2017 Digital Marketing Roadmap: What you need to know

Digital Marketing Expert Alicia Whalen

This is what you need to know before we go any further.

It is not about following the latest technology or social media channel, but more about knowing how your target customers are navigating the internet, where they are most likely to find your brand online, and what it takes to get them to buy.

Here is a rundown on what is happening now in digital marketing for you to use not as a bible, but as a place to start when planning for 2017.  I will focus this post on the most important “Channels” as Google Analytics organizes it.  Driving more traffic to the website with a focus on best referring channels will inevitably result in more sales.

How to benchmark digital marketing performance and prepare your 2017 plan:

Check your Google analytics (or other analytics platform) and do a benchmarking report to compare improvements month over month, and year over year.

aliciawhalen_ideahatching-com_blogpostUsing Google Analytics to benchmark and pivot: You will need to pivot in 2017 as consumer behavior and platform algorithms will change – quickly.

Set up campaign goals and KPI’s including; increases in Organic referral traffic (from Google and Bing), Social referral traffic, and dig deeper into Referring sources of traffic as well.  Also look at decreases in bounce rate, and increases in time-on-site as an indication of user engagement.  Organic traffic typically sees the highest amount of engagement, which is also why it remains an key digital marketing tactic.  Search visibility is critical for any brand, product or service.

smartdata_aliciawhalen_ideahatching_blogpost

This approach to benchmarking at a macro level can be scaled to any business, whether your website gets 10,000 unique visitors a day or 10, and will help to shift strategy, spend and tactics as needed.  Now we are ready to talk tactics.

Things in the digital space are changing fast, and so is consumer behaviour.  

 

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-5-57-17-pm

 

1. Search: Organic Search, Paid Search (Google Adwords and BING)

 

Google Adwords:

Google Adwords has become expensive. Depending on the conversion, the cost to enter Google paid search may not be as efficient as it once was.  It is highly competitive, and even “long tail” keywords and phrases are now out of reach for many brands to buy.  This makes the cost-per-aquisition higher, and out of reach for businesses who may have seen great ROI in the past.

I recommend a focus on Organic SEO and Local SEO for 2017 – ensuring that at the very least, your brand or business is listed properly in Google Maps and local listings.

Being found in search is paramount, so be sure to run your website through an SEO check. This will ensure that all the basics are covered including; A check for broken links, proper H1 tagging and meta data, site speed, mobile optimization, Google search console and verification and more. Optimize your website first to be sure the taps are open before you worry about anything else.

Next, plan your content according to the primary search terms, phrases and content that your brand needs to be found for.

For example If you make vintage record players, ensure that all of your Youtube video’s, Facebook posts, Blog articles and website content are related both to the product, and the topics that will interest the customer. Blog posts about the resurgence of Vinyl, and where to find records as an example, will speak both to the customer, and to the search engine. Don’t forget to SEO optimize product information and product categories – especially if your product is available on Amazon or other marketplace channels. Make sure also to review product listings for duplicate content.  Google will penalize for duplicate content and broken links.

Website content and social media:

Keep your content calendar for social media channels, articles, Blogs, and videos focused around the target topics, keywords and phrases for your business. Drive links back from social posts for increased “Social Signals,” and tag all of your content. Social Signals are important to SEO.

Take Action:

 

Bing Organic search has picked up steam in recent months. I have also seen some great success with Bing PPC over the past 12 months.

Why?  Microsoft reached 21.9 percent marketshare in July 2016, up 0.1 percent from June, while Google dropped 0.4 percent to 63.4 percent. This brings Microsoft close to 22 percent market share in the US search business, making it the second most important player after Google.

Take some time to verify your website with BING (as well as Google search console), and budget for some BING PPC for 2017.

 

2. Programmatic Ad buying and Re-Marketing:

 

Digital display and paid search marketing has certainly become smarter, and marketers have learned more about what to do with it. Is a programmatic ad campaign a silver bullet?  Probably not. But used as part of a fully integrated plan to increase reach, website traffic, and even to “steal” reach from a competitor, programmatic media buys have proven to be extremely efficient.

 

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-5-41-00-pm

 

The key is to understand what will work with your target audience, and what it is that you are looking to achieve.

As it is with re-marketing – the general population is on to us. They know we are following them. In some cases they are glad we are, and are happy to allow it – as long as there is a benefit to them.  Benefits include time savings, ease of booking or a special price offered for booking direct.

With programmatic ad campaigns and other display and ppc remarketing buys, the key is to do it well.  If programmatic advertising is “not working” for your brand, I would suggest checking the user experience; the landing pages, and desired conversion point for your campaigns.  If reach or website traffic are your desired KPI’s, then ensure that your spend on programmatic is proportionate compared to your other tactics.  If an increase in sales is the objective, then ensure you are A/B testing campaigns and working with your agency to define objectives.

Most programmatic ad buying platforms can give marketers specific information about “lift” in search terms and other KPI’s outside of just CPM and CPC metrics. Make sure to work with your vendor and agencies to identify specific goals and optimize the user experience to get the best results.

Take Action:

For 2017, you might want to explore programmatic ad buying for a specific campaign, brand launch, as a supplement to another larger multi-media buy.  Try it instead of, or with some of the Google Search Display or PPC allocated Adspend if conversion is your main objective.

 

3. Facebook:

 

Facebook initially drove organic reach and audience engagement in droves – for Free. Then it didn’t. Now it does again – you just need to pay for it.  Not unlike any other digital medium, Facebook has tested the waters with many different monetization models.  Just last month the algorithm removed much of the advertising from newsfeeds, most likely in an attempt to reassure users.

As of this week, it looks like those ads are right back in the newsfeed.  All business and brand pages now need to pay to “boost” their messages to get into user newsfeeds – this has been the case for some time now.  Make sure to allocate adspend to this in 2017.

facebook_aliciawhalen_ideahatchingblog

 

There is no organic reach for Facebook business pages without some kind of paid boost and adspend.  With that said, Facebook has been collecting demographic, psychographic, emoticon reaction data, location data, brand preferences, facial recognition data, relationship status, and the name of our cats, dogs, fish, kids and BFFs for years now – and their advertising platform uses all of this insight to serve its users Ads.  Now, as it was once with Google Adwords, the cost to entry for advertising or boosting Facebook page posts is relatively low compared against some other digital media tactics.

You can read more about Facebook’s changes in my recent article “Facebook Zero: RIP Organic Reach on Facebook.” I would caution that anything can (and will) shift with Facebook over the coming months – including the cost of entry to advertise.

This is still early days and your budget will most likely need to increase over the next year. Now is the time to test what ad units and content work best.

 

Take Action:

If you have not tested Facebook as a paid marketing channel – you are missing a great opportunity.  Set up some content testing and target groups that include friends of friends, interests, geographic region and more.  Video posts tend to get the most reach, followed by photos, and now LIVE content.  Make the content short and sweet – and make sure to link back to landing pages on your website. Those “Social Signals” back to the website are good for SEO.

You might also consider a Facebook Live strategy in 2017 depending on your business.  Make sure that you are not simply repurposing content from Periscope, Meercat or even from YouTube as both Facebook and YouTube will index native content better. (Native content is content produced for the channel and originally posted to the channel, then re-posted somewhere else).

It is good as a general rule to keep content “native” to the channel you are distributing it on whenever possible.

 

 

4. Social Media: Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter

Note that I did not put Facebook in the “Social Media” section of this article.  Facebook is pure marketing channel now, and should be approached this way – outside of measuring the “Social Signals” or referrals back to the website.  Don’t bother with any content on Facebook that is not purposeful – and boosted with ad dollars.

