The Facebook Tornado and Other Threats to a Static Plan
The world of online marketing is in perpetual flux. This constant vertigo is caused by many things, including technological progress, competitive or market pressures, and new consumer expectations. Anticipating change and being ready to adjust for it is the only way for marketers to thrive in this environment. Easier said, than done. And this month’s challenge to the digital marketing equilibrium has been the announcement of the algorithmic update to Facebook.
Facebook is a priority investment for many brands. Marketers have been wooed with flexible and effective consumer access in an interactive environment, with the added appeal that it only partly feels like an ad environment. Because of these benefits, brands have come to invest and rely heavily on this platform they neither own nor can control.
The pros and cons, tweaks and modifications in response to the Facebook changes have been covered fully by many experts by now and should not be a huge obstacle for marketers. Assuming you are on top of the changes and have created an agile team and approach, this latest disruption represents only a tactical change — one in a long line of continuing adjustments to strategy, execution, budgeting and reporting wrought by outside influences.
The interruption of carefully prepared strategies and programs only highlights the value found in a nimble mindset. How do online marketing folks prepare for success?
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify your marketing plans to include many touchpoints across your customers’ journey.
- Don’t overinvest in any platform or environment that you don’t control. If you are going to play in the walled gardens of Facebook or Amazon or other environments where you have little control, be sure do so with purpose and not exclusively. Make sure you build direct relationships outside of those walled gardens. Capture customer or other critical data in your own environments and use appropriate CRM or other touchpoints to maintain a direct relationship.
- Continue to test. Use the information return that digital provides to fuel constant optimization.
- Budget and plan by quarter, if you can. If not, create a process that is change friendly. You can’t predict or plan too far ahead if the short to mid term horizon is shifting.
- Make sure your brand stays relevant. Even the smartest marketing plan won’t overcome a poorly conceived offering or product. Keep in touch with consumers via research and influencer or advocate relationships to understand your brand’s current place in their (also) shifting lives. Checking in frequently will provide you with an early warning system for any dissatisfaction or shift in interest.
- Use all your levers. You have more variables to test and change then just where to advertise or how to advertise. Think about sales distribution channels, pricing, product bundling, product variations like packaging, size, flavors, colors, etc…
- Use each environment for one or several particular purposes creating a portfolio approach that covers all your needs. Measure each according to the particular objectives and the whole of your portfolio of marketing investments according to your overall goals.
- Track competitor spending, messaging, activity and trends. See what they are testing and watch their progress. Social environments offer an open lab rich with insights.
- Stay in touch with the broader world trends that are siphoning consumer attention. Choose your opportunities to either compete with world news and events or sit on the sidelines to avoid wasting money or connecting the brand to unrelated or unwelcome events.
- Look for efficient media forms. Being able to choose CPA or bid pricing models gives you some certainty that will help your budget. However, the media cost is a meaningless metric without the cost per conversion or other performance measures that tell you the true cost of your effort.
- Don’t jump into long term media contracts without aggressive out clauses or performance guarantees. Things change too fast to make that a good bet. This is putting the premiums of sponsorships and other time-based visibility options in question.
- Look for opportunities to test out new stuff and stay ahead of changes that will impact your business. Dedicate resources or create a lab environment that rewards internal innovation.
- Find great partners. With so much to know and keep up with it is helpful to have talents outside of your own team’s expertise. Great partners will help educate you and your team and extend your value.
With over 20 years of online experience Robin Neifield serves as the CEO of Netplus, a top interactive agency, and as the trusted digital guide for CMOs. She has been widely published and quoted on digital strategy and has been a frequent speaker and panelist at industry events like Search Engine Strategies, OMMA, Ad:Tech and others where her insights are sought on varied marketing topics such as digital strategy, behavioral targeting, social media marketing, search engine and conversion optimization, localization strategies and proximity marketing, mobile gaming and email marketing. You can find her on LinkedIn, or reach her by email or phone, (610) 304-9990.