Since the pandemic began, most people have shifted a more significant portion of their days online. They work remotely, turn to streaming services and video games for entertainment, and use online shopping platforms to place orders for essentials.
With all this increased exposure, you’d think that digital marketing would be easier. But it’s not that simple. Many marketing campaigns are simply founded on the assumption that traditional methods can be ported over to reach an online audience. And even before the life-changing disruption of COVID-19, those tactics have failed.
The desire for brands to expand their reach is too easily misdirected. Launch a PPC campaign and those ads show up on a lot of screens, but without expert paid media services, they don’t reach users who might actually be interested. One click (or swipe) away, and your ad is dismissed, barely registering an impression.
Digital is different
The basic difference lies in the autonomous nature of the digital format. Audiences on TV or radio can change to another channel when ads air, but they aren’t likely to do so.
It takes effort, not in the sense that it’s challenging to flip a switch, but because it detracts from the viewing (or listening) experience. Assuming you want to return to the original program, you have to keep track of the break duration. Otherwise, you could miss parts of the actual entertainment.
Digital users have no such problem. It’s effortless for them to disengage from your content. And they can use automation to help in this regard. Social media platforms allow users to filter out unwanted ads. Browsers offer ad blockers. Businesses and their competitors are all fighting for a share of increasingly short attention spans.
Changing tactics is required
The first solution to this problem is to make an effort to create content that your target audience is interested in. The second lies in finding the right means of spreading that influence.
The past decade or so has seen marketers turn to social media influencers as the ideal way to achieve both goals. The appeal of this approach lies in authenticity. Traditional celebrity endorsers are difficult to relate to. Influencers lead lifestyles that are closer to what the average consumer experiences. It makes it easier for them to engage with a brand’s products or services.
Unfortunately, influencers are on the wane as a marketing tactic. Year after year, we hear stories about their cynical practices. People no longer view them as authentic. Leveraging this strategy can easily backfire.
Empowering the consumer
The emerging solution now is to leverage your consumers as inspiration, or even creators, of content. Suppose your initial marketing campaign has had less-than-stellar returns, but at least managed to land you some conversions. Those consumers can now be the foundation of a pivot in strategy.
Using keyword analytics or social listening tools, you can locate and identify specific individuals among your existing consumer base who have a small but authentic influence. These consumers can become organic advocates for your brand.
Reach out to these consumers for stories about their experience with your brand. See if you can get their permission to feature in your content. Check out their extended network and try to engage those people.
In a way, organic advocacy seeks to recapture the early magic of social media influencers. But instead of rewarding people for making a career out of influencing others, which incentivizes a rather mercenary approach to marketing, the focus is shifted back to authenticity.
You empower the consumer to share real stories and reviews. They can exercise their creativity in their posts or blogs, without having to become professional influencers.
It requires more effort to find the right people among your consumer base, and you still have to provide solid value through your offerings. But the rewards can be far exceeding those of traditional methods.
Moving forward, the future of organic advocacy can lend itself to decentralized business operations. This is one area to keep an eye on if you’re looking to start a new venture. The consumer-turned-creator doesn’t just have the power to build an organic influence; they can become partners in entrepreneurship.
This potential collaboration is already being explored in the fashion industry. A decentralized company like MetaFactory can give consumer-designers the production platform they need to create apparel. Members, as a collective, own a stake in the business and get to shape the actual products.
In the age of crowdfunding, it seems like the next logical step is to help consumers become invested in a brand. If we’re about to enter the age of consumer-stakeholders, stay tuned to those developments. Riding this next wave could pay off.