Snapchat

Yes Snapchat – or now “Snap” is a game changer, but unless you are a YouTuber looking to attract more audience, a celebrity, or a brand with a whole bunch of money to throw into a channel that may drive some reach, I would not place budget towards Snapchat just yet.  More on Snap – and other game changers in my next post.

I would however put resources and a plan in place for Instagram.

instagram_aliciawhalen_ideahatchingblogpost

Instagram runs on Facebook’s Ad platform, and now with the addition of “Instagram Stories” Instagram is looking to keep their user base growing, and to keep the users who may have moved on to Snapchat as an alternative right where they are.  The jury is out whether or not Instagram stories can be monetized, but with Instagram’s reach and tie into Facebook’s Ad platform, it will become an important channel for both customer acquisition and engagement.

Take Action:

Define a strategy for Instagram and reserve some resources to test adspend in 2017.  

Put a plan in place for leveraging social media and crowd sourced content to drive traffic to the website, or place of conversion.  Consumers will continue to flock to Social media channels with media time spent increasing just as fast as user adoption.

emarketerstats

 

 

4. Technology:

The Marketing technology of today has given us a tremendous amount of time and resource savings, workflow efficiencies, creative efficiencies, extension of reach, smarter targeting and more.   I bring this up in this post specifically because technology costs money.

If you are going to adopt technology to improve your marketing efficiencies – ensure that there is a defined ROI that can be associated with each tool.   Marketing technology should allow you the ability to add more dollars towards ad spend, or to maximize resources in driving the bottom line.

Technology is only as good as its implementation. Remember this when looking at adding the new shiny objects to your marketing tool kit.

 

What’s going to blow up in 2017?

Although it is good to have “what’s next” on the radar, ensuring success with your marketing investment for 2017 means staying focused on tactics that move the needle – channels and tactics that have proven successful to drive brand reach and sales.  In my next post, I will highlight what I think will be “game changers” for digital marketing in 2017.  These game changer’s will most likely not make it into your marketing plan until 2018.

 

 

7 Must Do’s before you re-build or migrate your website

 

It must be that time of the year. Are you having the February “I hate my website” blahs?

 

Your website is your cash register. Whether your website has 30 pages, or 300 pages. Whether it is ugly, or just hasn’t been updated since your first born University Grad finished grade 8, there are some important steps to take before you decide on your next website developer, CMS platform, consultant or creative agency:

  1. Understand your goals: How will your website update improve your overall marketing and sales efforts?

Your website is your point of sale. How will it support all of your digital marketing efforts including search, social media, offline marketing, and review management and brand awareness?

I too have undergone a website refresh.  I wish that I had considered many of the items on this list before I changed my wordpress theme – and then subsequently had to comb through 7 years of posts to update broken links and long lost plug ins.

  1. What functions to you expect your website to have and why to you need those functions to improve conversions? 

Do you need a Blog? Do you want to integrate social content to your website? Do you need a better check-out function?

This is an important exercise as the website CMS you choose will need to have the flexibility to work with your ecommerce solution, mapping functionality (if applicable), social plug-ins, and other functions of your website.

If your mandate with the new website is to improve website conversions, then your chosen developer or platform will need to accommodate by having social media plug in’s, a Blog platform, RSS feed, or a gallery.

If you are limited in resources to manage updates and creative changes, as well as the financial resources to continue to “add on” –  you will need a platform that is easy to update and manage without a team or agency support.  There are “do-it-yourself” solutions that may cost more initially, or monthly – but may save you some costly headaches in the future.

In my case, what I needed what a WordPress theme that was not different than the original theme I had used.  A learning curve in understanding how to update your own website is not ideal.

“A learning curve in understanding how to update your own website is not ideal”.

 

  1. Document current website performance for future benchmarking

Use Google Analytics (and any other analytics tool in addition) to understand what is working and what needs improvement with the new website.

Look at a typical month, as well as a year-over-year comparison over a period of time and identify key metrics that include:

  • Number of unique visitors per month Bounce rate.  The bounce rate should be under 40% at a minimum.
  • Time on site (2 minutes, or preferably more than 2 min. per user session)
  • Current SEO keywords used to find the site.  If your website was verified in Google’s Search console, you will see this in Google Analytics.
  • % of overall traffic coming from organic search and top performing referral traffic.
  • Device usage breakdown – this illustrates how much of your traffic is coming from desktop, mobile or tablet devices. This is important to know when re-designing a website or moving to another platform. You must design for your user, and most of us are spending much of our time on mobile devices and tablets.
  1. Website asset inventory: Create a site map – or road map of all pages of the website.

Inventory your website assets that include content pages, images, video’s, blog posts etc.  Using Google analytics, determine high performing content pages, and highly indexed pages in search, and ensure you have a site map of all pages in the website.

If you are migrating to a new website platform, create a 301 re-direct plan to give your new website developer or platform provider. This will ensure that you carry over pages that were indexed in Google to the new website.

TIP: Many web designers miss this important step. Ensure that a 301 re-direct strategy plan is completed before you pull the plug on your current website. If you are working with a SAAS based platform, make sure that there are resources available to assist you with this as you make the transition.

  1. Checklist – Must have functionalities for best performing websites:

Template designs, or pre-formatted design websites (for those of us who cannot code to save a life) are both cost effective and proven.   CMS platforms, Design and theme layouts become templates because they have been used successfully for other similar businesses. Remember, the website has to be functional and visually pleasing. Consider this when working with your next website developer. New design is not always the best route to take.

“Take a consumer first approach to your website.  Build what they like, and they will come.”

 

Prepare an action list for the new website. This should include:

  • Mobile optimized website option included. (This should not be an add-on as any website/theme today must function well on a mobile device)
  • Mobile responsive design option.
  • SEO plug in or CMS platform that is SEO friendly (every page of a website should have unique on-page keywords, and back end meta-data to show the search engines the site is relevant and should be indexed for those keywords)
  • Rich media asset manager: Check for storage, ease of use.
  • Plug in’s to Marketing Automation tools

Note: Some photos and video asset manager’s are cloud based, and some may be included as part of a full digital marketing platform where photos and video’s can be pushed out to the website, as well as other digital marketing platforms including social media, and other online directories. Ensure you have taken the steps above to understand what you expect from your website to understand what you need to efficiently manage your content.

  • Easy to use CMS: A website that is easy to update on the fly – with or without a designer or programmer is easy to find. Simple website updates should not incur additional costs to update on a regular basis.
  • Google Analytics plug in or place for the code: All websites should be tracked via Google analytics. This is a universal and free analytics platform. Make sure that your analytics is set up under your property Gmail account so that you may carry your analytics data with you if you migrate to another website again. If you are working with an agency to support you with analytics, ensure that you have a second Google Analytics code added that is your own.
  • Social media plug ins and share tools.
  1. Once the website is live:

Ensure that the 301 redirect plan has been applied so that none of the pages on the previous website become “broken links”.  Google does not like broken links and will penalize.  Verify your website with Google and BING search console. This will give you access to your SEO tools in Google analytics, and also may speed up the re-indexing of your new website in search.

       7.  Benchmark Improvements

Measure your new website month-over-month to benchmark improvements in search visibility, website user engagement (metrics like time on site increases and reduced bounce rates) and of course increases in sales.

A website is never done. Continuously optimize and adjust your website content based on best performing content pages, successful content shares in social media that drive traffic back to the website, user feedback and of course – increases in sales.

It’s that simple! 😉

 

 

SEARCH SWEET SPOT: Beyond Google’s Mothership

A look at travel distribution online in SEARCH – Beyond Google. Part-One of a Two-Part series.

