Modern Marketing at a Crossroads: The Rise of Online Audience
Right now, we appear to be at something of a crossroads in marketing. While people are spending more time consuming new media, like social media and internet-originated content, many advertisers and marketers are still sticking to their traditional approaches. This was highlighted in the recent Mary Meeker Internet Trends Report for 2015, which showed that despite more people spending more time on the internet and on mobile devices, overall ad spend hasn't caught up with this trend.
Why would this be? Why is the marketing industry still so reliant on press, even though audience attention is clearly shifting? Is it because the print industry keeps telling us that the stats are wrong, that readers are still buying papers? Surely we know that's not right - you can look around you in any public place and see where people's attention is at. And yet, the figures show that we're clearly not seeing this, we're not paying attention to evolving consumer behaviour. So is it just habit? Is it simply sticking with what we know and what's worked for years?
A Question of Focus
As noted in a recent Facebook IQ post, right now we are in the midst of arguably the most significant medium shift in marketing since the introduction of television.
"Mobile has delivered us from a mass media world to a personally relevant one - from a world in which marketers would buy TV, magazine and radio ads as a way to reach people based purely on context to a world in which marketers can reach individuals based not just on demographics but also on passions, behaviors, interests and so on. It's driven the shift from a world of appointment-driven media, ruled by rigid 15-, 30- and 60-second frameworks, to a world of anytime/anywhere media."
This statement is part of a larger post on marketing based on 'moments', how moments are being shared every day via social networks, and it's through those moments that marketers can truly connect. Social media data shows us what people do, how people respond to different situations, what people are looking for at any given time. When gathered together and analysed, these moments form trends and patterns, pointing to specific peaks in time, focus points where marketing messages will be best received.
Such insight is beyond anything we've ever had before in history, knowing when your specific audience is more likely to be online, the life moments that lead people to looking for new products and services, the patterns. We've never had this, we've never had a way of tracking large-scale trends and pinpointing the exact moments when marketing messages will be most effective - a gym might've been able to predict that memberships are going skyrocket after New Year's Eve, so best to push their marketing in the weeks before and after. But imagine if you could do the same everyday, if you could utilise social data to maximise your campaigns and reach your audience at the most relevant times in their purchase cycle, all the time.
With social media data this can be done. There are 936 million active Facebook users every day, posting status updates about everything from their breakfast to the stock market, from their dog to their mortgage. Half a billion tweets are sent, every day. In isolation, each of these single posts means nothing - knowing that your neighbour watched Game of Thrones last night doesn't really tell you much about who he or she is. But on a broader scale, across all this data, patterns emerge, correlations between people who like certain things and who post certain types of updates, the data transforms into clear personas and audience brackets. One of those brackets is your ideal target customer. You just need to find the data.
A Marketing Dilemma
Over time, we're evolving beyond what's traditionally been a broadcast focus. Your aim, as a marketer, has always been to reach the largest possible audience. Reaching more people increases your chances of being seen by the right people, which enhances your conversion potential as a result. So you put an ad in the newspaper. You buy and ad on TV. You buy a billboard on the busiest freeway. Because broadcast equals reach, and reach equals maximum potential. And of course, those methods still work, but we're moving beyond this, moving to a more focussed, more refined marketing process where we can reach people based on their personal interests and behaviours, where we can target very specific groups based on very specific details. We're moving to a stage where the biggest audience isn't necessarily the best anymore - the more focussed message wins. And that's a better outcome, right? It would be better, cheaper and more effective for us to hone-in on our most relevant audience, as opposed to blasting as far and wide as we can. Or maybe it wouldn't.
This is where the modern marketing dilemma comes into effect - while it all seems clever and modern to be able to target people based on their online behaviours and traits, it's not as easy as just jumping online and pulling out data. Using data providers can be expensive too, and not everyone's on social media yet. Maybe we'd be best to just stick with what we know - "print advertising has worked for years, and our audience isn't a group of kids with selfie sticks". Maybe that approach will work and you'll continue to see good results from such outreach efforts. But the rising tide of consumer data suggests that the landscape is changing.
via Statista Charts
Standing at a Crossroads
So this is where we're at, a marketing industry in the middle of what may be the biggest shift in its history. And many are unsure which way to go, which way will be best for them and their business. Sure, generalised data suggests that more people, overall, are getting more content online and moving away from traditional sources, but that's not everyone. That's not every audience. Maybe your audience is different, maybe your target clients are older, are not as interested in social media and online sources. And maybe, you should stick with what's always worked.
Or maybe it's time to take a look at what's out there, expand your view point on social media and social media data and see what's possible, confirm, for yourself, whether there might be a better way. It's clear from the statistics that there are still a great many businesses that haven't done this, who are still holding firm to what they know while their audience behaviours shift.
Maybe it's time to ask the question - is it the past or the present that's dictating your marketing decisions?
Thumbnail image via Shutterstock
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