The Trinity of Online Media

I like to harp on about the basic concepts of online marketing. As an industry, it is far too easy to get wrapped up in the minutiae of executing campaigns and lose sight of the big picture. Specifically the tools we have at our disposal and the parts these play in a functional, holistic online campaign.

I am a huge fan of search marketing. Both the SEM (paid) variety and SEO (organic) approach. Search is how people find information online and it is how most people respond to advertising campaigns, regardless of whether the campaign is on or offline.

For marketing to succeed, it is crucial that the search elements of the campaign/s are in place and working. You need to be findable. When someone sees your outdoor ad, your print ad, your TV spot, or your banners, if they are interested, search is the way to find you.

Let’s talk about banners specifically. People don’t click on banners and if we think about it, it is pretty odd that we expect them to. Sure it is possible to click on a banner, but it is not how people respond to any other type of advertising. You don’t click on a bus ad! To click on a banner is to break with everything we know about our normal relationship with advertising.

So search is the central part of our online communication. What you cannot achieve with organic search you can cover with paid search. The key is to be there when a customer is actively looking for you.

What search has serious problems with, is raising awareness in the first place. Let’s say that you have a new product; it’s wonderful, it’s the best thing ever, but if people aren’t aware of it, they are not going to search for it.

Something needs to do the job of raising awareness and creating desire for the product. This could be print, outdoor, radio, TV, or online. Banners and other forms of online display are very useful in that they offer a low-cost way to put controlled frequency on a specific target audience. I am probably biased; I am after all both remunerated by and emotionally attached to banners. Regardless, an awareness element must be present in the campaign mix.

That leaves us with social media. Social media can be a place where people look for product information. Social media can be a place with vast audience numbers. The fragmented nature of social media limits its usefulness as a mass-market medium. Audiences in social sites are often in pockets; these pockets by their very nature limit the reach of the discussion.

I do not doubt that there are some social media executions that have miraculous results. In a normal campaign, under normal circumstances, social media is best viewed as a great way to build grassroots support. In practice, it is a great way to build the search footprint for a campaign, build backlinks for SEO, and it is a great platform to distribute content. As a TV or even banner replacement, social media has a long way to go in creating awareness dependably.

In essence, all three major disciplines of online marketing should be employed in concert to achieve the best result. People need to be made aware of the campaign, they need to be able to find the information they need, and have places on the social Web to discuss, compare, and verify the information that they have found. Get these elements working together smoothly and you will have a campaign that works.