ll need to optimize your content in natural language, and identify the context for that information. For the latter, most of the work has already been done for you. The good folks at schema.org have put together a series of HTML templates that Google will instantly recognize and which will give you a tremendous head start.
3. Voice Search
Google has been investing heavily in voice search, and with good reason. Voice search, largely spurred on by the rise of virtual assistants like Google Now or Microsoft’s Cortana, is becoming more and more commonplace.
Just like with the rise of mobile devices over the past decade or so, and the digital marketing hurdles that came with optimizing content for the new formats, voice search will call for a similar restructuring. The nature of keywords will shift to favour longer phrases, answers to queries rather than simple restatements, and we may very well see other changes as well. As natural language processing improves, imagine an algorithm which can parse sarcasm, intonation, background information, and so on. A search for “Elon Musk” might turn up optimistic content for a query made with a certain intonation while delivering pessimistic for another.
As is true of every area of digital marketing, it’s never been more important to know your audience.
4. Virtual Reality & 360* Video
Any good digital marketing company can tell you that a picture is worth a thousand words. People connect more deeply and more intuitively to powerful images because, at heart, we’re sensory creatures. Our whole world is sense experience. To tell a good story is to help someone live it, and there are more tools to do that than ever before.
Think of telling your brand like a story. We get fleeting glimpses of what that might look like from social media feeds, but it often comes off as being a little hollow. With 360* video now available on YouTube and Facebook, and the emerging consumer virtual reality technologies just over the horizon, digital marketers have a completely unprecedented tool for connecting and sharing moments with customers and clients.
Think of how many businesses use twitter feeds to put a human face on their operations. They show behind-the-scenes photos of a business working, playing, or reaching out to try to help the consumer share in the experience. Go take a look at the twitter feeds for your local farm or brewery and you’ll see what I mean.
Now take that idea, and expand it to 360* video. Imagine the digital marketing potential of a live, VR compatible, 360* video feed from a webcam, or posting minute-long clips to Facebook. Seeing a photo is one thing, but with virtual or augmented reality, you’d bring a depth and a perspective that a photo simply cannot capture.
If digital marketing is about connecting with your audience, this new toolset will bring a whole new dimension to that kind of interaction.
By now, odds are you’re familiar with LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator. Many professionals, in digital marketing and other fields, have a weird relationship with LinkedIn, in that most people seem to have a profile, but most people are very guarded about admitting to it. Only about 2% of top executives add their email address to their LinkedIn profiles. Plenty of people want to use LinkedIn to sell things, but no one seems to want to buy.
Having said that, LinkedIn still has a considerable user base, and can be thought of as something of an untapped market. The trick is to find a way to make someone want to take interest in what you’re offering.
Jeff Molander, writing for Target Marketing Mag, suggests a different approach to piquing someone’s interest in that particular kind of forum. Rather than opening with a pitch, ask a hard-hitting question that would encourage introspection and that would let your contact talk about a hardship or a worry. Don’t position yourself as a purveyor of a service until you’ve established a demand, and don’t make it a hard-sell (remember, the numbers speak for themselves, and no one on LinkedIn goes there to be sold to), but once you’ve got a dialogue open, it’s entirely possible that you’ll end up with a new business relationship that you’d have missed out on by other digital marketing channels.
6. Offline Channels
I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. It’s absolutely possible to do good, strong digital marketing offline. Think of it like this: the line between physical and virtual is blurry at best, and the whole point of digital marketing is to bring content, presence, or awareness to an audience. Why not take some more traditional marketing strategies, and give them a refresh?
You’ve probably seen a few such approaches already. (“Tweet us a pic of yourself standing next to this brand new car, and you could win it!) We talked about a similar online/offline strategy earlier in this article when we talked about that New York frozen yoghurt chain that leveraged Snapchat and offered coupons. Other strategies include QR codes (occasionally useful but not widely adopted) NFC connectivity and app pairing (imagine an app that would instantly bring up online reviews when the phone is tapped against a product plate, for example), and good old-fashioned paper.
Paper can do wonders for digital marketers. In our industry, content is queen. If you’ve made content that you can be proud of, why not print it out and share it? Leave a “blog post of the week” in a letter tray on the desk, next to the cash register. Pin it to the poster board at the local coffee shop, or leave it surreptitiously on the corner table of the pub. If it’s got a clear and prominent URL back to your landing page, or if it leads someone back to your social media profiles, it absolutely counts as part of your digital strategy.
7. Feedback & Comments Sections
And while we’re on the subject of content, be sure you aren’t treating it like an artifact. As we said at the outset of this post, digital marketing has no finish line to cross. It’s an ongoing, and ever evolving process, and so too should be your content.
If your content is getting commented on, re-tweeted, shared with feedback, or otherwise engaged with, it’s less an artifact than it is a part of the discourse. There is absolutely no problem with re-running old content with additions to reflect the feedback you’ve received. Publish corrections. If someone makes an insightful comment, reach out and see if they’d like to write a guest blog post about it.
If you’re engaging with your audience, it’s only right that they should engage with you.
So that wraps up our run-down of the 7 most overlooked, under-utilized, or unexplored digital marketing opportunities of 2017. We’d hate to make a recommendation that we wouldn’t follow ourselves, so we welcome your thoughts and feedback. Anything we’ve missed? Have any of these avenues worked out for you in your own digital marketing endeavours? Find us on Facebook or Twitter, and share your insights!
Colibri Digital Marketing
We’re a San Francisco digital marketing agency that focuses on the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’ve got our fingers on the pulse of Silicon Valley, we’ve got an insider perspective on the tech industry, and we get a sneak peak at the future of digital marketing. If you’re ready to work with San Francisco’s first and only full-service B Corp-certified digital marketing agency, drop us a line or click below to schedule a free digital marketing strategy session!
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