 

Over the past 5-years, online travel booking revenue has grown by more than 73%, with 57% of all travel reservations now made online. (eMarketer; 2014)

Travel marketers know that a large portion of their digital advertising budgets should be focused on driving targeted traffic to the website, and that organic search and paid search advertising campaigns in Google are a critical part of hotel distribution in today’s connected world.

During this time Google has become the MOTHERSHIP of search engines.  Consumer use of search has skyrocketed with no signs of slowing down, even with time spent online becoming increasingly divided by time spent on social networks, news platforms, gaming and streaming of media, as well as search.  Having said that, Google Adwords is an extremely smart advertising platform that has set the standard in the digital industry, and absolutely offers marketers the tools, the reach, targeting options, and the conversion data to prove it.

The current state of search for Travel  

Over the past decade, the travel sector specifically has become heavily reliant on search, and all signs point to more to come. Device targeting and other smart optimization tools will continue to bring advertisers closer to the point of consumer conversion.

 

” The challenge in our reliance on Google search as a key distribution channel for travel is that Google Adwords is becoming increasingly expensive, with other large travel category advertisers such as OTA’s, brands and meta-search sites driving up the cost-per-click and overall cost of paid search. “

 

To add to this, Google is still adjusting how organic and paid search displays with ongoing changes to where locally optimized businesses are placed.

This is getting extremely complex when we look at travel search in Google, with changes happening continually in how results are displayed.

I am sure all travel marketers would agree, it has become more expensive to play the search game year over year, which is also reducing its efficiency in providing targeted reach, and converted sales – at a reasonable cost-per-conversion for advertisers.

The travel as a sector is heavily reliant on search, more so than in other industries including retail, automotive or consumer packaged goods. OTA’s, Hotel brands, Airlines, Meta Search engines, and other travel aggregators and intermediaries continue to dominate the paid search and content networks.

With increased costs associated with search, it will be difficult for smaller advertisers to continue to up the ante to compete for the consumer click.

In the past, only those located in markets like major city centers and popular destinations had to deal with high CPC’s, and usually the cost-per-acquisition of paid search compared with other advertising channels still made it an extremely effective sales channel.

Now with increased advertisers, specifically in Google’s paid search ad platform, search will likely become as expensive as television was in the past and perhaps more of a place for brand marketing and awareness campaigns.

This leaves travel marketers at a place once again of needing to shift digital dollars to a channels that have both the reach and engagement of the consumer – and that provide a healthy cost-per-acquisition.

Can travel advertisers afford not to look at other digital marketing channels?

Google Search will likely continue to be populated by larger travel category advertisers including major hotel brands and hotel groups, OTA’s, Airlines and other travel intermediaries such as meta-search engines like Trivago and even Tripadvisor.

Google Adwords will continue to offer extremely localized campaign options with more of a mobile focus for advertisers to target consumers closer to the point of conversion, but both CPC’s and cost to manage such complex marketing campaigns will continue to demand investment.

 

SearchSweetSpot_article_aliciawhalen_ideahatching.comThe digital distribution of travel is about to shift again. Considerations beyond the mothership.

Travel marketer’s will need to be smarter with digital marketing planning and use smart data and analytics now more than ever. Annual digital media planning must include consideration and testing of other online advertising platforms to ensure hoteliers remain in control of their online sales channels as the travel buying process continues to become more and more fragmented across multiple devices and platforms.

Where should marketers be looking to spend digital marketing dollars?  My recommendation is to plan ahead and test the waters.

Diversify your digital Adspend. Test and measure.

As search advertising continues to increase in cost, travel marketers should consider shifting online budgets to allow for testing of other digital distribution channels.

The sacrifice of a less mass audience reach may result in a more targeted consumer – at a lower cost-per-conversion. There are many of these marketing channels to explore.

Smart marketers will ensure that analytics are in place with key performance metrics and goal tracking, and then consider testing the waters more aggressively with some other highly effective digital marketing channels such as:

  • Local Search (Google Places and Business pages Optimization): with deep segmentation based on device, geo targeting and call and link extensions.
  • Yahoo/Bing Network Search: Approximately 1/3 of all search in US and Canada is delivered by Yahoo Bing. CPC’s are much lower, and audience is highly targeted for the travel industry. (more to follow in part-two of this series)
  • Social Media: Content and resources to support with some adspend allocated will ensure that brand reputation is strong. Social media is not as likely to lead to a direct conversion (yet), but plays an important role in the consumer buying process. It is critical for marketers to manage CRM and the ever-important travel review.
  • Tripadvisor Business listings provide for direct to property contact links (phone, website, deals pages) and special offers to drive direct, noncommissioned bookings.
  • DMO’s – Destination Marketing Organizations need to play an active role in being the travel guide and destination expert via social media marketing and strong website assets pointing travelers to stakeholders to convert. Stakeholder partnerships, combined digital media buys on behalf of the destination, content partnerships and optimized business/property listings to drive referral traffic to hotels are a must.

Specifically, Hoteliers can expect that the OTA’s, hotel brands, major airlines and other major travel category advertisers will continue to increase their investment in search.

Moving forward, small to medium sized hotels and travel advertisers can leverage this.  Hotels and other travel suppliers will need to be well positioned within each channel (Expedia, booking.com, kayak, Tripadvisor, etc.) – and then let the larger advertisers do the heavy lifting on digital channels such as:

  • Google search and display, content and video (YouTube) ad networks
  • Bing/Yahoo Ad network and content sites
  • MetaSearch Engines (Kayak)
  • Tripadvisor destination pages, display advertising, PPC
  • Online travel advertisers such as Expedia, booking.com
  • Brand marketing programs offered within major hotel chains such as Starwood and Marriott

Overall, travel marketers should be focusing on deeper optimization of ad campaigns across all platforms to keep spending as targeted as possible, and cost per conversions low.

CONCLUDING SOUNDBITES:

Search marketing is important but will continue to increase in cost.
  1. According to eMarketer, 128 million people, or 63% of Internet users, will research travel online on their computer or through their mobile device this year. Of those, 83%, or 106 million people, will actually book travel
  2. Travel advertisers should consider advertising on other search channels: Consider placing some adspend towards Yahoo/Bing Search. According to YahooBing (and comscore), its search platform serves 1/3 of search to those not using the mothership (Google) and reaches 34% of the overall Mobile Search Market . This is key as consumers continue to increase time spent on mobile devices over desktop.
  3. Marketers need to continue to focus on analytics and campaign performance analysis with marketing, sales and revenue departments working together to ensure search drives rate as well as direct consumer acquisition, with a focus on price transparency in all places online.

Part two of this article will explore other digital advertising tactics that can provide deep customer targeting and access to travel consumers online and who are close to the point of sale.  Until then, time to review the budget for 2015 and allow for some budget to test the waters – outside of the mothership.

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media.  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at her blog www.ideahatching.com 

 

 

Additional article references:

1. searchengineland: Bing Ads vs. adwords

2. Financial Post: Google or Bing Ads for SMB’s

3. searchenginewatch.com: Search Engine Market Share

4. Experian.com: Online Trends in Canada

SEARCH SWEET SPOT: Beyond Google's Mothership

A look at travel distribution online in SEARCH – Beyond Google. Part-One of a Two-Part series.

 

Over the past 5-years, online travel booking revenue has grown by more than 73%, with 57% of all travel reservations now made online. (eMarketer; 2014)

Travel marketers know that a large portion of their digital advertising budgets should be focused on driving targeted traffic to the website, and that organic search and paid search advertising campaigns in Google are a critical part of hotel distribution in today’s connected world.

