Why Brands Need to Stay ‘On’ in a Digital World

When was the last time you planned your campaign for the next quarter? Probably fairly recently, as that’s how marketers have typically planned campaigns since the advent of mass media.

Except now we have digital channels that are on demand 24/7, many of which are not controlled or owned by the brand. And yet, we still plan “by the quarter” when in fact we need to change our planning construct from campaigns being off or on, to always on.

Google is promoting the “Zero Moment of Truth“, which is the online journey a customer takes before they arrive at a store to make a purchase decision at the point of sale (AKA the “First Moment of Truth” coined by Procter & Gamble). Customers are now more informed on competitor brands, product knowledge and pricing than ever before.

So the key question is: How do I influence and reach these potential customers, especially when my “official” campaign may not be running? How do I ensure 24/7 always on reach?

There are three pillars to being “always on” for your digital marketing:
1. Social media
2. Digital content
3. Search

You’ve probably discussed and implemented these pillars before, but let’s talk about them in an “always on” context.

Social Is Always On

Mainstream adoption of social media has meant that brands are acutely aware they no longer control the conversation, especially those from consumer to consumer that happen anytime someone solicits an opinion or posts a review.

Don’t make the mistake that “social media” equates to your brand’s Facebook presence. Whilst Facebook does constitute a significant proportion of eyeballs, the level of brand conversation is much higher on review sites (think TripAdvisor, or Yelp) or discussion forums (like the unofficial Mac Rumors forum,  which is where you should focus.

To be successfully always on in social, you need to know what conversations are happening (i.e. you need accurate social monitoring tools), how will you respond and engage (i.e. a response protocol) and a plan to create content (see next section) which can be shared and amplified socially.

Digital Content Is Always On

Digital content is durable stuff. Once created and published, it’s generally hard to get rid of it. It’s probably been cached somewhere, downloaded or better yet parodied by users, but it’s always available one click away.

Content is not exclusively video. Good content can be anything from an interactive catalogue, a company blog, or a genuinely interesting CSR initiative (like Dulux’s Let’s Colour. Sometimes it can be as small as acknowledging a social media influencer and inviting them to be part of a product improvement plan.

An outstanding example of digital content creation is Red Bull, which has bravely shifted budget away from “bought” mass media, to one of mostly “owned” and “earned” media. This has been achieved through creating compelling video and blog content, delivered on the site, but shared and amplified by fans and other sites worldwide 24/7. Moreover, it gains physical world leverage in high profile sponsorship and its own magazine Red Bulletin.

If you’re going to have digital content, make it great. The acid test is: would a consumer be prepared to spend 2 minutes of their life with your content versus looking at pictures of fluffy kittens on Facebook?

Search Is Always On

More content is now created every two days, than from when history began to 2003, according to Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman. So consumers use search engines as discovery engines to find sites and post they didn’t know existed, precisely on the topic they’re looking for.

And when you search for the following ” review”, or “best “, what appears? Is the content positive or negative to your brand? Are you leading potential buyers closer down the path to purchase or leaving it to random chance? Run these searches for your brand and see what consumers are reading.

You need a continuously search optimised content plan and ongoing paid search marketing to drive traffic to your most relevant content – or positive content created by someone else.

In the next 24 months “social search” will gain momentum, which presents results based on our personal social graphs (we listen to our friends), people like us (who like the same things), and the influence of the poster (expert opinions are worth more than random strangers). Expect this to change significantly when Google+ goes mainstream.

And when this happens, brands will likely have less control over the results without a planned search results content plan, especially one that leverages social networks and user generated content.

Related reading

Vector graphic of two smartphones side by side, featuring a man and a woman with speech bubbles issuing from the phones.