We live in an age of perpetual change; both the smartphone and social media are transformative products that continually change the way massive numbers of people engage with the internet The more closely integrated the two get, the more we have to radically reconsider how we reach audiences who are perpetually plugged into a rapidly-shifting media platform.
This kind of technological shift is present everywhere. Nothing in the digital space is steady, and our methodologies must be constantly evolving in order to always effectively reach the people we want to be doing business with.
Below, we’ve made a list of four major ways the digital marketing space is changing to meet these new realities.
1) Ad Blocking
Nothing is more of a pain than people using ad blocking software. But it’s hard to blame them; without it, the internet becomes a giant sea of billboards, click-thrus, and pop-ups. It can get very disruptive, and it’s no surprise at all that people want to avoid ads as much as they can. Heck, it’s a major part of the appeal of Netflix.
But even if it’s understandable, it’s a problem we have to overcome; research from Adobe and PageFair discovered that ad blocking may cost publishers $41 billion dollars in 2016. And while some companies have responded by restricting their content to browsers without the software running (and then politely asking people to disable it), the real answer isn’t to get customers to let their guards down, but to make ads less of an annoyance.
Nobody likes advertising that gets between them and their content, or that screams at them until they pay attention. But relevant advertising that promises and delivers value?
Well, that’s a different story.
The key is to amplify whatever the person consuming the content is doing at that moment; rather than getting in between them and what they’re trying to do, you provide them with more of it. This can range from advertising that’s relevant to a specific news topic or subject matter, retargeting people with items they’ve viewed on your ecommerce site (or even better – placed in their carts), or answering their specific (highly commercial) search queries.
In other words, people start listening again when you start giving them something worth listening to.
2) Closing the Mobile Gap
Mobile ad spending exceeded $42 billion dollars last year. That’s two thirds of all digital advertising. And of course it did! More and more, people have been migrating off desktops, and now more people are smartphone-exclusive than computer-exclusive, and over half of all Google searches are conducted via mobile platforms.
One thing this means is that non-mobile-optimized websites are being penalized (which is a major development from last year that many websites still haven’t addressed). But more importantly, it’s meant that the marketing infrastructure of data collection via cookies and tags hasn’t exactly evolved to keep up.
In short, it’s easy to lose track of customers on mobile. This is a major problem, and one that is a focus of ongoing efforts to address. And the technologies we’re starting to encounter could potentially be very powerful.
In short, mobile users are almost immediately identifiable, and can be leveraged to collect customer data in richer, deeper ways than ever before. Not only can we know what websites they visit, but we can build an even richer picture based on location data, app behavior, and more.
That means more and better information for targeting, leading to marketing that is, at last, person-specific.
3) The Rise of Relationship Marketing
One of the major opportunities of the above is the ability to enter into truly relationship-based marketing focused on building stronger, longer-term customer and brand loyalties over short-term individual sales.
The “person-specific” marketing mentioned above, driven by improved data acquisition efforts via mobile platforms, is what makes this possible. By developing richer, more thorough and enlightening customer profiles, we’re much more able to engage in real customer retention.
Customers you build a relationship with are much less sensitive to price, more reliable sales targets, and cost much less to convert, making them overall better targets for your marketing.
And the wide swathe of data we’re able to glean from mobile platforms makes it more possible to forge these relationships to begin with. Literally anything you can track – favorite websites, movie ticket purchases, where they go to lunch – can factor into your profile and inform your outreach, improving your customer service and building their loyalty in the process.
Messaging, in short, could feel a lot less like you’re trying to sell them something, and more like you’re trying to start a conversation.
4) Social Search
Contrary to popular belief, Google doesn’t factor social signals into its search results. It can’t; there’s far too much out there for Google to properly index every single tweet, post, or photo. But that doesn’t mean that social media doesn’t have any SEO value.
It just has one totally unlike anything else.
These days, properly leveraging social media demands a new kind of SEO. That’s because people use social media in a lot of the same ways they use Google: to find answers to their questions. Social media, in short, functions as a search engine, where people are engaging with brands, content, and information in ways that sometimes replicates a standard search engine, but are entirely cut off from traditional analytics.
And that’s for billions and billions of users.
We need to expand our definition SEO to incorporate social search, because it has become one of the primary ways that people find information online – and it doesn’t show up in any of the places we’re used to looking. But they’re all out there interacting with and engaging with a brand in very real, concrete ways that need to be taken into account.
And it’s different for every social media platform.
Facebook, for its part, is able to offer personalized search results that build upon existing social networks, serving up highly relevant results derived from what their friends and family are engaging with. It’s totally disconnected from Google in any meaningful capacity – and is powered by the single largest human network ever constructed.
Twitter’s search engine is even more responsive, immediately driving you to the single most talked about, relevant piece of content there is at that moment regarding a specific search term. It’s still looking for 1:1 correspondences, and it’s definitely short-lived, but it’s happening constantly.
It means that SEO doesn’t begin and end with organic search engine traffic, and social needs to be prioritized to the same extent.
And these aren’t the only changes happening. Staying abreast of the ongoing technological change is how you make sure that your website doesn’t get swept aside.