During this time Google has become the MOTHERSHIP of search engines.  Consumer use of search has skyrocketed with no signs of slowing down, even with time spent online becoming increasingly divided by time spent on social networks, news platforms, gaming and streaming of media, as well as search.  Having said that, Google Adwords is an extremely smart advertising platform that has set the standard in the digital industry, and absolutely offers marketers the tools, the reach, targeting options, and the conversion data to prove it.

The current state of search for Travel  

Over the past decade, the travel sector specifically has become heavily reliant on search, and all signs point to more to come. Device targeting and other smart optimization tools will continue to bring advertisers closer to the point of consumer conversion.

 

” The challenge in our reliance on Google search as a key distribution channel for travel is that Google Adwords is becoming increasingly expensive, with other large travel category advertisers such as OTA’s, brands and meta-search sites driving up the cost-per-click and overall cost of paid search. “

 

To add to this, Google is still adjusting how organic and paid search displays with ongoing changes to where locally optimized businesses are placed.

This is getting extremely complex when we look at travel search in Google, with changes happening continually in how results are displayed.

I am sure all travel marketers would agree, it has become more expensive to play the search game year over year, which is also reducing its efficiency in providing targeted reach, and converted sales – at a reasonable cost-per-conversion for advertisers.

The travel as a sector is heavily reliant on search, more so than in other industries including retail, automotive or consumer packaged goods. OTA’s, Hotel brands, Airlines, Meta Search engines, and other travel aggregators and intermediaries continue to dominate the paid search and content networks.

With increased costs associated with search, it will be difficult for smaller advertisers to continue to up the ante to compete for the consumer click.

In the past, only those located in markets like major city centers and popular destinations had to deal with high CPC’s, and usually the cost-per-acquisition of paid search compared with other advertising channels still made it an extremely effective sales channel.

Now with increased advertisers, specifically in Google’s paid search ad platform, search will likely become as expensive as television was in the past and perhaps more of a place for brand marketing and awareness campaigns.

This leaves travel marketers at a place once again of needing to shift digital dollars to a channels that have both the reach and engagement of the consumer – and that provide a healthy cost-per-acquisition.

Can travel advertisers afford not to look at other digital marketing channels?

Google Search will likely continue to be populated by larger travel category advertisers including major hotel brands and hotel groups, OTA’s, Airlines and other travel intermediaries such as meta-search engines like Trivago and even Tripadvisor.

Google Adwords will continue to offer extremely localized campaign options with more of a mobile focus for advertisers to target consumers closer to the point of conversion, but both CPC’s and cost to manage such complex marketing campaigns will continue to demand investment.

 

SearchSweetSpot_article_aliciawhalen_ideahatching.comThe digital distribution of travel is about to shift again. Considerations beyond the mothership.

Travel marketer’s will need to be smarter with digital marketing planning and use smart data and analytics now more than ever. Annual digital media planning must include consideration and testing of other online advertising platforms to ensure hoteliers remain in control of their online sales channels as the travel buying process continues to become more and more fragmented across multiple devices and platforms.

Where should marketers be looking to spend digital marketing dollars?  My recommendation is to plan ahead and test the waters.

Diversify your digital Adspend. Test and measure.

As search advertising continues to increase in cost, travel marketers should consider shifting online budgets to allow for testing of other digital distribution channels.

The sacrifice of a less mass audience reach may result in a more targeted consumer – at a lower cost-per-conversion. There are many of these marketing channels to explore.

Smart marketers will ensure that analytics are in place with key performance metrics and goal tracking, and then consider testing the waters more aggressively with some other highly effective digital marketing channels such as:

  • Local Search (Google Places and Business pages Optimization): with deep segmentation based on device, geo targeting and call and link extensions.
  • Yahoo/Bing Network Search: Approximately 1/3 of all search in US and Canada is delivered by Yahoo Bing. CPC’s are much lower, and audience is highly targeted for the travel industry. (more to follow in part-two of this series)
  • Social Media: Content and resources to support with some adspend allocated will ensure that brand reputation is strong. Social media is not as likely to lead to a direct conversion (yet), but plays an important role in the consumer buying process. It is critical for marketers to manage CRM and the ever-important travel review.
  • Tripadvisor Business listings provide for direct to property contact links (phone, website, deals pages) and special offers to drive direct, noncommissioned bookings.
  • DMO’s – Destination Marketing Organizations need to play an active role in being the travel guide and destination expert via social media marketing and strong website assets pointing travelers to stakeholders to convert. Stakeholder partnerships, combined digital media buys on behalf of the destination, content partnerships and optimized business/property listings to drive referral traffic to hotels are a must.

Specifically, Hoteliers can expect that the OTA’s, hotel brands, major airlines and other major travel category advertisers will continue to increase their investment in search.

Moving forward, small to medium sized hotels and travel advertisers can leverage this.  Hotels and other travel suppliers will need to be well positioned within each channel (Expedia, booking.com, kayak, Tripadvisor, etc.) – and then let the larger advertisers do the heavy lifting on digital channels such as:

  • Google search and display, content and video (YouTube) ad networks
  • Bing/Yahoo Ad network and content sites
  • MetaSearch Engines (Kayak)
  • Tripadvisor destination pages, display advertising, PPC
  • Online travel advertisers such as Expedia, booking.com
  • Brand marketing programs offered within major hotel chains such as Starwood and Marriott

Overall, travel marketers should be focusing on deeper optimization of ad campaigns across all platforms to keep spending as targeted as possible, and cost per conversions low.

CONCLUDING SOUNDBITES:

Search marketing is important but will continue to increase in cost.
  1. According to eMarketer, 128 million people, or 63% of Internet users, will research travel online on their computer or through their mobile device this year. Of those, 83%, or 106 million people, will actually book travel
  2. Travel advertisers should consider advertising on other search channels: Consider placing some adspend towards Yahoo/Bing Search. According to YahooBing (and comscore), its search platform serves 1/3 of search to those not using the mothership (Google) and reaches 34% of the overall Mobile Search Market . This is key as consumers continue to increase time spent on mobile devices over desktop.
  3. Marketers need to continue to focus on analytics and campaign performance analysis with marketing, sales and revenue departments working together to ensure search drives rate as well as direct consumer acquisition, with a focus on price transparency in all places online.

Part two of this article will explore other digital advertising tactics that can provide deep customer targeting and access to travel consumers online and who are close to the point of sale.  Until then, time to review the budget for 2015 and allow for some budget to test the waters – outside of the mothership.

 

ABOUT:

Alicia Whalen is a digital + social media marketing strategist, author and speaker specializing in the travel and tourism industry. Alicia has spent over a decade driving successful digital marketing campaigns and educating tourism professionals about how to embrace digital and social media.  An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at her blog www.ideahatching.com 

 

 

Additional article references:

1. searchengineland: Bing Ads vs. adwords

2. Financial Post: Google or Bing Ads for SMB’s

3. searchenginewatch.com: Search Engine Market Share

4. Experian.com: Online Trends in Canada

A Canadian online travel marketing conference turns 8 and goes back to its travel roots

Patricia and I launched the first Online Revealed Canada travel marketing conference over 7 years ago, with an idea to educate Canadian Tourism professionals about how to market travel online.  At the time, we were all new to concepts such as Search Engine Optimization, writing content for the web, website usability, website analytics, and why we even needed to know about all of this as tourism marketers.

Looking back, we are amazed at both how the conference has grown, and how the tourism industry has changed to keep ahead of such a fast evolving new media world.

The first conference held in Ottawa in 2006 (in association with the Canadian Tourism Commission) drew more than 180 attendees, and had a focus on educating travel marketing professionals about ecommerce, and how the web was evolving as a key marketing and distribution channel for hotels, attractions and in destination marketing.  The inaugural event opened with a keynote presentation from eMarketer founder Geoff Ramsey, who once again made a guest appearance at our 5th anniversary event in Montreal.

