The lines between marketing and communications are blurring, as marketing strategies become more digital and interactive. Today’s marketers must not only engage with customers but must also demonstrate the value they provide while measuring the effectiveness of their efforts.
One of the primary ways businesses demonstrate value is through their online presence. Google Analytics identifies that 59% of global web traffic comes from searches conducted through smartphones and tablets. Additionally, 82% of consumers say they learn about products and services through online channels, demonstrating the effectiveness of digital marketing.
While creating and maintaining an active social media presence is essential to marketing, businesses must also leverage traditional methods of communication for the digital age.
With that in mind, today we’re going to discuss five ways that businesses can use online reputation marketing to strengthen their brand and grow their business.
1. Measure the success of your marketing efforts
Marketing and communications are no longer siloed functional areas; they’re integrated into a business’ broader vision and strategy. This changes how marketers measure the success of their efforts, and it changes the way they approach marketing in general.
If you’ve been operating in silos – marketing, then social media, then ads, then email marketing, and so on – it might be time to integrate your efforts and learn to measure the success of your marketing strategy as a whole.
This might mean looking not just at the numbers but also at the qualitative analysis that comes with them. For example, you could track the number of times your ads were clicked on compared to the number of times they were shown, determining the effectiveness of online reputation marketing in terms of ROI. It might also mean looking at how many people viewed your website as compared to how many people clicked on an online review of your product or service, evaluating the effectiveness of your branding and content strategy.
2. Understand your customers’ journeys
Marketing is a lot like road map-building in that it’s about designing the journey that a consumer will take from initial discovery (often through social media or search) to a conversion (i.e. buying a product or service), and then keeping them in a state of mind that makes them a captive audience for your brand.
The difference is that you don’t necessarily have to market a product to reach a customer; you can market to find a customer, educate them about your product, and then sell them the product. This is known as a “Customer Acquisition Marketing funnel,” and it starts with Brand Awareness, moves to Product Discovery, and then to Customer Conversion, with follow-up actions along the way.
The main takeaway from this is that the journey a consumer goes through when engaging with your brand will determine whether or not they’ll become a customer. Everything from the way your website is designed, to the copy you use in your marketing materials and social media posts, is wrapped into a single, cohesive brand experience.
3. Identify influencers and activists
Varying from customers are influencers and activists, whose job is to promote a product or service through words and actions that hold great sway over the public.
Influencers and activists are key players in the modern marketing landscape, as they can help shape opinions and behaviors through their social media channels. A 2016 HubSpot study found that 68% of businesses identify “traditional” (i.e. editorial) influencers as vital in driving customer actions and marketing results.
This makes sense, as influencers and activists typically have large followings that are more than friendly to marketing messages and brand promises. The tricky part is identifying these individuals in your niche. You can begin by looking at your target audience and assessing their digital landscape – what platforms do they use, how often do they use them, and what is their typical behavior?
Once you’ve got this information, you can dive into the deep-dish on social media and discover who amongst your target audience is influential, able to sway opinions, and willing to be approached for a partnership.
4. Build trust and credibility
Insight into your customers’ journeys will allow you to understand who you’re trying to reach and why, which helps you to create trust and credibility in your messages and offers. Your product or service might not seem trustworthy or safe to try if you don’t know much about its qualities; but by educating yourself about the benefits of this item or service, you increase your odds of gaining their trust and ultimately their business.
How do you build trust and credibility? By being honest and genuine, and demonstrating you value and are willing to provide quality information about your product or service. You could start by asking questions about the functionality or reliability of the product or service you’re marketing, whether or not you’ve tried it out yourself, or whether or not others have had a good experience with it.
For instance, if you’re promoting a travel agency, and you’re curious about whether or not the services they provide are good or bad, you could ask them about past customer experiences in a manner that’s not threatening but rather a genuine inquiry into how the business operates.
5. Measure the ROI of your marketing efforts
Marketing is a lot like an investment – you’re committing money and resources to support a business idea that you hope will pay off in the form of customers and revenue. It’s important to understand the cost of this investment in terms of both money and time, and then to be able to measure the effectiveness of your efforts to receive a return on this investment.
One of the ways you can do this is by tracking the activity of your website visitors. By understanding the moments that they visit your site and what they do while there, you can begin to build a clearer picture of the value that your site provides. This might mean setting up a few simple Google Analytics custom reports or using a free tool like Hootsuite to monitor and analyze the content that people are sharing about you across social media channels.
If you want to get more sophisticated, you can look at the full spectrum of website data to understand not just the moments when a customer visits your site but what they do while they’re there, which can help you to develop a better idea of how effective your site’s content is in terms of driving business. This might mean looking at things like bounce rates, time on site, dwell time (how long do they stay on your site?), and pages/posts per visitor.
Ultimately, the goal of online reputation marketing is to strengthen your brand and grow your business. Being able to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and connecting these efforts to a business outcome – such as an increase in website traffic, an increase in social media engagement, and so on – makes it possible to continuously refine and improve your strategy.