Coming off of the success in Ottawa, we moved Online Revealed in May of 2007 to Toronto to reach further into the market. Over 200 attendees spent two-days learning about concepts from Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Content Syndication, Web 2.0, Revenue Management and more, with 15 workshop rotations and numerous keynote speeches and panels, with annual networking receptions, including the Travelzoo party becoming a must attend event, and the now annual Google eTourism awards.

2008 brought us to Calgary, Alberta where we hosted over 230 of Canada’s leading tourism professionals including Destination Marketing Organizations, Hotel Brands, Tourism Associations, Search Engines, Technology Companies and Tourism Marketing experts.  Yahoo! Canada was the premier sponsor, and the two-day event brought 16 workshops, 3 panel discussions and 3 keynote presentations addressing the critical issues influencing tourism in Canada.

2009 saw Online Revealed hosted in Niagara Falls with over 300 attendees, and high profile internet marketing experts from Google and TripAdvisor elevating the conference to new heights, as well as a keynote by well-known TV personality Arlene Dickinson of the Dragon’s Den.

In 2010, we celebrated the 5th anniversary in Montreal with over 250 industry Professionals attending, and Online Revealed 2011 in Toronto (the first year that the conference was co-located with the Canadian Hotel Association Conference).  The conference exceeded expectations with over 500 attendees, and incredible content including a keynote by the mastermind behind Google Maps; Michael T. Jones, Chief Technology Advocate, Google.

ORC 2012 Speakers2012 was the conference’s 7th anniversary, with record attendance and once again, held in Toronto, and co-located with the Hotel Association Conference.  2012 saw the launch of the Destination Marketing Online Benchmarking report with 16 participating Canadian DMO’s.  The report will continue to evolve moving forward to build a research-based approach to benchmarking online marketing successes against Canadian Destination marketing organizations, and against international tourism destinations such as New Zealand and the USA.

Conference content has expanded with innovative topics including; mobile marketing, social media marketing, and keynotes from both Nikki Germany, head of Industry Travel, Google Canada as well as Steve Irvine, Director of Facebook Canada.

The inaugural conference in 2006 produced by “a couple of chicks who knew what they were doing online, and thought they could show the rest of the industry,” has since evolved to become the go-to event for the travel and tourism industry in Canada to learn, connect and be informed about the ever evolving world of digital marketing.

Our focus from the start was to provide hands-on education, and actionable tactics for marketing tourism online, and a community of shared resources and support.

8th Annual Online Revealed Canada conference logoPatricia and I are excited to be back on the road, and back to our “travel roots” for the 8th annual Online Revealed Conference, which will be held this April 2-4th, 2013 in Windsor, Ontario at Caesars Hotel and Casino, with an anticipated attendance of 450, who will once again come together to connect, learn and share with industry experts and peers – successes, opportunities and strategies in marketing tourism and travel online.

In just 7 years, Online Revealed Canada and A Couple of Chicks™ eMarketing have produced 7 Conferences and 6 road shows educating over 1,600 industry professionals by providing over 100 workshops and presentations.

We would like to thank Tony Pollard, and the Hotel Association of Canada Conference, for co-locating our events during the past two years in Toronto.   We would also like to thank all of our past attendees, sponsors, partners, clients, colleagues and friends who have participated in shaping what this event is today.

Moving into our 8th year, we are busy preparing for our best event yet!  As we look forward to the next Online Revealed chapters, I wonder where the next seven years will bring us?  Mark your calendars for April 2-4th for Online Revealed 2013 and we will see you in Windsor!

Join the Online Revealed Community:  Online Revealed on Facebook

Online Revealed on Twitter                         Online Revealed Blog


Canadian Destination marketing online benchmarking report pilot project: Results and Key findings

As consumer buying behavior has shifted online, Destination marketers have had to adjust their strategies beyond the printed travel guides, brochures and information centre’s of the past, to provide perspective visitors engaging content such as; video’s and social media communities in order to entice consumers to visit.

The website has become the visitor centre.

From our work with DMOs, PMOs, RTOs and visitor bureaus, we along with Miles, our partners in this research project, know that DMOs small and large continue to be challenged in understanding how to adjust their dollars according to changes in consumer usage of the web.

In developing the Canadian DMO online benchmarking report, we had a goal to help improve the online performance, and build stakeholder confidence in DMO marketing programs.  As travel consumers continue to evolve in usage of digital and mobile platforms, Destination marketers need to understand how to adjust their marketing dollars accordingly.

We had an overwhelming response to the initiative with 16 participating DMOs from across Canada including:

Tourism New BrunswickOttawa TourismTourism Nova ScotiaTourism Hamilton and Tourism Yukon

Using Google analytics, and a defined set of key performance indicators, it was our intention to benchmark the online performance of leading DMOs, PMOs and CVBs from across Canada, and compare them to themselves, and against International destinations including New Zealand and the US.

Some of the key performance indicators used in the pilot study included:

  1. Website performance in terms of overall traffic
  2. Traffic by major domestic and international markets
  3. Sources of traffic
  4. Key engagement metrics
  5. Mobile metrics

I am excited to share some of the key findings taken from the aggregated summary report of the pilot study.  We measured the pilot sample with analytics from the 2011 Calendar year, aggregated the data, and provided each of the 16 participating DMOs with an individual report with recommendations.  In addition, we produced an aggregated report summarizing the data for the entire Canadian sample of DMOs measured, and compared them with the data taken from the samples in both New Zealand and US.

The resulting key insights from the pilot program of the Canadian DMO Online Benchmarking Reports include:

1. Trends in new audience growth:

  • The overall Canadian online audience growth (in new visitors) is slower than the USA, and New Zealand.  Are Canadian DMOs investing as much as international destinations in driving new audiences to their websites?

2. International reach of Canadian Destinations:

  • Canadian Destinations have less penetration into foreign markets, including the neighboring US, which provides only around 12% of Canadian DMO website traffic.
  • Also consider that major Asian countries such as China and Japan represent only very small percentage of users to the sample (0.14-0.17%), and yet each represent 1-2% of International visitors to Canada.

3. Mobile opportunity:

  • Canada is second (8%) only to the USA (15%) in users accessing DMO site via mobile device.  This will shift quickly as consumer behavior and use of mobile phones as well as tablets quickly take over.
  • DMOs need to be prepared for this shift with mobile friendly websites and content.

The pilot study clearly pointed to the need for mobile friendly websites (at the very least a more streamlined HTML 5 version of the primary website), with a consumer base that will be increasingly mobile connected, not only during the research phase of travel, but while in-destination as well.

4. Managing beyond the click: Measuring both quantity and quality

  • Canadian DMOs sampled had a slightly higher Bounce Rate (49%) than the sample from both the US, and New Zealand (47%), but all are higher than what is standard for a DMO website that is delivering content that is engaging to visitors.  It is not all about the number of unique visitors to the site, but also about how long they stay, and how deep they go into the content.
  • DMO websites should strive for around a 40% overall bounce Rate, 30% Home page bounce rate, 4:00 min time on site, and 5-pages per visit as a standard.  More engaging content will help to improve these metrics.

5. Measure and adjust:

  • Canadian DMOs are not utilizing Google Analytics (a free and mass adopted standard in web analytics, which now offers social metrics) to track the success of specific marketing initiatives such as eblasts, SEO, and Paid Search marketing campaigns.
  • The DMO benchmarking study utilized Google analytics as the primary point of measurement.

Destination marketing organizations require a high level reporting to stakeholders and members, and should ensure proper use of Google analytics conversion and goal tracking (or other analytics tools in combination), to better analyze and report on campaign performance, and key performance indicators over time.

The data collected from the report provides a measure of trends over time and gives early warnings of opportunities or shifts in strategy that should be considered for destination marketers. We are excited after an extremely successful pilot program, and with the endorsement of the Canadian Tourism Commission to announce the launch of the 2012/2013 series of reports.

We are calling now to Canadian DMOs, PMOs, RTOs and CVBs to participate in the 2012/2013 report series, and thank the initial 16 destination marketing organizations who participated in the pilot program.

About the Canadian DMO online benchmarking study:

As both A Couple of Chicks eMarketing and Miles Partnership specialize in destination marketing online, and continue to work with marketers to illustrate the importance of online positioning for DMOs, we collectively were very passionate about providing the industry with a standard in statistical measurement in order to help to support DMOs in getting buy-in from stakeholders, and to help to improve efficiencies and better educate marketers about the digital space.

Why benchmark online success for Destination Marketing?

1. To track Canadian destinations against key online performance measures. (to determine ROI in digital marketing initiatives), engage stakeholder support, and improve performance over time.

2. Provide benchmarking metrics amongst DMO peers – against themselves, and international DMOs to better understand where they fit in comparison to their peers.

3. To provide insight into trends and opportunities for improvement.  The online space is fast evolving and new media has changed the way consumers research and book travel.  DMOs must keep up with the pace of change, and to continue to evolve with the new consumer.

4.  The data provides a measure of trends over time and gives early warnings of opportunities or shifts in strategy that should be considered for destination marketers.

Thank you again to the 16 pilot project participants!

For more information on the Canadian DMO online benchmarking report series, visit www.acoupleofchicks.com

 

 

 

 

Benchmarking ROI of Social Marketing in Travel: Part One Destination Marketing Organizations

Social Media has changed forever how consumers buy travel.  The traditional marketing mix has been turned on its head with marketing tactics moving far beyond printed travel guides, display media, traditional print, radio and television – pushing travel marketers to become transparent participators in consumer conversation, and more importantly, pushing them to account for the ROI in allocating resources to social media marketing.

Whether we are talking about a travel related service such as an airline, hotel room, or attraction, social media channels have been a game changer in both marketing, as well as in distribution, sales, public relations and CRM.

How do we measure success or specifically ROI in using channels like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to sell travel related products, services and experiences?  Specifically, how does a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO or VCB) tackle the measurement and communication of success of social media programs to stakeholders?

Before we can accurately measure the success or ROI of social media marketing tactics, it is important to take a step back and first establish the point of conversion.  It seems simple enough, but it is a step that many marketers are missing as new buzz generating digital tactics enter the picture every day.  As well, a traditional DMO or CVB may not necessarily have a transaction point, which further complicates benchmarking of the DMO role in marketing the destination.

1.    The first step is to determine which social media channels are key to the success in selling the product, service or experience.

Consumers spend time in search engines, websites, blogs, review sites, and social communities on their journey to the point of conversion.  Resources must be focused towards those social media communities where the majority of consumers are spending their time during travel research.

2.    Identify the point of end conversion.

The conversion may be a reservation or a sale, a coupon download, or an email sign up.  Each campaign, whether the tactic is social media in isolation, or in combination with other media channels, should be measured against the same key metrics for marketers to begin to see trends and properly benchmark successes.

It is almost a necessity for a Destination (DMO or CVB) to be on both Facebook and Twitter at this stage in the game.  The question then becomes what role does the DMO play in the online conversation, how does this role support the consumer buying process, and most importantly; how does the DMO communicate the value of these programs to its stakeholders?

It is important to keep in mind that the transaction point is not necessarily a booking or a sale, and therefore the key performance indicators may be tied instead to reach, share of voice in comparison to other destinations, traffic to stakeholder websites, or social media chatter or buzz related to core destination products and services – or any combination of key metrics that are important to the DMO in achieving its mandate.

3.    Determine Key Performance Indicators and metrics of campaign success.

Once the conversion point is determined in a social media campaign, and goals defined, metrics can be put in place.  Some key metrics that may be measured to benchmark the success of a DMO or VCB social marketing campaign or overall social media marketing efforts include:

  • Facebook posts, comments and likes (usins Facebook Insights or other measurement tools in combination)
  • # of Post views and Post feedback (posts to social channels like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and beyond)
  • Average interaction per post
  • Number of new fans in relation to fans prior to campaign
  • # of broadcasted messages via Twitter
  • # of RT’s (retweets)
  • # of @replies
  • Contest entries
  • Hashtag trending and reach (on Twitter)

Points of measurement that will become even more important as we go forward include; Number of App downloads and Mobile location.

App downloads will be a critical point of measurement of performance moving forward, but also mobile location as we are now able to pinpoint further the success in reaching target markets (geographically), as well as to gain metrics on how close to the sale or transaction that the DMO really is based on where an app download or location tag was used.

In most cases the DMO or VCB takes the role of influencer of a travel transaction, and when a DMO can successfully measure the impact on buying behaviour close to the point of sale, and is able to tie that back to a specific campaign on Facebook and Twitter through key performance measurables we have a #WINNING benchmark for measurement. [yes I inserted a hashtag reference #Cheesy]

4.    Determine free and paid tools available to properly measure campaign success and overall reach.

There are numerous measurement tools currently available to assist destination marketing organizations in measuring the success of social media campaign tactics.  At this time, there is no one best solution or silver bullet social media measurement tool, but putting key performance measurables in place and consistently measuring social media initiatives against goals and defined KPI’s is the way to begin.

Once KPI’s are established, there are many tools that can assist in tracking to determine success.  Social monitoring or measurement tools are available in every price range, and with varying levels of service and support.

There are however Social media monitoring and measurement tools, both free and paid, that can and should be used to assist in measuring KPI’s of social media campaigns for Destination Marketing organizations.

At the basic level, social monitoring tools such as HootSuite, and free tools like Tweetreach and Facebook Insights that can be used to measure reach and engagement at the campaign level.  Tools such as these also assist in managing campaigns allowing community managers to track buzz and topics related to their destination, and then contribute to the conversation.

Marketers should also be using GoogleAlerts to monitor content related to their brand, and measurement tools such as Google Analytics also have social and mobile tracking capabilities.

Depending on goals, more robust monitoring and measurement tools are available  There are Social measurement tools that have been developed to work specifically for tracking social activity for hotels, resorts and hotel groups; these include solutions such as Review Analyst, and Revinate to name a few.  As of yet, there are no tools that I have reviewed that specifically work for Destination marketers.

Some well known social measurment tools include; Radian6, SproutSocial, Heartbeat (a solution by Marketwire), Awareness Social Monitoring software, Ubervu social media dashboard and more.  There is no one size fits all solution for measuring social media.  The medium is still new and evolving at a rapid pace.  What we do know is that consumers want to talk about their buying experiences, they want to hear from brands, and they are buying online across multiple channels.

Next in this series on social media measurement and monitoring, I will look at benchmarking social media ROI for hotels, resorts and hotel brands.  Until then, I will set up some KPI’s to determine the reach of this Blog post.  I hope to be reporting hundreds of Retweets, Facebook likes, new Fans, Shares, Comments, Replies, Google+’s, tags and recommendations.  Maybe I will even get a high five or a woot woot!  I will keep you “posted”.

Online Revealed Canada,March 5-7 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel presents an opportunity to participate in a limited benchmarking / measurement project for DMOs / PMOs / CVBs. Participants in this groundbreaking study will be able to benchmark Online Performance in comparison to other participating Canadian DMOs, PMOs & CVBs, as well as other US & International Destinations. Miles Media and A Couple of Chicks e-Marketing (in conjunction with TripAdvisor) will be offering the free benchmarking report to PARTICIPATING ‘Online Revealed’ DMO conference attendees.  Visit our website for details.

References used in this article include:

Slideshare presentation by Altimeter Social media marketing analytics report

Createwanderlust.com article on Social Media Integrated Campaign

Hotelmarketing.com: mixed results for travel sites on Facebook

Thank you also to our valued clients, and colleagues in this industry for always pushing us forward in ensuring we are at the head of the curve in providing ROI driven digital marketing programs.  We are looking forward to seeing you all next week at the annual Online Revealed Conference where we will once again dive into what is new and now in marketing tourism online.

Advertising is based on one thing: Happiness

You have settled into 2011 and gearing up to implement the marketing plan you completed in 2010. But hold on! The Internet has changed again!

This is a fast paced digital world we live in – but perhaps we need to take a queue from Don Draper, our favorite MadMen Ad exec when he says “Advertising is based on one thing: Happiness.”

Why is this relevant now in the age of an exploding online medium?  Let’s just take a breath, re-group and bring it back to basics. There is content coming at us fast and furious – whether its Mobile Apps and Tablet Marketing, or Viral Video’s, or Facebook, Twitter – and what about YouTube and Foursquare? How do we really make consumers happy now?  Is it still as simple as delivering on a promise and providing a product or service that makes your customers happy?

If so – how do we engage with consumers who are changing their online user behavior as quickly as Facebook changes its profile layouts?  I have had numerous conversations with clients who are second-guessing where they allocated their marketing dollars because of the following:

FEAR of missing the next big thing.
RESOURCES – both financial and human.
CONFUSION about what tactics to focus on as the online world shifts again – and again – and again.

My advice? Bring it Back to Basics:

1. Know Your Customer (and make them Happy)

• Check your website analytics for top referral traffic and focus on building on them and building more target referral traffic.
• Use a social media monitoring tool like Radian 6 , Revinate or free tools like Google Alerts, Twitter Advanced Search or others to listen to your customers and understand how to make them happy.
• Allocate time and resources to understand changes in how your target audiences are researching and transacting online.  Read and educate yourself about digital marketing tactics that work.
• Most importantly, if you’re taking the time to ‘listen’ to your customer’s online behavior – be sure you act on that information. Simply monitoring the conversation without adjusting your strategy will not help you understand how your consumer wants to receive your messages now and in the future.

2. Keep Your Eye on the Prize. Understand Your Objectives

• Are you looking to increase sales? To build a new audience? Launch a new brand? Increase brand engagement?
• With all of the new tactics available to marketers today, it is more important than ever to set specific and measurable objectives for campaigns. (It makes me nostalgic for the Mad Men days really)

3. Stick With What Works
• If you have already developed an active Twitter following and you’re seeing ROI (in sales and or website traffic etc) keep going!
• Roll it out across your other brands, build a team of Tweeters to help in building and engaging your audience further – think about what would take a successful campaign to the next level.
• If Google AdWords campaigns worked well last year to drive targeted traffic during need times, or to sell specific packages or products – build on it and do it again with a new twist, or put more dollars towards it perhaps instead of a tactic that did not perform as well.

4. Don’t Forget About Search

• Although Facebook has surpassed Google in user time spent online, the World Wide Web is a complex Ecosystem that is constantly growing and changing.
• Focus on making sure you have a strong web presence across all online channels that help to guide your consumers to transact.
• Ensure you have taken care of the basics like search engine optimization, good creative and content, Google Places optimization, a good mobile version of your website etc. and then you can focus on other channels to build your traffic.

5. Integrate. Integrate. Integrate.

• Make sure you integrate your campaigns online and offline.
• Your brand’s digital footprint should have a consistent tone, creative brand message, and should always drive your target consumers to transact.
• A Facebook page with 2,000 followers is only successful if it allows you to drive transactions and build engaged followers. Consider a contest through a customized tab, or a strong call to action or offer for your Facebook community only.

5. Measure + Measure + Measure and then Adjust

• Measure against successes from 2010. Make sure you have defined Key Measurables in place (such as increases in unique visitors, increases in time on site and pages visited or increased sales.)
• Did you launch a new Blog that has increased traffic by 20%? How do you grow it from here or how do you encourage more transactions on the website as a result of the Blog traffic?
• Have your efforts on LinkedIn increased leads to your sales department?
• What can you do to ensure you grow these successful marketing channels?
• Do the tactics outlined in your Marketing Plan work to build on what you have already started? (Perhaps you have allocated budget to building a linkedIn Company page or display advertising campaign to further grow and engage your base of followers, or you have allocated more resources to Blog more frequently.)

Keep it simple – stick to the tactics that will help you achieve your objectives and don’t worry about all the noise.

It can get overwhelming to look at all the marketing tools and tactics that are available to us today. If you execute marketing programs efficiently, with the proper focus on measurement of ROI, (very do-able in the age of digital marketing) you may have the confidence and extra resources to be able to adjust and try new things.

To take a lesson from Mad Man, Don Draper – Budget + target demographic + medium = time for a scotch.  Just make them Happy!

social media strategist vs social media enthusiast

I am an enthusiast of many things. Although I can appreciate a fine wine, and perhaps even describe the ‘nose’ of a good chardonnay – I dare say that I could lead a wine tasting session, or describe the process of oak aging or barrel fermenting.

I would say however that I am both an “enthusiast” and a “strategist” of Social Media. (and perhaps an evangelist and even a connoisseur of a good tweet).

Social media is as most would agree the new ‘medium’ in digital marketing. There are many out there trying to decipher how to…how much…and where to start in creating a social media “strategy” to attract a target consumer to engage and transact.

There lies the difference between a social media ‘Enthusiast” and a social media “Strategist” – it’s in the strategy (not just in the enthusiasm!) Wow – so that’s not rocket science!

Allow me to explain.

We must begin with what constitutes a good Social Media strategy.

1. Develop a good plan.
Sounds simple enough right? Start with who you are trying to reach and what social media channels they are likely frequenting. Decide what you are trying to achieve (ie. traffic back to a website, building an email database, an increase in brand awareness etc), chose the correct channels to populate (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr or all of the above), populate with content and build a community of followers.

Once you have decided on what social channels to include in your campaign, develop a plan to build a community – with an editorial or content strategy to support your goals.

For example: If you are primarily going to use viral video’s with the goal of driving traffic to a transaction – make sure that the YouTube channel you create has many points of reference and links back to your website.

Make sure that you have optimized your video’s properly to be found in search engines – and have populated other places with the video (like your website and Facebook page) and that you have added social media sharing tools to encourage more pass along distribution.

Also – ensure that all of your campaign elements are integrated and talk to each other.

2. Ensure that you have enough of a budget and resources (time, expertise, dollars) to not only plan, but execute the strategy.

This is the tricky part. How do I know what resources I will need after the campaign ‘shelf life’ is up?

Social Media channels like a Twitter account for example typically do not exist in isolation. Typically, a Tweeter is representing a brand voice, or has a Blog associated with it – or a transactional website in which to drive traffic to.

If you are going to engage in social media marketing, you should plan for it to be part of your long term marketing strategy.

4. Measure and assign key performance measurables

Use social monitoring tools (there are many) as well as website tracking tools like Google Analytics to see how the campaign has impacted your campaign goals. Is Facebook now a top referrer of traffic to your website after launching an aggressive Facebook brand page?

How has the time and resources spent on Twitter affected the traffic increases in traffic to your company Blog?

5. Learn and Continue Building
This is a key point as many social media ‘enthusiasts’ may not pay enough attention to the fact that the foundation built in the beginning stages has a big impact on future social media successes. An isolated brand Twitter page with no integration into any other parts of a company’s marketing mix – no matter how many followers it has – will not result in long term success.

In addition, those who live in the social communities such as Facebook, Twiiter and beyond expect transparency, commitment, and for you to add value to the social media ecosystem.

A one off viral video campaign will most likely not work to create any spectacular results without a long-term plan about how to leverage the traffic it has generated, or to engage that audience enough to act.

Social media enthusiasts are passionate about what social media can do – and they make excellent community manager’s and community developers. Just because an enthusiast has a large list of followers on Twitter does not necessarily mean that they can map out a good long-term strategy and help guide the set up and execution of a successful social media marketing campaign.

Always engage with a true Social Media Strategist – one that has proven case studies and speaks to the points above if you are looking for a long term or even short term results…it will pay off in achieving brand ‘mavens’ and not just ‘followers’ who you may never see again.

If you are a connoisseur of a good discussion about social media marketing…I invite you to RT (Re-Tweet) this blog post and share your idea’s of what it takes to be a true strategist.

My take on twitter so far… and getting back to the basics of your online presence!

I have now been a semi faithful Tweeter since November.  I started actively tweeting at the Phocuswright conference in November (really more out of peer pressure than anything). I did enjoy being a part of the community of people commenting on the conference and I started to see the point of the whole thing.  I have since continued to twitter daily and could very easily be distracted with posts if I let myself.

I have been building my network of those I am  following and those who are following me (really it is not as creepy as it sounds). I can now say that I get the concept and how Twitter has gained its popularity so quickly.  I have made some interesting connections with people, and I have gained some great insights into topics I am interested in. It is a really fun networking tool and it can really help bring traffic to your web assets because let’s face it, at the end of the day we need traffic to our cash registers.

A few things that I have uncovered that get lost in translation in the world of Twitter:
Facebook profile updates and Tweets are not the same thing and do not translate well (I have had many Facebook friends ask me what language I speak when I am posting a note from Twitter to my facebook profile).  (I have since removed that application).
-It takes time to build a network of people worth following
-there is a lot of  noise between good posts
-it can be very distracting to monitor and engage in a conversation that never ends!

Using social media tools such as Twitter can offer marketers direct access to a base of customers that they may not otherwise be able to reach.  With the economic times as they are however, I would recommend resources to be allocated towards the following online tactics, and in this order before starting a full out social media marketing strategy that includes Twitter, facebook, YouTube or any other channel.  Without a solid foundation, and a solid transactional asset (the website), the new tools can be simply a distraction.

1. Ensure the Website is fully optimized for both search engines and users. (look at SEO programs and ensure all content and creative is up to date, search engine friendly, and most importantly leads your consumers to transact).
2.Set up or spend some dollars looking at your Web Analytics data to ensure you are capturing your users, engaging them, and then leading them to transact. (You may still have some work to do to ensure that your website is strong before you start developing a Facebook group)
3.Get a solid Web distribution strategy in place for the year (with resources allocated to content development, SEO, search engine marketing tactics such as Pay Per Click or Google local, and online PR to generate buzz for your company and or your widget).
4.Ensure that your ecommerce tools are working.  Does your online booking system need an upgrade? Is your e-newsletter working effectively to drive business? It is great to get a whole whack of new traffic, but if they are leaving your shopping cart to early what’s the point?

Now that I have finished writing this post, I will update my Twitter page and my Facebook profile with a link to the post.  I should really also update my Linkedin profile…and then maybe take a nap, all of this social networking is exhausting and I haven’t even spoke to anyone in 2 hours!

[tags] twitter, social media marketing, SMM, web strategy, internet marketing tactics,online PR, online marketing[/tags]

Building successful online communities – beyond Facebook

As I continually get asked about what it takes to create and execute a successful social media marketing strategy, I have to blog once again about the Lululemon Warehouse Sale example as I have literally watched it build from a substantially large Facebook community (over 700 when I first posted) to a huge community with well over 7,000 RSVP’d attendees of the sale starting tomorrow in Niagara Falls.

I have been getting updates from Carolyn Coles, Social Media Community Manager for Lululemon Athletica, and I wanted to share with you some of her insights. I asked Carolyn about how she is measuring the results across the multiple social media channels she is using to build communities around the event (which include: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr), and which have proven to be the most successful.

Carolyn said the following about the campaign as a whole. “So far we’ve had a tremendous response from the video. Char Loro – a Culture Rep / Key Leader at our Eaton Center store created the video. We’ve also just created a photoset on flickr: www.bit.ly/thefalls.  Many more photos will be posted there throughout the sale. Flickr has been a really amazing community for us to participate in. It’s a fabulous space for us to tell stories. So far we’ve had over 100,000 views on our lululemon feed.”

Twitter was a great place for us to leak the event in the first place. We had guests guess where they thought the sale would take place and send us suggestions for where they’d like to see the next sale. It really gave us a lot of insight into where our followers were from and how we can surprise and delight them in the future. Over the course of a few hours on twitter we released the location of the event, a few tweets to people that I thought would be interested, and I leveraged the relationship we had with some great deal sites online.

Within the first week of us creating a minisite on our website we saw Facebook referrals to our site increase 1,093%! In addition to this FB event – we let fans of other lululemon related groups / pages know of the sale. And posted messages on the walls of lululemon store FB pages in the surrounding areas.

When I asked Carolyn specifically about how she measured the ROI of this campaign (which I know you are all dying to know!) she brought it back to the transaction place, the lulu Website of course!

Yep, we use Google Analytics. it’s an extremely powerful tool. We’ve also been using a tool called BrightKit to monitor the effectiveness of the links we post on Twitter. On Flickr we use the statistics that are a part of having a pro account. They are also extremely telling. Hurray to social media!

Note to all those who are planning a Social Media Marketing campaign.  This marketing channel, like every other does not manage itself.  Note that Carolyn Coles is a full-time Online Community manager, and she is a busy chick! Here it is for all of you who wanted a brilliant execution of Social Media Marketing! Thanks Carolyn and I will be sure to mobile upload pics from the sale tomorrow!

[tags]social media marketing, twitter marketing, facebook marketing, social media strategy, lululemon, flickr marketing, community marketing, online community manager, brightkit.com [/tags]

Digital Advertising – the new Conversation Economy

In a recent Media in Canada e-newsletter, David Feldt, SVP and GM at digital agency Organic nicely recapped the digital marketing trends and changes in 2008.  The following are the high points of note:
 

1.       Huge growth in social media, digital out-of-home, digital point of sale and mobile smart phones
2.       The “app-lification” of marketing and media with downloadable apps, music for mobile devices (iPhone being the trend setter) and social media websites – making people able to connect anywhere at anytime
3.       The start of the “Conversation Economy,” where brands need to join the conversations that consumers are having and play less of a prescriptive role. (I love it – the Conversation Economy – David I just might use that one!)
4.       Growth in 2009 in Location-based marketing (ads served up to mobile devices and digital signage through GPS technology)
 

I would agree with Mr. Feldt in saying that although everyone is focussed on the “R” word as of late, the digital marketing space will continue to grow in 2009.  With the ability to so accurately target, measure ROI immediately and engage consumers like never before, Marketing online will provide organizations who are ready to take the leap a huge advantage. 

[tags]Digital advertising, conversation economy, organic.com, media in Canada, social media, iPhone, mobile marketing, online marketing [/tags]

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
alicia.whalen@gmail.com
905-401-2249

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